April 21, 2024

When Your client Hits On You: how to deal with Unwanted sexual Advances at work

how ought to you deal with it when your client hits on you? We got an emergency email from reader K, who is getting a bit uneasy with a potential customer and his unwanted sexual advances at work — the client asked her out!

I am a [physical product that attaches to buildings*] sales woman. during intermittent conversation with a potential client I pointed out I am a dancer, he pointed out he used to take dance classes. He asked if my “honey” takes me dancing and I said (in hindsight, I ought to have just said yes) but I just said “our routines don’t match up well.”
Later on we were talking about the project through text and he randomly says “we ought to go dancing!” I said (probably not the best response) “sure – maybe after we figure out these projects” to which he replied, “might have to see how good of a dancer you are first.”
What on earth do I say to that? I don’t want to lose the project (he owns 3 properties that he wants [physical product that attaches to buildings] on), but of course, I am also happily engaged, and not interested in dancing with strangers… all other conversations with him have been appropriate.
I saw there was another post along these lines but the context is a bit different and I’d love some guidance from the horse’s mouth. HELP!

Eeesh. We have talked about the sexist client before (a client commented five times in one lunch on the OP’s beauty), as well as in the offensive client (who commented loudly about the price of his lawyer’s purse), but we haven’t talked about a direct request for a date before, and I’m curious to hear what readers say. Some thoughts:
Politely, but firmly, tell him you’re not interested. You can say it however you want to: “No time to go out dancing because I’m busy planning my wedding!” will work, but “I’m so sorry but I don’t date clients!” is stronger. note that the weaker you make it — you’re busy that night; you’re engaged at the moment — the less potency it will have, and you’ll just have to have the talk around again.
Keep it strictly professional. Don’t give him mixed messages — and go with your gut in terms of how much time alone with him you spend. If your Creepometer is off the charts, listen to that feeling.
Some company isn’t worth having. give yourself a maximum of two tries to nip his interest in the bud. say it politely once; say it less politely if he needs to hear it a second time. If you’re still uncomfortable, relocation on. This man is giving you much more anxiety than he’s worth.

Ladies, what are your thoughts about what to do when your client hits on you? how would you respond to getting asked out by a client, and what do you think reader K ought to say in this circumstance? In general, how do you respond to unwanted sexual advances at work?
* I don’t typically redact reader emails, but this one seemed very particular so I thought it seemed warranted.
Psst: some must-read company books for women: one / two / three / four / five…

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Pictured: Wow, I had no idea that dancing hasn’t been allowed in Tokyo night clubs since 1948 — I did a Google search thinking I’d seen some funny images during the most recent Olympics and came up with all of these indications that are actually posted outside clubs. Yowza. looks like that’s changing, though…
Social media picture credit: Fotolia / highwaystarz.

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