DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am an attorney at a small firm. When the staff member who used to buy birthday cakes retired, I picked up a cake for a birthday that was going to be observed right after she left.
I then bought the next birthday cake, which was for my favorite member of the firm. And then I bought a cake for the least-liked person in the office, fearing that his feelings would be hurt because no one else was going to rise to the occasion.
Now, there is an expectation that I will supply all birthday cakes. This expectation is harmful because I am the first and only woman attorney at the firm, and one of the youngest, as well. It's also an expensive habit; the time taken getting the cakes equates to hundreds of dollars in billable hours, which I make up for by working later.
Do you have any suggestions on how to stop this cycle? I know that I've been part of the problem, but unfortunately my time machine is on the fritz.
GENTLE READER: Are there any junior staff members or receptionists at your firm? If so, Miss Manners suggests you solicit their assistance. Or build a rotating schedule among the attorneys.
Or best of all, suggest to your firm that you abandon the practice altogether. Cake in the office is not enough of a treat (and is often the object of dread by those watching sugar, gluten and other ingredients) to warrant all of this expense and angst.
Surely a card would suffice instead. But please promise just to leave it in the break room for people to sign -- rather than use billable hours going from office to office collecting signatures.