How Not To Be Your Workplace’s Valentines Day Stalker

How Not To Be Your Workplace’s Valentines Day Stalker

Stop right there. Valentines Day is not the time to surprise a colleague with a declaration of romantic interest, especially if you have only admired them from afar.

You wouldn’t believe the number of people who are too shy to ask someone for a coffee, but think it is perfectly okay to deliver a box of roses, a clutch of helium balloons and a stuffed teddy to someone they barely know.

It is a recipe for disaster.

You can initiate romance without being labelled a stalker, but you need to take it slowly and gauge their interest before you make the grand gesture.

Lesley Maclou, a partner with Sydney-based law firm Truman Hoyle, has seen too many would-be lovers slapped with sexual harassment claims because of clumsy, awkward and inappropriate approaches.

“It is not unreasonable to expect them to get to know the other person before they send them roses,” she says.

“Valentines Day is not the day to try and get to know somebody.”

In fact, familiarity can protect a would-be lover if the case ends up in front of a tribunal. Maclou says one NSW discrimination tribunal threw out a case against a “Romeo” after he asked out a colleague.

Because they had spent considerable time having coffee and going out to lunches and work functions together, the tribunal decided it wasn’t unreasonable to expect that romance may be the next step and that the invitation was not harassment.

While you may wonder why the woman didn’t just say “no, thanks”, Maclou says situations can blow up out of proportion when someone suspects that a work setback may be a personal payback.

Maclou suggests a few guidelines for those whose thoughts turn to love this Friday:

1. First, get to know the object of your affection. Your initial approach may be to invite them for coffee, or to lunch with a group from work. Try to discern if the interest is reciprocated before you propose a romantic dinner for two.

2. Read the signals. Don’t confuse politeness or friendliness with sexual attraction. Research has shown that power tends to make men (in particular) feel more sexually attractive than they really are, which may go some way to helping explain how so many bosses overstep boundaries with their staff.

3. Don’t be anonymous. It could be seen as creepy and there is always the danger they will assume it is from someone else, who may be a stalker from their past.

4. Don’t make it public. It could humiliate the recipient if the gesture is unwelcome and, if they are already in a committed relationship, the whole scene may be uploaded by colleagues onto Facebook and create all sorts of problems.

5. Think of their professional image. Women, in particular, sometimes have to battle for respect and may not welcome the kind of attention that arrives with a big bunch of flowers.

6. Be aware of power differentials. When one of you reports to the other and your romantic gesture doesn’t go well, each career setback may be viewed through the lens of intentional punishment.

7. Don’t do it. If they have told you they are not interested in the past, just don’t do it.

Source: Financial Review

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