Remember when you use to place a makeshift mailbox at your desk and fellow classmates would walk around and place those adorable little valentines in it? You’d always give the weird card with the frog catching a fly to the boy who picked his nose during class and save the adorable puppy and kitten pictures for your closest friends. Then there was usually the eating of pink frosted cupcakes and heart shaped candies, sometimes fruit punch was served – who knows, but it was fun and seemingly harmless.
In the workplace, it’s not so simple. You can’t give the booger picker the weird card without someone’s feelings getting hurt. But, aren’t we supposed to have gotten older and wiser – and shock – maybe even more mature since the second grade?
Then there’s the fact that Valentine’s Day is the celebration of love. Quickly, workplace events around the February 14th holiday turn into more of a ‘know your rights when it comes to sexual harassment’ instead of an innocent excuse to eat fun-colored baked goods with the people you work with.
Steve Palazzolo, a labor attorney at the law firm of Warner Norcross & Judd, was quoted in anarticle last year saying, “What worked for us in elementary school does not translate successfully to the office. To avoid conflict – or, even worse, violating discrimination laws – tread very carefully in this area.”
But, there is a way to translate your carefree kindergarten rituals into a corporate-safe celebration, I’m convinced.
So, how can you go from an all-out second grade-style event to something more work appropriate? Follow these three cardinal rules, and perhaps, just maybe, we can bring a little (appropriate) love back into the workplace:
- No naughty, provocative, or otherwise confessional love cards. If you decide to bring in Valentine’s Day cards at all, which Palazzolo advises against doing in the first place, keep them as simple and generic as possible.
Do: “Hang in there Valentine” with a picture of a monkey.
Don’t Do: Love poems, like, “A little look from you and I know things are OK. You have a way of communicating with me in a way no one else is able. You put me at ease and keep my heart stable. And this is just one of the ways that made me fall head over heels, deeply, madly in love with you.”
(If you use the link above to love poems to begin crafting your workplace messages, you don’t follow advice very well.)
- Everything in moderation. It’s nice to feel nice and it’s even nicer to feel loved. It’s OK to have things delivered on the dedicated day of love – but don’t go overboard. In asurvey conducted by Glassdoor.com, one-quarter of respondents said that they want to receive flowers at work from their significant other. So, you may want to share this tip with your special someone so they know what you’re expecting but also know what would totally embarrass you.
Do: A small arrangement of flowers with a simple card is nice.
Don’t Do: An enormous bouquet of 48 long-stem roses and a singing quartet is not.
- This isn’t Christmas…but let’s not ignore the elephant in the room either. I think perhaps the worst thing a company, a boss, or otherwise a decision maker can do is completely neglect the holiday altogether. There’s going to be that silent undercurrent of it being Valentine’s Day whether it’s acknowledged or not. The same general rule that applies when wishing people a “Merry Christmas,” comes to mind. Everyone has their own stipulations around holidays, so be sure to keep Valentine’s Day as sweet and simple as possible. Maybe have everyone bring in their favorite holiday-themed dessert, like heart-shaped brownies or red velvet whoopie pies – and be sure that everyone’s included.
Do: A small organized event in recognition of the holiday – like a pot luck bake-off. Yes, there’ll be pink and red sprinkles but if someone gets uncomfortable about that, maybe they shouldn’t work with other human beings.
Don’t Do: Over the top decorations, extensive conversations about after-hour love fests, or conduct a guessing game about who’s single and who’s not.