I Have a Crush on a Coworker But Now Our Communication is Awkward

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about how to handle the
awkward results of having a crush on a coworker. 

Question: 
I started this job three months ago where I developed a crush on a coworker right away who turned out to be married, we’re not in the same team so we don’t technically cooperate that much. I caught him so many times gazing at me right from his office and when he walks next to me. He once approached me and said : “Hi, how are you?” and I did not respond because I thought he was talking to someone else. The thing is those stares of his are kind of flattering and yet a bit uncomfortable since he’s a married guy and I feel it’s inappropriate to play the starring game with him. So, each time I see him walking towards me I act unintentionally awkward and turn my head away. Each time we come to catch eyes I turn my gaze down.

Ever since I started doing those behaviors things just got worse. He now gives me the silent treatment, he avoids the places where I am, he even gives the annoyed look. And I just don’t know how to interpret the situation, or how to handle this awkwardness.

Answer:
The first thing you can do to help the situation is put your focus on your work and communicate more frequently with your supervisor or manager. Doing that will accomplish three things:

1.) It will keep your mind on your primary function, so you can gain new knowledge and skills.

2.) It will help you develop a better working relationship with your manager—always important. By doing that your manager may be more likely to notice if something inappropriate is going on and she can assist you.

3.) It will be obvious to your coworker that you are focused on work, letting him know that you are not being unfriendly, you are merely a hard worker. At the same time it may let him know he is wasting his time if he thinks staring at you will flatter you into something else.

The next thing you can do to keep from feeling so awkward is to relax your mind and allow yourself to communicate effectively with everyone—women and men, of all ages and tenures. A friendly smile and conversation is not an invitation to go to a dark corner, it is just a way to keep work life going pleasantly. You can smile and talk to your coworker without an obligation to do anything else—just as his looks and conversation may not mean anything suggestive to him.  Even if he is thinking something else, you don’t have to go along with it.  He isn’t going to attack you at the office and you don’t have to break up his marriage. Just be civil and courteous to everyone and move through the day.

It would be inappropriate for your coworker to stare directly at you for twenty or thirty seconds, especially if combined with a leer or smirk, indicating he wants you to know he is thinking of something sexual. It would also be inappropriate if he repeatedly looks at you “up and down”, to imply he finds you sexually interesting. But sometimes people look at other people because they are wearing something pretty or odd or interesting, or because they are acting oddly or doing something interesting. There could be many reasons your coworker has looked at you, most of them completely innocent of wrong thinking or doing.

Let us assume your coworker finds you attractive too. He may think you are pretty or that you wear attractive clothes or that you have a pretty smile.  He may now and then look at you more than at others. But that doesn’t mean it has to go further than those few looks. In fact, your coworker probably has no intention of harming his marriage, even if he does think you are attractive.  You have only worked there a few months, so very soon he will be accustomed to you being around and his own work will take up his time again.

If you think he is looking too much, let him know you notice and ask him why. For example, you realize he is staring at you. Look up and look at him and say,  pleasantly, “David, do you need something?” He will probably say no and stop staring. Do that a few times and he will stop completely. You don’t have to be confrontational, frown or sound angry, just communicate.

If he starts a conversation, respond pleasantly and appropriately. As long as he doesn’t say anything inappropriate, make the assumption he is merely trying to have a friendly conversation—which is probably all he is doing.

It may be that  your coworker’s recent annoyed look and actions are the result of resenting your assumption he was trying to flirt or be inappropriate. Men are put in very frustrating situations at work, when they can’t even be pleasant to a woman without her assuming he is being sexual or too personal. On the other hand, if men don’t smile and talk they can be viewed as dismissive of women and not treating them with respect. So, try assuming the best about your coworker. Unless he does something wrong, just be a friendly person, as you would if he was unattractive and you didn’t have a crush on him.

Best wishes to you with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know how things work out.

Tina Rowe

Ask the Workplace Doctors