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  1. #1
    Canadian ladies über
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    Retirement Party Etiquette

    Hello,

    I wanted to get some feedback, opinions, and observations from different work places and how they handle retirement parties.

    Three people from my school are retiring this year. We have had retirements in the past, and what we've always done is thrown a party at the school, pot luck, and we collected money (people gave whatever they were comfortable with) and we used the money to buy a gift card for the person.

    Now over the years I had seen other retirement announcements in the school board where people were invited to a party and asked to pay an amount of money to attend the party (usually $30 or $35), with the option of paying $10 only towards the gift if you could not or did not want to attend the actual party.

    I never thought much of this because our school never did that - until this year. So if you wanted to attend all three parties, it would cost over $100 which is a lot for some people.

    I did some internet research and read an article which said

    Invitations should be sent out four weeks in advance and should not mention gifts, unless it says, "No gifts necessary." It shows poor taste to solicit or ask for gifts, particularly money. Therefore, no money tree or general collection fund should be set up. If guests feel inclined to bring a gift, they will.
    Obviously this is just the author's opinion, but I'm wondering what is common practice in other work places?

    For the record two of the parties are going to be taking place in our school gym, and the other at a nearby recreation center.

    I wonder if they are actually going to screen people at the door and only let those people in who paid.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Tinami 2012
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    I think your article answers your questions, just not in the portions you quoted.

    When you invite someone, you pay the bill. The only exception to this rule is if it is a company-coordinated event. If so, generally it is expected that each guest will pay for her own meal.
    Unless directed not to, bring some sort of gift for the retiree. The value or kind of gift would depend on how well you know him. Even if the invitation requests no gifts, a card would be proper. If you have been good friends for the past 20 years, something extravagant or meaningful, but within your budget, is appropriate. It is also okay to orchestrate a larger gift that all coworkers could go in on together.
    At most work retirement parties I've been to, each guests pays $10 or $15 to cover food, generally catered buffet and/or hors d'oeuvres with soft drinks. Sometimes there is beer and wine for free or at a separate cash bar. Each guest is also invited to contribute $10 or $15 (or sometimes an open-ended amount) toward a gift.

    Sometimes, and usually for more senior employees, the company or department will pick up the cost of the food or drink out of its budget. One place I worked (smaller) had cake and champagne paid for by the company for retirements.

    Once, we had a joint retirement party, which is what I would suspect your school would do if three people are retiring -- especially if all at the end of the school year. When my dad, a school counselor, retired, his school did that.

  3. #3
    Internet Beyotch
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    I agree with Louis about the joint party. I am really surprised they aren't doing that. It's what most places I am familiar with would do.
    Actual bumper sticker series: Jesus is my co-pilot. Satan is my financial advisor. Budha is my therapist. L. Ron Hubbard owes me $50.

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    Gee, for my retirement after 22 years with the company, my dept. took me out to lunch (the attendees paid for themselves and me) and that was it. I never expected anything more. With so many people accepting early retirement offers, it would be silly to have extravagant parties and gifts. The cost per person was probably about $15-20 for their own lunch and part of my lunch and a tip.

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    Every year my school has an end of year dinner celebration, & if there are any retirees, they are honored @ the dinner. The dinner is held @ a restaurant, and the cost depends on the restaurant & the number of retirees, as part of the total cost goes towards gifts for the retirees. This year's dinner (buffet style + open bar) costs $45.00 & three retirees will be recognized. I always try to attend the dinner, and if for any reason I'm unable to, I still will contribute a certain amount towards the cost of the gift.
    Last edited by paskatefan; 05-11-2013 at 12:14 PM.

  6. #6

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    Retirement Party Etiquette

    The joint party makes much more sense. The food and drink costs would be 1/3 of what it would be compared to having all 3. The only cost that would stay the same would be gift contributions since there are still 3 people to get gifts for. Plus, I wouldn't want to risk no one coming to one of the parties. Doing it all together ensures a good turn out. If they want their own party then have one with family and non work friends.
    -Brian
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    I would say that if your school has always done it one way and no one is unhappy with that, continue to do that. The one difference would be that with three retirees, a joint celebration would not be inappropriate at all and if they've worked together for many years, they likely would enjoy that.

    One question--do you not have a union/teacher's association? Everywhere I worked, the teacher's association used funds to help cover the costs of gifts and such for those leaving as well as for wedding gifts, baby gifts, flowers if a staff member lost a family member, etc...Dues were paid at the beginning of the year that helped and we did one fundraising event each fall. No collections necessary for anything, then.

  8. #8

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    Our school board hosts the retirement / long service banquet each year. All board employees who are being honored are invited to attend with a guest for free. Everyone else pays. There are gifts for all honorees with the retirement gifts being a little more special. Some schools host additional celebrations for their school communities but that's individual to the school. At my last school, the cost of gifts was taken out of the staff funds that we all contributed to and the gifts were us usually presented at the year - end staff party.
    Haunting the Princess of Pink since 20/07/11...

  9. #9

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    One of the things I've learned from the many etiquette threads at FSU is there really isn't a right way to do anything. What's considered the height of good manners in one area is in the poorest taste in another. There is no such thing as universal manners, and all traditions/mores have pros and cons. Given that, you and your staff should do what feels right for you and your staff. Unless you want to find out who's the most popular among the retirees The upside of this method is every teacher gets their moment in the sun and deservedly gets to be the center of attention. The downside is probably one--or two--teachers will get shafted in attendees. I certainly couldn't afford to pay $100 at the end of the school year with no paycheck for two months. Some staff, rather than choose, will probably not go to any party.

    Most of the schools I've worked for there was a reception after the last final was given. Usually, the school covered drinks and finger sandwiches and staff brought other dishes to round it out. It's kind of a cheap move on the school; we did the same thing even if there were no retirements. Staff then contributed to a gift card and usually a memory book detailing their time at the school was given to them. If three people retired, it was all done at the same time. Most schools here are charter, and it's kind of every school for itself, so policies differ wildly. Some give parties on the top floor of the Marriott, some schools just tell teachers don't let the door hit your ass on the way out, and can we have your stuff?

    When my mom retired from AT&T, the company gave her a choice of: lunch for her department paid for by the company or a fixed amount towards a retirement party. She also got to pick a gift from a catalogue. That option's not really practical for schools.

    danafan, do you have some sway in changing the policy and so you're looking for alternatives, or is it academic? To me personally, the way your school is doing it is paving the way for hurt feelings. I'd opt for one party where all three are honored, with maybe a 45 fee to cover the extra gift cards--presumably the food consumption would be the same as always.
    "The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play." –Olympic Charter

  10. #10
    Tranquillo
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    We don't have any set policy. You get a gift from the company if you have a certain number of years when you retire. Usually someone's friends will either take them out, or they'll have a party and people will chip in for a gift and the party cost.

    But with three differnt people retiring, all at the same location, that really does add up. I would also have recommended one group party with smaller gifts.
    "The Devil is joining in, and that's never a good sign." Phil Liggett

  11. #11
    Canadian ladies über
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    Thanks everyone for your replies. I understand, as Matryeshka said that there's "no such thing as universal manners, and all traditions/mores have pros and cons." I was very curious to hear different points of view and experiences.

    It's too late to change the parties as the invitations have already gone out.

    For whatever reason, the "retirement party committee" at our school this year decided to look at how things are done in our board when deciding this year's parties. Employees can see on our intranet home page a list of all retirement parties and this is how it's generally done. We had just never planned events that way before.

    Two years ago we had two teachers retiring and we had a joint party in the gym and the staff at our school did a pot luck and paid what we wanted towards a gift card for each teacher. Last year we had a pot luck in the library and did the same for the gift.

    Based on the ages of the remaining staff, I don't know when the next retirement would be, but ironically I think it will be the person who is organizing these parties!

    Anyway the teacher federation (union) does a retirement dinner that retirees attend for free and I think they get a small gift. The board also does a retirement dinner (also free for retirees) but I've heard that the teacher federation one is way better.

    Another thing is that our school's social committee, which in September collected its $25 fee, is virtually out of money now so there's no money to draw on for these parties (I think in the past we tapped into the social committee fund to either buy a cake or some other food item for the retirement parties). I also would like more transparency on how our social committee money is being spent, but that's another topic altogether....

    I understand the concept of paying for your own meal, though $20-$25 seems like a lot for a stand up dinner in a school gym. I wonder if the party organizers would accept a food contribution in lieu of that.

    I still think it's tacky to ask for a set amount of money to go towards the gift.

    I'm also concerned that some people will decide not to attend any of the parties lest they offend one or more of the retirees.

    When I retire I'm going to invite people to either an Indian or Chinese buffet restaurant, people can pay their own bill (I'll pay mine!) and if people want to give me a gift, that'll be their choice.

  12. #12
    Beach Bum
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    In our company, the extravagance of the budget depends on the title of the person - senior execs get sit-down dinners and lower level employees get cake and punch in a conference room, and people in between might get the cake party or a lunch. There is a company retirement gift too, but it is usually includes a watch, cufflinks, or jewelry item and a framed photo of corporate headquarters or a caricature or some nonsense - which is signed by everyone in the department who wants to sign. No-one is asked to contribute for the dinner/cake or for the gift. A school probably would not have the budget for this.

    We had a voluntary layoff event where many people took early retirement so our department leader threw one big catered sit down dinner for all of them. There were getting financial packages for volunteering to leave so they didn't get gifts other than if they reached a service event (we get gifts we choose from a catalog at 5, 10, 15, 20 years etc).

    When the person is a good friend, we take them out on our own - lunch or dinner or maybe just drinks/apps. We just shoot out an email asking if anyone wants to attend. No-one is pressured, and it is understood that it is "Dutch" with each of us picking up a portion of the retiree's meal/drinks. Same goes if someone has a particular idea for a more personal gift than the company one, the same goes - no pressure or particular $ request.
    I think I will have a snack and take a nap before I eat and go to sleep.

  13. #13
    Canadian ladies über
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    Well, the committee decided that people could bring a food item and pay less to attend the retirement parties. That seems to be a good solution.

    Thanks for your thoughts everyone. I knew that FSU had a wealth of knowledge from different work situations that would bring some good perspective on this.

  14. #14

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    That's good.
    Haunting the Princess of Pink since 20/07/11...

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