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Valentine’s Day in the workplace – Where does cupid belong on the organogram? Featured

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Valentine’s Day in the workplace – Where does cupid belong on the organogram?

With February considered the month of love and Valentine’s Day just around the corner, what are some of the workplace related issues that many may not be aware of? Manpower Group South Africa explains that while the day offers an opportunity of air your feelings, it may also get you into hot water at work.

“Although this is generally a fun time for romance for many, when in the context of the workplace, there are often a few points that employees and employers need to take into account in order to ensure a smooth and drama free Valentine’s Day,” says Lyndy Van Den Barselaar – Managing Director for Manpower Group South Africa.


“Remember, that you have to go to your workplace on a daily basis, so rather leave amorous advances for out of the office. If you decide to let someone know about your feelings for them and are rebuffed, it may cause embarrassment and distress for both of you”.


“So if you’re thinking that Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to let a co-worker know how you feel, take a few minutes to think it over. Remember that what worked on the school ground will not be as readily accepted in the office and may see your declaration of affections returned with a formal complaint. Not only can it lead to making your daily workplace a place of embarrassment every day, but it can also put you in line for sexual harassment charges.”


“Depending on the type of co-workers, wishing someone a happy Valentine’s Day could be misconstrued as declaring affection, regardless of how innocent it may have been. Furthermore, always remember that your co-workers lives and social circles extend beyond the workplace. Getting along with a co-worker and wishing them a happy Valentine’s Day may be acceptable between the two of you. But spouses or partners can often see this act in a very different light when they’re told about it, causing complications.”


“Try to avoid giving gifts in the office and if you do, give the same item to everyone to avoid people feeling left out. Also depending on your work environment and culture, handing out Valentine’s cards may be seen as unprofessional and even affect the perception of how seriously you take your position. It sounds harsh, but unfortunately it is all too true. Being viewed as ‘emotional’ or ‘soft’ can lead to being typecast,” advises Barselaar.


In South Africa especially, with many different cultures and ideas in the workplace, it is easy to inadvertently give the wrong message. Because the nature of the observed day is romantic, acknowledgment of the day to co-workers could be viewed in a romantic sense. It can be difficult to establish what is ‘appropriate’ but as a general rule it is better to err on the side of caution and rather keep Valentine’s plans for after hours.


“Keep in mind how easy it is to breed resentment in the office. Though this may sound petty and uncalled for, many employees can react in unexpected ways when they either feel left out or are the object of unwelcome advances. You may make other staff members feel uncomfortable without realising it, and if those staff members are subordinates, you might create some serious problems if your actions are viewed in the wrong light or deemed inappropriate. If you happen to be involved with someone in your office, try and keep it low key and leave your romantic plans for outside the workplace, separating romantic plans and work,” explains Barselaar.


“For employers, Valentine’s Day can offer an additional opportunity to let employees know you are appreciative of your efforts instead of pushing the romantic angle of the day. Also depending on your office culture, you may want to create a small event where everyone can participate. This can go a long way to negate any negative emotions felt by those who may feel excluded or not receive any attention on Valentine’s and can boost staff morale.”


“In the end it all comes down to the culture and nature of ones work place. Individuals will need to use their own discretion in knowing what to do and what to avoid as long as they consider the possible unexpected outcomes of their actions. As a rule, keep Valentine’s Day out of the office unless it is something that all staff have agreed upon to do together for the day. This will probably be the best solution to avoid awkward and unexpected situations,” concludes Barselaar.

Last modified on Monday, 11 February 2013 16:05
Lyndy van den Barselaar

Lyndy van den Barselaar

Lyndy van den Barselaar has been in the recruitment industry since 1996 and has been involved in all aspects of the recruitment business. She has been involved mainly on the financial side as Financial Manager after which she spent time in financial recruitment as a General Manager before running the outsourcing side of the business. She Joined Manpower in May 2011, initially as Financial Manager and then in January was appointed acting MD in addition to still being Financial Manager. She is currently finishing the final stage of her CIMA qualification.

Website: www.manpower.co.za/

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