What to do when….your colleague won’t stop flirting

If you work anywhere other than a convent, there’s likely to be a mild element of flirting somewhere in your office. While a bit of banter lightens the mundane and fuels esprit de corps, overdoing it can be as annoying as it is embarrassing. Now that the office has become an increasingly legislative area, a colleague who acts in a sexist, derogatory or offensive manner will not long be tolerated before they find themselves facing the wrath of the management.

But what do you do when you are caught in the grey no-blame-zone, and the harmless banter is wearing thin? Confrontation might seem inappropriate and potentially damaging to your friendship. Try asking after their boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife. If you do challenge them about their behaviour, you want to do it in such a way as to let them know that your normal relationship is not threatened. Remember your attitude will probably inform theirs, so if you treat it as a joke they may not get the message. The persistent flirt may need more serious attention. If a quiet word with the person in question does not do the trick, a quiet word with your manager might. If you want to find out where you rate on the office flirt scale.

Of course, if the person flirting with you is your company’s answer to Brad Pitt, you’re liable to take a different view of the situation. So what do you do if an office romance is on the cards? Be careful. This is one of the thorniest routes to pleasure and without due care and attention has the potential to damage more than one area of your life. You need to know what your company’s policy on dating is – many firms expect management to be informed of any inter-office relationships, and some prohibit them entirely.

If you do pursue an office romance, be discreet. There is nothing less likely to endear you to your colleagues than footsie under the board-room table. Dating your boss, or someone under your command, is also a big no-no; the conflict of interests and maintaining of confidences is difficult to overcome. Don’t enter into anything without consideration of all the possible outcomes – would you be prepared to work every day with your ex should things turn sour?

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