Many companies have firm rules against intra-office romance — if yours falls into this camp, it's absolutely not OK to flirt at work. However, if your company is more relaxed about this issue, it's acceptable to flirt with your office crush at work... as long as you keep it appropriate and don't cross any lines.
Although employers may implement policies banning office relationships, flirting with or dating a coworker is not illegal. Rules against dating or flirting with a coworker typically appear in an Employee Handbook. Employees should take caution, however, before breaking the rules and asking a coworker out on a date.
When parties engage in flirting that is not mutual or interferes with one's workplace, it may become sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is federally illegal. Parties wishing to pursue legal action due to non-consensual flirting have different options.
For some, flirting can be deemed cheating when one partner is overly friendly with someone else, especially if this breaks previously agreed upon rules. For others, flirting is considered crossing the line into cheating when it risks turning into a physical or emotional affair.
Keep it appropriate
If you want to keep flirting at work, you have to keep things innocent. No sex comments and no comments that are inappropriate in nature at all. If anything has to do with their body or any reference to sexual things, you've crossed a line. Things of sexual nature can't really be taken as innocent.
It really depends on your personal situation. If the other person seems open to it and you aren't violating any company policies or getting physical, it might be acceptable. However, you really don't want to come on too strong or be too obvious with this.
It is really a matter of common sense and judgment. If in doubt, avoid the kiss. As employment lawyers we are often met with allegations that the law has taken all of the fun out of the workplace, but this is unfair. It's just that now the rule is that it should be fun for everyone, not just a select few.
If you've been flirting with a coworker or friend for months but it's all been surface-level conversations, you're fine—flirt away. But "when you begin to go to that person for emotional support and connection, rather than your partner, you have crossed the line from flirting to emotional cheating," says Orbuch.
Deliberately Touching Someone
Yet, frequently and purposely touching someone in a provocative way–like caressing their hand or giving them a tight and lingering hug–is inappropriate flirting, and implies a romantic/sexual interest, particularly when there's attraction between either party.
As per their study, light-hearted flirtation and banter among colleagues is benign and can, in fact, help relieve stress in workers. But one needs to be careful. There's a fine line between casual flirting and sexual harassment. You certainly don't want to come across as creepy.
Physical contact. A brief touch on the shoulder, a light brush against the arm or a playful nudge of the elbow might make you suspect someone is flirting. If this type of contact happens often, whether disguised as accidental or not, it could be flirting.
Do not flirt back, do not touch the person, and if he or she asks you to a one-on-one coffee or lunch, find a way to bring someone else along. It is important, especially for women, to be viewed as focused and respected in the workplace. Unfortunately, men are not viewed as negatively in these circumstances."
Some examples of unacceptable behaviour are: Aggressive or abusive behaviour, such as shouting or personal insults. Spreading malicious rumours or gossip, or insulting someone.
Indeed, you may think that flirting while in a relationship is highly disrespectful. However, the psychology of flirting is not so black and white. It depends on what you consider as flirting when in a relationship, the impact on the couple, and when flirting crosses the line.
Sexual harassment is attention or actions that are not wanted and make you feel bad. If somebody flirts and it is unwanted, ask the person to stop. If they don't stop, it's considered harassment.
It refers to the idea that when guys see a woman they fancy, they have three seconds to approach her, make eye contact, or strike up a conversation before she loses interest - or he bottles it.
Innocent flirting is a lighthearted and playful form of social interaction that involves casual, friendly banter, compliments, and teasing without any serious intent or expectation to pursue a romantic or sexual relationship.
Keep hugs to special occasions only: think promotions, landing a big client, or seeing someone after a long time. While the occasional hello or goodbye hug is okay, too, you don't want to hug everyone every time you enter and leave the office.
Hugging peers is probably okay, but only for those you do not see every day, and only if they are comfortable with it. It can be a good idea to let someone know you are a hugger and ask permission before going in for a hug. This gives him/her a chance to decline the hug if s/he is uncomfortable.
Romance doesn't have to be dead in the workplace, but it is important that it remains appropriate. If someone states that they're uncomfortable seeing someone kiss or touch affectionately in the workplace, then the entire team should keep that in mind. Keeping your relationship private at work is usually a good idea.