Should You Flirt At Work?

Illustration for article titled Should You Flirt At Work?

Some women say they've "closed a deal with a little flirtation?" But is workplace eye-batting really a good idea?


Forbes Woman's Jenna Goudreau quotes Nicole Williams, author of the chilling-sounding tome Girl on Top: Your Guide to Turning Dating Rules into Career Success:

Using flirtation is just smart. If you need someone's help, use the tools available to you. It's naive to think it has no place at work.

People who are naïve include "feminists, who believe that women who flirt in the office diminish their talent and intelligence, and [...] men, who feel more vulnerable to sexual harassment suits." These killjoys may have a point, though — Goudreau offers the following anecdote on the dangers of flirting:

Early in her career, [Williams] crossed the line. She'd been in a meeting with superiors, frequently emphasizing points by touching one on the hand. Later, the group went out for dinner and drinks. When she came out of the restroom, one of the men cornered her and said, "I'll give you something to touch."

Looking back, she says, "Over dinner and drinks, I should have stopped touching."

Or maybe not touched in the first place? While flirting isn't an excuse for sexual harassment, sexualizing your work behavior seems like a great way to create a confusing environment — and even one hostile to coworkers who don't want to flirt. And while Forbes Woman contributor Victoria Pynchon suggests in a followup post that "a successful 'flirt'" results from "caring, taking an interest, being engaged, finding the best in another person, being enthusiastic, not being afraid to give praise," these just sound like characteristics of a really good coworker. Does hand-stroking really need to be involved?

The sad fact is, women may not need to worry about practicing Forbes's Secrets Of Professional Flirting (example: "Start by flirting outside of the office to get more comfortable"). Says Denise Frost of women in their 20s and 30s: "In that age range, if you're an attractive female and smile at a male colleague you are automatically assumed to be making a pass at them or alluding to the same." So it may not matter what you think of workplace flirting — if you're young enough, dudes already assume you're doing it.


The Conversation: Flirting Your Way To The Top [Forbes]
Flirting Your Way To The Corner Office [Forbes]
Secrets Of Professional Flirting [Forbes]

Image via Catalin Petolea/



I guess it works sometimes for some people someplace, but as a bitter cynic, if someone at work started flirting with me, my first (and usually only) assumption is that this person just wants some kind of favor. I think it's not a good idea. Of course, I also need to know how to discern between someone who's flirting, and someone who's actually just very outgoing and nice. (which still doesn't serve the bitter cynic good, but that's a different story).