01/23/2015 03:15 pm ET Updated Mar 25, 2015

5 Signs Your Co-Workers Are Giving You a Bridal/Baby Shower

They teach you quite a bit in school. Algebra, world history, chemistry. But I've always felt that there was a knowledge hole, a plethora of vital information nobody ever takes the time to teach you. One of these things, undoubtedly, is how to execute a successful surprise party.

There is no surprise party more frequently flubbed than the shower, be it for bride or baby. Frankly, I'm a believer that, unless you have something especially unique planned, there's no shame in the soon-to-be mom or wife knowing about her shower ahead of time. But everyone (particularly in the office) insists on the element of surprise... even if they do everything within their power to ruin exactly that.

In my experience, here are the most common ways co-workers ruin these alleged surprise showers.

1. The sudden disappearance

You don't know why, but your entire department is MIA. Five minutes ago, it was bustling with all the pep and chaos of a trading room floor. Now tumbleweeds are blowing through it. Not suspicious at all.

2. The roomy conference room

You just received an Outlook planner from your boss, who'd like to meet with you that afternoon to discuss the "plan for coverage during your time off." The meeting is for only the two of you, and the conference room you're supposed to be going to seats 35 people. Nope, not suspicious at all.

3. The manila folder

A suspiciously unmarked folder (with a card inside) is passed around the department from person to person, with a list of names, some crossed out, some not. This folder is treated with the care of highly confidential government documents. If you happen to spot someone holding it, they'll break into a sweat and run the other way. Everything's normal here.

4. The check-in

The day of your shower, about 15 minutes before it's supposed to start, someone will randomly pop into your cube. No reason, though. They just wanted to say "what's up?" There's no reason to be suspicious, especially when you hear them whispering to your cube neighbor 30 seconds later.

5. The escort service

This sometimes goes hand-in-hand with bullet #4. But your shower is the only meeting in your life that you apparently need a personal handler to assist with transportation from your seat to the room that's down the hall. And it's the same person who booked you in a one-on-one meeting in the huge conference room, who you saw sneaking around with a manila folder that checked in on you 15 minutes ago.

Instead of failing so badly at trying to surprise the guest of honor (who knows she's getting a shower anyway), focus more on finding out what she might actually need. That way, the gift will be practical, it won't get returned, and you can bypass all the Mission: Impossible hoopla surrounding what is supposed to be a joyous time. Besides, whether she's a soon-to-be bride or a soon-to-be mom, there are going to be more than enough surprises around the corner to get her blood pressure spiking.

When my co-workers held a surprise shower for me before I got married, they told me we were meeting for a department-wide Halloween party (I got married in early November). So, I showed up wearing a Michael Meyers mask and a blue jump-suit (it was my "house work outfit" so it was soaked in paint and gasoline). Needless to say, I wish I had followed the aforementioned five signs.

Feel free to email me ideas for future articles, the intricate details of your dream last night, etc. to or follow me on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.