32

I don't celebrate my birthday - I don't need to be reminded how I'm one year closer to dying / osteoporosis / arthritis and a ton of other age-related issues.

However, many (most?) people assume that birthdays are worth celebrating, and happily wish me happy birthday. One person even wished me happy birthday immediately after I said I didn't want to be wished happy birthday, apparently thinking I was joking.

How do I get them to stop? The clearest way seems to be not to reveal when my birthday is, but HR knows, and they organize a monthly birthday party (which I never attend, but the list of people with birthdays in that month is known). Annoyingly, although all the longer-term employees know not to do it, turnover means that every year there is always somebody who wishes me happy birthday.

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    Theoretically, if you are in the EU, you can ask the HR not to share your birthday, as this is personal data protected under GDPR – Lehue Jan 10 at 9:18
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    Can you add a country tag? – user3819867 Jan 10 at 13:32

14 Answers 14

79

How do I get them to stop? The clearest way seems to be not to reveal when my birthday is, but HR knows, and they organize a monthly birthday party (which I never attend, but the list of people with birthdays in that month is known).

Your best bet is to acknowledge the well wishes graciously, and skip the parties.

But if you can't do that, talk with HR. Explain your preferences. Ask that your name and birthday not be listed for that month.

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    I'd say that even if you can skip the parties and just acknowledge the well wishes, if you're bothered, you should absolutely talk to HR. HR should keep your information private if you ask nicely. Do not go into an argument with them unless they insist one too many times on this matter. It's not worth risking your job quality for this (yes, arguments with the HR can make your job a living hell sooner or later). – John Hamilton Jan 2 at 13:13
119

I don't need to be reminded how I'm one year closer to dying / osteoporosis / arthritis and a ton of other age-related issues.

This is not what people have in mind when they are wishing you for birthday. They are simply conveying regards and showing a nice gesture.

It would be best if you don't bother yourself with the thoughts that you get.

Technically speaking, every single being is getting older with every passing birthday. But, no one wishing you birthday is implying that.

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    @Allure No one is intending to disrespect you. It's our own thoughts that's causing feeling. You can very well "think" how nice is it of the other person to come and greet you. – Nimesh Neema Jan 1 at 3:07
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    @Allure It is that way around because people are wishing you happy birthday as a part of normal culture. If your expectation is different from normal, then it is your obligation to communicate this. – Brandin Jan 1 at 11:55
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    @Allure If the other party interprets that as sexual harassment something's very wrong with that other party. – Agustín Lado Jan 1 at 17:23
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    Technically speaking, every single being is getting older with every passing birthday. And now you're even older, and now you're even older, and now you're even older than you've ever been before. ♪ – Draco18s no longer trusts SE Jan 1 at 17:42
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    The problem is when you stop getting older... – Solar Mike Jan 1 at 19:21
59

I don't need to be reminded how I'm one year closer to dying / osteoporosis / arthritis and a ton of other age-related issues.

Since you prefer to look at things this way, let me point out that you are "closer to dying" etc. with every passing moment. You don't magically jump one year closer to your death on one specific day of the year.

Your "birthday" is of no biological significance, it is of social significance. Wishing someone on their birthday (or wedding anniversary, etc.) gives people a reason (excuse, if you prefer) to socialize without appearing creepy or awkward.

Getting wished doesn't really cause you any harm once you stop being upset about it, and it makes them happy for wishing you, so what's the problem?

Complaining about people following a (mostly) harmless convention will label you as a ... let's just say, strange person, and people will avoid approaching you over non-birthday related topics as well. This is especially problematic in the workplace where you (usually) have to work together with others, and even worse, if you are in a supervisory role.

Hence, if someone wishes you on your birthday, simply accept it gracefully, politely point out that you don't do these celebrations, and continue to have some small talk if you wish. You don't need to give any reasons. Something like the following should be good enough:

Thanks for your wishes. I am not much into these birthday celebrations though. Hey, by the way, did you watch ... last night?

Then forget about it and move on.

Worrying about trivial and unimportant problems will take you closer to your death. :-)

Personal anecdote: I am atheist, people wish me on Christmas, Eid, and many other religious events, some of which I don't even know about. I simply thank them, have some small talk, and move back to my work. Giving them a long lecture on atheism will (1) waste my time, (2) kill their enthusiasm, and (3) give me the reputation of being a "jerk", none of which helps me.

27

How do I get them to stop?

You go to HR, or you leave the company, but the former will lead to the latter. Other than that, you take the day off.

If you go through with any efforts to try to curb this, you will most likely be seen as bitter and antisocial.

As someone with autism, I am perhaps more aware than most of the little social rituals that we must all participate in despite wishing otherwise. You grin and bear it. The last thing you want is to be the only person in the office not participating in the little cultural rituals. That makes you a "bad fit", and will likely dampen your future prospects with the company

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    I think this is the best answer. The wording is a bit "don't stand out, nobody will like you", but the point is, social expectations are: you are just being nice, the other party will be happy about it. How should they assume otherwise? To compare this special mindset with you autism might bring Allure the most insight. Other people can't look inside, that's what social norms are for. It's a standardized language people can be able understand even if they feel otherwise. Of course, if you want to be offended by everything there's not much that can be done there except stay away from people. – user3195231 Jan 1 at 14:27
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    @user3195231 When your views/experiences/neurology is different, you need to bend a bit in order not to get along – Old_Lamplighter Jan 1 at 18:40
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    I book every birthday off, and it works well. I suspect that Op would respond with another question "I have to take every birthday off work, because people wish me a happy birthday! how do I stop having to do this". – djsmiley2kStaysInside Jan 1 at 20:53
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    Other than that, you take the day off. And of course this must be done carefully. I have a longtime employee who doesn't like people mentioning her birthday, so one year she decided to take it off. That just drew more attention, and a constant stream of people stopping by asking her, so, did you do anything fun to celebrate your birthday? Now she still takes it off but she does so "quietly" and people tend to not bug her. – dwizum Jan 10 at 18:40
17

Aside from asking HR to keep this information secret, you may want to talk to a therapist. If the very mention of birthdays has such a negative effect on your wellbeing that seems like something you need to develop coping strategies for. I hope that doesn't sound judgemental, it's not intended to.

13

every year there is always somebody who wishes me happy birthday

If you cannot eliminate as you wish, then work at making as painless as possible. Simply say "Thanks" and then deflect to something else. Even if someone pushes as keeps asking what you are doing, you can say "nothing, not important to me" and deflect again.

I don't see the point in the birthday thing either, as well as the "bless you" if you sneeze, "touch wood" if someone wants luck and so on... humans love to create customs and they become passionate about them at times.

If you make a point of arguing every point you come across extreme. If you let all these things affect you, you suffer. Just let it role off with "thanks" and skip the party.

6

There have been some good answers here.

However, if none of them work for you, there is an additional option: Take some time off of work on your birthday (or even a few days around your birthday). This way you don't have to deal with the "happy birthday" wishes. The added bonus is that your coworkers don't have to deal with you either. This could help you maintain good relationships with your coworkers if you are particularly cranky on your birthday

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    Wouldn't this amount to a de facto celebration? – perenniallydisappointed Jan 2 at 13:53
  • @perenniallydisappointed It doesn't need to be a celebration. You can use the day for reading, online training, or for a personal project. For some kinds of training, your boss might even be willing consider it a work day if you get it approved ahead of time. – David Cram Jan 4 at 18:46
6

I am in a similar position.

The first time it happened, I was surprised that HR released private information. I spoke to them directly (and quite firmly); it never happened again.

To the people who say 'just ignore it' - No. The people I work with are colleagues, not friends (I have a very high barrier for 'friend', so there are less than 5 of these). My colleagues have no right to know anything about my private life, including birthday, family, health etc.

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    Why is this downvoted. PeteCon's absolutely right that a birthday is private information and can be asked to not be revealed. – John Hamilton Jan 2 at 6:52
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    @JohnHamilton I would even say the proper protocol is that HR never reveals such information. Its rather unprofessional, and at least in EU, it´s strictly speaking illegal without your previous consent. If you like your colleagues to know its your birthday, you bring a cake or something, and everybody is happy. :) – Karl Jan 2 at 12:38
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    @Karl Yeah, even in Turkey where privacy wasn't an issue until recently, we now have KVKK (which translates to Personal Data Protection Law) and it specifically points out that birth dates are very personal and should never be shared with 3rd party companies unless absolutely necessary (like for medical reasons) let alone all the employees in the company. – John Hamilton Jan 2 at 13:05
4

Tell HR not to tell people your birthday. My department at my company does birthday treats for people, and most people take part, but it's opt-in.

4

Ask HR to remove you from the list.

What I did here where I work was send an email with everyone in copy with a simple :

"Please, I don't like to celebrate my birthday. I had some problems in the past and I would like to forget. I would like you to not wish me happy birthday. I will still attend birthday parties and I will wish every single one a very happy birthday. Thank you."

It worked.

4

I disagree with your sentiment, but I fully agree that if you don't want people where you work to know your birthday, then HR has absolutely no right to tell them.

Since apparently you told HR and they told people of your birthday against your express wishes, you should go to HR. Tell them that you don't want anybody to know about your birthday. Tell them that you are absolutely serious about that. And have all this written on a paper, which you make them sign. Alternatively, you'll have to write on that paper that they refused to sign.

The last bits shouldn’t be necessary - HR isn’t allowed to publish your birthday but may do so because many people don’t mind, but if you tell them you don’t want your birthday generally known then there is no excuse to publish it.

3

Some people in here have given a very good answer already "tell HR you want your birthday kept confidential and ask them to not include your name in the monthly birthdays." This is definitely the quickest solution. Your other problem about your co-workers already knowing your birthday... you said the longer time employees already know you don't want your birthday acknowledged so there's no problem there. Do to the newer employees what you did with the older by nicely telling them your preferences. Now that HR is keeping your birthday confident, and I would specifically use the phrase with HR "keep my birth date confidential", any new hires will never even know about your birthday. Hopefully this solution works for you. Good luck!

3

I don't get it, or let's formulate it differently: I don't want to get it!

You say that every birthday reminds you that you are getting closer to your death, and then you add some information about some personal diseases to underline that.

Come again???

The fact that a birthday brings you closer to your death, that's true for everybody in the entire world, healthy people as well as ill people. I am 47 years old now, and when a person wishes me happy birthday, I never had the reflection "Jezus, that's again another year closer to my funeral!".

People wishing you a happy birthday, are telling you how glad they are you're still amongst them, and for you it's an accomplishment that you are indeed.

So, instead of forcibly staring at nothing but bad emotions, you might better start working on your attitude, look more friendly towards your colleagues, and who knows? Maybe there might come a day that you become truly proud of that one year that you made it!

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    This doesn't help the OP, it just challenges his beliefs. OP has specifically stated he will not change his view in the comments. – John Hamilton Jan 2 at 13:07
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    But he needs to, so there’s that. You don’t get to dictate your answers here, don’t ask if you’re not willing to hear that there is a problem with what you want. – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Jan 3 at 2:06
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    @mxyzplk-JusticeforMonica That seems unnecessarily harsh... Also, AFAIK, SE urges members to respect the asker's wishes even if they want to challenge their frame of mind. – John Hamilton Jan 3 at 6:31
-8

Now that the cat is out of the bag you cannot make it stop, except maybe if you rudely respond few times. Something like "bugger off" in reply to someone's happy birthday, a couple of those and the word will spread to leave your B-Day alone. That, of course, is a lot more confronting than a simple "Thank you" and moving on with your day today, but you seem adamant on making a point, so that's how you do it.

If you'd rather lubricate the social clogs then smile, say thank you and pay no attention to it after the 10 seconds interaction. Maybe put your headphones on, say you are really busy if there is follow-up chit-chat. Or take a day off on your B-Day, just to avoid casual well-wishers.

In the future, all you have to do is meet with HR and explain that you do not wish to celebrate your birthday and that would've ended it right there. It may still be a good idea now, although those who put it on their calendars will know.

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    Telling people who are trying to be nice according to widespread social custom to "bugger off" is the kind of thing that is likely to have broader repercussions. The co-workers won't really understand exactly what point you're making, and you could be drawn into an unwanted conversation after they ask "did I do something wrong?" Or they could make the assumption you don't want any social niceties and begin excluding you from everything for fear of provoking further negative reactions. – Zach Lipton Jan 1 at 20:32
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    You should probably edit your post to indicate that your first paragraph is not intended seriously and is instead making a sarcastic point. – Sneftel Jan 2 at 9:47

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