Professional Flirting?

Ever since I read this article on Flirting your way to the corner office last week, I’ve been torn between whether or not to say something about it.

The author attempts to put the whole topic of flirting at the workplace in a harmless and even beneficial light. That bothers me. The idea that women are the target audience for this article bothers me even more.

For every step we take forward as women, there seem to be some women who are determined to turn on their 4-inch heels and walk right back to square one.

The author’s attitude towards male-female roles is a concession to the patriarchal system that gives men all the power, making women subservient objects and targets of sexual attention. It is a self-fulfilling, vicious cycle of believing that flirting with superiors leads women to succeed, which then fuels flirtatious behavior, leading to the flirter getting what she perceives as positive attention in the form of favortism at work. This then circles back and reinforces the belief that flirting is helpful (and possibly REQUIRED) for women to succeed.

As a woman who is used to working in a predominantly male industry, I do not believe that flirting is an asset. Actually, I strongly believe that it is degrading, stone-aged, and risky. Also, any perceived success gained through flirting is, in my opinion, short-lived and unstable, since it relies on the ability to maintain limits and secrecy. In this wired world of facebook, twitter, youtube, and constant surveillance, NOTHING is secret. And when it comes to limits, well, let’s just say that sex probably trumps caution in more cases than not. (Think former presidents, countless politicians, basketball stars, and oh yeah, that golf player whatshisname. You know who. EVERYONE does.)

Additionally, flirting at work actually encourages and risks sexual harrassment issues at the office, since sexual harrassment is subjective and can be perceived differently based on cultural background and personal experience.
At one point in the article, the author refers to an incident in which a senior male partner sent her an email specifically to say “Nice shoes”, prompting the author to start strategizing when to wear her extra-sexy footwear in order to garner and maintain his attention.
I can think of many instances where that type of comment would cause someone to become very uncomfortable and flustered, affecting her work and her working relationship with the shoe-loving male partner for a long period of time.

It would be interesting to find out whether this type of flirting is more common in certain industries, and amongst a certain age group. That would be a study I would be interested in reading the results of.

It’s time we learn how to conduct ourselves with personable, friendly professionalism, and allow our competence to shine through. Before resorting to flaunting our bodies and sexuality in order to reach our goals in life, we need to think about our priorities and the legacy we want to leave our daughters.

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