Each year, February 14 presents a challenge for business owners. How much celebrating should be encouraged or barred? What dating policies are in place or should there be any? How can everyone avoid hurting some employees’ feelings? Challenging questions for sure, especially in our #MeToo/#TimesUp environment. Here are some ideas that I’ve covered before and updated now to help you keep everyone comfortable on your staff and safe on Valentine’s Day.
Don’t make it an office party.
This day isn’t something everyone likes to celebrate. YouGovAmerica reported last year that only 30% of U.S. adults think it’s a special day (despite the hype from Hallmark, Godiva Chocolate, jewelers, and restaurants offering special menus on this day). Certainly, you don’t want some employees to feel any financial imposition for the day.
Do share with everyone.
If an employee brings goodies, be sure there’s enough for all employees, not just a select few. You don’t want any employees to be left out. But discourage gift-giving…an awkward and financially-challenging task for many.
Don’t get personal.
Owners should refrain from inquiring about employee’s personal life that doesn’t concern the company. It’s also a good idea as part of company policy to discourage gossip.
Do think about a dating policy.
Work is where many people find their life partners, or at least that was the case before the proliferation of remote work arrangements. And SHRM research last year found that half of U.S. workers have or had a crush on a co-worker. But when co-workers date, it can impede their productivity and make other workers uncomfortable. And if there’s a breakup, one or both parties may be awkward. There’s no law against dating a co-worker, but owners have latitude in creating a dating policy, as long as it doesn’t impinge on employees’ privacy and state law permits such a policy. Some reasonable restrictions, for example, could be:
- Banning dating between anyone with authority over another (e.g., a supervisor and subordinate).
- Restricting dating within a department.
- Requiring disclosure to protect the employer. For example, consider having the parties sign an acknowledgment (love contracts?) that the relationship is consensual and that they will not hold the company liable for sexual harassment. SHRM found that 77% of employers didn’t require such disclosure.
Be sure any dating policy you consider is reviewed by an employment law attorney to make certain you haven’t crossed any lines.
Do have an anti-sexual harassment policy in place.
You don’t want flirting or other behavior to make other employees uncomfortable, or feel they are being sexually harassed. Guidance on what to know about sexual harassment in the workplace was covered in an earlier blog (it’s an old post but the main ideas are still on point).
Ann Landers said: “Love is friendship that has caught fire.”
Who knows what your office atmosphere may stoke? In any event, it’s okay to say “Happy Valentine’s Day” to co-workers.