How to Deal With an Unwanted Office Flirtation

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Everyone deals with unwanted flirtation here and there. Some guy cat calls you in the street, and you yell something (probably mildly profane) back at him. Obviously not pleasant, but also not the end of the world. But when it happens in a work environment, it’s a totally different story. You’re probably seeing this person every day, and you don’t want to risk creating an even more uncomfortable environment for yourself. There’s no doubt that it’s a delicate situation.

If it isn’t bothering you all that much, and the flirtation is harmless, you could always try to brush it off and pretend you’re totally oblivious to the behavior. Act nothing less than professional towards them. The subtle hint could be just enough to make it clear that you’re not exactly loving the extra attention, and if all goes as planned, they’ll soon back off. Easy!

But of course, some people just aren’t perceptive enough to know that this is your way of telling them to stop. If avoiding the flirtation isn’t cutting it, you’re going to have to be straightforward with the person. Bluntly say that you aren’t interested, and be up front with them that it’s making your workplace uncomfortable if that’s how you feel. Rejection isn’t ever fun, so if you’re looking to maintain some kind of friendship (or even just a friendly working relationship), it might be a good idea to make an effort to show that. Try not to be too harsh if the situation doesn’t warrant it, and do your best to not make things for your future self unbearably awkward.

If this doesn’t work, it’s time to bring things to the attention of human resources or management. There’s a chance you’ll feel silly or uncomfortable, but don’t. What you’re doing certainly isn’t uncalled for. Nobody should have to work in a place where they feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Plus, that’s what HR is there for. I can guarantee that you won’t be the first person visiting their offices due to unwanted attention. Make sure that you’re completely honest about what has been going on, how it makes you feel, and what you would like to see done about it. Otherwise, they might not be able to handle the situation in the way that you were hoping.

Don’t let someone else’s behavior affect how you perform at work. The last thing anyone needs is extra stress while trying to do your job well, so don’t brush it under the rug if it’s really getting to you. Stand up for yourself and make sure you get rid of that flirtation for good!

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I was born and raised in New Jersey, but after attending the University of Vermont, Burlington, VT, has become my home away from home. I’ll take Netflix and my couch over a night out every time, and I’m very happy to spend my (increasingly rarer) spare moments reading and writing.

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