We all know that the initial purpose of Valentine’s Day was for individuals to express their love to those whom they love in a non-platonic way. I was tempted to say romantic, but I once had a manager deny there was any romantic relationship because “it was only sex.”
Over time, however, the meaning of Valentine’s Day has changed. Just look at cards to parents, grandparents, kids, etc. There is no sexual message.
Many employees acknowledge the day too by simply saying “have a nice Valentine’s Day.” I don’t think they mean: “I want you here and now.”
And, some managers will bring in Valentine’s candy or other treats. I don’t think they have any predatory motive.
At the same time, risks are higher now than before. #metoo. Even so, we want civility, not sterility.
So, I am not sure it is reasonable to say Valentine’s Day has no place in the workplace. That may make the employer seem excessively restrictive with the unintended consequence of making critical restrictions seem less important.
Here are 8 guard rails to consider as we approach Valentine’s Day:
- It's probably okay to say Happy Valentine’s Day. I would avoid happy V.D.
- Better to say Happy Valentine’s Day to a group than an individual. You don’t want anyone to feel singled out.
- Be thoughtful not only on what you say but also how you say it. An accompanying wink can make earnings disappear in a blink.
- Managers should be more careful if, when, and how. Perhaps respond only but don’t initiate.
- Managers should never send a card, e-mail or social media message to a subordinate over whom they have direct or indirect authority. Most certainly the card should not include an audio of I Honestly Love You. Yup, I’m a boomer.
- Never ask anyone who their Valentine is or whether they have one unless you want to be a defendant.
- Any food you might bring in can be shared without fanfare. Don’t need to say anything. The food will speak for itself.
- Remember, not everyone has a “Valentine” in the traditional sense. While not having an intimate partner is not a “protected group,” such individuals are human beings who matter. Be thoughtful about how such individuals may feel when we share what is a common bond to most but not all.
The business world is becoming painfully competitive. Sometimes businesses get lost in defining and crowing about their cultures without genuinely caring for people who compose it.
No, HR does not need to coddle employees, but we need to help bring back some of the warmth in our workplaces that has been replaced by an increase in harassing behaviors, bullying, and political infighting.
A little kindness goes a long way in creating a respectful and productive culture—not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day.