How to keep flirting from becoming sexual harassment at work

Having a flirtatious dynamic with someone at work isn’t always a bad thing. Those who work in sales or customer-facing positions often find that a couple of humorous insinuations are all that they need to get on the good side of a customer or client. Others may enjoy the playful camaraderie that comes from having a flirtatious relationship with some of their co-workers.

In order for workplace flirtation to be appropriate and not a form of sexual harassment, both parties should be happy about the nature of the interaction. If someone’s workplace flirting makes you feel uncomfortable, how do you prevent it from escalating into full-fledged sexual harassment?

If you can, let the other party know that you feel uncomfortable

When playful workplace learning goes a little too far, the best solution is typically to directly ask the other party to stop. Being polite but firm establishes that this is an important boundary for you and that it is not a reflection of their value.

Start a written record of what you experienced

The first time someone’s flirtation or advances makes you feel uncomfortable, you should make a point of recording what occurred. The date, location and other details can help you show a pattern of behavior if they don’t stop. You should also make a note of when you address it with them and when you take additional steps to request a more professional work environment.

Ask human resources or management for support

Maybe you don’t feel comfortable approaching the other person, or maybe you already spoke up once and they didn’t stop. When you can’t resolve the issue on your own, going to your supervisor or human resources to report the misconduct is a good next step to take.

As with everything else in the process, keeping detailed notes about whom you reported the issue to and how they responded can help you if the company tries to retaliate against you for speaking up for yourself.

A company facing claims of harassment in the workplace should investigate and try to protect the worker facing unfair treatment. If your company doesn’t respond appropriately, you may need to bring sexual harassment claim against the business for failing to protect you from misconduct in the workplace.


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