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Urban Etiquette

Ellen Vanstone answers your questions about the annoying behaviours, poor manners and impatient encounters that dot the days of a city dweller.

Urban Etiquette: Should I get my work-crush a gift, or just ask for a date?

A year ago, Ellen Vanstone might have given some flippant advice to help Mr. Confused with his dilemma, but times have changed post-#MeToo.

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Ani Castillo / For Metro

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Hi Ellen,

I have a crush on another associate in a different department. I want to get her a gift for Christmas but my co-workers think I should make a move and ask her out. Which way is best?


Dear Confused,

I should tell readers that this letter came in a year ago, but there wasn’t room to address it in 2016 so we saved it for 2017.

A lot has changed in the past 12 months.

A year ago, I might have given some flippant advice about the kind of present to buy or not to buy to help Mr. Confused win over a woman in his office. But with recent revelations of how widespread sexual harassment is in the workplace, firings and resignations, and the #metoo movement striving to root out the many offenders who remain, it’s hard to joke about the proper way to “make a move” on a co-worker.

This doesn’t mean you can’t meet and fall in love with someone at work. Personally, I think it’s the best way to find a partner if you’re in a field you both love and can help each other succeed at.

But you have to follow the rules — some of which one hoped went without saying, some of which might seem excessively strict. But all of which are necessary given the prevalence of predatory clowns in the workplace.

- No winking, flirting or sexting with anyone, whether they work at, above or below your level, and regardless of whether you mean it or not.

- No asking about, or commenting upon, anyone’s weight, body shape, hair, attire, relationship status or sexual habits.

- No groping, ass-patting, asking for or giving massages, disrobing or masturbating at the office or at any other work-related location.

And, finally, Mr. Confused, no buying Christmas presents for a woman you hardly know.

So where does that leave you?

There’s nothing wrong with striking up a conversation with someone about the job, the weather, the news, or the latest dumbass move by management (assuming your crush isn’t one of the bosses). If the conversation goes well, you can suggest chatting further, over coffee, if she so desires. Then you must leave the ball firmly in her court, and never visit that court again unless she chooses to return it.

It's actually very simple. All you need to do is behave with ultra-good manners, which is not a bad way to start any relationship.

Need advice? Email Ellen:

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