There have been sparks flying and covert flirting between me and a coworker. To be honest, he’s not just my coworker but my “mentee”. I’m his “mentor”, the experienced colleague assigned to help him navigate office politics and locate the water cooler. I’m not worried about the mentor/mentee thing (he’s only a year younger than me and I’m not his real manager), but I’m hesitant to take things further because I’ve already had liaisons with THREE other coworkers. (One was only a kiss and the other two were just a few months of harmless fun). No one knows about my string of office flings but I don’t want to become “that girl” who hooks up with all the guys in the office. Should I keep things strictly (flirty) business with “hot mentee” or should I go for it, no holds barred?
Curious in the Cubicle
Dear Curious in the Cubicle,
Most of the time I hear about girls having the hots for a sexy boss; rare is the advice-seeker who pines for a junior coworker (Rachel Green’s crush on Hunky Intern aside). Kudos for bringing something fresh to the column, and for privately advancing the feminist agenda. After all, if everyone from the President to David Letterman has had fun with young female staffers, why shouldn’t we? Two things for you to consider here: why have you been so “lucky” with office men and what are you really worried about with getting involved with your mentee? It’s natural for young professionals who spend inordinate amounts of time together to develop romantic chemistry. Has there been something specifically and individually appealing about each of your three previous office flings? If the answer is “yes” then you don’t have much to worry about, except for company policy (read your employee handbook to make sure no serious repercussions can come if your office relationship is discovered). But if the main reason that you’ve made moves on these men is convenience (as in, they were simply there) it would be healthier to start carving out separate work and personal spaces. Go to the gym, walk in the park, meet guys outside of the conference room. As for “hot mentee”, your worry about becoming “that girl” seems to be self-inflicted judgment rather than public perception. Life’s too short for guilt-tripping – as long as you’re having fun, not taking advantage of minors, and keeping things discrete from 9 to 5 (or 9 to 9 as your case may be), there’s nothing wrong with going after someone who obviously reciprocates your feelings.