12 Tips for Handling Valentine’s Day at the Office

Valentine’s Day at Work: Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue — Keep Both of Them to Yourself on Feb. 14

Valentine’s Day is a Double-Edged Sword

Valentine’s Day. Perhaps no other holiday evokes stronger feelings from both the lovesick and those entirely sick of love. Sure the celebration of holidays at the office can be fun. After all, you’re still sporting that certificate for “Best Costume” at Halloween. But if management wanted you to make a big deal about Valentine’s Day at work, they’d have handed out a list of names and asked you to decorate a card box for your desk just like in the fourth grade.

The bottom line is Cupid would never make it past security for a reason. Love may be the motto for February in the card aisle, but in the office, the key word is “discretion.”

Here’s a list of helpful tips to keep in mind if you’re thinking about merging your love life with your professional life this Feb. 14.

Tone Down the Flower Power

Oh my gosh! He sent you flowers!

After reception calls you down to pick up your two dozen roses and you’ve dashed through the office to fill that enormous vase with water, you’ll walk back to your desk via another route to brighten the day of even more officemates with your burgeoning bouquet. You chuckle while straining to see where you are going around those big blooms, and benevolently toss tissues toward the sniffles you hear in your wake.

Psssst. Being officially dubbed “Valentine Worthy” is nice, but has no bearing on your performance review. Be sensitive to others who may not be similarly blessed, and don’t needlessly showboat while others are drowning in romantic turmoil. Smiling is fine, but please refrain from cartwheels.

Today is Not the Day to Profess Your Love for a Coworker

A quick peek at the box office charts or TV shows proves nothing pulls in the crowds like a good drama.

But for every Jim and Pam in The Office, just remember there are 10 Michael & Jan fiascos that leave a trail of destruction in their wake. So, even if you’re convinced the redhead in accounting is your soulmate, don’t go all Hollywood in the office. You don’t have complete control of this script and plot twists happen. Wisdom dictates not creating that sort of memorable moment at the job that’s your home away from home.

Don’t be the drama. Let your co-workers pay full price at the multiplex.

Don’t End Up Humiliating Your Valentine

Let’s talk about Valentine’s Day gifts from the sending party’s side.

You may want to impress your significant other, but please be aware of your beloved’s office environment. Yes, the two of you share a unique love of barbershop quartets, but sending a serenade into a “silence is golden” atmosphere isn’t going to win you points. Similarly, that six-foot floating heart might not fit the steady image your executive-in-training is working to cultivate. Send it to the home address instead.

Don’t have that? Um…dating one of your imaginary friends again?

No Candy Hearts. We Mean It!

Use your words. Don’t communicate with candy hearts.

Yes, we know you never would. This is for that prankster over in marketing who defines “inappropriate” with a question mark. Sure, it might seem fitting to leave GET REAL on the sales manager’s mouse pad. Or SO FINE on the desktop of your secret crush. But don’t.

If secret messages are that appealing, spend some time deciphering the raised eyebrows you’d get if you actually did something so foolish.

Don’t Ruin Valentine’s Day For Everyone Else Just Because You’re Bitter

No one likes the wet blanket.

So even if you’re single, try not to be the one repeatedly saying Valentine’s Day is just a commercial holiday. Or the one who sighs heavily every time a Valentine’s Day dinner date is mentioned. Yes, this is the one day it definitely stinks to be single. But it’s one day, and your favorite program is on tonight anyway. Don’t get saddled with a bitter reputation over one day. Pretend it doesn’t matter because it doesn’t.

You’re cool, have a great job and tomorrow all that great chocolate will be half price.

Plan Ahead. Not at Work

Speed dialing is not going to save you if you didn’t make those Valentine’s Day dinner reservations last week. So let it go. The same goes for the last minute ordering of bouquets, chocolates or spa moments. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Panic is unprofessional and could lead to questions regarding your preparedness for work responsibilities which…ahem…this is company time now anyway, is it not?

Save the Day Hint: grab a blanket, spread it out on the floor with a bottle of wine and some take-out anything and call it a picnic. She’ll think you’re creative and romantic. You’re welcome.

Cut the Cute

Resist the urge to revisit childhood with a mass delivery of cute valentines or red lollipops. Some in your office are counting down the minutes until February 15th and won’t appreciate the reminder. The rest have dinner reservations and probably won’t notice. If you feel compelled to do something, bring in a plate of cookies or bagels.

And “no” to those cute single serving bags of message-laden candy hearts. Best case scenario, someone will discover their aerodynamic qualities. Worst case, someone will break a tooth on one of those hard tasteless confections and harbor Valentine’s Day resentments for years to come.

Dress for Success, Not Your Date

Refrain from decking yourself out like a Valentine’s Day store display.

A red or pink tie? Fine. It’s a subtle nod to the day, but not a bobble-head moment. That glittery red top that you plan to wear for dinner tonight? No blazer in the world will tone down that dazzler. And the rule is: if you can’t wear a clothing item in front of an open fridge without shivering, it stays home from the office.

By all means, bring your after-work wear with you. But put it on after work.

Keep Private Details Private

Have a special night planned? Well, bully for you. Er…sorry. Well isn’t that nice!

Here’s a tip worth its weight in 14 carat heart-shaped gold: keep those Valentine’s Day details to yourself and your very best office buddies. Your hopes, your dreams? Keep them tethered to financial targets, sales goals, and marketing strategies when in the office. No one needs to know you’re hoping for a proposal or ready to drop to one knee. Instead, smile discreetly and say that you “have plans.” That’s enough.

Don’t be a Cubicle Decorating Diva

Unless you teach in a classroom, keep the decorating to an absolute minimum (but if you are a teacher, the hearts montage gets a thumbs up from most of us over that pesky periodic table of elements). No single decoration should cause glitter blindness, dizziness, ducking or cringing. All decorations as a whole should be barely detectable.

It’s a narrow window. If you can’t squeeze your Valentine’s stuff through it, kindly donate to a local elementary school.

Don’t Enable the Despondent

It’s inevitable. Holidays are prime break-up times. If it didn’t happen over New Year’s, it’s bound to sideswipe somebody pre-Valentine’s Day.

There are stages. First comes sobbing in a bathroom stall. Hand over tissues and light condolences before heading back to your desk. Stage 2 could include anger and/or regret. At this point, be thankful Cupid is not in the building with a ready stash of arrows. Deflect, encourage and, again, head back to your desk.

Do not enable drama. Present the bigger picture. Show your co-worker his or her place within it. Stage 3, acceptance, will surely follow.

We’ve Told You What Not to Do, Here Are the Simple Dos

It’s simple really. Less is more.

Consider Valentine’s Day at the office to be of the same significance as the outside weather is to your climate-controlled comfort. General goodwill is fine. Specific warm feelings are not.

DO send professional compliments (Nice job on leading the meeting! Your brainpower was invaluable). DO compliment the bounties of others (Um…nice stuffed bear). DO keep in mind there are 365 other days in this year. (It’s a leap year. Thought you had us, didn’t you?)

This is really one of the easier holidays to navigate professionally. Best advice? Ignore it until 5 p.m.

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