I have a problem with a coworker. One of my subordinates is completely smitten with me, to the point that I'm starting to worry.
A little backstory: This person very plainly admitted their interest in me before my promotion. I was never interested and made that clear, but I still did the stupid thing of trying to hang out as friends, which seems to have been completely misinterpreted. Eventually, after realizing I didn't want to date, at this person’s request we were not on speaking terms at work or anywhere else. This was fine with me, since I felt like the space was a good thing.
As time has passed and I’ve moved up a bit at work, however, this person's interest in me seems to be rekindled. I get random texts about non-work-related stuff. I have even gotten a phone call at home, just to "chat.” I go to a weekly event outside of work, and this person has begun attending, as well, though they claim it's only for their personal interest, and they do attend regardless of if I am there or not. I don't really buy this, though, and worry that this person is full-fledged "into me" again. Sometimes when I leave work, they hang around the parking lot, claiming to be on their phone, though I worry that I am being followed home.
Am I thinking too deeply into this? I would honestly just like to be left alone and to only interact at work, about work stuff. They just don't seem to get it!
Just Trying To Be Nice
It's tempting to look at crushes as harmless or innocent, but I'm getting inklings that your co-worker is sorta, kinda stalking you. I've had my own underlings try to bark up my tree, but not that aggressively. Remember: You're the boss here. You have the power and the control, and you need to take it.
You weren't specific about gender, but that is an issue here, as well. Is the person bothering you male? Are you female? There's an expectation that, if you are female, you will humor a man's words and attention and be thankful for it, and if you're not, then you're worthless as a woman. The last man I told to leave me alone screamed at me from across the street and called me a bitch and a whore in front of my friends. That is the situation you want to avoid, and you're setting yourself up for it by not standing your ground.
Then again, I've been in the position of your would-be paramour. I've been told “no,” but have heard, “not right now.” At my worst, I've waited drunk on a crush's porch at 3 a.m. in my finest slutwear, truly believing in my heart that this person would see me in this outfit, behaving this way, and we’d instantly fall in love and adopt drunk babies. It's a sick headspace to be in.
What also complicates this is that it looks like you two are already rather friendly. Y'all have hung out together outside of work, and have gotten casually chatty in the past. I worry that you feel beholden to this person's feelings and don't want to hurt them. Keep in mind that this person has no problem with disrespecting your privacy by joining your after-work group, texting you while off-the-clock and possibly even following you home. You owe them nothing.
You are in control. When I was in your situation, I sat down with my horny subordinate and reminded them that I was their direct supervisor here at work, that it would be highly inappropriate for us to be involved outside of work and that I had nothing against them personally, but that their advances were not welcome.
Do the same, and do it at work, with HR management present. State plainly that you are not interested in pursuing a casual friendship, and that this person should only contact you during business hours about work-related issues. You're the boss, so act like one.