There is a co-worker that is being way overly friendly with me. Nothing that would really be deemed unprofessional, and I am not offended in any way, but it is just that little notch beyond what a normal friendly working relationship should be. This behaviour is only directed at me, and I’m pretty sure that it’s not just her way of going about in the world.

My concerns are two-fold. I don’t want there to be any awkwardness between us going forward. We will occasionally have to work together, and if this person tries to “escalate” the relationship we may have a problem. Secondly, I don’t want there to be a perception amongst others on the team that there is “something between us”. I am happily married and I really don’t need any unfounded rumors or gossip, which this person’s behaviour is now starting to generate.

For any other issue I would just talk it over with the person privately. But in this case, I’m not exactly sure what to say. “Please don’t smile so much when talking to me” sounds like a very strange thing to say to someone. This person hasn’t done anything offensive or inappropriate (yet).

Is there some sort of a textbook solution to this kind of a problem that I am not aware of?

  • 48
    Perhaps instead of addressing the person who is being nice to you you should be addressing the people spreading the gossip. It seems like maybe you have focused on the wrong thing to correct. Nov 21, 2013 at 21:46
  • 2
    Is there something going on between you to? Have either of you implied that there was? That would be the only "Good" reason I can see for it. Even still the problem is the rumors. Her changing her behavior is not likely to stop the rumors. Nov 21, 2013 at 22:01
  • 1
    Are you male or female?
    – Jim G.
    Apr 30, 2015 at 7:23
  • 9
    @JimG.Why does that even matter?
    – Gusdor
    Apr 30, 2015 at 7:42

6 Answers 6


If her behavior is beginning to cause others to notice, then you probably need to take her aside and tell her something like:

"I hate to bring this up, but for some reason, people are getting the impression that there's something going on between us. One of our coworkers mentioned specifically that when he [saw you do [action] / heard you say [phrase]], he started to wonder. I told him that there's nothing there, but I just wanted to let you know that that's how it's starting to look, so we should probably take a step back and make sure that people don't continue to think that. I'll probably mention it to our boss as well, so that he knows we've heard the rumors and we're going to work to shut them down."

Mentioning it to your boss is probably the smart move regardless; it's best if he hears it from you in the context of "I just heard about this rumor; there's nothing to it; I talked to [her name] about it, and going forward we're going to make sure it gets squashed."

  • 81
    The nice thing about this answer is that if she is trying to flirt, you are letting her know that you aren't interested by assuming that she isn't flirting and that you both would be ditressed that people are misinterpreting. This is an easier way to let someone down who actually is flirting than directly saying "I'm not interested." It saves face all around.
    – HLGEM
    Nov 22, 2013 at 16:19

It seems like you're overthinking the problem.

If she is acting professionally you have no grounds to confront her on. Doing so would be unfair to her (confronting someone about assumed intended behavior the person hasn't taken is a really bad idea).

If she is not acting professionally you should address that behavior. Doing otherwise would only make the gossip and rumors worse (no matter how 'happily married' you are, if your interactions are interpreted by level-headed coworkers as indicative of an improper working relationship, then that is something that needs to be addressed).

If you are both acting professionally, and there is nothing going on, coworkers who spread rumors or gossip are not acting professionally. Confronting them probably won't solve the issue, and if you aren't doing anything wrong in the eyes of normal coworkers, the rumors will quickly die. Some people just like office gossip, regardless of accuracy.

  • You could still take it up discretely with your boss, to make clear that there is nothing going on and that the rumours are unfounded. Nov 22, 2013 at 8:31
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    @Paul, If someone came to me and said, "Hey, Alice over there in Procurement is being totally professional, and there is nothing happening between us, despite any rumors or gossip you've heard" I would probably think the exact opposite. I can't think of a good way to make the comment such that it doesn't come off wrong.
    – jmac
    Nov 22, 2013 at 8:39
  • @jmac - you can probably pull it off if you go in with the attitude of "of course this is all silly, I can't believe we're having to have this conversation, but I'm told it's going around the office, so you should hear from me that I just heard about it and I'm going to put an immediate stop to it". The important points are "I didn't know before; I know now; it should be obvious there's nothing there; since it's apparently not obvious, I'm going to make sure the gossip stops and we focus back on work".
    – Adam V
    Nov 22, 2013 at 15:12
  • She needs to know the impression she is giving to everyone else; otherwise, the behavior will only stop by accident.
    – user8365
    Nov 22, 2013 at 15:55

First, make sure you start documenting any behavior from her that is "little notch beyond what a normal friendly working relationship should be". Also, when things get to that point make very sure to redirect clearly to Work Thing. "I'm busy this weekend. This report needs more....". "Please don't talk about my body. During that meeting to morrow...."

You could bring it up to your boss as "hey, I'm in this type of situation, have you ever been in this situation before and do you have any advice?" Which makes it clear to your boss that you still are able to handle the situation (i.e. boss does not need to get involved) but that things are Not Right and you are fixing it.

There's a lot of great advice in Captain Awkward's archives


Pulling her aside and dealing with it blatantly might be the easiest way, but personally I would leave that as a least resort, specifically because of

I don’t want there to be any awkwardness between us going forward.

Put yourself in her shoes, if you do that there IS going to be awkwardness between you. Even though she knows you are married, she IS going to feel called out, she might not even realize her behavior towards you was so obvious. Depending on how strongly she feels, she might even feel quite hurt and get quite angry.

You need to weigh up the options, either "I want to deal with this quickly", or "I want to deal with this on the down low".

I was in a similar situation, personally I think ratchet freak had a great idea: "discourage her by bringing up your happily married life more".

If you want to try being a bit more subversive, this kind of thing can help to shut down both conscious and subconscious feelings she may be directing towards you, both the following worked for me:

  1. Steer casual conversation towards your current relationship "oh wow, you wont believe where my wife and I went for dinner we had such a great time, shes the best".

  2. You can be a bit more frigid towards her in daily interactions, if you say "hi", don't smile, don't strike up casual conversations etc.


Remember that people's definitions of acceptable flirting can vary widely. Some folks consider a backrub or a bit of mild teasing of someone whom they know is "safe" to be a friendly game and nothing more. As long as everyone knows and agrees that this is what's going on, I tend to agree with that.

But if it (and/or the possible gossip) is making you uncomfortable, or you think the two of you may disagree about what's actually going on, it's entirely appropriate for you to say "Hey, this is a bit over my comfort line; could you dial it back? I like working with you but I'd prefer we keep it a little less informal."

Or whatever phrasing makes sense for your situation and your understanding of how to ask her to back off without hurting her feelings more than necessary.


Ask her out and see if she is interested , then you will know what to do. If she says yes then she is interested and you can then say you have changed your mind it wouldnt be fair on your wife. I had a girl at work flirting with me but when I asked her out she said she was busy and a friend of mine says she just likes flirting with everyone . I think its to get attention. Its not as simple sometimes as we would believe. I could have used a friend outside work but the flirt wasnt the one for me.

  • 23
    Horribly bad idea. You want to be seen as willing to step out on your marriage just so you can say "lol nevermind"? Apr 21, 2014 at 15:58

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