“Help, I Hit On A Coworker—And She’s Not Into Me”


“Help, I Hit On A Coworker—And
She’s Not Into Me”

The authors of Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Dating and Sex tell you how to do damage control when an office flirtation goes awry.

By Josh Piven and Jennifer Worick

Q: I've flirted like crazy with someone who’s new to the office. She has clearly turned me down, and now I'm mortified. Should I say something to acknowledge I overdid the overtures or just slink off into the sunset and avoid this person as best I can?

Josh’s solution:
Ahh, the office romance. Is there any fruit so sweet as that which is forbidden?

OK, not forbidden, exactly, but still a pretty bad idea. But rules are made to be broken, and many people have taken a bite out of that apple. Admittedly, I too have ignored the warning signs and pursued someone at work. As you found out, it’s generally a risky proposition and can end badly.

That said, I’m not sure that I see a need for a flat-out apology. You say that you’re mortified, which is understandable. But it’s quite possible that your coworker has forgotten all about your clumsy come-ons. After all, it’s not like flirting with a colleague is some crazy new diversion that you’ve personally invented. If this person is reasonably good-looking, she’s probably seen and heard it all before. Unless she has led you to believe that there’s still lingering resentment, I’d chalk it up to a mistake, forego the apology, and get back to obsessing about whether everyone in the office makes more money than you do.

If, on the other hand, you do get the feeling that this person is upset or angry about your overtures, then by all means say something before she starts bad-mouthing you at the water cooler. Simply say “I’m sorry if my flirting/asking you out/drooling on your desk blotter made you uncomfortable. I didn’t mean any harm, and I’d just like to move on.” You can even say it via e-mail, if you like. That should do the trick. It’s still OK to socialize with this person, of course, but just keep it in groups to avoid tripping her alarm bells that you’re at it again.

Jen’s solution:
A few years ago, a coworker of mine had started making some very suggestive remarks to me, which culminated in him sending me an e-mail saying how “yowsa” I looked. It eventually blew over, but it was far from comfortable, and I wish he’d done something to clear the air (as well as something to erase the bad taste left in my mouth over the word “yowsa”). If you’ve gone fishing off the company pier and it didn’t end well, I’d bet the object of your affections would appreciate a little palate-cleanser herself.

Even so, I agree with Josh that this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to sit her down and have a one-on-one conference about it. Calling attention to the embarrassing incident(s) may only make her more uncomfortable. Likewise, avoiding her might also add to the awkwardness. A better tactic, in my mind, would be to develop a case of amnesia over the misstep(s) you made while keeping your interactions as professional as possible. Talk about innocuous subjects like the weather, Tom Cruise’s overexposed love life, or (here’s an idea!) your work. Avoid any comments that could be misconstrued—for example, instead of “Wow, that blouse really brings out the tawny flecks in your hazel eyes,” compliment a big presentation she pulled off that week.

If you find yourself in a social situation like an office happy hour, mention the great date you recently had or a fun weekend activity with a group of friends. If you’re enthusiastic about your life outside the office, your coworker will realize that you aren’t fixated on her. With some time and respectful distance, she will realize that you’ve accepted the brush-off. And with that, you can breathe a sigh of relief and focus on fishing for other prospects... outside the office pool, of course.

Josh Piven and Jennifer Worick are co-authors of The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Dating & Sex;

*This column is for entertainment purposes only. It does not contain professional advice. The authors are not liable for any use or misuse of the information it contains.

Do you have a question for Josh and Jen? Send it to us—including your name, e-mail address and phone number in case we need more details. We reserve the right to edit your case and feature it in a future issue of Happen.
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