8 unspoken rules of celebrating Valentine’s Day at work

Celebrating Valentine’s Day at work can be hard.
Celebrating Valentine’s Day at work can be hard. –GLOBE

As the holiday of love, Valentine’s Day can be a tricky one to celebrate in the workplace. We spoke with some experts who provided tips on how to navigate potentially awkward situations, and came up with some unspoken Valentine’s Day rules:

 1. Go ahead. Send your significant other a gift (even if you don’t work together).

As long as you’re certain your valentine is extroverted enough to feel comfortable receiving a present where he or she works, career coach Leigh Doherty of Boston’s Designed Alliance said it’s a good idea.

“It humanizes people and brings joy to the workplace,’’ Doherty said. “It reminds people there’s life outside the workplace.’’


2. Just make sure the gift is appropriate.

Doherty said she once heard a co-worker was gifted lingerie at work on Valentine’s Day. This is probably a bad idea, along with anything overly noisy or obnoxious, like one of those singing cards, or a man dressed up in a gorilla suit.

A good rule of thumb is – “Can this gift be seen or heard from 10 cubicles away?’’ If yes, scrap the idea.

3. But you can still be creative!

“I’d encourage you to think about how you could be creative beside the run of the mill flowers and chocolate,’’ Doherty said. She and a past boyfriend had a running joke about ketchup, so on Valentine’s Day he sent her flowers and a bottle of Heinz.

Mary Murphy, leadership consultant and founder of life coaching company Her Coach, said her significant other loves music, so she would send him a music-themed gift, like a musical note–shaped card. “I think of things he really loves that would speak to what I know of him or our relationship,’’ she said.

Although it’s unlikely anyone would turn down a box of chocolates.

4. You can involve their coworkers.

If your significant other just started at a new job, why not make him or her look good? Kathy Robinson, a counselor at Boston career coaching company Turning Point, posed just that question during an interview with Boston.com.


This could include a gift card to a restaurant near your sweetheart’s office where he or she could take some co-workers out for lunch, or a chocolate cake to share with colleagues. It might allow your valentine to socialize with people they don’t usually interact with, Robinson said.

5. If you’re going to get one co-worker a valentine…

Get all your co-workers valentines.

This rule goes back to elementary school days, Robinson said. “It’s not good politically to highlight that you might only like one or two people in the office,’’ she added.

A good way to circumvent any hurt feelings is to bring in a democratic office present, like a candy bowl, cookies, or donuts, Robinson said. “These types of gifts benefit more than just the recipient.’’

6. Do NOT get your boss a gift from yours truly. 

You will look like a suck up, and risk putting your boss in an uncomfortable situation, Robinson said. “Bosses’s gifts are appropriate as going away presents, but typically, it puts bosses in the awkward spot of feeling like they are going to be on the spot at review time, or might be accused of favoritism,’’ she said.

If you must get your boss a Valentine’s Day present, Murphy suggested collaborating on a gift with a group of co-workers. “It’s a nice way to bring a team together on something not so work-related,’’ Murphy said. “And it’s an opportunity to get a really nice gift since everyone is pitching in.’’


7. Be aware of your surroundings.

If the co-worker who sits across from you just got dumped, it’s not a great idea to leave the two dozen red roses you received on your desk for weeks. Bring them home at the end of the day, Robinson said.

Murphy added that if a colleague seems particularly depressed, consider taking him or her out for a quick cup of coffee. “Ask them where they’re coming from, and try and put yourself in someone else’s shoes,’’ she said. “It will go along way and help build office relationships.’’

 8. Accept any and all valentines.

Unless someone gives you something offensive, don’t be annoying – accept presents graciously. NO ONE likes the person who refuses candy because of his or her new Paleo diet. No one.


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