What If You’re Too Good at Colleague-Zoning Men?

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After yesterday’s article about the “colleague zone” — the career-networking version of the “friend zone” — a reader wrote in with a question: What if you’re too good at colleague-zoning? What if you colleague-zone with such brutal efficiency that you find yourself closed off from love?

Date: Tue, Mar 25, 2014 at 4:56 PM
Subject: ughhh
To: Maureen O’Connor

i’m ALWAYS colleague-zoning, but by accident. i’m so used to work-zoning people that i do it to guys who i WANT TO DATE.

[redacted] hit on me the other night and i was like “hey let’s touch base over coffee soon!” seriously!? i also once asked a blind date to SEND ME A CALENDAR INVITE. wtf is wrong with me? how do i switch from work to werkkkk faster?

First, the good news: Your dilemma is the exact premise of every romantic comedy in which a type-A careerist with a wardrobe of flawless pencil skirts learns to let her hair down and find love. Since Reese Witherspoon always gets happy endings, I’m sure you will too.

Second, better news: I have a foolproof two-step method for overcoming negative dating patterns. The steps are “Stop Doing That Stupid Thing You Do When You Date” and “Overcompensate Wildly.” You can do one or both steps, in either order or simultaneously.

To SDTSTYDWYD, examine when and why your accidental colleague zones occur, then adjust routines accordingly. Incapable of toggling between emails to your boss and emails to your beau? Save romantic emails for moments when you can step away from your desk and chill out in the break room with your phone. Realizing you said the wrong thing a minute too late? Practice smiling sheepishly and making jokes like this: “What am I thinking? Instead of coffee, let’s get beer. And instead of touching base, let’s touch butts.” Course-correct as needed; you are lovably, goofy Reese Witherspoon, and your errors only make you more charming.

Immediately ceasing negative dating behavior is, of course, the best option. But if you cannot stop right away — or actually don’t care enough to stop — the other tool at your disposal is wild overcompensation. (Or plain ol’ proportionate compensation, if you’re one of those bores who insists on moderation.) Know your weaknesses; compensate accordingly. Boring and dry in correspondence? Wear a push-up bra and flirt like crazy when you meet in person. Thwarted his attempt to kiss you by sticking your hand out for a shake? Now it’s your turn to initiate a kiss, or dry-hump in the back of a taxi on the way back to the office. The latter isn’t in the Reese Witherspoon canon, but I hear it works.

Finally, take a vacation. A week of torrid threeways in a beach cabana in Tahiti should get you out of your rut.

What If You’re Too Good at Colleague-Zoning Men?