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Office can be awkward place on Valentine's Day

Kim Carney/msnbc.com / Today
Kiss your Valentine all you want - but wait until after work, experts say.

Everyone has a story about an uncomfortable workplace encounter on Valentine’s Day.

Whether it’s the co-worker who was showered with flowers and teddy bears all day long or the one who was noticeably snubbed, the mixture of work and romance often boils down to one word: Awkward.

“Valentine’s Day, as with most holidays, brings on a lot of stress for people, not only inside of work but outside of work,” said Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant.”

That’s one reason she’s not much of a fan of big Valentine’s Day bouquets being sent to the office or other romantic gestures during the workday.

“This is the workplace, and Cupid doesn’t belong on the org chart,” she said.

To avoid making your romantic partner the target of office gossip and speculation, Taylor recommends giving him or her that bouquet at the end of the day, rather than sending it to the office.

And if you’re going on a special Valentine’s Day date after work, she suggests meeting in the office parking lot rather than at your office, so you don’t have any risk of uncomfortable public displays of affection in front of the boss.

Others say Valentine's Day gifts at work are OK - in moderation.

Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert and owner of the Protocol School of Texas, said a modest bouquet of flowers sent to the office is fine. But an over-the-top gesture such as a huge bouquet or multiple deliveries is out of line for the workday. That’s because it can draw too much attention to your personal life.

In a recent survey of its users, employer ratings site Glassdoor.com found that about one-quarter of respondents said they would want to receive flowers at work from their significant other. The next popular Valentine’s Day item to get at work was chocolate.

Only 1 percent said they wanted to get a singing telegram at work on Valentine’s day.

Gottsman also isn’t a fan of singing telegrams. She adds: “No strippers.”

Valentine’s Day also can be especially awkward if you are dating one of your co-workers. A survey released last week by CareerBuilder.com found that nearly four in 10 workers have dated a co-worker, and one-third of those office romances led to marriage.

If you’re involved with a co-worker, Gottsman said it’s especially important to make sure you separate your workplace duties from your romantic life. That may even mean having a conversation beforehand asking your significant other not to make a big deal of the holiday at work.

“If you want to maintain this mystique - this professional persona - and you don’t want people involved in your life, you have to let your partner know that,” she said.

Have you experienced office awkwardness on Valentine’s Day? Tell us your story in the comments below, or continue the discussion on our Facebook page.

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