Flirt Your Way to the Top

Women do better in the workplace if they flirt, according to a new study by Haas School of Business Professor Laura Kray/anyone who has ever worked in a male-dominated environment.

Kray's study, "Feminine Charm: An Experimental Analysis of its Costs and Benefits in Negotiations," found that the type of flirting that generates the best results is the kind in which a woman comes off as confident and friendly but isn't, like, "Do me now."

Researchers first asked 100 participants to evaluate themselves and their study partners' negotiation skills based on "social charm." Women who said they used more social charm were rated more effectively, while men were not. Uh, so basically: people like women more when they are friendly? How do you define social charm? Is there a difference between flirting and just being approachable? Is flirting like porn in that you know it when you see it?

Well, according to the second part of the study, obvious flirting works well with men — the type of over-the-top nudging and winking that an 8th grade drama student might employ while emulating a bored housewife during an improv sketch:

In the second experiment, the researchers asked subjects to imagine they were selling a car worth $1,200 and asked for how much would they sell the car. Next, the subjects read one of two scenarios about a potential buyer named Sue. The first group meets Sue, who shakes hands when she meets the seller, smiles, and says, "It's a pleasure to meet you," and then "What's your best price?" in a serious tone. The second group reads an alternate scenario in which Sue greets the seller by smiling warmly, looking the seller up and down, touching the seller's arm, and saying, "You're even more charming than over email," followed by a playful wink and asking, "What's your best price?"

If I were Sue's boss/friend, I'd tell her to work on her subtlety skills, but researchers found that men were quite taken by "playful Sue" — they were willing to give her more than $100 off the selling price — while women were not.

Hmm. That hardly proves that women should start winking at their male peers; it just means women can get shit for cheaper if they flirt. Which doesn't necessarily correlate with workplace strategy. Still, I agree with Kray's belief that "the key is to flirt with your own natural personality in mind. Be authentic. Have fun. That will translate into confidence, which is a strong predictor of negotiation performance." Just try not to wink, okay?


Flirting Can Pay Off for Women, Study Finds
[Science Daily]

Image via Dmitriy Shironosov /Shutterstock.