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Career Connexion 

  Flirting and workplace romance

Although many employers frown on romantic relationships at work, people still fall in love everywhere and flirt around from cubicle to cubicle.

According to a survey report, How Canadians feel about Sex and Romance in the Workplace, released by Leger Marketing, 26% of Canadians admit they have flirted with co-workers. 21% have flirted with co-workers at the same level, while 3% have done so with superiors and 2% with subordinates. 49% of the 18-24 year old age group admit to flirting, compared to 14% of those over 65. In terms of gender, 30% of men claimed to have flirted, compared to 22% of women.

Friendly interactions are manifested at most workplaces in the form of a wink, a smile or a brief touch. Even though these behaviours are considered harmless, a fine line needs to be drawn between the act of friendliness and inappropriate innuendo.

While it is reasonable for employees to fall for those they see most often, there are many opportunities to socialize outside of work. For employees who are not careful, their flirting affairs at work could cause great ramifications, especially when their peers, team dynamics, and home life are affected. There have been cases when some flirtatious behaviour of employees were construed as harassment by their employer. Also, many companies have policies in place to protect their employees against a hostile work environment that could result from certain kinds of flirting. Here are some helpful pointers to be mindful of when interacting with colleagues or when considering asking somebody out:

1. Be familiar with company policiesAlthough some corporations have no strict no-romance policies, it is very important to familiarize oneself with corporate policies before getting involved with a co-worker. In some companies, relationships are allowed as long as the person of interest does not work in the same department.

2. Avoid conflict of interest When considering a workplace relationship, date someone at the same level, not your supervisor or manager. Favouritism, or even the appearance of favouritism can hurt employee morale and may create a hostile work environment. Such relationships are forbidden in many companies. In some companies, these types of relationships could lead to demotion and in extreme cases, it could lead to termination.

3. Minimize public displays of affectionDisplaying affection at work could distract you from your day-to-day responsibilities at work. Try not to display affection in the workplace even if your relationship is out in the open especially when you know you can leave it until after work hours. Even if your employer supports a relationship between co-workers, public displays of affection don’t belong in the work environment and could, in fact make those around you feel uncomfortable.

Remember, interpersonal relationships at work will inevitably develop. While the outcomes of those relationships could be far more complex than what you may think, being aware of the potential downside will go a long way to keeping your personal integrity, maintaining respect from others and job security.

Michele Majul is an HR Professional with Canada Post Corporation in Prairie Region. She graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology and a Certificate in Human Resource Management. E-mail her at