Signs your coworker likes you, and how to initiate

Last updated
April 4, 2023
minutes to read
Signs your coworker likes you, and how to initiate

Have a crush on your coworker?


Seriously. Stigma aside, your office is genuinely a great place to meet a romantic partner because:

  1. We spend a lot of time at work. If you're butt-in-seat 8+ hours a day, it can be hard to meet women anywhere else.
  2. Colleagues have commonalities. You probably share values, interests, and lifestyles with people you work with.
  3. There's precedent. Barack and Michelle Obama are just one famous example of a couple that's connected at work.
  4. It's better than the alternatives. Would you rather meet your future wife at work, a bar, or on Tinder?!

Workplace romances are more common than you might think. According to a 2018 survey of 2,000 workers, 36% reported dating a colleague!

Still, there are right and wrong ways to approach a woman you work with...

To successfully initiate with a coworker, you need to do a few things.

Let's dive in 🪂


1. Spot the signs your coworker likes you

Man and woman seated at a coffee shop next to a computer, with woman smiling at man

Signs your colleague is interested in you romantically are similar to signs a girl is developing feelings for you generally.

Still, here are 10 key workplace examples of signs a female coworker likes you, from weakest to strongest:

  1. She seeks you out to discuss topics unrelated to work (e.g. she texts or Slacks you about current events)
  2. She takes interest in your personal life (e.g. she seems genuinely curious about what you're doing this weekend)
  3. She remembers things you said (e.g. she asks about your parents Monday if you mentioned you were visiting them Friday)
  4. She gravitates toward you at social events (e.g. you were engrossed in conversation the entire holiday party)
  5. She has your back (e.g. she takes your side if an issue arises, or covers for you)
  6. She pays you compliments (e.g. "you're so smart!")
  7. She laughs at your jokes (especially corny Dad jokes that don't require a laugh)
  8. She seeks out opportunities to be alone with you (e.g. she volunteers to run an errand you would have otherwise run solo)
  9. She cares about you (e.g. if your working super late, she checks in on you)
  10. She is flirty or touchy with you (this one shouldn't require more explanation!)

Spot most of these? There's a good sign she likes you!

Just remember that none of these signs demonstrates romantic interest on its own, and you should avoid making assumptions... Even if you see all 10 signs, your coworker may just really like you as a friend.

The only true way to know if your colleague likes you is to ask her out, which we'll explore next!

2. Be the person your coworker wants to date

Man and woman at coffee, enjoying a laugh together

You're probably aware there's stigma around dating in the workplace.

In short, women can be hesitant to date male coworkers because of the downside risk. Girls don't want:

  • Awkwardness at the office (e.g. messy breakup --> bumping into an ex in the cafeteria)
  • Reputation harm (e.g. water cooler gossip)
  • Conflicts of interest (e.g. being involved in a decision that affects an ex)

This has two consequences for you.

First, it means women tend to have higher standards for dating guys they work with than they have for guys they meet in other contexts.

Second, it means you need to position yourself as someone your female coworker can trust enough to explore a romantic relationship with.

Basically, before she'll consider a romantic relationship with you, a female coworker needs to feel like:

  • You genuinely care about her
  • You’re motivated by your connection with her, not your ego or another factor
  • You won’t be a nuisance if things don’t work out

(This is true of any woman you're interested in, but especially a coworker!)

Being the guy women want to date is outside of the scope of this article, but in short, you want to:

  • Avoid office drama and gossip
  • Treat others, and yourself, with respect
  • Kick ass at your job

One last thought on being a guy your female coworker wants to date...

I've heard "experts" say you should never date within your chain of command (i.e. direct report or boss) due to potential conflicts of interest, but I'm not sure this actually makes sense.

First off, I know plenty of women who happily married a former boss, as well as a woman who is happily married to a guy who reported to her!

Second off, the point is moot — if you're romantically interested in someone in your chain of command, there's already a conflict of interest, regardless of whether you end up dating.

Still, especially if your crush is in your chain of command:

  • Study your company’s relevant HR policies
  • Think carefully about the risks
  • Hatch a plan that respects everyone involved
  • Use good judgment, and don't rush things!

3. Ask your coworker out

Man and woman seated at a coffee table, both smiling, where man is pointing at a phone the woman is holding

Once you've laid the groundwork and spotted signs she's interested in you, it's time to make your move.

The two most important things you should remember are:

Remember, less is more

Unless you're certain your coworker is interested in you romantically...

And especially if you've not spent 1x1 time with each other outside the office previously...

  • A romantic dinner probably isn't the best first date idea for a colleague.
  • Romantic intent isn't even necessarily important when you ask her out!

Keep it simple, and just say something like:

🗣 What would you think of {doing XYZ} together outside of the office sometime?

(If you need inspiration for dates, check out the best low-key date ideas here!)

Normally it's good to express romantic intent upfront when you ask a girl out, but given your coworker relationship, it's good to be a little more cautious. You'll still learn everything you need to know based on her answer, and you can be more direct about your interest in a romantic relationship if your first out-of-office date goes well.

Ask her out face-to-face

Zoom, Slack, Teams, email, SMS, and whatever communication tools you use at work can all help you build rapport and trust with a female colleague.

They're not OK for initiating romance, however!

If you’re ready ask your female colleague out, wait until the next time you’re physically together in-person:

  • You'll get a better sense of her reaction
  • It's bolder and more direct, and women like that
  • You won't be misappropriating work tools for person purposes

Which reminds me...

4. Follow the one-strike rule

Man making kissing face, and woman frowning

Many companies (e.g. Meta and Google) have adopted “one strike and you’re out” policies for workplace romances. The essence is that:

  • It’s OK to ask a colleague out once, but...
  • Unless she explicitly says yes, don't ask again.

I’m a huge fan of the one-strike rule, both for initiating with a colleague, or any other woman!

It applies to both:

  • Friendly advances that you might use to later initiate romance (e.g. “Want to grab coffee sometime?”)
  • Directly romantic escalations (e.g. “I’ve started to develop feelings…”)

And it pushes you to treat anything short of a clear "yes" as a "no."

That includes vague responses like:

🗣 "That sounds nice, but I'm really busy with work currently, so I have to pass."

🗣 "Ah sorry I’m out of town!"

🗣 "I can’t right now, sorry..."

Don't be guilty of wishful thinking — these all mean "no thanks!"

Wrap up & next steps

I hope you found my overview of signs a female coworker likes you, and how to approach a workplace romance, helpful!

A few final tips if your colleague reciprocates your interest, and you start to explore a romantic relationship:

  1. Keep it away from work until you can't. You don't want your relationship to become a distraction in the office.
  2. Take things slow. I won’t harp on the risks of a workplace romance further. Just remember there’s no need to rush — if things work out, you’ll have a full lifetime together.
  3. Remember to have fun! You deserve it 😃

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