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What to do if You are "Hit on" at Work

Beware the Dating Relationship in the Workplace

A recent posting on Forbes Woman titled “How to Cut Out the Unwanted Come-Ons” got me thinking about how one might handle advances in the workplace. Women have a dilemma in how they present themselves in the workplace. On one hand, they want to look good. On the other, you don’t want your boss, co-workers, or clients staring at—or commenting on—your attractive body. The undeniable truth is no matter what you do to prevent men from hitting on you in the workplace it’s eventually going to happen. Sexual advances are programmed into the DNA of most men both in and out of the workplace. If you smile at a male co-worker, that may get the juices flowing even if you show no interest in any relationship other than a professional relationship.

The Forbes piece recommends that if a woman is constantly “harassed” by a man in the workplace to go out on a date and it creates an awkward or uncomfortable situation, the best way to handle it is to either remove yourself from the situation or file a complaint. You can file a complaint with a supervisor, the Better Business Bureau, or other professional organizations within the industry you work.

Removing yourself may require a transfer request or giving up business but, in the long run, it may be worth it because you have taken a stand based on your values and will feel better about your actions. It also sends a message to other would-be suitors that your personal life will not be mixed up with your professional life. This is the message I want to emphasize: keep the two separate otherwise you risk sexual harassment if your feelings change or, if it is a supervisor, your future position in the organization may be compromised based on the ebb and flow of the relationship.

Women must remember that they do not have to stand for being hit on. You don’t have to endure any sort of harassment in hopes of getting a raise or promotion. Most companies have strict policies that try their best to keep relationships completely out of the workplace – where they belong. At the first sign of harassment, make your feelings known that the advances are unwelcome. See my blog on this issue for advice on other steps to take if you feel harassed.

Before you start dating someone in the office, consider the possible consequences of your actions. You may be jeopardizing your career. You may potentially harm others who are affected by your actions such as children and other family members and friends. Most important, you are compromising your values and opening yourself for criticism down the road for your actions. You should ask: “How will I feel if my decision made the front pages of tomorrow’s newspaper? Would I be comfortable defending my actions? Would I be proud of what I have done?” Then, follow your conscience and remember to avoid taking the first step down the proverbial ethical slippery slope where, later on down the incline, you may have to cover up your dating relationship and possibly lie to others. Once you head down the slope it is difficult to turn around and try to reclaim the high ground.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on November 2, 2011

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