This is a really difficult one.
In reality, many long term relationships start at work. Many people meet first in the workplace and go on to live lives, raise children and be together for many years.
However, approaching someone at work with your feelings for them can be a mine field.
Unwanted attention can be considered sexual harassment and innocent comments can be taken the wrong way.
Even harder if that person is your team member, you their boss or supervisor.
In this situation you have the added issue of power imbalance and you need to tread very carefully.
What is power imbalance?
It is where, by right of your position, age, gender or some other reason, you hold power over the other person; or have a perception of power by the other person.
You may think that you do not hold any power, but it is not about what you think, but what your recipient feels.
An older experienced senior male in a workplace, certainly can be perceived to have more power over a young girl in her first role out of university.
This power imbalance can make it very difficult for the young girl to say ‘no’ to requests for extra work; tighter deadlines; water cooler chats or more.
Get it; there is a perception of power over someone else and this cannot be ignored.
Why do so many who are affected by sexual harassment or worse, hold their secret close? Because of the perceived power of the other. It is a sad truth.
In a workplace, those who may be perceived as having power; need to be extra diligent.
Time and time again, I have heard some say “that is ridiculous they could just tell me if they are not comfortable.”
And yet; I have had the other party tell me they don’t feel they can say no, because they are a junior or they’re worried about their career. It is real – understand it!
So if you are suddenly developing feelings for someone at work, you need to tread very carefully.
Start with friendship. Friendship is the basis of all strong relationships anyway; so definitely where you should start.
Be alert to the responses your friendship is generating. Well received; embarrassed looks; not knowing how to say they are busy and don’t want to talk?
Be honest with yourself – don’t just see what you want to see – face the hard truth if it is there.
Stop your attentions. If this is a situation where your feelings are not reciprocated, then once you stop, your friend might also let the friendship lapse. If they don’t go out of their way to talk to you, that can be a pretty strong sign.
Or conversely they might actually seek you out and ask if there is something wrong. You can be honest, just say, “look I really enjoy spending time with you, but just want to make sure you are keen to spend time with me as well”.
If your feelings are not reciprocated, stop!
If it is meant to be, it will happen.
Never pursue feelings where your friendship is not wanted or not reciprocated. Sexual harassment laws have just been strengthened and you must be very careful of your actions in the workplace.
Keep your relationship professional; treat the person with respect and caring as you would any other employee in the workplace.
Cut your losses and move on; you will get over it. Broken hearts mend.
For more HR or staffing help contact CIRCLE Recruitment & HR or call 1300 923 000
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