Friday, February 19, 2010

Valentine's Day in The Office and in "The Office"

I'm just catching up on my DVR from last week after a fun trip down to New Orleans and one of the shows that I recently watched was "The Office" from last Thursday. It had a Valentine's Day theme which reminded me a lot of the Astronology from last week titled "Valentine's Day: Friend or Foe of the Workplace". Andy Bernard, a guy in Dunder Mifflin, likes Erin, a girl, but he doesn't want to make it that obvious by just giving her a Valentine's Day card and gives one to everyone in the office. Except he doesn't actually read the cards and confusion (and hilarity) ensues when some of his cards are a bit too "loving". In the fictional Dunder Mifflin, no one ever seems to get in trouble for violating Codes of Conduct, but in your real-life office, this could become a real problem:
While we look to the positive side of the holiday, there is always the concern about sexual harassment claims. The romantic nature of the holiday may encourage some employees to express their feelings for co-workers. Each year runs an eye-opening study on office romance. should be releasing the 2010 results shortly. Barbara Safani of Career Solvers also recently blogged on the prevalence of workplace romances and why people get involved with co-workers. While we can’t control everyone’s actions, as HR professionals, we need to ensure our employees know our organization’s policies regarding sexual harassment and hostile work environment to prevent legal claims.
I think the key is to revert to elementary school politics to prevent problems from occurring. As Astronology suggests, after what we all went through in 2009, Valentine's Day just gives workplaces another "excuse" to bring a "small injection of fun" into the office--but it needs to be fully inclusive of everyone. Games, candy, and even cheap gift cards all seem to work. Since it's Mardi Gras time, bringing in a King Cake for your group is a fun, sweet way to celebrate. The tradition is that whoever finds the tiny plastic baby has to buy the next King Cake. This allows some fun competition between office members and allows everyone to participate in a cheap fun way.

The Astronology concludes with some great advice: "Whatever options you implement, utilize this opportunity to reach out to your employees and let them know how much they mean to your organization!"

Photograph courtesy of NBC, Byron Cohen via Poptimal.

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