A little light office flirtation can be exciting, but a coworker who can’t seem to tone down the flirtation can be downright irritating.
So you find yourself in a new workplace. Exciting, right? You enjoy the thought of a fresh career prospect, plus the chance to meet new people. The new employee syndrome kicks in: you’re enthusiastic at work, and you seem to attract attention. You get introductory emails, and a lot of handshakes and “hi’s” from your new coworkers.
However, there will always be this one person who will incessantly give you a great deal of unwanted attention. And then, it starts to get uncomfortable. You might have found yourself as the target of the office flirt.
Flirting is a game that both men and women play. It could take the form of a harmless compliment, or it could be as straightforward as a licentious remark that tiptoes the borders of decency. All of us have done this at some point to playfully show our interest in a certain person we find attractive. However, it is important to know that the workplace is a place of business. While we can get away with a few teasing remarks, too much flirting could lead anyone into trouble.
How to deal with a flirty coworker
To be fair, maybe the person doesn’t really mean you harm, and merely wants to get your attention. Then, it is your sole duty to draw the borders and recognize acceptable levels of flirting in your professional relationship.
Other people might not, and there’s always that person at work who’s a notorious Casanova and tries to flirt with every single woman in the office. So before you go and barge into the HR office, try these tips to diffuse the situation with your own hands.
#1 Parry the flirting with straight professionalism. One of the most effective ways to counter any flirting attempt is to show sheer professionalism. If you adopt a serious, no-nonsense stance towards your coworkers, you could immediately get respect from them.
Make it known that you are there to do your job and that your relationship with them is purely professional. However, you must take care to not dismiss friendliness as well. Make it known that you’re okay with non-work-related interactions, but it should be done outside the workplace.
#2 Use humor to your advantage. Another way to tame the pathological office flirt is to counter them with humor. Office flirts are usually not alone, and they also have buddies in their department with which they share their flirting escapades.
Use your wittiness to lightly embarrass them in front of their friends by pointing out that they’re obviously flirting with you, and then, share a laugh afterwards. If you scrape their ego a little bit, they’re sure to retreat and never do it again.
#3 Be honest. To put it simply, you are mildly rejecting the person. Once you’ve established the fact that you are being flirted with, take some time to talk to the person, and pour out that you are uncomfortable with flirting.
You could cite a number of reasons like you already like someone or that you’re already committed, or most importantly, that they are becoming a bother to you during work hours. You could also insinuate that you are ready to escalate the matter to management if the person will not stop immediately.
#4 Confront the flirty coworker. If you allow a few flirty remarks to go unchecked, the person would think that you are absolutely okay with what they doing. The best thing to do is to bring it up suddenly while you’re being flirted with.
Ask the person questions like “What exactly are you trying to accomplish?” or the straightforward “Are you hitting on me?” This will catch the person off-guard, wherein you can expect a flimsy response. Usually, they will try to come up with an innocent response, and for that time, explain to the person clearly that you think that flirting with you is becoming uncomfortable and unnecessary.
#5 Ignore the person. Sometimes, the easiest way to deal with a flirty coworker is to ignore their advances completely. It does not mean that you’ll have to act as if the person doesn’t exist, especially if the person is a teammate and you’ll have to work together at some point.
If the person makes an offhanded joke about you, resist the urge to laugh, and tell them that it’s not funny. Try to keep idle talk to a minimum in order to avoid those small talks that would later on lead to coffee or date invitations.
#6 Stick around with your other coworkers. Another trick is to blend into a group of fellow coworkers that you’re comfortable with during breaks or office parties. This would “screen” out any attempts of that person flirting with you. Plus, if the person is bold enough, trying to flirt with you while you’re in a group adds the risk of embarrassment for the person if you shoot their advances down.
#7 Emphasize that you already have someone. During small talks, casually bring up your significant other or someone you’re dating who happens to be a Karate black-belter swimsuit model. Or maybe tell the flirt that you’re not free for coffee this weekend because you got invited to a date by your Navy SEAL crush that just got home from their tour in Iraq killing insurgents. Plant these intimidating ideas in the flirt’s head to help dissuade them from making any further advances.
#8 Talk to management. If all else fails, it is high time that you consult your manager, the person’s manager, or the HR department to put an end to the inappropriate flirting. This is the last resort, especially if the flirting gets worse and takes the form of mild sexual harassment.
Be sure to make a comprehensive report on the instances where you got offended by their remarks, and take note of the exact words or statements that were said. You could also enlist the help of witnesses or other people who were also the recipients of unwanted flirting.
Flirting in a normal situation feels gratifying because it is a sign that we are attractive to other people. Admit it or not, we secretly enjoy being flirted with. However, there are times when it could become offensive or inappropriate, depending on the place that you’re in. You would not flirt openly with your friend’s sister in their own home, nor would you spend all day at work flirting with the new receptionist, would you?
Both you and your flirty coworker have work to do, and you’d better get on it. Plus, a sign of an emotionally mature person is knowing how to separate work from play.