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As the world’s most romantic day approaches, many professionals like myself get uncomfortable at the thought of celebrating it with colleagues.
On the one hand, expressing love and gratitude (which is, after all, what Valentine’s Day is all about) for them is important. I, for one, know I’d have succumbed under the pressures of this crazy job long ago if not for my fun-loving and supportive Lighthouse family.
On the other hand, there is a pressure to keep this celebration strictly platonic, without crossing any lines or making anyone feel uncomfortable. The last thing you need is a reason for getting fired in your attempt to make your colleagues feel loved. #irony
To help myself maintain a balance between these two pressures, I follow a checklist of things not to do when when celebrating Valentine’s Day with my colleagues. The list is based on my personal experiences and observations and while not extensive, has helped me avoid embarrassing encounters at work the next day.
Don’t buy expensive gifts for special and specific people: Singling colleagues out and giving them extravagant gifts is your one-way ticket to awkward-land. Not only would it draw attention to the nature of your ‘special’ relation with them, but it might hurt the sentiments of your other team members, who might feel less appreciated and loved.
Even if you do want to get something different for colleagues whom you have a special rapport with, you can give it to them discreetly without having to make a big deal out of it in front of the whole office.
Don’t buy inappropriate gifts for colleagues: As obvious as this point is, it needs to be included in this list. Many strong working relationships have been destroyed by colleagues gifting intimate gifts to one another.
It is always wise to remember that the nature of the gift is a possible indication of what the gift giver feels/thinks about you, and sometimes (if not always), ‘the world’s best co-worker’ mug shows your appreciation for your colleague in a much more platonic and warm way than by gifting them lingerie.
Don’t ignore Valentine’s Day: I’ve actually encountered some colleagues who actively go into hiding and refrain from even wishing their team mates. Valentine’s Day is actually a great opportunity for you to build and/or repair relations with colleagues, and help make working with them tons easier.
Even if you don’t want to splurge on gifts, leverage on this festival of love and companionship and wish them a happy Valentine’s Day warmly – it’s the most inexpensive and safest way of doing so.
Don’t use the day as an excuse to flatter and impress: Flattery is the lowest form of wit, and cosying up to your boss or subordinate by taking them out for dinner or taking pains to gift them what they want for Valentine’s Day should be discouraged. Not only will you look like a suck up, you might also risk putting your boss or junior in an uncomfortable situation.
If you do have to get your seniors or subordinates a special gift to show your appreciation, collaborating on a gift with a group of co-workers might be a better idea. Organising staff lunches or dinners on Valentine’s Day does not only get the message across, but is also a brilliant excuse for a team-building session.
The important thing to remember is that Valentine’s Day humanises the people sitting behind their computers everyday and brings joy to the workplace. Use this opportunity to spread the love among the people whom you spend the majority of your time with everyday wisely – I know I will be.
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!