Q: Three years ago, my boss hired “Katy,” who is a great person and a good fit for our group. My problem is that every year he takes Katy out to lunch on her birthday. He has never done this with any other employee. In fact, he never remembers our birthdays at all.
I feel quite sure there is no hanky-panky going on, so this favoritism towards Katy is hard to understand. I don’t see how a manager can give one person special treatment and ignore everyone else.
Unfortunately, after a co-worker and I discussed this, she made a point of telling our manager that my birthday was coming up. Now I’m afraid he’ll feel obligated to ask me to lunch.
A: Your boss appears to have a blind spot. If I were talking to him, we would discuss the morale-busting implications of recognizing only one birthday. But since he isn’t available for coaching, let’s consider your reaction to his cluelessness.
Although your feelings are understandable, you’re wasting a lot of emotional energy on a rather trivial issue. The birthday girl is “a great person,” the relationship is not inappropriate, and the lunches don’t affect your work. So you really need to let this go.
In reality, your boss may not actually be remembering this woman’s special day. Given that he typically ignores birthdays, it’s quite possible that Katy is the one who brings it up. If she’s fairly assertive, she might even suggest lunch.
So if your manager does offer a celebratory invite, accept graciously and enjoy your outing. Perhaps you could recommend putting everyone’s birthday on his calendar. And by the way, on your boss’s birthday, does anyone take him to lunch?
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author. Follow her on Twitter @officecoach.