10.22.12 Career & Finances

Want to Get Ahead Ladies? Flirt with Your Male Co-workers

Want to Get Ahead Ladies? Flirt with Your Male Co-workers

BY Emily Bennington

And so began this article entitled “Flirting Helps Women in the Workplace: Study.”

It seems researchers from the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business have found that “flirtatiousness, female friendliness, or the more diplomatic description ‘feminine charm’ is an effective way for women to gain negotiating mileage.”

Thanks, science. Now I know what to tell women like the juniors in college I spoke to last week who are so eager to start their careers.

“Forget that degree from Wharton, girls! If you really want make an impression – buy a good push-up bra. And if you actually get hit on by your boss or colleagues? Well, congrats darlin’! That must mean your ‘feminine charm’ is working.”

What’s so dangerous about advice like this is – while 90% of us will read it, scoff smugly, and move on with our day – there is still a subset of women out there who will take it literally and attempt to use what the article calls the “hidden value of sexual prowess” at work.

And it won’t end well.

For example…recently, I spoke to the women’s group of a global firm on personal branding. Afterwards, I was chatting with some of the members about various ways people have damaged their reputation in the company.

“Oh my God, remember the red dress?” one of them asked.

The others erupted into laughter.

Evidentially, the infamous “red dress” – a show-stopping, bondage-style number– was worn to last year’s Christmas party by a young executive who got attention alright – for all the wrong reasons.

It’s tricky enough to be a woman in business these days without stirring the sexpot, so here’s my plea.

Media – Enough with bullshit advice like this, alright? Chill. It’s irresponsible.

Ladies – Regardless of what you read, save your “erotic capital” for the bedroom, not the boardroom. Look, it’s okay to be beautiful (you can’t help it after all), but there’s a huge difference between beautiful and sexy. One is what you are, the other is how you act.

Colleagues of scantily-clad office flirts – Go easy on your coworkers, particularly young ones. Yes, they should know better, but they may have read articles telling them – and I can’t make this stuff up – that “the occasional bat of an eyelash can boost their chances of workplace success.” In other words, they may be grossly misinformed. It happens. (Note to managers and mentors: Don’t just stand by and let your people become watercooler chatter – say something and help them correct their behavior.)

A long time ago, a very wise woman told me the minute anyone uses “sexy” to get ahead is the minute they make themselves disposable. C’mon, people. We’ve come too far to be disposed of so soon.

Emily Bennington is coauthor of Effective Immediately: How to Fit In, Stand Out and Move Up at Your First Real Job. She is a frequent speaker on the topic of career success and has been featured on Fox Business, CNN and ABC, as well as quoted in publications including the Wall Street Journal, New York Post and Washington Post Express. Emily is a contributing writer for Monster.com and a featured blogger for The Huffington Post, Forbes Woman and US News and World Report. Her second book, Who Says It’s a Man’s World: A Girls’ Guide to Corporate Domination, will be published in January 2013 by AMACOM. Emily can be reached online at emilybennington.com, on Facebook or on Twitter @EmilyBennington.


  • alkistisTV

    Why do you automatically relate “office flirting” with “scanty clothes”? Flirting in the office, means to “be charming” in my view, both to male & female collegues, it does not have to do with push-up bras…

    • ‘Being charming’ and ‘flirting’ are two very different things, in doubt check the dictionary. So let’s be honest here and not kid ourselves, shall we. Any smart woman can pick the message behind this so-called study. And yes, we all know that some women do flirt to compensate a lack of skills, education or talent, while others are charming indeed but don’t feel the need to flirt yet still get ahead in their career using their brains, skills or talent (ask Hilary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey or even Amanda de Cadenet). I agree 100% with Emily’s point of view – great article!

    • Interesting point … I like it ..

  • Lois Munoz Merka

    If a woman feels the need to flirt to get ahead, she may need to self investigate what is missing in her qualifications and do what it takes, whether it be more education or better social skills and communication.

  • michaelbdelcamp

    I used to get burned quite often for simply asking a female coworker out on a date when I was a younger man. What I have discovered, is that it really is more about class and power, than it is about my own misbehavior as alleged. I mean, really now; women are adults, and professionals, and yet they cannot handle a social opportunity with any modicum of self determination, officious restraint, or simple grace? I would say feminist ideology, as written into the rulebooks in Anglo-America at least, is entirely corporate and governmental overkill, and is designed to squash minority interests and unattached males, rather than enhance or god forbid, match make. I am laughing about the immaturity of policy now.

  • Jean

    I agree that the media does over-emphasize a woman’s sexual attractiveness, but I think there is something to be said for having grace and style in the workplace, and men being attracted to that. Men are not only attracted to overt inappropriate sexiness, but rather women are beautiful and the clothes they wear sometimes flatters their physical appearance. Is it really possible for attractive women to avoid that completely in the workplace and pretend that it holds no power over men at all? The same goes for “who you know” and “where you vacation” and how “cool” you are — in environments like that, especially in a place like Los Angeles. I don’t know.

  • Anon

    Being sexy is not a behavior – some people have it and some people don’t. The hating on the female EXECUTIVE who wore a sexy dress is absurd. Her career was clearly already blossoming and the only people that had an issue (behind her back) were other women. It’s not men that keep women down, it’s jealous (and usually unattractive) women.

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