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Question:  My supervisor, “Jake,” is infatuated with me. He vies for my attention and pouts when I insist on keeping our relationship strictly professional. He has even hinted to his buddies that we’re having an affair, which is totally untrue. Before his behavior became obsessive, I used to be friendly with both Jake and his wife. I keep telling him that I’m not interested, but he still continues this sad, pathetic fantasy. Short of filing charges, how can I put a stop to this? — Not Interested

Marie’s Answer: You may be inadvertently perpetuating this infatuation just by talking about it.  Given his lovesick state of mind, Jake will find any personal discussion rewarding, even if the topic is your complete lack of interest in him. To cool him off, try this approach:

•    Start by firmly declaring an end to this one-sided flirtation. For example: “Jake, I’ve repeatedly said that I don’t want a romantic relationship, so I’m not going to talk about it anymore. If you continue to make advances or spread rumors, then I’ll have to take formal action. However, my hope is that we can work together professionally.”

•    After that, you must never refer to his obsession again. If he brings it up, say, “As I told you, I’m not going to discuss that.”  Then quickly change the subject or leave. 

•    If Jake continues to pursue you, contact the appropriate person in management or human resources. Although you’re reluctant to file a complaint, his behavior clearly constitutes sexual harassment. 

Lustful longing can sometimes escalate into bullying or stalking, so you’re wise to nip this fixation in the bud. For advice on avoiding romantic disasters at work, see Dangerous Workplace Romances.

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