How to Stop a Flirty Boss in His Tracks
Don't put up with inappropriate behavior
Sometimes, you might find yourself in a situation at work where you have an unusually flirty boss. It’s not always enough to warrant calling HR or a lawyer, but it is something that must be dealt with in order to make your workplace comfortable.
Here’s what to do if you find yourself in this awkward situation.
It’s flattering but needs to stop
Admittedly, it can be flattering to have your boss like you, but you want to let him know that it can not go any further, advised Kathi Elster, executive coach and the coauthor of Working with you is Killing Me, Mean Girls at Work and Working for You Isn't Working for Me.
Elster said, “You can do this with statements like, ‘I'll ask my boyfriend’ or, ‘I'm in love with my boyfriend or husband’ - always reminding him that you have a significant other in your life that you are not looking to replace.”
“If this does not work and he escalates this to a level that makes you uncomfortable, you can try to talk to him by letting him know that you are flattered but you have a personal policy that you do not date in the workplace, if this does not help then you will have to talk to someone else in a position of authority,” Elster said.
To flirt or not to flirt
Jill Jacinto, millennial career expert for AOL Jobs and the associate director for career brand WORKS, said, “Let's face it, some people, male and female, have more 'flirty' personalities. They're a bit more informal, relaxed, and fun, except an extra pat on the back or an off-the-cuff remark can have you feeling uncomfortable. If you as an employee ever feel uncomfortable, it's best to squash this behavior firsthand with your boss.”
“The next time they get too flirty for your comfort level - let them know. Be honest and say in a personable way - let's keep it professional. If they still don't get it, make sure you address this at the end of your next one-on-one meeting. Let them know that professionally you have certain boundaries and you are not comfortable with their flirtatious manner. If they still do not stop, then head to HR. Compile a written list of each comment or situation where you felt uncomfortable,” Jacinto said.
There’s no perfect formula
Astroglide's resident sexologist, Jess O'Reilly and host of Playboy TV's reality show, SWING, is also a best-selling author whose PhD studies include sex education for teachers, equity and sexual diversity. Here is her expert advice:
“There is no perfect formula for responding to a flirtatious boss and your response will depend on your history with him, your personalities and the extent to which he is making you uncomfortable. In an ideal world, you simply tell him that you’re uncomfortable with his behavior and he adjusts it accordingly. Unfortunately, the real world is not always ideal (i.e. not everyone is in a position to speak up and risk their job), so here are some strategies to foil the flirtation:
- Simply ignoring him might do the trick, as the unrequited attention may spoil the fun for him.
- Talking subtly about your personal life (dates, boyfriends) might work in other cases in which he may have misconstrued interest on your part. This indirect approach may defy the principles of open, straightforward communication, but if it works and helps you to avoid an uncomfortable or costly situation, it’s your call — nobody else’s.
- In some cases, you might be able to shut him down with a gracious, but firm rebuff (e.g. “I heard you the first time. But I’m not into it!”)
- Cutting it off immediately may be necessary. Don’t feel any pressure to flirt back. Change the subject and put physical distance between you.
- Speaking up may be necessary if the flirting is making you uncomfortable. Tell him that you want to stay focused on the task at hand. Remind him that you’re here to work.
- If his flirtation persists and is making you uncomfortable or making it difficult to work, keep a record of incidents and your reactions. Seeking the support of your HR department. They can help you to become familiarized with the company’s sexual harassment policy and offer advice with regard to next steps.
If it escalates
If it does reach the point where HR needs to be contacted, it may also be time to call a lawyer, said David Reischer, an attorney with LegalAdvice.com.
Reischer said, “A woman that is uncomfortable because of a flirty boss should be aware that she may have a claim for sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances or merely verbal comments of a sexual nature. It is important to speak with a lawyer on these types of matters that can advise the best way to proceed based on specific facts and circumstances. A woman may want to report the unprofessional conduct to Human Resources as a means to get the conduct to stop and or put the company on notice that there is a problem. Many companies have a company policy that allows for sexual harassment claims to be directly reported to HR. It is unlawful to fire a person in retaliation for reporting a problem to HR so it may be advisable for a woman to make a claim and let HR sort out the particularities of your claim.”