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Conscious Business with Becky Arrington

Handling the Birds and the Bees in Business

Compartmentalization can be helpful, but difficult to accomplish when hormones come into play. We are all sexual beings, and it can be challenging to simply turn that part of us off when we go to work. But keeping things professional, no matter how tempting your suite mate or cubicle buddy may be is essential! If the attraction is there, take it offline after work and draw hard and fast lines as to how to act towards each other in the office. Together, fast forward through various potential scenarios that may arise before beginning a relationship with a co-worker. Communication is key.

Many offices have rules against employees dating each other, so read up on your employee handbook before starting anything romantic. And if the attraction is still there even with boundaries set in place, get to know each other after work as friends and see if it develops into one of you looking for a new job or a transfer.

Attraction to a client is another slippery slope and requires extreme caution, open communication and a need to keep your wits sharp. You get it, the dashing new client is very attractive and is making it obvious that there is an interest. You are frequently thrown together in team/client meetings which often include dinners out, alcohol and letting one’s hair down. I caution you to hold back! Getting involved with a client can be devastating to the business and your career may not fair too well either if the relationship goes south. Flirting can be fun, but keep it professional at all times, most likely you will hold on to your job, your integrity and keep the account in the long run.

Alcohol and business although frequently mixed, can be a dangerous combination. Add in out of town trips to trade shows and everyone throws caution to the wind. There is no such thing as 9 to 5 when you are working out of town. You are always on, always representing the company and your actions need to reflect that. I may sound old fashioned, but I have been involved in administering several job terminations over antics that happened at conventions.

If you set the bar high and give off totally professional vibes, then your energy will help naturally deflect unwanted advances. Maintaining that demeanor in every situation acts as an unspoken barrier for others to follow your example. However there are times when no matter how much you are professionally projecting and setting boundaries, there is unwanted attention.

Listed below are six ways to respond to unwanted or inappropriate comments taken from the article "He Said WHAT At Work?" in the March 2015 issue of Cosmopolitan by Michelle Ruiz:

1. A coworker makes a single inappropriate comment or sends a creepy email or text. Talk to the person face-to-face whenever possible to avoid confusion. Say: "That makes me uncomfortable. Please don't say that to me again." Check your company manual or ask HR if there's a standard procedure for how to report harassment and a neutral employee to report it to. Don't respond to texts or emails, but screenshot them in case you need proof in the future.

2. A coworker or group of coworkers is repeatedly giving you unwanted sexual or sexist attention. Tell your manager — in writing, but follow up in person — that Mr. or Ms. X is making crude comments, and it's making it hard for you to work. The harasser should be removed or at least warned, depending on the situation and on company policy.

3. The person who's harassing you is an ex. Take the same steps. It doesn't matter if you were once a couple or had a consensual hookup. If a coworker's behavior now is unwanted and hurting you at work, it's harassment.

4. The person who's harassing you is your manager. Check your company manual or guidelines to see if there's a safe contact to report it to. If not, report it to anybody senior or your human resources department.

5. You're too nervous to make a report yourself. Bring your work bestie with you for moral support. And ask if other coworkers are dealing with it. Then, report together.

6. You told management already, but they're not doing anything. Ignoring a report of harassment or retaliating against you for reporting is unlawful. Call the Equal Rights Advocates hotline at 800-839-4ERA for advice.

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