Office flirting - when to draw the line

“I like your blouse, looks good on you.”

Such statements may be as harmless as harmless could be, but they could also signal the start of problems in the workplace.

Flirting in the office has been defined as a grey area – even HR does not know what to do with it.

Whilst some people may have no problem with having colleagues as wives or husbands, some are very clear about keeping their lives personal. They believe in the mantra --- your workmates are not your friends. Earn your money and go home.

But is that even possible?

Many marriages have been developed in the office, some of these couples are prominent celebrities.

But it has to start from somewhere; when a hug becomes tighter by the day and longer by the second.

I understand that the workplace has its own pressure and that any form of happiness derived from such a situation will be welcomed – but at what cost?

Many people who have been in the corporate world will tell you they have witnessed fights. I am yet to hear about two men who fought over a girl, but women do not disappoint.

An interesting case was when a couple was spotted making out in the men’s bathroom. I think women’s bathroom would have been more ideal, because, hey, urinal does not exactly smell of romance.

Just how deep does the connection have to be for two adults to start fights or make out in the toilet?

I would forgive those who thought about ‘having a moment’ in the backseat of the car.

Ask security guards, especially those who man basement parking, they have seen it all.

So, what gives?

Is it wrong to hug in the office?

Are people allowed to share complements?

Two words: Consent and Consent.

If someone feels violated, then it has moved from harmless flirting to sexual harassment.

But even then, just how harmless can flirting be?

Everyone has passed through adolescence and fancying a girl or a boy.

If someone has the hots for you, I trust you can tell.

If they do not have the hots for you, you can tell as well.

Much as it takes two to tango, they need to be willing to dance with you.

The element of power comes into play.

Picture this, it is almost the end of the year and appraisals are coming up.

Person X knows that they haven’t had the most productive year and are willing to do anything to look good in the supervisor’s books.

An opportunity to have lunch/dinner comes up and what do they do? They imagine they want to be in the supervisor’s good books so they play ball.

It is at this point that one invites such nuances even though in another life, they would never entertain such thoughts.

Note I did not say what gender person X is. This is because toxic flirting and sexual harassment know no gender.

Women are more open to speaking up about it, men are a bit shyer. Therefore, cases of men being sexually harassed are not as widely reported.

This does not mean it does not happen.  

Image consultant and Emotional Intelligence facilitator Derek Bbanga agrees that in many cases one has to study the tide. If you need to have someone else in the room to feel safe, go right ahead.

According to Executive Coach Mutindi Mutua, early reportage and speaking up saves. If you feel violated, speak up. Silence, unfortunately, will give the perpetrator motivation to continue what they are doing.

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Office RomanceEthics of FlirtingJael MbogaThe StandardSexual Harrassment