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My coworker left invitations to a baby shower for herself on the desks of everyone in the office. We are a small company, with less than 20 employees. I’m not very close to this coworker, though I have socialized outside work with a few other people from the office. My question is this: Do I have to go to this shower? The event is being held at her house. It feels like a gift grab; maybe I’m being too sensitive, but since it’s a social function, shouldn’t these invitations be mailed to our homes? If I don’t go to the shower, do I still have to give a gift? What’s the polite thing to do here? It’s all quite awkward.
Well, Confused, I can see why you're confused.
Traditionally, the baby shower is not hosted by the parents-to-be. Your coworker may have distributed invitations at the direction of the actual hosts, but she should have the mailing address of everyone who attends in order to send thank-you notes. The shower is usually hosted by a close friend of the family or a cousin -- not the future grandparents or future aunts and uncles to the baby. Consult the invites themselves to determine who the host is for this affair.
In short, you don't have to go to this event. If you choose to go, you should bring a gift, preferably off the registry. If you don't go, which is your decision to make, be prepared to answer some (potentially rude) questions about why you didn't attend from other colleagues and even from your coworker herself.
Often an in-office shower is thrown to recognize births and marriages within companies. That would have been the easier answer here but it's been taken off the table.