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OK, it’s Administrative Professionals week and I just have to share some thoughts about giving flowers. Giving flowers is lovely, but if handled poorly can really make you look bad. As a leader you don’t want to make an unnecessary faux pas while trying to recognize your great admin!

After speaking to a business networking group, they gave me a bouquet of roses. Really gorgeous, aromatic red roses. I know that the giver meant well, so I didn’t say anything. In fact, I quite enjoyed the flowers for days after the event too. There’s nothing quite like a big bouquet of gorgeous deep red roses on my desk to put a smile on my face!

But, red roses? This really stuck with me, so I though I’d talk about it in today’s blog post because generally speaking, roses – especially red roses – are not a good idea for expressing gratitude in a business setting.

When giving flowers to a business associate, follow these general rules:

  • Never give red roses because that means “I love you”. Probably not appropriate for business. Unless you’re trying to get a message across to a co-worker. But, get ready for the backlash and possible sexual harassment case if you send red.
  • White roses are typically sent for funerals. So, white roses will be a lovely way to express your concern and sympathy to a business colleague, but not for any other occasion.
  • It will probably be okay to include white or red in a bouquet that has multiple other colors too. Just be cognizant of what the colors mean so that your intention doesn’t embarrass the person receiving the gift.
  • No more than one dozen roses. More than twelve is a really overt display of affection – regardless the color. Have you seen more than a dozen roses in one vase? Holy moley! It’s quite the show! I’d recommend saving that for your sweetheart. Even if the florist offers you a screaming deal to add another dozen, don’t be tempted. It could turn a nice gesture into an awkward moment.
  • Really, it’s just a good idea to choose something other than roses… tulips, daisies, lilies, etc. There are many options and the rose doesn’t have a corner on the market! Most women love roses. When I had my 4oth birthday, I loved receiving a big bouquet from my best friend – she knows me well! But, she sent me purple roses, which tells a completely different story than red.
  • Florists have a great eye for putting together an arrangement. Make sure to communicate the nature of your relationship, so that the florist will create the right arrangement. I’d recommend asking the florist to email you pictures of bouquets they are considering creating. Seeing an actual picture will help you to redirect them where needed. Also, ask the florist how often they create bouquets that are for a business situation. If the florist is more in the “love” and “wedding” world of flowers, it may be better to find another florist.

Another thing I want you to consider about flowers: Are flowers really the best gift idea for that person?

For example, I transferred from one office to another out of state and as a “thank you”, gave a pot of peace lilies to one of the administrative assistants. I was always impressed with her calm demeanor and helpful nature for a bunch of crazy sales people and fast-running recruiters. I wanted to leave her with something that told her how much I appreciated her hard work and commitment to our success. She was very touched by the personal gift – others were impressed that I paid attention to her as well. But, I didn’t give flowers to everyone else in the office. I thought about each person individually and found a gift that was appropriate for each of them – like chewing tobacco gum for the manager. You can take the man out of Austin, but you can’t take the Texas out of the man! I used to give him a hard time for chewing tobacco in the office (ewww, gross!), so my farewell gift was a container of gum that was like chewing tobacco. Everyone laughed at that! Maybe I could’ve given him some yellow roses, like the Texas state flower, but the chewing gum was really hilarious!

I don’t want you to be scared to give flowers. But, protect yourself with the proper flower etiquette to avoid awkward situations. Giving the right flowers may well be the best way to express appreciation… So, go for it. Just do it properly and get help from the pros!