Valentine’s Day and Kindness

I am happy to share my latest post to The SHRM Blog.

We are approaching Valentine’s Day and the risks that go with it.

Of course, everyone should know that it is inappropriate to send a card with a sexual or suggestive message.  This is particularly problematic where there is a power disparity, but it is not limited to such occasions.

But when you look at Valentine’s Day cards, there are cards to parents, grandparents, children and grandchildren.  I do not believe they have any romantic or sexual message; I need this belief to survive.

So if we are thoughtful and careful with the cards we pick out, or the words we say, what’s wrong with acknowledging the “holiday?”  Is this not just another way to show employees that you care?

Your intent may be pristine, but the impact may be quite to the contrary.

The risk is great in the #MeToo era.  So why take an unnecessary risk?

No matter how careful we are, Valentine’s Day is a holiday that revolves around love and romance.  Even if not stated, the embedded message may be sex.

Rather than wishing our employees love on Valentine’s Day, let’s show them kindness throughout the entire year.  Yes, work gets harder every day, and employees need more kindness to get through it.

By kindness, I mean warm and gentle thoughtfulness with no expectation of a return on investment.  A casual smile.  Picking up coffee for a colleague.  Pulling back when you know someone needs space.  Making yourself available when you sense someone needs to talk.  Asking someone if they are feeling better.  Looking the person in the eyes with attention and not agitation.

We all have heard the expression “random acts of kindness.”  That we need to be reminded to do them randomly speaks to their deficit in the ordinary course.

Being kind to people means more than caring about their concerns or appreciating their contribution.  It means truly recognizing the humanity of a colleague without thinking about how what you do may benefit you.

So let’s not express our love on February 14.  Let’s practice kindness every day.