15

A coworker recently asked me out in a romantic way and I turned them down. I don't work directly with this person, or report to them. They're not on my team. They are older and more senior. I don't know them well at all - this sort of came out of the blue.

They were polite and respectful, and I have no reason to think there's any bad blood between us. I don't believe this person has done anything wrong. (Though I don't actually know my company's policy re. coworkers dating.)

However, my concern is that in the future I might have to work with this person, or they might be asked to review my performance, or they might informally say something about my work. Maybe they're harbouring some resentment towards me which could turn out badly for me later (remember I barely know this person). I think this is an unlikely scenario, but I'm wondering whether I ought to somehow protect myself, especially since I'm in the early stages of my career.

Is this worth mentioning to my supervisor? Is there anything I should do to protect myself?

For cultural context, I work in the U.S..

  • What was the context of the ask? Was it done in a way that left a (time stamped) paper trail of any kind? – dwizum Jul 15 at 19:32
  • @dwizum No paper trail, this happened in person. – user106875 Jul 15 at 19:34
  • 16
    I think you worry too much, let's face if it comes. – NiceGuy Jul 15 at 19:38
  • As an aside, the fact that they are completely outside your organization, and not in your "chain of command" means they followed the "no dating subordinates" rule. I've known married couples who were forever barred from working in the same organization because they were married-married. – Julie in Austin Jul 15 at 20:57
  • @user23487 The second answer further down the page is excellent. I would like to add that a coach or a mentor is vital and can help you to navigate this situation. They can act as your sounding board and adviser. I wouldn't do anything further and would avoid any situations that could put you in a vulnerable position that could be uncomfortable. – fypnlp Jul 15 at 21:50
20

Is this worth mentioning to my supervisor? Is there anything I should do to protect myself?

No.

You yourself stated that you don't work with or report to this person, they are not on your team and that the incident was polite and respectful. This should be reason enough to not mention to your supervisor ( i.e. it was a normal adult interaction ).

Regarding protecting yourself, yes in the future you may work with this person or they may be in a position to comment about your work but this could be the case with anyone at your company that you interact with. I would not worry about it.

7

Is this worth mentioning to my supervisor?

Nope.

Everything they have done so far has been respectful, and thus management does not need to be involved. If they do anything further that makes you uncomfortable then this question would need to be revisited based on what happened.

Is there anything I should do to protect myself?

There are several things that you and anyone can do to put up barriers that can reduce the risk of interactions like the one you described turning from a proper respectful one into an incident:

Visibility

Maximize public interactions while minimizing private interactions. When others are around it provides accountability and opportunities to get other people's perspective. If they or anyone else says something to you that makes you question if it was inappropriate and someone else heard it you can ask them for a second opinion.

If you see a chance to avoid a situation where it is just you and one other employee do it. This includes working late with just one other person to carpooling to a customer meeting with just one other person. Even if everything is good, it does not stop a toxic employee from gossiping if you and the other person happen to be of compatible ages and opposite genders.

Lastly, any time you have to be in a one-on-one meeting conduct the meeting in a room with a window to the rest of the office area. Having visibility in the office discourages any inappropriate physical interactions, since people at any point can walk on by and see in.

Have Multiple Performance Reviewers

My workplace has a concept of stake holders when it comes to performance reviews. Anyone in a leadership position that has a stake in the results of my work counts as a stake holder and I have the option to ask them to write a performance review for me. If your workplace already has something like this in place use it, if not encourage leadership to look into it.

If you have four people that provided written feedback at the end of the year where three of them give you excellent marks and one gives you strong negative marks, then you can point to the three to show something is wrong. Which in turn leadership can investigate if it is a case of retaliation or something else. Also, in a normal situation instead of having one person singing your praise, you now have four people doing it, which helps when you are trying to get a raise or a promotion.

Have a Mentor

Preferably this mentor is not someone at work, but if the best person happens to be a senior coworker then take it. Having someone that you can ask about day-to-day situations and who can give you sound council and wisdom can be more helpful than a group of people on the internet who do not fully understand nuances of your culture or background.

Also do not limit yourself to one mentor, if there are multiple people in your life that you can count on for good advice take it. You never know when someone will be unavailable or moves away and thus you no longer have easy access to them.

Lastly, if someone starts making you uncomfortable with their romantic advances and you are not sure how to handle it or if it warrants supervisor attention, you have someone that is an independent third party that can give you impartial advice.

Conclusion

Do not go out of your way to avoid one-on-one interactions, nor put up so many barriers that it starts to inhibit your ability to interact with others. However, if there is an opportunity where you have a choice between a more private setting versus a more public setting, choose the public one.

  • 2
    +1. Note the OP did not call out the person's gender, so your description involving a "he" makes an assumption unwarranted by the factual presentation. (And may color a reader's impression.) – bishop Jul 15 at 22:54
  • 1
    @bishop I went ahead and made it more gender neutral. – Anketam Jul 16 at 1:18
3

Is this worth mentioning to my supervisor?

It sounds like the situation was not harassment and not in violation of any company policy. It doesn't seem like there'd be any reason to mention it.

Is there anything I should do to protect myself?

It seems unlikely that there is anything you need to protect yourself from, but it might be a good idea to document. If anything were to become suspicious in the future, having a written record of the interaction and the date could be a relevant data point. You could right something as simple as:

On the 12th of July, 2019, Senior Co-worker asked me on a date. I declined, and he or she accepted it.

At the very least, if you ever needed to submit a complaint on it, then having a specific record would make you clear on the details.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy