Dating and Relationship Advice

Whether you’re working nine to five, overnights, or from home, you’ve been hit with a workplace crush. Sometimes, it’s as wonderful as when your PTO request is accepted. Other times, it’s like when a group of teenagers comes in for takeout fifteen minutes before closing. Coworker crushes get us through the shift or give us something to work for — or help us not lose our minds behind the counter.

But what if you are the subject of desire for a coworker? What if you are the recipient of desire-gone-too-far? Here are three ways to tell if your coworker has feelings for you, how to handle unwanted approaches, and how to appropriately pursue your workplace crush.

If a Coworker has Feelings for You

Here are some indications that your coworker may be romantically interested in you.

1) They Try to Make Your Shift Better

Once, during an understaffed and overworked holiday retail shift, I was enduring the wrath of a particularly fired-up Karen. I received a light bump from behind while holding my tongue and rolling my eyes. When I turned, I saw a steaming hazelnut latte with my name on it— literally.

Witnessing my customer's inconvenience, Raymond snuck to the cafe upstairs and ordered me one of my favorite drinks. When I approached him after the exchange, he affectionately muttered that it seemed I could use a pick-me-up. A coworker with a crush on you is willing to do the slightest — or sweetest —thing to make your shift a little bit better.

2) They’re Dumb

This one seems mean, but I promise there is merit to it. I taught Raymond how to reload the register tape at least half a dozen times. He was always remarking that he “always forgot” or that his hands were “just too big” to fit in the machine (I saw what you were doing there, Raymond).

But it was never about the tape — he would use the simple task —and my “small fingers” — to slip us into a conversation during the lulls at work.

3) They See You as a Person, Not just a Worker

Raymond would ask about my favorite books or post-work plans or if I had a nice weekend, and what movies I was looking forward to seeing. He didn’t talk to me only about work or didn’t use me as a sounding board to complain, rather routinely pushed our conversations to the appropriate personal, making it clear that he liked me as a person and not another robot in an apron.

Seeing you as a human person, with feelings, emotions, and opinions, is how your coworker can convey their crush.

Unwanted Approaches

When a coworker has feelings for you, they may exhibit behaviors that cross boundaries. Here are a few to watch out for.

1) Regulating Your Uniform

Finding a perfect pair of work pants is an almost impossible task. So when Rusty, a crusty former Assistant Manager of mine, commented that my slacks looked really good on me, I was rightfully enraged. Not only did his “compliment” cross the line, but now I would have to burn and buy a new perfect pair of pants.

When your uniform is a subject of discussion in terms of pleasure by coworkers, whether required, relaxed, professional, or casual, that is an unwarranted advance. This unwanted advance can be best handled with a stern retort or documentation with your human resources.

2) The Cubicle Isn’t Cutting It

Do they regularly request overtime with you? Are they always looking for an after-work drink or a pre-shift coffee? Do they find a way to snag the cash register right next to yours? Do your interactions go beyond happenstance and veer into calculated? Then you might have a coworker whose crush on you leads to the invasion of your independent workspace.

Any workplace romance requires both parties’ tacit, eager, and authentic endorsement. Under no circumstance should you be hitting on or being hit on by a coworker when either party objects. If you have this problem, consider talking to your scheduling manager or trusted coworkers about limiting the hours you work closely — or in the same space — as your problematic coworker.

3) Personal Space

Bless his heart, Rusty was an idiot. Whenever we got in a new shipment or had a secret shopper, he would feel the need to slink over to me, drape his sweaty arm over my shoulder, and whisper with his stinky breath into my ear. None of this information needed to be communicated this way; it would have been perfectly fine to receive it via memo or the radio in my ear.

Instead of doing his job, Rusty was being a tool. I solved this problem by repeatedly telling him that I didn’t like to be touched until he petulantly kept an appropriate distance. However, speaking with human resources or your union reps is also a valid tactic for any of these problems.

Signs you have feelings for your coworker

While it's possible for a coworker to develop romantic feelings for you, you may also find yourself attracted to them. Here are some indicators that you might have feelings for your colleague.

1) They Become a Person too

A scroll through the contacts in my phone will get you names like “Hot Boss (TJ Maxx),” “Hot Boss (University),” and “Hot Boss (Applebee’s).” In essence, I’m not immune to the harmless workplace crush. But, one time, I had a hot boss who I put in my phone as “Abe” — his given name.

While this surprised me initially, I realized it was because I didn’t look at him as simply hot or simply the man who had me organize his spreadsheets. I saw him as “Abe,” the man who gave me butterflies in staff meetings. The first sign that you have feelings for your coworker is that you begin to see them as more than a hot person. You see them as more than an officemate, which is difficult to do when you only see them in the office.

2) You will wear makeup for an 8-hour shift

You can wear makeup for any reason when at work, including yourself, for professionalism or hide the bags under your eyes. But, sometimes, a crush can make you more willing to make up your best self before even the longest of hours.

When I developed a thing for Ryan, I would splatter on foundation, rouge my cheeks, and perfect my lipstick in hopes that I would catch him once during the 8 hours I spent on the retail floor. It doesn’t always have to be makeup, though. If you find yourself turning out the best version of yourself whenever a particular coworker is present, maybe you have feelings for them.

Perhaps you’re more competitive in meetings that they are also in, or show off your heavy lifting. Perhaps you negotiate better when you’ve got something to prove to them or find yourself waking up early to do your hair when you know you share a shift. When you’re putting your best face, foot, or financial planning forward toward a particular coworker, consider that you might have feelings for them.

3) You Want Them to Have Success

Whether it’s Winston and Aly, Leslie and Ben, Jake and Amy, Shannon and Jung, Betty and Henry, or David and Patrick situation, television shows have always dealt with the dramas of workplace romances.

Promotions, demotions, raises, and cutbacks can serve as speed bumps or catalysts for coworker crushes. If you find yourself — despite your preferences, conveniences, or career goals — rooting for the success of your coworker crush then maybe, just maybe, you’ve got a Dwight for your Angela.

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