Hallmark might disagree, but on this point business etiquette experts do not: in-office Valentine gift-giving and card-writing are among the riskiest practices bosses and employees may dare to make.

While no etiquette expert vetoed the gesture altogether, all recommended to proceed with caution when choosing an office-bound gift or wording a Valentines Day greeting card.

"Gifts can be dangerous, they can be taken the wrong way," says Nonnie Cameron Owens, president of Etiquette Plus in Punta Gorda, Florida. "Even something as innocent as a Mont Blanc pen could be misconstrued."

The trouble with such a gift, she observes, is that while a pen itself is innocuous, such a pricey pen could not only be considered too lavish, it also could cause the recipient to feel obligated to return a high-value gift.

The only way such a gift would be acceptable is if it is given from a group. In fact, group-giving in general gets the thumbs up from etiquette experts.

"Group gifts are safe," either from employees-to-boss or boss-to-employees, suggests Ann Marie Sabath, founder of At Ease Inc., a Cincinnati-based business etiquette training firm, and author of One Minute Manners.

"In my opinion, I'd think twice about (individually) giving your boss a Valentine's Day gift," Sabath says.  "Valentine's Day should be reserved for the people in your personal life on whom you bestow affection."

Nevertheless, group gifts to revered bosses or under-acknowledged administrative assistants are fine, Sabath says, adding that managers could use the day to show thanks for their team by taking them to lunch or setting out a box of candy or donuts with a note of appreciation.

But, as with all cross-office Valentine's cards, avoid those particular three little words.

"You can write 'I love my company,' or 'I love working with you'," Owens says. "(But) don't say 'I love you.'"

"”Deborah Rutledge