It’s my boss’s birthday and they want to chip in to get him a gift. I can’t afford the $20. Am I bound to participate?

While celebrating birthdays can boost staff morale and provide a bit of a break for everyone, it can also easily get out of hand. Even in the best work environments, office politics quickly get mixed in. How much do we spend? Do we spend more on the boss? Who has to organize? Who organizes for the organizer? Talk to your supervisor or the human resources manager about your concerns. He or she can raise the issue at an appropriate time, without naming names, and help your staff develop a policy on these kinds of celebrations. Yet sometimes these extras are part of the cost of doing business, even though you’re not bound to participate. If it will help keep the peace — especially if your staff is small and everyone will know who has contributed what – maybe you can get a colleague to spot you the $20 and then pay him or her back over time. In the long run, if you like your job and want to maintain harmony with your coworkers and your boss, it might be worth it.

Neela Kale

Neela Kale is a writer and catechetical minister based in the Archdiocese of Portland. She served with the Incarnate Word Missionaries in Mexico and earned a Master of Divinity at the Jesuit School of Theology. Some of her best theological reflection happens on two wheels as she rides her bike around the hills of western Oregon.