Navigating Valentine’s Day at Work

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A lively debate about Valentine’s Day among senior executives took place last week. The comments were about how, in some places, Valentine’s Day has now taken on the proportions of a major holiday. One said, “We may as well give everyone the day off since productivity goes way down on that day.” Another exec responded, “No way. That’s the day where everyone brings lots of chocolates to the boss.” Yet another said, “It’s the only day of the year when I get to wear that tie that says ‘Kiss Me’ on it. Plus, I give away those little hearts with slogans on them like, ‘Be Mine’ and ‘I Have a Crush on You.’ All the others jumped in and warned him, “Whoa, that can get you in big trouble.” Hold on.

Valentine’s Day can be a tricky holiday at work. Or is it a holiday? The impact Valentine’s Day has at work can approach that of Halloween or St. Patrick’s Day. And what to do on Valentine’s Day can be just as confusing. Should we celebrate the annual day of romance and love, or do we ignore it because romance and love have no place at work?

In a random and non-scientific survey of managers about Valentine’s Day, they provided some useful navigational options for the day:

  • Most managers surveyed suggested the best way to deal with Valentine’s Day is toignore it. Come on, you’re not in first grade and it’s not an excuse to take the day off. Like most other holidays, Valentine’s Day can create stress. Even chocolate can be loaded with questions. Should I bring the chocolate for everyone? What about the people who are on gluten free, sugar free diets? Will they be offended? What about those people I never liked in Accounts Payable? What if no one brings any chocolate for me?
  • Sometimes the holiday can’t be avoided. If you work in any place near any retail outlet that sells candy, jewelry, flowers or greeting cards, you are in the middle of the Valentine’s Day swirl. There are some workplaces that embrace each and every holiday with glee and Valentine’s Day is no exception. In either case, in the celebration at work don’t make people feel bad. As in, why does everyone else have a Valentine except me? The Lonely Hearts Club expands around Valentine’s Day with lots of resolve to be in a different situation next year, but feelings can still be wounded. As the shipments from Victoria Secret’s clutter up the mailroom, the imagination can run wild and make those without a Valentine feel worse.
  • Hidden among the buzz of activities, maybe Valentine’s Day presents somenavigational opportunities too. It could be the day to tell that co-worker who is after you that “I like you; but not in that way.” If you are in love with and dating a co-worker; it could be the day that you have the “talk” about how this is going to all work out since you work in the same place. Maybe the opportunity will pop up to show people that you are not an automaton and that you do have feelings.

Several managers surveyed commented that attorneys love Valentine’s Day for the litigation issues that can arise. Any holiday about romance and love creates opportunities for all kinds of lawsuits. And what should we do about the weird boss who always gives away little hearts with slogans on them? If the holiday is celebrated, navigate it with good judgment.

All those surveyed agreed that Valentine’s Day is a special day and it’s ok to do a little celebrating. It ‘s nice to be able to show co-workers that you care about others and have emotions. Maybe a little passion will help in dealing with customers and clients. But there should be no impact on productivity and it is not a day to create excuses to do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do at work.

Navigating Valentine’s Day is no different from other holidays at work. The corporate culture in which you live will dictate how to behave. Good advice is to take a cue from the other holidays at work, use your good judgment and never get drunk.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

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