Flirtophobia? What next?
The researchers, who are clearly advocates of office flirting, warn of ‘flirtophobia’, which occurs when the fear of causing offence overtakes the joy of “playful, harmless flirtation”. They don’t mention any names, but they claim that some companies – particularly in the United States – have banned flirting in a bid to minimise allegations of sexual harassment.
To ban employees from flirting with people to whom they’re attracted, particularly when they see each other every day, is a laughable overreaction.
Still, it’s easy to see why companies would panic, especially since flirtatious behaviour can be so easily misinterpreted or misdirected. A wink, a smile, a gentle touch – all of that can be taken either as a friendly gesture or as an unwanted come-on. A multitude of factors could influence what is generally an ambiguous message.
For example, I occasionally receive emails from colleagues and clients with an “xx” at the end of it. It’s hard to tell with some people whether it’s an innocent sign-off or a lustful proposal.
As a terribly incompetent flirt, I refrain from it as much as possible. It’s much safer that way. (Or maybe I’m just jealous.)