Flirting is a normal part of social interactions. When done appropriately and properly, it can be a very flattering experience, especially if you are the object of the flirtation and you like the flirting person. However, flirtation in the workplace can be risky. The flirtation can initiate a more intimate relationship between you and the other person. There is nothing wrong with forming intimate relationships, although having intimate liaisons with a coworker is commonly frowned upon because it can affect work performance—most especially when the relationship goes awry. Workplace flirtation—especially when done persistently, unabashedly, or excessively—can result in sexual harassment. This article will not tell you to wear a chastity belt and be a prude in the workplace. Flirtation is fun, but keep it in check—or, at least learn how to play the game. In this article, you will learn some tips on how to deal with a flirtatious coworker whose flirtation makes you uncomfortable.
- Decide whether the flirtation is worth the flattery. Especially when you are fond of the other person, or if you are attracted to her/him, flirtatious behavior can flatter you. Yet, pause for a while, and ask yourself, “If I play along, will this lead me somewhere I want to be? Or will this sidetrack me from my goals?” Err on the side of caution, even if you are the adventurous or playful type.
- Let it go. The first time a coworker makes a pass at you, blush if you must—and then let go right away. For all you care, the flirtatious pass could just be a one-time thing or a genuine expression of the other person’s serious liking for you. Be careful, though, about your own response, as it could make the other person think that you are also interested and could find in your giggle a source of encouragement to pursue you. Try to hold back your flattered feelings.
- Ignore the succeeding flirtatious gestures. Without being rude or aloof, you can safely ignore the next few flirtatious remarks or overtures of the persistent flirty coworker. Unless your coworker is just naturally flirtatious, ignoring the flirtation will convey your lack of interest in the other person. Hopefully, the other person will be sensitive enough to read the message and back off.
- If the coworker persists, use less-subtle tactics. Try using humor to cushion your discomfort. Light sprinkling of humor does the trick in most cases. In extreme cases, you can try mockery or embarrassment concealed in humor. The embarrassment should be enough to deter the flirtatious coworker from persisting.
- Never lie about your discomfort. Do not make up stories about a jealous boyfriend or girlfriend. Instead, take the poor loser aside and confront her. Tell the person that you dislike her flirtatious gestures towards you. Be firm but not rude. Talk to the flirt in person—not over the phone or via e-mail.
- Resort to more drastic measures if the confrontation doesn’t make the other person stop. This time, escalate the matter to a superior. But, before you do, let the other person know. Often, the mere thought of being reported to higher authority can be a deterrent. Sexual harassment in the workplace can be a ground for the termination of an employee. You can also inquire about the possibility of transferring—yours or the other person’s—to another department.
Flirtation is hard to eliminate in the workplace, but if you know how to deal with it, you will be able to stay on track with your work and your performance.