Kevin Berling just wanted to go to work and get his chores done on his birthday. But his employer had other plans: balloons, snacks and singing. Berling had specifically asked that no celebration be organized for him. Being the center of attention means “a lot of stress” for him.
When the party took place against his will, he had a panic attack. But instead of apologizing, his superiors took him to task and accused him of kidding his colleagues when he behaved like this. This emotional pressure led to another panic attack, says Berling. The reaction of his employer: He threw him out for improper behavior. Berling went to court and was right for the time being. A jury at the Kenton County District Court in Kentucky awarded him a total of $450,000 for the shame and emotional distress he suffered, among other things. The company can still appeal the decision.
The longing for distraction from everyday work also seems to be very great in German offices. Greetings and farewells, birthdays and weddings: the main thing is that there is champagne and cake. In this country there is also the irritating claim that the birthday child has to take care of the food himself. When the colleagues then stand around in the room, let cake crumbs trickle onto their shirts and after a few minutes no longer really know what else to talk about, it becomes clear that the so-called “casual get-together” is often one thing above all else: relaxed.
Studies show that social interaction outside of the actual work can definitely lead to departments or teams functioning better. But there are many people who would rather be left alone, even if it’s their birthday. For introverts, or, better said, “drinnies,” who don’t like going out into the world and being the center of attention, the social pressure of ordered cheerfulness can be pure torture. Especially if you are reluctant to pick up a piccolo at nine in the morning, but only get an uncomprehending shake of the head.
Alcohol in the workplace is not strictly prohibited
Perhaps the latter is also a relic of bygone times. Stories are often circulated that certain colleagues would have used every occasion, no matter how outlandish, to water him in the nearby wine bar during their lunch break. The second half of the working day then went quite quickly in the best of moods.
The laws leave plenty of room for celebrations at work. Even alcohol is not strictly forbidden. The limits are rather set by the respective company. It can prohibit celebrations during working hours, as well as the consumption of alcohol. Depending on the industry, the consequences can vary in severity: the tipsy Excel spreadsheet can be quickly corrected the next morning. It is better to operate dangerous machines with a clear head from the outset. Especially since the probability is very high that the insurance company will not pay out in the event of an accident at work if alcohol is involved.