• Tue, Jul 31 2012

Hey Women: Turns Out Flirting And Not Acting Like A Man Will Get You Everywhere In Your Career

Put that book down right now young girl and go start experimenting with makeup. According to a new study, researchers found that if women can successfully flirt at work they can improve their brokering success by up to a third and help the economy. Does Obama know about this?

Researchers set up experiments to measure the effects of female charm within negotiations (is there a machine that actually measures charm?) They defined this elusive quality as a management technique available to women combining warmth, friendliness and affiliation with flirtation, including playfulness, flattery and a certain sex appeal. Research director Dr. Laura Kray remarked: “Feminine charm is a strategic behavior aimed at making the person you are negotiating with feel good in order to get them to agree to your goals.” In their experiments with nearly 300 people, “feminine charm” — which is defined as flattery, warmth, body language (the classic hair toss, eyelashes batting move), playfulness and sex appeal in this case— helped female participants create better impressions and improve their economic outcomes.

The problem is there is a very fine line between friendliness and flirting. And friendliness can lead people to think the woman is a pushover. Kray found, in a number of experiments, that when women’s behaviors were seen as more friendly than flirtatious, it led to worse economic outcomes. But flirting puts her in the power seat.”When friendliness is balanced with flirtation, which is a signal of dominance and confidence and self-regard, then they actually do better,” said Kray. This research also reemphasizes the belief that acting masculine doesn’t help women either. Macho behavior comes off as demanding and unattractive on a woman but that perfect blend of sauciness and allure conveys the power women they need without losing their feminine touch. In one experiment with 100 students in an MBA negotiation course, males and females were equally likely to rely on personal charm in their bargaining style. But where males neither benefitted nor were harmed by the technique, females who used it to seek compliance were evaluated as more effective by their negotiating partners.

Of course, telling everyone that flirting is conclusively the way to get ahead at work isn’t exactly feminist friendly. “To exercise ‘feminine charm’ or to flirt with men, one has to cater to a man’s ego, flatter him. This is a subservient position to be in, not a position of power,” says Chloe Taylor, assistant professor of women’s studies at the University of Alberta. “Rather than trying to determine whether women should flirt when negotiating with men, we should be problematizing the fact that men give preferential treatment to women who do flirt, and that men penalize women who don’t flirt, while men are not required to be sexual in negotiations to get the deal.”
But before you start trying to emulate Joan Holloway, in another recent experiment Kray found that women who flirt can come across as less trustworthy. “We discovered both an upside and a downside to flirting at the bargaining table,” Kray explains to the Daily Mail. “Although flirtation appears to be positively related to women’s likability, negotiators who flirted were judged to be less authentic than those who refrained from exercising their sexual power.” Flirtation, unlike simple friendliness, was perceived as connected to self-interest and competitiveness. But flirtation is also associated with traditionally feminine qualities like warmth and attentiveness, which could explain the apparent paradox of flirters being seen as both likable and untrustworthy.

 

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