Monday, February 10, 2014

Does Valentine's Day have any business in the workplace?

Cards, candy hearts, roses, and chocolate –- if you haven’t noticed, Valentine’s Day is upon us once again.

As our family prepared for this week, my 8-year old happily reviewed with me her Valentines she made for each of her classmates.  On Friday she will proudly give her cards and candy to friends at her class party. Valentine’s Day has always had a place in the schools and classrooms -– but what about the workplace?

Thousands of people across the country will happily give chocolates, cards, candy and flowers in the workplace on Friday or in turn receive them from loved ones outside the workplace. It seems innocent and harmless right? It would be ludicrous to think that such a fun and casual holiday could have a negative impact on the workplace. But hold on ...

For a holiday like Valentine’s Day, a commercialized annual celebration of love, often times gifts, cards or emails celebrating this holiday can lead to unintentional mixed messages among co-workers.  A simple card, gift or flirtatious comment from one co-worker to another has the potential to create a negative response on the receiving end, which can lead to damaged working relationships and even -- based on the nature of the gift, card, email or behavior -- claims of sexual harassment.

At the management level, if gifts, cards and candy go to selected employees and not everyone, this can lead to charges of favoritism. These issues can damage relations between co-workers and affect internal operations in ways that far exceed the initial impact on Valentine’s Day.

As if this didn’t seem problematic enough, think of how productivity itself is decreased on Valentine’s Day – especially for the employee who has to sign for, receive and distribute deliveries to the workplace. As employees receive cards, gifts and flowers, others are stopping to see what their colleagues have received. I am pretty sure if one were to observe the productivity and efficiency levels of a business on Valentine’s Day the results would be shocking.

Still, for all the bad there can also be a light and appropriate side to Valentine’s Day in the workplace. Valentine’s Day is a perfect opportunity to have fun internal events like potlucks, teambuilding exercises, employee appreciation events and sharing tasty treats like desserts.

It's your business.