Navigating any sort of office romance can be tricky.
You’d better figure out whether the other party is just a work spouse — or something more. You’ve got to make sure you say all the right things. And, perhaps most importantly, you need to be prepared to have things blow up in your face.
However, what if the romance in question involves someone having a crush on you? And what happens if that someone is your boss?
Needless to say, things can get complicated. First and foremost, it’s important to determine whether your boss really has a crush on you.
Here are 17 red flags:
1. You have a gut feeling
Most people will give their managers the benefit of the doubt at first, but sometimes there’s an inner voice telling you that something between you two feels awkward, says Lynn Taylor, a national-workplace expert and leadership coach and the author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant.”
She says: “Gut instincts aren’t whims. They’re your subconscious on steroids. It’s putting hundreds of facts together, with the ultimate result being an emotion or physical feeling — in this case, of discomfort or irritation. If you’re unhappy or angry about the situation, you’re right.”
2. They flirt
“Carefully observe how the boss treats other colleagues before leaping to any conclusions,” says Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of “The Humour Advantage.” “They may be a very effusive, gregarious person who simply behaves that way with everyone because they’re a people pleaser. And even if your boss flirts with you from time to time, again, consider how they are with other colleagues — they may be a naturally flirtatious person who really means no harm.”
And also consider your own actions. Are they flirting with you simply because you’ve been a little flirtatious with them? Be very cautious when interpreting someone else’s intentions behind their actions.
And if you determine that you’re the only one they flirt with, and it’s not a result of your behaviour toward them, then this is a strong sign they’re crushing on you.
3. They regularly schedule private or late-night meetings
If you’re occasionally asked to stay beyond normal business hours and have a legitimate joint project to work on, that’s one thing, says Taylor.
“But if you start seeing a pattern of being singled out, and the meetings are always running late — or there are too many unnecessary private meetings — then your boss may be trying to go beyond a professional scope,” she says.
Keep in mind that if you’re uncomfortable with these actions and you continue to comply with these requests, things will get worse.
4. They call or text you for no particular reason
Most managers have a heavy workload, so when they take the time just to call you randomly without a real reason to talk, then it can be a sign that they are thinking about you a bit more than they should be, says Kerr.
5. Their body language is playful or sensual
Check their body language and eye contact. If you catch them stealing glances at you often or sustaining eye contact longer than is comfortable for you, then this could be a sign, Kerr says.
6. They give you preferential treatment
Yes, it could be simply because they respect you and trust your abilities, but if it crosses over into clear favoritism — for example, they offer you opportunities that you know in your heart you don’t deserve — then it might be a sign then they like you a little too much, Kerr says.
Taylor agrees. “Love struck bosses may give you better projects; more mentoring time than your peers; take you to more lunches; offer you more flexible hours or other perks; be lax about your mistakes; or give you other special treatment. Sounds great? Well, unfortunately, favoritism in the workplace may not only lead to a disgruntled staff — it can result in a hostile work environment claim by other employees, and may lead to a court case.”
7. They confide in you
Does your boss share work and personal confidences with you that you know they wouldn’t share with anyone else in your office?
“Yes, they may be doing this because they trust you, but it may also be because they want to deepen the relationship and sharing confidences is a proven way to do that,” says Kerr.
8. You get overblown promises from them
A boss who has a romantic agenda may intrigue you with a seemingly exaggerated view of your great future at the company, Taylor warns.
“It may be difficult to discern if your manager is just as encouraging with everyone,” she says. “But when your job outlook seems suspiciously rosy, take pause … and consider all the possible signs to get a realistic sense of their motivations.”
9. They invite you to spend time together outside of work
It might just be a simple coffee after work, but if this happens in addition to other signs, then this could be a red flag, says Kerr.
10. They suddenly change their appearance at work
New outfits, new haircuts, and more attention to detail might be because they’re hoping to catch someone’s eye at work, Kerr says. And it might be yours.
11. They value your opinion more than anyone else’s
Again, this could just be that they value and trust you as an employee — but if they ask you for input on personal issues, such as clothing choices, or even dating issues, then this might be a sign.
“Asking you for advice on their own love life could be totally innocent, but it might also be a ploy to suss out how you really feel about them,” Kerr warns.
12. They frequently offer compliments beyond work issues
If compliments are coming your way nonstop but they have nothing to do with work or start to sound inappropriate, then your boss may have more than a friendly affinity for you, Taylor says: “While sexual harassment training has exploded over the years, managers can still become lax. So watch for this sign.”
Compliments about your appearance, fashion sense, or amazing personality are especially strong indicators, adds Kerr: “Throwaway lines such as, ‘Anyone would be lucky to have you,’ may be signs they have a crush on you.”
If these types of comments make you feel uncomfortable, speak to your HR department immediately.
13. They give you gifts
If everyone in the company receives a motivational mug on Valentine’s Day that says, “We love our employees” embedded in a big read heart, that’s wonderful. But it is not so endearing if your flirtatious boss secretly places Sweethearts candies on your desk, says Taylor.
14. They laugh a little too easily, and a little too long, at your jokes
Overly effusive laughter can sometimes be a great “crush barometer,” Kerr says.
15. They remember everything you do or say
If your boss seems to remember everything you tell them — when they’re normally more forgetful — this could be a sign they are paying especially close attention to you.
“People remember way more details about interactions with someone they have a crush on, partially because they have likely been obsessing about those details, looking for signs that you’re interested,” writes Beca Grimm for Bustle. “Remember last week when you were complaining about your new standing desk making your heels sore? You might not. But when someone else remembers, and sends along to a link for non-fatigue rugs and offers a discount through their office account? They’re into you.”
16. They treat you like they don’t like you
Of course, this could mean they simply don’t like you. But if your boss playfully teases or picks on you, it could be their way of flirting … or a way to hide their admiration.
17. They share a ton of inside jokes with you
If you’re in a fun, high energy office, you’re bound to have a few inside jokes with some of your coworkers. However, if your boss only seems to pal around with you, that could be a sign that you’re their favourite. In fact, it might even indicate that they like you as more than an employee.
If the signs are all there, you’ll want be decisive and tread carefully.
Jacquelyn Smith contributed to a previous version of this article.
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