Bob Goldman

I'm in the mood for love.

Every year, as we get closer to Valentine's Day, cards and candy start showing up on nearby desktops. The stupid cupids in marketing get lavish bouquets of roses and poison oak, while stale cookie grams brighten every gloomy Gus in accounting. The cubicles of the lovelorn in IT start blooming with heart-shaped balloons, a lovely sight until they are burst by the technicians' pointy, little heads.

Romance even blossoms in the HR department, where candy hearts temporarily replace the stone-cold hearts that justify measly raises and coordinate mass firings.

Yes, February is the kind of month when you don't need a telescope to spot lovebirds, but that doesn't mean that everyone has got that loving feeling. While you and your floozy may be feeling warm and fuzzy, there is one group of people who suffer mightily from all the outward evidence of office love -- your managers.

It may be your manager's goal to see that you love your job, but making sure you also love a co-worker or two is definitely not in their job description. In fact, managers don't really like to see co-workers canoodling when they should be working. Apparently, skipping down the hall while holding hands is not considered very productive, or very professional, not even at major financial institutions, though it may be more suitable when the bankers are sent off to prison.

Nor is it OK to refer to a colleague as "snookums," or "sweet-pea," though "honey-bear" is always acceptable.

But what is a manager to do? What are you to do, if the sight of all the loving couples is making you jealous, or making your nauseous? If you don't have a date to the Monday morning staff meeting and you never get a corsage from the CFO before you head off to make a sales call, you may feel like expressing your dissatisfaction with workplace love affairs.

Be careful! You don't want to be seen as a killjoy, nor do you want to be known as a nosy Norbert. And that's why I know you're going to just fall head over heels over Kerry Patterson, "a workplace expert and the co-author of The New York Times best seller, 'Crucial Conversations.'"

According to the press release I received from Patterson's firm, VitalSmarts, "with the right set of skills, employees can candidly and respectfully talk to their co-workers about how their behavior is impacting the workplace."

Even though I am someone who has never had a crucial conversation in his life, I suggest we examine the five tips Patterson provides for "confronting office lovebirds." If we can't make love at work, we can definitely get some satisfaction from making trouble.

Bob Goldman

Bob Goldman is a business humor writer.

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