Flirting In The Office

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.)



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  • blokeintakapuna

    Trouble for employers is – should someone in a work place complain to their manager about possible flirting/unwanted flirting – that organisation is then liable for any or all actions taken or not taken with how they deal with that complaint. Especially if the complainant then raises a Personal Grievance about that issue or some other issue at a later date.
    Often taking a “formal” approach – as required by employment legislation – results in discussions/unintended outcomes far in excess of the original “complaint” (Where the original complaint was about flirting & banter – not actual, overt sexual harrasment)
    So the employer is damned if they do, damned if they don’t – so the best way to get around all of this is to try and mitigate against it happening in the first place – and the only way to do that is to keep everything almost formal all of the time – which makes for some rather bland work environments…. then couple that work environment with weak / poor / vague leadership…

  • Gazzaw

    Will a ‘no flirting’ clause be written into employment contracts? Will the use of boardroom tables be restricted to meetings only? What a boring place this world is turning into.