Corporate Manners...and Christmas and birthdays....

I recently received the following request for information from a woman who has settled in Australia from Asia. It particularly interested me as it was as much about cultural differences as it was about modern manners.

“I have question in my head about etiquette that bothering my mind. This is about birthdays. Would you please be able to help me?

1. A member of our Board of Directors who is also the founder of our company and father of our CEO has birthday on 24th Dec. What is the proper business etiquette, do we send flowers to him or hamper on his birthday? We did not do anything on the last time but I would like to correct this in the future. My husband said that in Western society, birthday are usually only for relatives. So, I would appreciate any explanation or suggestion from you.

2. Secondly my CEO’s birthday will be this Saturday, would it be appropriate to send text to him on Saturday? I don’t really want to give wrong impression.

3. On Christmas day or New Year’s Eve, what is the etiquette, do we send text messages to our management? Again, I don’t really want to give impression. The Executive Management in the company are very close to each other; but I would rather to keep it as business relationship. So there is minimum work correspondence out of business hours which may lead problem with my family. 
Thanking you in advance for your guidance.”

And my responses were:
1. I would suggest a hamper as a gift only if it is a “special” birthday, such as a 60th, and only after consulting with your CEO.

2. If you are the CEO’s personal assistant, a birthday card is more appropriate than texting him on his birthday.

3. Christmas/Season’s greetings cards are traditional and in an office environment more correct than texting the executive management.

And so, manners are evolving in so many ways. Do we text, do we Twitter our work colleagues and superiors? In looking at the trends of this new decade I have heard recently that the social networking we have accepted in the last decade will continue and evolve; that we will be more reliant on all aspects of the internet, known and still to evolve,  for the little things to make our “busy” lives easier….but what place tradition then?

The corporate environment, while changing and in many areas becoming more relaxed, still has its unspoken rules… the order of precedence and the hierarchy of superiority are still very much entrenched and should be respected.


  1. Hi Louise, I'm not an expert on etiquette, but I completely agree with you. In a business environment I would never text season's greetings or birthday wishes to my 'superiors'. I wouldn't hesitate sending a text message to colleagues who are on the same 'level' as I am ... However, I do prefer the good old Christmas card; for sending as well receiving!
    Have a wonderful Christmas! Martine

  2. I agree Martine. I really enjoy putting time aside, with a glass of wine or two, and writing Christmas cards...I enjoy receiving them even more! Merry Christmas to you, your mother and your friend. Louise


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