There's an old expression that you shouldn't mix business with pleasure. But, as we spend hours and hours each week at our workplaces, it’s only natural that we sometimes have better luck finding romantic interests there than we do in a nearby bar.
Have you got a crush on someone at work? If you have, you might be wondering if Valentine’s Day is the perfect time for wearing your heart on your sleeve or at least dropping some subtle hints on how you feel.
But, before you order that bouquet, think carefully about how you express your feelings. If your admiration is reciprocated, then that’s brilliant and your bravery has been rewarded. If it isn’t, it could make for an awkward atmosphere in the office or, in the worst case scenario, even lead to a sexual harassment claim.
Here are our tips on St Valentine’s Day etiquette in the workplace.
Read the signs
“There are some obvious signs to look out for that may indicate whether someone is attracted to you or not,” explains Massimo Stocchi, a Harley Street psychologist who specialises in relationship therapy and self-confidence issues. These include:
• Prolonged eye contact
• Finding reasons to talk to you
• Asking you lots of questions about yourself/your opinions and how you spend your leisure time
• Suggesting drinks or other opportunities to socialise after work in a group may be another clue
• Dilated pupils
• Fiddling with hair/touching the face
• Leaning closer to listen to you
• Mirroring your body language
“But it’s not always so obvious because, when you are attracted to someone, it often induces anxiety and the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism. Sometimes an admirer will fold their arms or avoid contact with you because they are embarrassed by their feelings and fear rejection,” explains Massimo.
Risk of rejection
Workplace crushes can be tricky. On the one hand, working with someone is a great chance to get to know them. On the other hand, making the first move can be daunting and you run the risk of being rejected or even causing offence.
“The trick is to express your feelings in a subtle and more private way rather than setting yourself up for a public rejection,” advises Massimo; “approaching it with a sense of humour also helps.
“To avoid potential embarrassment, avoid public and clichéd romantic gestures like flowers or chocolates. Instead, send a simple card (make it jokey if you prefer), saying what you like about them or casually ask them if they’d like to grab a coffee or lunch sometime.
“You could say you’ve got some spare tickets for something and wondered if they’d like to come. A casual invitation like this is not loaded with the same connotations as an invitation to dinner and it will give you the chance to spend a short period of time together outside the office in a non-committal way to get to know each other better. It may not lead to a relationship but, at the very least, you might make a new friend. You’re also protecting yourself against suffering a major blow to your confidence if your feelings are not reciprocated.”
Finding the right words
There is a fine line between being charming and complimentary, and downright creepy and stalker-ish, so choose your words carefully (and don’t bombard the object of your affection with texts or e-mails either).
Neuro-linguistic programming expert Dominic Knight, who also practises in Harley Street, advises caution about premature declarations of love.
“Best not plunge in and say ‘I love you’ – that’s an absolute no-no,” explains Dominic; “instead, drop hints that you’re interested but, to a certain extent, keep them guessing as to your true feelings. Women in particular like to be pursued – they find it flattering even if they don’t like you in return.
“You could drop subtle compliments, like saying a colour really suits them or you like their new haircut.
“In NLP, we say that the body leaks the truth and, to a certain extent, it’s not what you say but the way you say it and your accompanying body language. You want to come across as being comfortable and confident in your own skin and not desperate. Confidence and charisma are attractive to the opposite sex.
“Men often have ‘approach anxiety’ about talking to a woman where they run through in their minds all the reasons why she might reject him – almost as if they are rehearsing a rejection in advance,” adds Dominic.
”It’s much better they think back to all the times when they have successfully flirted and felt good about themselves in the past and tap into those feelings, as feeling good about yourself is what a potential girlfriend or boyfriend will be attracted to most.”
Save the roses
To sum up, when it comes to romance at the office, save the roses and chocolates for later on. Just invite your prospective girlfriend or boyfriend along casually to something you think they might enjoy. That way, you get to check each other out without all the expectations of a ‘date’ and, if nothing develops, you can just carry on as colleagues with no offence caused.
Did you meet your partner through work? If you have any tips on how to make the first move to share with other ‘be healthy’ readers, please comment below.
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