Dear Harlan: I have a co-worker who continues to flirt with me and ask me out. I’m not interested. I’ve told her that I don’t mix work with my social life. She seems to find that to be a bigger challenge and continues to flirt with me and ask me to hang out. I’m not interested in dating her, and I find it very uncomfortable. I know this is sexual harassment, but it feels too uncomfortable telling someone in HR about the situation. This is my first job, and I don’t want to burn any bridges. How can I communicate my feelings to her and still maintain a professional relationship? I’m really at a loss and need some advice.
— Work Mess
Dear Work Mess: It is very uncomfortable and confusing. That’s why there are HR departments. These people are trained to handle these situations. They can offer you advice and direction. They can support you. Most importantly, you’ll be protected because it all will be documented. You don’t need to put up with this for one more day. Make sure you talk to someone higher up the HR chain. Share any names of people who may have witnessed this exchange. HR might suggest you tell this person in the clearest terms that you don’t want a romantic relationship. They might suggest involving your supervisor. Telling human resources isn’t burning bridges — it’s protecting you and your livelihood. It’s setting boundaries, advocating for yourself, and focusing on your job. There might be a quick fix. For all you know, this co-worker has a history of harassing other co-workers. But tell the people who can help and support you.