I work in a moderately sized company of roughly 50-60 people. I have been presented with a birthday card to sign for a person. I'd normally sign it, but it is just that every other message is rather personal and sincere.

I've never met this person, or even seen them. In fact, it seems no one from the management group knows this person. I am included in this management group. Would it be unprofessional for me to not sign the card?

  • 1
    Unprofessional? No. Unpersonable? Certainly. Can being unpersonable affect you professionally? Absolutely. Oct 27, 2016 at 17:39

4 Answers 4


I think it's a bad idea.

Positives for not signing:

  • None

Negatives for not signing:

  • You draw attention to yourself for a negative reason
  • Your coworkers may think you're a snob now.
  • They will definitely think you're nitpicky

There's really no good at all that can come from not signing a card.

Just sign the darn card and get on with your job. It's really not worth the time it took to even write the question.

  • 3
    +1 for last comment. All the words in the question would have had you sign 20 cards.
    – Nelson
    Oct 26, 2016 at 2:06
  • 5
    I've worked in offices where birthday cards get passed around to people who might not even recognize the birthday person on sight. It is totally normal to sign those cards with a simple "Happy birthday! <your name>" and go on with your day.
    – Mel Reams
    Oct 26, 2016 at 5:37

Sign it, if you don't want to leave a message don't leave one, just your name.

I've signed a lot of birthday cards for people I don't know and don't care about, even people I dislike. I just put my name and 'Happy New Year!'

Is it unprofessional

In theory probably not, since it's not directly related to your tasks, but I think it's mildly unprofessional not to engage in normal small office pleasantries that cost you nothing, perhaps more unsocial than unprofessional. However since you don't know them, they probably couldn't care less if you signed or not. The people more likely to think you strange are the ones who gave it to you to sign.

  • 1
    You raise a good point: You signing the card is not only relevant for the recipient of the card, but also for those who give it to you. By refusing to sign you may alienate them.
    – sleske
    Oct 26, 2016 at 6:44

Depends on your nationality and working culture.

The majority of Americans, Brits and many other countries and cultures would ask what the hell is wrong with you to not sign a birthday card if it is a social convention and does not hurt anyone.

The majority of Germans, Russians and many other countries and cultures would ask what the hell is wrong with you to sign a birthday card for someone who you don't even know.

Find out where you work and act accordingly.

  • 3
    I'd tend to disagree about the culture part: I am from Germany, and here passing around birthday cards to sign is quite common, too, and noone asks whether you know the person.
    – sleske
    Oct 26, 2016 at 6:45
  • 2
    @sleske It is not expected that you sign a card for someone who is not in the same division of the firm and whom you have no relationship with. The problem is normally elegantly solved by the fact that birthday cards are in fact only passed around the people who either know or will know the birthday celebrant shortly. Small firms have in fact often company-wide birthday cards, but sooner or later it splits up once the company is big enough. Yes, you are not asked if you know him and yes, you may sign. Sorry if my answer was exaggerated, it was to drive home the point of cultural differences. Oct 26, 2016 at 12:12

In an organization this size it would be very unusual for multiple managers to not know an employee. Are you sure they work there? If this is some weird prank to see who will sign a card for a non-existent employee, you look as dumb as everyone else if you sign. I'd suggest talking to HR and confirming that this person is in fact an employee.

If they do in fact work for the company in some isolated way (night cleaner?) sign impersonally and be done with it.

  • thoise managers could be somewhere like commercial part and the person is from the production. So it's possible, maybe he doesn't know the name but he surelyl know the face
    – Walfrat
    Oct 27, 2016 at 21:56

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