THE BLOG
08/02/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

5 Rules to Flirting at Work

Whether it's an innocent way of spicing up office hours or you've got a serious crush on a co-worker, flirting on the job demands delicacy--if you want to avoid becoming just another undignified watercooler casualty. Here, five rules to keep in mind.

Already got a guy? Get some boundaries.
If you're in a relationship, chances are your colleagues know it. So even if publicly wiggling and giggling all over Hot Accounts Guy might feel like an innocent confidence boost, it could appear slutty to frowning colleagues. Ask yourself: Would you tell Hot Guy that you have a boyfriend? And would you be comfortable telling your partner about every exchange with the cutie co-worker? If either answer is no, you are definitely in Risks-ville.

Keep it verbal.
Unless you wish to subtly convey to Flirt Target that you are available for something more (the risks of which are covered below), keep it at the bantering stage. Anything more can lead to trouble, especially since seeing and hearing are two very different things when it comes to fueling office gossip.

Avoid techno-flirting. Two words: "Reply All."

If you're doing it to get ahead--play it VERY carefully.
Okay, so Strategic Flirting can seem like an effective way to the top, but if handled poorly, it's nothing more than an undignified way to self-promote. You're setting a negative precedent for yourself that's open to criticism from co-workers, and your actions could call your actual talent into question by new employers (you'll be surprised what gets around). If you do use it, be friendly to everyone so it doesn't seem brazen. And you'd better actually be shit-hot at your job.

If you want the relationship to go somewhere--stay within company boundaries.
It may sound like the very pinnacle of unromantic, but check your company's employee-relations policy first. If you do start dating, keep it absolutely separate from the workplace, and if anything, be more professional than usual and definitely no PDAs. And a final warning: If you find an object of office lust, resist oversharing. Office crushes are generally short. Office gossip's memories aren't.

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