Have you ever been struck by Cupid's arrow at work?
If so, a bit of common sense, good manners and politeness will go a long way towards keeping you out of big trouble.
While the following “do's” and “don’ts” are especially applicable to the workplace on Valentine’s Day, they also merit consideration every day -- regardless of gender or job title.
1) Do: Think Before You Speak.
Before you make a Valentine's Day comment to a co-worker, first think about how your words may be perceived or even taken out of context in a worst case scenario.
Do politely and professionally say, “Happy Valentine’s Day” (as appropriate).
Don’t say, “You look so hot today,” or make sex-based jokes about co-workers.
But what if you want to ask a co-worker to be your Valentine?
Moreover, how do you respond if they reject the offer?
In such an awkward situation be prepared to quickly back off and move on. Remember that “No!” means no, particularly within an office setting.
If your persistent romantic gestures are clearly unwelcome and unwanted, then you may face allegations of sexual harassment. Such potentially unlawful behavior not only sours interoffice dynamics and team synergy, but may also result in disciplinary action or place you in legal jeopardy.
Just one offensive action or gesture may be deemed so egregious and reprehensible that it automatically creates a sexually hostile work environment. Offensive speech and actions may include work emails or other online interactions within a government office during official time.
Thus it’s best to abide by the common refrain, “If in doubt, leave it out” – period. This is usually a good barometer to gauge one’s level of appropriateness, or lack thereof.
2) DON’T: Touch, Stare or Make Crude Gestures.
Don’t ever forcefully or surprisingly embrace a co-worker with a bear hug, peck on the cheek, or any abrupt physical contact whatsoever. This applies on Valentine’s Day and any work day.
You may think that patting a co-worker on the back, butt, shoulders or knees, for instance, is seemingly innocuous behavior. Yet the person on the receiving end may take it the wrong way and have an adverse reaction.
Therefore, it’s best to have a literal “hands-off” policy at work altogether, as some people just don’t like or want to be touched by anyone – perhaps with the exception of a simple handshake.
3) DON’T: Mix Business With Pleasure.
This age-old adage usually makes good business sense, especially when it involves office romance. This means leaving love outside the workplace, for better or worse.
However, in today’s 21st century workplace some people tend to meet their mates where they spend the most time, which may be on the job. Some private sector employers even have policies specifically addressing office dating and romance – socalled "Love Contracts."
People tend to get themselves in trouble at work when they are overzealous and persistent in making romantic overtures – whether real or perceived, explicit or implicit. This is particularly true after receiving a negative response the first time.
What you may judge to be innocent banter, horseplay, or even sincere romance may actually be perceived as rude, insensitive or hostile behavior. Why take that chance?
Thus while close working relationships may unexpectedly lead to something more, it’s always wise to exercise caution and common sense.
Nevertheless, despite the potential pitfalls, if you do choose to pursue a workplace romance be absolutely certain it’s consensual -- not a one way street.
In essence, being struck by Cupid’s arrow at work may at times be unavoidable. This is due to human nature and related factors.
Most people can’t always control where and when they meet or become romantically involved. In fact, some successful long-time marriages actually originated from office romances.
Regardless of your particular circumstance it’s imperative to ensure that Cupid’s arrow does not leave you with a gaping work wound – especially on Valentine’s Day.
My advice: play it safe and avoid workplace romance.
If not, then at least make sure to tread lightly and proceed with caution.
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* NOTE: All views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only.
** DISCLAIMER: Any information contained in this blog post should NOT be construed as formal or informal legal advice. Please consult with the appropriate managerial or legal authority in your workplace based on specific situations.