“Slut.” “Flirt.” “Bimbo.” “CEO.”
One of those nouns seems unrelated, but is it?
Nicole Williams – she of the book “Girl on Top: Your Guide To Turning Dating Rules into Career Success” – writes in an article on Forbes.com that professional flirting is just plain smart.
“If you need someone’s help, use the tools available to you. It’s naive to think it has no place at work.”
Feminists may disagree and feel that flirting diminishes intelligence, but Williams argues that the tactic is “empowering.”
Males, on the other hand, should tread lightly. Shawn Graham, author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job, says choosing to flirt as a business tactic all depends on how the action is received. Men need to be subtle to avoid sexual harassment complaints. Still, Graham mostly agrees with Williams, “”Platonic flirtation can be a great way to build relationships and rapport with coworkers,” male or female.
But wait a minute — aren’t the words “subtle” and “flirting” an oxymoron?
Not exactly. Flirting doesn’t need to take the form of touching or a promiscuous comment. It can simply mean eye contact, a smile, listening, and being responsive. According to Williams, it’s an extension of good networking.
Forbes.com mentions a law school graduate who tried this approach on Wall Street. Unable to land second round interviews, Samantha scoped out bars in the financial district and charmed the bankers she met.
Samantha hit the job jackpot when she chatted up a high-ranking banker who agreed to a coffee date. The result? A prestigious summer associate position at his firm. While Samantha agrees that flirting can be a smart business move, she warns, “It helped me get my foot in the door, but don’t think you can go in with nothing else and flirt your way to a job.”
If you do decide to professionally flirt, don’t go overboard. This scheme can easily backfire. Graham cautions flirters to err on the conservative side. Even Williams has been burned by her own advice. After touching the hand of one of her seniors in a meeting, they approached her at a work outing and told her, “I have something else you can touch.”
Reading signs when flirting is important. If you’re making someone uncomfortable, or even if the other person is seriously interested, back off. Heather Owen, an employment law partner at Constangy, Brooks & Smith recommends only flirting with seniors to avoid sexual harassment suits. “Using any authority to assist with harassment results in the company being liable,” she tells Forbes.com.
Junior employees, beware: if you’re flirtatious and then the recipient takes it an unwelcome step further, you aren’t in the position to cry “sexual harassment.”
“When somebody is flirtatious, it indicates a welcomeness back. In other words, if your actions are misunderstood and suddenly you become the victim of harassment, earlier examples of flirtatious behaviour may make you seem complicit,” Forbes.com reports.
When done right, flirting may help move your career along. But be forewarned: there’s a lot you could be putting at risk, including your job and your reputation.
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