Women Should Flirt More

Tim Sackett Audacious Ideas, Bad HR, Good HR, HR (& Life!) Advice, Negotiation, Tim Sackett

FOT Note: Where my ladies at!? This Friday, we’re giving you a golden gift—a blast-from-the-past FOT post you know you want to read again… trust us, it’s so good, it’ll feel like the first time… (the first time you read it—get your head out of the gutter!).

Fast Company expert blogger, Alicia Morga—named one of the most influential women in technology (and if John Sumser has taught us anything, it’s how important “most influential” lists are!) by Fast Company in 2009 posted a while back on Why Women Should Flirt, which was based on a research study about women and negotiating by Negotiation Journal.  Alicia’s take:

Research explains what may be going on at work. According to researchers Tinsley, Cheldelin, Schneider, and Amanatullah, who authored “Women at the Bargaining Table: Pitfalls and Prospects,” women are in a classic double bind: “Women may be perceived as competent but unlikable or as likable but incompetent.” This bind exists because there are very strong female stereotypes in our culture.

Of course this is not news to any woman in the field, but these researchers discovered that “women who violate gendered expectations incur negative social consequences. In other words, evaluators tend to make negative judgments about women who behave in masculine ways to fulfill the needs of their jobs…”

The researchers point to an experiment that looked at flirting in a negotiation context. When both women and men flirted in the negotiation, women were perceived as more likable. As the researchers noted, because flirting is seen as more stereotypically feminine behavior, the women may have benefited from using it. Furthermore, the “flirting had no impact on the measure of the female negotiator’s perceived competence, although it did diminish her perceived trustworthiness.”

Why is this important?

I’m a huge believer in using your strengths to the point that I will argue with my OD friends that corporate training to try and improve someones weaknesses is a complete waste of time and resources. As adults, it is almost impossible to make drastic change to one’s weaknesses—but people will continue to improve and gain in their personal strengths.

Now, I’m not naive enough to believe all women are great at flirting. I’m sure there are one or two out there who can’t do it (although I’ve never met them, and those who say they “can’t flirt” are actually the best at it). But if you have a strength, like flirting, and you are also a woman… then you need to find ways to use that to your advantage in a business setting… to get your project budgets approved, to influence decisions in the way you feel they should go, to get that cute guy in marketing to go out with you (just kidding on the last one!). Bottom line, use your strengths when negotiating, and don’t feel bad about it.

Think about it. I’m a guy (arguable but true), and if I flirt it just becomes creepy! It’s not a strength I have, plus the above research shows it’s probably not a good negotiating skill for me to use as a male. But I love sports, and in a heartbeat I’ll sway an entire conversation during negotiation to talking about the other parties’ favorite teams, players, etc. Set up future times to see a game and grab a beer, send over tickets to the next big contest, etc.  I’m a guy, it’s what we do—it’s a strength.

So, women, especially those in HR, get your flirt on. Embrace it, have fun with it, see how far you can push the envelope with it. It’s a skill—and one that your male counterparts usually aren’t very good at. Just think about how many drinks you’ve bought for a guy vs. how many drinks have been bought for you. That’s all just a negotiation—of which I’m usually on the losing end (okay, always on the losing end!).