Dealing With A Crush At Work – How To Handle A Crush On A Coworker

Office Affairs | | Expert Author , Mental Health Therapist
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Do you linger around in the breakroom, hoping for that one particular person to walk in so you can have a chat? Perhaps you’re willing to drive 5 miles off your route, to be able to carpool to work with this colleague. Are you wearing your best clothes to work all of a sudden? A crush on a coworker can do that to you. 

And if you’re working from home, you and I both know that the only person you’re staring at during the entire Zoom meeting is this work crush you’ve got. All of a sudden, turning your cameras on at a work meeting doesn’t seem like the worst thing ever. A 2022 survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 33% of U.S. workers report that they’re currently involved or have been involved in a workplace romance — 6 percentage points higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic (27%). 

So is your crush on your colleague the start of something new? Or is it something that’s going to get you demoted? Navigating the murky waters of developing feelings for a coworker can often leave you perplexed. Let’s take a look at what you need to do, with the help of three experts, so you don’t end up getting a letter from HR about being unprofessional.

Signs You Have A Crush On A Coworker

Hold it for just a minute. Before we discuss how we can turn receptionist-at-work Pam into wifey Pam, you first need to figure out how serious this work crush of yours is. Also, to assure you that you’re not alone in this, according to a study, the most common targets for crushes across groups were friends, peers at school, coworkers, and fantasy targets such as celebrities. 

“I have a crush on my coworker, I think he smiled at me yesterday when we were crossing paths,” you might think, cooking up a little rom-com in your head. Even though you’re not a teenager anymore, infatuation is not an ailment that affects only the young. Perhaps you just watched Jim and Pam finally kiss after endless seasons of a will they/won’t they situation, and now crave the same thing.

A crush at work might just be something you get over pretty quickly, like that time you forgot to add an attachment to your Email three times in a row. Or, they can be intense enough to make that important, upcoming meeting seem like it barely matters anymore; all that matters is this person you’re pining for. 

According to a study, employees were more likely to lie to, distrust, and find peers dating their superiors less caring than peers dating other peers. Clearly, ‘who’ you have a crush on or date influences your perception at the workplace too. So to make sure it’s not just infatuation you’re feeling and is in fact a proper crush on someone, let’s take a look at some of the signs you have a crush on a coworker. 

1. It’s not based on superficial reasons 

If you think you have a crush on a coworker because they wear that perfume you like or because they always have their hair done a certain way, think again. What separates a fleeting crush from something that has more substance is what you like about the other person’s personality. 

If it’s just because they look good and wear nice clothes, it might not be the strongest crush. However, if you like multiple aspects of their personality and love spending time with them, you might have something on your hands.

Related Reading: 15 Signs Your Male Coworker Likes You

2. If your sexual curiosity is supplemented with adoration 

Of course, you’re going to have a few dreams about this person that don’t involve much clothing. But if you want to know whether your office crush is more than it seems, figure out if it’s fueled only by sexual curiosity or if there’s an added aspect of adoration. 

When you can confidently say you admire and respect this person’s personality, there’s definitely more to all those dreams you keep having. 

3. You genuinely know them

Have you ever been in a relationship or even dated someone, only to realize three months later that they’re not who you thought they were at all? We can often make up an idea of what people are like in our minds, only to end up having them completely crushed. 

If you haven’t idolized an image of this work crush in your head and you actually know what they are like, then it definitely sounds like the real deal. If you want to spend time with them even after knowing they sometimes annoyingly chew food with their mouth open, this workplace crush is here to stay. The difference between love and infatuation can be that simple to spot.

4. You can imagine a relationship together 

And we’re pretty sure you already have. How’d that fantasy trip to Venice with your work crush, that you made up in your head, play out? Are you dreaming about lying down next to this person, watching Netflix on a Sunday afternoon? You’re smitten, and not the fleeting kind. 

Are you already daydreaming about your crush at work?
Are you already daydreaming about your crush at work?

5. You want your office crush’s attention 

We’re pretty sure you’ve bought a bunch of new clothes, your shoes are sparkling clean and you’re always wearing that new perfume/cologne. Your wardrobe has definitely benefited from this crush on a coworker (though your bank account might not be too happy). You might even try getting into that thing your workplace crush is into, so you always have something to talk about. When you’re trying to get their attention so intently, it’s definitely a sign you have a crush on a coworker. 

Recounting her sadness of discovering the signs her husband has a crush on coworker, Chelsea, a stock market trader from Philadelphia, shares, “It became very obvious. The new shirts, the new cologne, the hairstyle, the constant excitement, the constant avoidance of family time because “there’s so much work at the office”. There were daily signs my husband has a crush on coworker and all I could do was wait patiently for him to come tell me about it.”

Whether you’re single or married, ascertain your feelings for this individual first. Once you do that, we can move on to the things you can do about it. 

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How To Handle A Crush On A Coworker Know From 3 Experts

Alright, so you have a crush on a coworker. We hear the pain across the screen. You’re here to learn how to deal with a crush at work without letting it drive you insane. So let’s cut straight to it: you’ve got two options here. You can either try to pursue this crush at work, or you can figure out how to get over it. To make a decision on what you want to do going forward, you need to ask yourself a bunch of questions: 

  • Is there mutual attraction?
  • Did the above signs that you have a crush on a coworker apply to you?
  • Are you convinced it’s not a temporary infatuation?
  • What’s your workplace’s policy on office romance?
  • Will your job be in jeopardy if you pursue it?
  • Is this workplace crush negatively affecting your productivity? 
  • Do you think you and this person can be a good match? 
  • Are they single and available? 
  • Are YOU single and available? 
  • Are you two compatible? 

Based on the answers you gave, you probably have a better idea of what you should do next. There IS a silver lining ahead for those who have a crush on a colleague who actually likes you back! But fair warning: This particular section isn’t that hopeful. We’ll talk about how to get over your feelings, focus on why you have a crush on a colleague in the first place, and understand and deal with the emotions behind it, especially in a messy situation where you have a crush on a coworker when married.

To help with this, we bring to you the expert opinions of three mental health professionals and a legal consultant. Previously, in conversations with Bonobology, they shared how to handle a work crush when it’s no longer viable to continue on the love-sick path.

When you have a crush on your coworker but you’re married

Psychotherapist Gopa Khan shared her thoughts on the scenario where you have a crush on a coworker when married or in a relationship: “When the connection with your partner is suffering, that’s when you are likely to be vulnerable and can get attracted to another ‘potential mate’. Introspect if your needs are being met in the marriage. To repair this rupture, start doing one activity together once a week. This is a good way to start healing your marriage.” 

Why is it so hard to get over a crush on a coworker? She said, “When you are made to feel ‘good’ about yourself, it is but natural to view the person positively and start having feelings toward them.” Plus, you see them almost everyday, and familiarity breeds love. Research calls it the proximity effect as there is a positive correlation between the amount of time spent together and the attraction between people.

Gopa said, “Acknowledging your feelings to your partner and yourself is the first step on how to get over a crush on a coworker. If you want my crush at work advice, then distance is the best antidote to these feelings. Draw boundaries and limit your interactions with this person. Be careful about mixed signals too, don’t let the other person think you’re interested. You must definitely steer clear of appearing interested if you want to learn how to deal with a crush on coworker who is in a relationship or married themselves.”

With a message of hope, she added, “Like any other form of human connection, crushes on coworker die out over time if you don’t attend to them actively.” 

Related Reading: Have A Crush When Married – 7 Ways To Handle This Situation

How to face the crush head-on

So should you ignore the person completely when you see them at work? Sounds like sound advice on how to get over office crush. But here’s a flip side as shared by counseling psychologist Mr. Amjad Ali Mohammad. He said, “Ignoring a crush can go in different ways. If you’ve given them too much attention, and then suddenly start ignoring them, they will try to come close to you to figure out why you are withdrawing . Or, they will also ignore you back. They will think that you are not interested in them anymore so they will turn away as well. Either way, you need to be headstrong.”

He added, “Here’s how to get over an office crush: Improve your life rather than wanting to take revenge or being bitter. Take good care of your health. Try to be emotionally and mentally strong. Consider therapy if you think that might help. Be self-confident and remember that you are so much better than this one challenging situation.”

Adding to his crucial crush at work advice, Amjad stated, “If you two wish to date each other, that’s great. But if your crush only sees you as a friend, then you must figure how to stop loving them but stay friends, or you need to change your mindset and walk away.” We wondered, why is it so hard to get over a crush on a coworker? Apparently, excessive daydreaming about crush on coworkers makes it harder. “If your daydreaming distracts you from your life goals and daily important activities such as your job, career, education, family, etc., then you need to remember that this is exactly why having limits and boundaries is important,” Amjad explained.

Deal with the legalities of your crush

Now let’s hear what Shweta Luthra had to say about the practical aspects of having a crush on coworkers. She’s a legal consultant on matters of sexual harassment and discrimination at the workplace. She explains, “If romantic/sexual advances come from a colleague with whom you work closely, there is a fear of things becoming awkward at work, and hence a lot of thought goes into how best to say no. Now imagine a scenario in which your boss or reporting manager makes this advance. In addition to awkwardness, there is an added fear – of retaliation at work. In such situations, you start thinking about whether or not to reject them outright. If you do, then how to do so without it impacting your career?” 

To avoid legal hassles and to make sure you’re indulging in a consensual love at the workplace, here’s what Shweta recommended on how to handle a work crush: “Consent must be explicit and enthusiastic. Not saying no, or staying quiet does not imply consent or interest. Learn how to deal with a crush at work when they have rejected you subtly or explicitly. Don’t create a hostile work environment for them as it will cause mental harassment, lower their productivity, and hamper their progress. They may even have to leave the organization because of your unwelcome advances that amount to sexual harassment. They can take legal recourse against you as well.”

Have you taken all of this into consideration? Does your company allow workplace relationships? Also, are you sure you don’t have a crush on coworker who is in a relationship already? If you feel confident enough to pursue this crush on your colleague, then read on.

Related Reading: 8 Sensible Ways To Deal With Rejection

How To Pursue A Crush On A Coworker

So, you’ve decided that this workplace crush isn’t something you can just get over too quickly. You want to take the risk and jump in with both feet. You’re going to ask out the person you work with, despite how awkward it can potentially be later on. But there’s just one problem: you’re not sure what the first step is. 

Don’t fret, this is where we come in. Let’s figure out what you need to do, so that you’re not the reason the whole office has to spend a Saturday afternoon at a seminar about inappropriate relationships at the workplace. 

If a guy is nervous around you, does it mean he likes you?

1. Watch out for the signs they like you 

First things first, try to look out for the signs your coworker likes you. Not only will this give you a better idea of your chances, but you’ll probably also feel a lot more confident when you approach them the next time. Shania, a decorator from Ohio, shares her experience of having a crush on a coworker, “I wasn’t really supposed to work with Diego on any project, but I found an operation within my project that was sorta aligned with his skill set. So I would ask him for guidance on how to manage that part and we got to talking a lot because of that. Much later, I confessed I had feelings for him. To my utter embarrassment, he said he figured it out long ago!”

So are they finding excuses to meet you too? Perhaps they’re making prolonged eye contact with you while you’re in a group. Do they initiate conversation and ask to “hang out” later? If the answers are all pretty positive, your crush on a coworker might just be mutual (fingers crossed!)

2. Don’t go in all guns blazing 

Meaning, be subtle in how you approach this. If you burst into their office and ask them on a date without establishing a relationship with them first, all you’re going to get is a termination letter, not a coffee date with your work crush. 

There’s a lot to lose here (let’s not forget that this place pays you, and you need money to stay alive). So don’t make any abrupt decisions; try to establish a relationship with this person first.

3. Set the groundwork and establish a connection

“Establish a relationship” sounds easy on paper, but it’s much harder when put to practice. If you’re not on talking terms with this work crush, it’s vital to get there first before you can take the next step. 

Figure out the things they’re interested in, and strike up a conversation by the water cooler. Is he the biggest Star Wars fan? You better know the dimensions of the Death Star by heart. Is she all about Game of Thrones? It’s time to study the map of Westeros and know it even better than your hometown. 

stories on office affairs

4. Say it with your body language 

When you’re attracted to a coworker, your body will do the talking for you. But if you want to make it a bit more obvious, there’s a lot you can do with your body language. Instead of blatant flirting, try to ease into it by displaying positive body language signs. 

Lots of eye contact, genuine smiles, uncrossed arms, and inviting postures can do a lot more for you than you know. If you’re always standing in front of them with arms crossed arms and a frown on your face, let’s just say you’re not getting a text back. 

Try not to be over-friendly out of the blue, and definitely don’t be physical unless you want to be reported. Body language mistakes at work can be a deal-breaker. Make sure you seem as non-creepy as possible when you have a crush on your colleague.

5. Ask them out 

You’ve established communication, gotten in on their likes and dislikes, displayed only the best body language you can and all the signs look promising. Great, there’s only one thing left to do now: ask them out. 

We know, we know, it seems like the hardest thing in the world. And for good reason, too. There’s a lot at stake here, given how awkward things can get if your work crush declines your offer. 

To give yourself the best possible chance, don’t ask this person out prematurely. Give it time, establish a great rapport – inside jokes and all – and try to ask them out for a casual drink after work at first. Who knows, everything might just fall into place. But if you’ve decided to start getting over a crush on the coworker, read ahead.

Related Reading: Hooking Up With Co-Workers? 6 Things You MUST Know Before Doing So

Getting Over A Crush On A Coworker

If you’ve come to the conclusion that there’s too much at risk here and the only way to deal with a crush at work is to get over them, you’ve got more maturity than most. It might be the case that yours is just a one-sided crush (as it often is), or you might’ve developed a crush on a coworker in a relationship. Let’s look at the things you need to do to learn how to get over a crush on a coworker: 

1. Accept that it’s not going to happen 

Telling yourself “it’s not going to happen” while also completely obsessing over this person when they smile at you for a second isn’t going to do you much good. When you’ve decided that you need to start getting over a crush on a coworker, accept that fact in its entirety. 

Unfortunately, you can’t be “open to whatever happens.” That’s just going to leave you dangling while your work crush tries to figure out why you’re being so weird. 

2. Talk to a friend

Sometimes all you need is a bit of tough love. And who better to get a dose of tough love from but your best friend, who had been warning you about this crush at work since you spilled the beans?

It’s a hard pill to swallow when your best friend goes, “I told you so,” but it will also give you a different perspective on things. Talk to people who don’t have a biased view of the situation, it’ll make things easier. 

Get over a crush at work by talking to a friend about it
Talk to a friend, it’ll help

3. Distance yourself from your work crush

If you, unfortunately, work in close proximity with this person, distancing yourself from them can be a bit challenging. Even so, try to not engage in conversation with them until and unless you have to. Resist the urge to sit next to them in the cafeteria and definitely don’t text them after work. 

Oliver, a 27-year-old reader from Colorado, shares an extreme case of a crush on his colleague. He recalls when he had to quit his job because of his relentless feelings. “I just couldn’t take it anymore, you know? I couldn’t focus. He was married and I knew there’s no way forward for us. He was in my team and I had to see him every single day. It was painful. I started looking for another job, and in 3 months I was out of there. It was a good move, I genuinely felt better within a month.”

4. Maintain professionalism 

You know what’s hot? Playful flirting, maybe a few touches on the lower back. You know what isn’t hot? “Good afternoon, Jacob. I hope this email finds you in good health.” 

The simplest way of getting over a crush on a coworker is to be extremely professional with and around them. Eventually, they’ll get the hint and realize that you’re here simply for that promotion, not to make friends. 

5. Get back out there

Are you figuring out how to deal with a crush? Want to get over them and move on with your life? There’s this wonderful thing that was designed for finding love, but is usually used by people looking for rebounds and a few bad first dates: dating apps. 

If you can deal with the photos of people with dogs they don’t own and the incessant “Hey!” messages, putting yourself out there can be a great way of dealing with a crush on a coworker. Maybe you’ll even find someone better.

Key Pointers

  • It is perplexing to find yourself crushing on a colleague. But there are mature ways to go about it
  • Before making a move, make sure that you really do care about this person, can imagine a relationship with them, and that it won’t affect your work environment
  • Get to know them first, find common ground, and don’t be blunt about your feelings
  • Keep your confession casual and sincere but safe and with plenty of room to take a ‘no’
  • If they are not interested, back off and maintain a respectful distance because you must stay professional

Getting attracted to a coworker is something most people go through. The interesting part is what comes after they realize they’re crushing on this person. Whether you decided to say screw it and ask them out or you decided to back off, we hope this article helped you out. See you again, the next time you have a crush on a new coworker.


1. How can I tell if a coworker is attracted to me?

You can tell if a coworker is attracted to you by looking at the signs. Are they trying to initiate a conversation with you? Do they make eye contact? Have they tried to “hang out” with you after work? It’s usually not as hard to tell as it’s made out to be; you just need to know what to look for

2. Are workplace crushes normal?

Yes, workplace crushes are extremely normal. According to a survey, half of the workers in the U.S have admitted to having had a crush on a coworker at some point in time. 

3. What is the body language of a man that likes you?

The body language of a man who likes you is largely going to be positive and inviting. He will make plenty of eye contact, with a smile plastered on his face. When he’s interested in what you’re saying, he will lean in to hear you better. 

4. Why is it so hard to get over a crush on a coworker?

We are attracted to those who we are familiar with and who we spend a lot of time in close proximity with. This is called the proximity effect. To see your crush every day and to be professional around them, without letting your façade crack and work suffer, and without being able to draw boundaries, it all naturally becomes an enormous task.

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