Drawing the Line: Flirting in the Dental Office


It is important to be aware of how you communicate with other professionals in the dental practice, and what may make some feel alienated or uncomfortable.

Drawing the Line: Flirting in the Dental Office. Photo courtesy of rh2010/stock.adobe.com.

Drawing the Line: Flirting in the Dental Office. Photo courtesy of rh2010/stock.adobe.com.

I flirt with everyone. It is not something I am proud of, but it is something of which I am aware. My definition of flirting is that you are looking to be entertained by making people feel good, and you can see why I am guilty as charged. But what happens when it is in a workplace situation where one party feels uncomfortable and does not know how to manage it? “Houston…we have a problem.”

People get squeamish when difficult topics are raised. Flirting fits right in there with politics and religion. It is not something to do in the workplace, yet people do it. People do not even realize this behavior can be misconstrued into something more serious.

Ask yourself…” Is there an inequal distribution of power?” In plain language, if your boss is flirting with you that is a problem. The employee is in a “Catch-22” situation. On 1 hand, you can banter back, and all is copacetic. Or you can confront your boss, but that can complicate things further. When you confront someone in a position of power, you must be cautious because there are people who say they are open to feedback and have an open-door policy, but they lie. It might be held against you. As a subordinate, think carefully how you might be in a precariously difficult spot.

But what if you enjoy these interactions and have no issue that this is your boss or colleague? Be aware this behavior can make others feel uncomfortable. People notice favoritism and flirting. Is this the work environment you want to work in? Gossip can be relentless. For example, you walk into a room and the conversation stops. People glance your way, smile, or turn their faces away from you. Ouch! You leave the room, and the conversation resumes with laughter. No, they were not talking about you.

I worked in a business where the boss had a favorite. They would go into his office and keep the door closed. If you knocked on the door, because you needed something, it was awkward. There can be severe damage to the morale of the rest of the staff as favoritism does not bode well in a workplace.

I am going out on a limb, but don’t all of us want to feel special? It is human nature and there is nothing wrong with that. The problem is if that is acted upon in the workplace. In 1 office, the dentist had her favorite hygienist. They would laugh and have lunch together and have a closer, special relationship. It made people angry, resentful, and secretly jealous. Those are not pleasant feelings to have, especially in the workplace.

What do you do? Do you ignore it and vent to your colleagues? I do not have the answer. My goal is to get you to think about what you would do either as the flirter, flirtee, or observer. And yes, those observers have a front row seat to seeing how this can splinter a practice.

We all make choices as to how we behave professionally. The key is to be aware of how you come across. Be conscious of how you are feeling and if certain behaviors are upsetting you or your team.

If that is the case, map out how you want to address this. Sometimes it is better to let sleeping dogs lie. In other occasions, you may choose to make people aware there is a problem. Just think about what kind of work environment you want to live in. The first step is to look in the mirror.

Please share with me your thoughts on flirtations at work by emailing diana2@discussdirectives.com.

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