Notes From Hairenik
September 20, 2007
So at least once every month one of the employees in our office has a birthday. The way the celebration is inaugurated is by the birthday boy or girl going to the bakery to buy a gigantic cake covered in fruit and frosting. They also manage to buy some bottles of wine and champagne, and the festivities begin back at the office. Sometimes if you're lucky he or she throws in some barbecue or pizza as a bonus. It's nice of them to do it, but it is considered standard practice to do so for some reason. I don't remember having terrible bakery-fresh cake here, so it's always a treat and I can't really complain.

But when it comes to purchasing the gift and taking up a collection, I find some problems. Today one of the women in the office came to my desk, actually startling me, and said, "We're collecting money." When I asked why, the answer was, "It's Liana's birthday." After she walked away I asked the guy sitting next to me what's it to us (especially given the fact that birthday girl didn't bother bringing us any cake or champagne) and the answer was, "It's Liana's birthday."

It's odd to me that some self-designated person has to bother everyone in the office about such trivialities. It's very thoughtful of the workmates to want to purchase some sort of birthday gift, but when she told me how much I was required to give, I thought that was going a bit overboard. I don't even know what they intend to buy for her, and she didn't even consider whether I or anyone for that matter could afford it, not to mention if they wanted to contribute to the fund. You know, an e-mail message to everyone would suffice suggesting they chip in if wish to do so. But here, it seems you are obliged no matter what. Vsyo.

So this is the situation. I wanted to tell the woman after I gave her the money that it is not right to go around and demand cash from everyone, especially if they may not be inclined to donate for whatever reason. The conundrum is the following: if I complain to her, she will think that I am a mean, boring bastard. If I do not give her the money, she will think I am a cheap and selfish asshole. So it's a catch-22 of sorts. I don't know what to fathom about these monthly dues, but it seems I have no choice but to commit.

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Anonymous Onnik Krikorian said...
In my opinion, any company should ban such activities. As you say, an email should be sent around asking those who are interested to chip in. Otherwise, this is plain extortion and a left over from some ridiculous Soviet past, I should imagine.

Whatever the reason, it has no place in a professional work environment and associated with this, the practice of giving gifts to teachers in schools on any occasion they think up needs to be banned as well.

Both practices come from the same source and we desperately need to get rid of them in Armenia. There will be no real progress until they are eliminated, people have the right to choose, and activities which could disrupt a working environment are gotten rid of.

To be honest, I would have refused to pay, or offered as much as I thought was reasonable depending on whether I actually knew or liked the person. I think I'd also make sure I'd take my birthday as holiday every year in order to spare my workmates the same shakedown.

The situation as you describe it is unreasonable and has no place in a modern working environment, in my opinion.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I am sending you a brass collection plate the same we use in church.
After all my birthday is coming and so is yours.

Blogger Anoushig said...
I have had this same situation happen to me a few times in the US (although it is always the same person doing the offending)- it's not unique to Armenia. The worst is when someone actually buys a group gift without consulting the rest of us, then tells us how much we need to chip in. Ugh, I think this is so obnoxious. Once, when this happened, I had already bought a gift myself, so I was able to tell her that I wouldn't be chipping in b/c I already had a present.