Unless you're a rock star on tour, a paleontologist digging for bones in far-reaches of the world, or have some other job that keeps you out of the 9-to-5 grind, you're part of the fish-bowl-esque work life. In some ways, sharing a small space with the same people for eight hours, five days a week is a good thing. Office friends can become some of the best friends of your life, after all, because you're all going through the same shit.
But what about when a new cutie joins the office/fish bowl? You want to start flirting and maybe even ask them out. But hitting on a co-worker can get awkward, fast. Remember, if you're chatting up someone at work and things don't go well, you still have to see them every day. Then there's the fact that we live in a #MeToo world now. After reports of many powerful people (mostly men) abusing their work authority to coerce employees into sex or to keep them quiet about sexual harassment, workplace flirtations have become more charged. Everyone is paying more attention to how power dynamics play into workplace flirting, harmless or not.
So how do you go about talking to your work crush? Very carefully.
"If you are truly interested in exploring the potential of a relationship with a colleague from work, it needs to be done outside the workplace," says Laurel House, dating and empowerment coach, and resident sex expert for My First Blush. Ask your work crush to get lunch, drinks, or dinner and then if it's obvious that you're both interested in something more than friendship, communicate clearly and directly. House suggests saying something like, "I'm happy to see this other side of you, and I would love to continue to get to know you outside of the office. Is that something that you are comfortable with?”
It's important to ask for permission to keep flirting, and to take your relationship further. Clearly communicating your intentions is good in any relationship, but it's essential when you're trying to date a coworker, House says. Be respectful, say what you mean, and offer your crush plenty of opportunity to say no. That way, you avoid any awkward or muddy situations.
Flirting just for the sake of flirting, because you have no intention of starting a work relationship, can also be muddy. So it should go without saying (but we'll still say it) that any leering, gesturing, sexual innuendos, or touching are off-limits at work. Even if you do have a work crush, or are even already dating a coworker, being handsy at work is a no-no. "While flirting might make the work environment more exciting, it can also make the recipient feel uncomfortable, or worse, preyed upon," House says. "Work is a place for work."
Everyone is there to do a job, after all, and flirting can compromise their ability to get work done. If you're flirting with someone at work, that can make the environment uncomfortable for either them or other people who work with the two of you. So save the flirting for outside of your office walls.