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I'm not going to be outdone on this one

My colleague and friend, Mr Malcolm Ross, has vented his spleen about this on not one, but two occasions. It's one of those subjects about which I feel strongly, but have never really thought to write about. Until now, that is. You see, I discovered how much I have to say on the subject while I was discussing Mal's opinions with him. So, let's look at this unruly phenomenon.

I despise office greetings cards and whip rounds.

There, I've said it... I am completely nonplussed by the whole concept. What happens is that some do-gooder takes it upon themselves to surprise a colleague with some sort of card/gift. Maybe it's their birthday, or some other joyous occasion, like an engagement, marriage or birth. Whatever it is, you can be sure that someone will think it's a good idea to sort out an office-wide campaign to celebrate this person's occasion. It sounds really nice in principle. In fact this is one of those things that people dare not criticise; after all, it's a show of good feelings within the office... isn't it?

Well, perhaps in principle it's a nice idea, but in practice, it just does not work well. It's a bit like the "9 items or fewer" checkout in the supermarket. There's always someone in line with 15 items, which makes everyone start to get suspicious and count each other's items and tut-tut a lot. There's always someone with one item - who is holding up the express checkout with their inefficient use of the till person's time, and their exuberative occupation of too much conveyor-belt space, via the placement of those little "next customer please" dividers, which mark one's territory. At the end of the day, your express till is meant to be a quick way through the supermarket, but actually causes stress and dissatisfaction. Who actually went to the shop just to count the contents of their fellow shoppers' baskets?

Back to the work greetings cards/whip rounds. The reasons that they don't live up to their aim of being a way to show a colleague how much you care:

As for being the recipient, it's just as tricky:

The whole situation is very false. I'd rather be left out. Sure, I'll sign a card, if asked, and I'll write something genuine in there if I have something genuine to put. However, I'd rather have a guarantee that people are definitely not going to bother with my celebrations. I would absolutely die of embarrassment to think of any of my colleagues, who may or may not give a toss about me, debating over whether to put an extra 10 pence in the tin, or agonising over what to write in a card. What do you say to someone who believes he has all the answers? I'd rather receive one card from an individual colleague that cares, than one from everyone who couldn't give a toss.

So, despite the genuine and good intentions, which cause office workers to be faced with the quandaries I have mentioned, I think the whole idea of the mandatory greetings card needs ditching. I'll accept a company Christmas card (although it could be left on my desk, rather than mailed to me), and I'll contribute with alacrity if I'm genuine about my good wishes, but I'll never be comfortable as recipient.

In my case, they had to go to my C.V. to find out when my birthday was - not thinking that I may have had a reason for not making it common knowledge (although ICQ ratted on me anyway, even though I told it not to). I received a  card after my birthday (with apologies for lateness), signed by nobody... which was probably for the best.

So it's a big "thanks, but you SHOULDN'T HAVE".

16 March 2001
Ashley Frieze