“Oh you look so good!”
“Mmm, you smell great, what aftershave is that?”
“If I were just a couple of years younger, and single, I’d definitely be DTF!”
“Do you need a massage? I’m good at giving one, c’mon let me show you”…

Nope, believe it or not, this isn’t a scene one might witness at one of those seedy, sleazy-looking massage parlours. You know, the ones where one can book a ‘happy ending’. Surprisingly, it’s a scenario in an office setting.

It all starts with a compliment… On an outfit, hairstyle or cologne. A smile from across the room coupled with a feigned giggle… heck, why not throw in some batting of the eyelids or a playful nudge as you pass each other, for good measure! Whether you’d like to call it (in-your-face) friendliness or light-hearted office banter, the bottom line is: all these are signs of flirtation. But how appropriate is it when you’re in the workplace?

Sure, most people, single or not, enjoy the extra attention. But why at the workplace? What’s so appealing for people to flirt so blatantly when they’re supposed to be doing a job they’re employed to do? And for those on the receiving end, you might be asking yourself: “Is she flirting with me?” “Is he just being friendly?”

Fully justified questions, but the fact of the matter is, there’s a really fine line between being overly friendly and blatantly flirtatious. The question of intent can weigh heavily on one’s mind, whether these niceties are warranted and reciprocated, or not. These are the rules I’d like to propose.

Work is work

No matter how many policies are emphasised in employee handbooks, flirtatious behaviour is common at virtually every workplace – whether we’re the ones flirting, being flirted with or simply the audience witnessing it.

My take on it? Work is work. Keep it professional. Always. This is important, not only because you’re representing yourself as a person, but many a time, you’re representing the face of the company you work for. And if you don’t mind making a fool of yourself, and aren’t bothered to be saving face for the sake of your own self or your eye-rolling audience, the least you could do is respect and practise proper work conduct.

Sorry folks, I swear I’m not a prude, but I believe a person should be noticed at work not because of what they might want to offer outside of office hours, but for their actual skillset. And for lack of a less crass phrase, work shouldn’t be a matter of ‘who you know or who you blow’ – if it eventually comes to the latter part, that is. I believe people in the workplace should be given credit for their skills and expertise.

Mutual Flirting vs. Sexual Harassment

There’s another fine line which is worth mentioning. The line which delineates the difference between flirting and harassment. After all, it’s about drawing the line and understanding what’s considered as acceptable office conduct or downright stomach-churning touchy-feely behaviour.

As the name itself implies, mutual flirting means it’s reciprocal. Think of it as the cha-cha-cha dance, where it goes back and forth and creates a continuous dialogue. Sexual harassment, on the other hand, isn’t an ongoing interaction, but a one-way imposition, meaning it makes the receiver feel awkward, uncomfortable and uneasy; within themselves, they carry a negative emotional feeling. It becomes sexual harassment when a ‘not interested’ communicated expression is ignored and the pursuit continues.

Setting Boundaries

Boundaries can certainly be set, without embarrassing or creating an awkward work environment. By using the words ‘I feel’, rather than the words ‘you make me feel’, as the latter creates tension and bitterness. However, when you use the phrase ‘I feel,’ it creates a softer tone and less discomfort to the situation. The person addressing the situation should also remain calm, yet be firm, to drive the point home.

Follow the other person’s feelings

It’s also a good idea to pay particular attention to the other person’s facial expression, and notice if they tend to want to take a step or two back. Remember, in order to tune into the other person’s feelings, you need to first and foremost be connected and conscious of your own emotions first.

One last thing: just because you and the person you’re flirting with might be okay with it, doesn’t necessarily mean the people around you are, so keep that in mind. After all, working in an office environment means working around different people, with different character dynamics.

Well, that’s my take on the whole issue. What are your views?