How should you handle it when your client hits on you? We got an emergency email from reader K, who is getting a bit uncomfortable with a prospective 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 prospective client I mentioned I am a dancer, he mentioned he used to take dance classes. He asked if my “honey” takes me dancing and I said (in hindsight, I should have just said yes) but I just said “our schedules don’t match up well.”
Later on we were talking about the project via text and he randomly says “we should 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 advice 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 since 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 all over 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 business 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, move on. This guy is giving you 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 should say in this circumstance? In general, how do you respond to unwanted sexual advances at work?
* I don’t normally redact reader emails, but this one seemed super specific so I thought it seemed warranted.
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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 signs that are actually posted outside clubs. Yowza. Looks like that’s changing, though…
Social media picture credit: Fotolia / highwaystarz.