It’s exciting news when a colleague announces she’s having a child, and many coworkers may be eager to celebrate. Throwing a work baby shower can be that outlet. Still, there are a number of considerations to keep in mind before and during the party planning. Read on to learn the dos and don’ts of throwing a shower in the office.
When a colleague announces that she is pregnant, it can be difficult to know the right and wrong things to say—and there certainly are right and wrong things to say. Here are a few:
This is the easy part. Rather than immediately considering how this will affect you and your team, just offer a simple congratulations. There is plenty of time to work out logistics later.
You may well suspect a coworker is pregnant before she shares the news—perhaps she has a noticeable bump or refuses a cocktail at a work party—but you should never, under any circumstances, ask her if she is before she announces it. This will put her in an awkward situation no matter what: She may have to share the news before she’s ready, or perhaps you’re wrong about your suspicion. It’s best to wait for her to volunteer the news on her own terms.
For example, if you’re at a meeting and notice that she has to stand or sit on the floor because there aren’t enough seats, offer your chair. If she’s struggling to carry or lift something, suggest that you do it for her. At the same time, avoid overdoing it by assuming she can’t do the tasks she normally does.
Of course, if you’re the manager of the parent-to-be, you’ll want to work out a plan for coverage in her absence. If you’re a colleague who will be handling all or some of her responsibilities while she’s gone, this is a fair-game topic to broach, too. However, if you don’t work closely with the colleague and won’t be directly affected by her absence, then it’s inappropriate to discuss how she’ll handle coverage during her maternity leave. This is nosy and irrelevant to your own work.
The rule of thumb for most baby showers is 1-2 months before the baby’s due date. That way, she’s unlikely to give birth before it happens and can still enjoy it.
Still, it’s best to ask the parent-to-be what date is most convenient for her. Chances are, she’s pretty busy right now, and the party should be something that she enjoys, not another responsibility she has to add to her hectic schedule.
You should also try to find a time that is convenient for both the guest of honor and the other attendees. If you hold it during work hours, remember that your colleagues have work to do and may not be able to carve out a huge chunk of time for the party. Try to keep it short and sweet, about 1-2 hours around lunchtime.
If there is an administrator in charge of planning office parties, then a work baby shower would fall under his or her purview. Otherwise, a close colleague, report, or manager should take the lead. That person should delegate responsibilities like decorating and organizing refreshments.
Remember that not everyone will want to be involved in the party-planning, and don’t try to force it on reluctant colleagues. They have their reasons for not wanting to participate, and this isn’t part of their work responsibilities.
Check with your office manager to reserve a space and ask about any rules about office parties if you work in a big office. In a small office, clear it with your supervisor and anyone who would be affected. You might also consider hosting it at a nearby restaurant, in which case you’d just need to make a reservation.
Ask your manager if you can have a small budget for refreshments and decorations. If she says no, you might ask for contributions from colleagues or arrange a potluck.
Even if you do have a budget, there’s no reason to make the work baby shower overly elaborate. Simple decorations such as streamers and confetti and refreshments like coffee and cupcakes will do the trick.
Gifts should never be mandatory, but if attendees inquire about what to give the honoree, consider whether you want to specify that coworkers can bring their own gifts or go in on a larger gift together. If you go with the latter, designate someone to collect contributions.
You might start by consulting the gift registry if the mom-to-be has one. Otherwise, you might get a gift certificate to a department store. Don’t forget about the parents! While it’s fine if your gift is baby-focused, the parents may appreciate something they can use, too, like prepared meals or home goods.
Before you start inviting guests, think about what the parent will want. If she’s relatively shy or doesn’t like big groups, keep it small, inviting team members and her close friends. If she does enjoy being the center of attention, you extend invites based on your budget and space.
As for including male colleagues on the guest list, that’s encouraged, too, unless it would make the parent-to-be uncomfortable. You might also consider including your expectant colleague’s partner.
Surprises can be nice, but you don’t want to throw work baby shower if it would make the parent-to-be uncomfortable. Ask her about what she wants first, and if she’s on board, what type of shower (small or large, at the office or elsewhere, etc.) she’d like best.
A colleague who’s adopting a child may want a work baby shower, too. Be inclusive with regard to all types of new parents, while, of course, inquiring about what the parent-to-be wants. Don’t forget about expectant fathers! They might appreciate a baby shower just as much as female colleagues.
Keep in mind appropriate workplace behavior at all times. This is a party, but it’s also work. In the same vein, it’s probably best not to serve alcohol, especially since the mom-to-be is probably not drinking.
Coworkers should not be required to contribute or even attend. Respect this, and don’t make contributions mandatory or guilt anyone into participating.
• Don’t do anything to make the parent-to-be—or anyone else—uncomfortable.
For example, don’t try to pressure the parent-to-be into revealing the baby’s gender if she doesn’t want to. By the same token, try to avoid “gendering” the baby shower, such as using pink or blue decorations.