Business Monday

Navigate Valentine’s Day at work with caution

Carmen Quintana and Adriana Rodriguez wear Valentine’s Day costume attire at the Center for Dental Implants in Aventura.
Carmen Quintana and Adriana Rodriguez wear Valentine’s Day costume attire at the Center for Dental Implants in Aventura. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

One year, I shared a workspace in the newsroom with a colleague who was single. When my husband sent me roses on Valentine’s Day, I proudly displayed them — until she told me the bouquet perched between us made her feel awful.

Valentine’s Day often is a collision of our love lives and our professional lives. Everything from receiving flowers to professing love for a co-worker to keeping the details of a budding romance a secret makes celebrating the holiday in the workplace potentially awkward.

This Valentine’s Day, about a third of Americans will send flowers to romantic partners, mostly at their workplaces, according to the Society of American Florists. Florists say sales are particularly strong when the holiday falls on a weekday as it does this year, mostly because of the “Oh, my gosh! He/she sent you flowers” factor.

“Women want to show their flowers off at the office,” says Paul Kerbel, co-owner of Floral Promotions in Plantation. “It’s all about that ‘wow’ and showing every other person in the office that they are dating or married to a gem.” Kerbel says he understands office dynamics and coaches his customers on how to word cards, and when to staple them shut. Nowadays, more and more gay couples are sending flowers and taking different routes on how to sign the card, he said.

While 65 percent of the holiday’s flower buyers are men who send to romantic partners, women use Valentine’s Day to show they care to mothers, relatives, friends and children, as well as their sweethearts, the floral society says.

Although Miami is the main flower-importing hub in the United States, sending flowers on Valentine’s Day in South Florida is as costly as it is in most major cities, Kerbel says. Flower prices — particularly roses — rise on Valentine’s Day. Because of expenses and demand, flowers sold through retail stores in South Florida are equal to those in big cities around the country, he says.

Some people give their partners a road map. For Valentine’s Day on Tuesday, Raquel Alderman has provided her husband details on the type of arrangement she prefers and the time she wants the bouquet to arrive for the optimal response from co-workers (early morning is ideal!). Alderman, marketing director at Plantation General Hospital, says women relish a call from the reception to pick up their roses, a big way for romantic partners to score points: “I’ve been married 23 years and flowers at the office on Valentine’s Day says the love is still there.”

With bouquets arriving throughout the day, Valentine’s Day can get awkward for singles in the workplace. Wary of feeding the office rumor mill, singles often hide their gifts or cards that accompany flowers, particularly if they are dating a co-worker. According to CareerBuilder’s annual Valentine’s Day survey a year ago, nearly 40 percent of workers have dated a co-worker — although it’s discouraged in many workplaces. Some singles plan to tweak their daily routines on Valentine’s Day to avoid being out to lunch alone with a co-worker of the opposite sex and have it misconstrued as a romantic date.

“There is a lot of judging on Valentine’s Day,” says Nicole Gerber, a single, 31-year-old legal assistant at RAS Boriskin in Boca Raton. Sometimes, people just are oblivious to how their behavior affects a co-worker, Gerber says. “It inconsiderate to show off and say ‘look what I got’ when there is someone who is not sharing their holiday with anyone. It’s just not something anyone should do.”

Of course, there is a sneaky alternative to the unfulfilled arrival of flowers, balloons or chocolates: Send them to yourself. An estimated 14 percent of women plan to send flowers to themselves for the holiday, according to a 2016 Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey published by Statistic Brain Research Institute in California. Miami relationship coach Gladys Diaz encourages her clients to view doing so as a sign of empowerment. “When you think about it, the longest-lasting relationship in your life is the one with yourself. Why not show yourself love?” Diaz says, adding that no one has to know the sender. “If anyone questions you, the simple answer is, ‘I don’t want to get into it … that’s personal.’”

Showing appreciation for colleagues also is a nice thought on Valentine’s Day, but even giving casual gifts to a co-worker can be risky. A Miami banker says a well-intentioned box of chocolates for someone she considered her “work spouse” turned into a conversation about her being “flirty.”

Clearly, tact is required to navigate the emotionally charged holiday at the office without crossing boundaries or making anyone feel uncomfortable, especially when a man in the office receives floral arrangements. “Men getting flowers at work is just not macho and if a man got them, he would get teased,” says South Florida radio host Paul Castronovo of “The Paul Castronovo Show” on 105.9 FM. “Men would rather get a bottle of booze or wine with a note that says, ‘Let’s share this at home tonight.’”

To ease workplace tension, some employers use Valentine’s Day as a feel-good day for all employees. At Southeast Food Distribution in Miramar, all female employees receive a rose in a vase. At Center for Dental Implants in Aventura, the day starts with heart-shaped doughnuts and coffee for the nine employees. “I will probably bring everyone chocolates,” says Adriana Rodriguez, assistant office manager. “I think it’s important to celebrate with people you spend a lot of time with. It puts a smile on everyone’s face.”

There is also the unspoken awkwardness of leaving work on time on Valentine’s Day. “If you have plans and your boss is not understanding, it could cause resentment,” Rodriguez says.

In her dental office, staff works together to leave on time for after-work celebrations with loved ones: “We all know we what we need to do … but I know I will be itching to get out the door.”

Cindy Krischer Goodman writes about work/life and workplace topics. Send comments or suggestions to balancegal@gmail.com, @balancegal or worklifebalancingact.com.

This is the final Work/Balance column for Business Monday. Follow Cindy on her blog at www.miamiherald.com.

Goodman’s recent columns in Business Monday of the Miami Herald include:

Job burnout? How to recognize it, how to cure it and how to avoid it

Is working late a necessity, or a habit?

2017 looks like it will be a big year for workplace flexibility

Even if business is slow, the holidays can be a good time to reset your career path

Do you have what it takes to remain ‘relevant’?

As employers try to bring joy to the job, perks for workers go way beyond the basics

They took a break from work. But things have changed so much, they need help

Also see:

Flora Logistics a major player in shipping flowers, produce

Miami International Airport leads the way with international cargo

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