By Margarita Nahapetyan
Flirting at workplace can indeed help women to get ahead and build their way to success. However, their colleagues will not like it at all, saying that such women are more manipulative and should be trusted less. To this conclusion came two new studies which were carried out by the scientists at the University of California, Berkeley.
Researchers say that some women's habit of using their feminine charms at work holds the possibility of them being more likeable among men. But, it turns out that at the same time, such behavior can make them seem a lot less trustworthy and "less genuine" when compared to women who do not flirt. And such distrust built up among co-workers could prove to be damaging in the long run.
Laura Kray, a professor at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, conducted multiple experiments - which involved nearly 300 individuals - in order to find out whether trained negotiators consider flirting to be a tool in a quest to claim value at the bargaining table. In the first trial a total of 79 students in an MBA negotiation course - 50 males and 29 females - were asked to express their opinion on ten negotiator characteristics, such as physical attractiveness, flirting, playfulness, how agreeable negotiators were, their sex appeal, manipulativeness, honesty, flattery, friendliness and how genuine they were.
The results indicated that among all the characteristics measured, flirting was seen as the least effective negotiator characteristic, with attractiveness and playfulness - attributes associated with flirting - also viewed negatively. However, while men neither benefited nor were they harmed by the technique, women who used it in order to seek attention were described by their partners as more effective during negotiations.
In a follow-up experiment, a further 77 students - 51 females and 26 males - were shown videos of negotiators (played by actors), and were asked to evaluate the way they worked. The actors - a man and a woman - followed two scripts from which one was standard and the other one flirtatious. During the standard script, the negotiators repeatedly declined offers from the buyers, while in the flirtatious script the actors were asked to use a playful voice intonation, smile and touch their partner's face and hair. The study participants, in their turn, were asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 7 on how flirtatious and sexual they thought negotiators were when using a manipulation tool to get the best possible deal.
The results revealed a clearly negative attitude towards flirting, as the flirtatious actors were seen as less genuine and more manipulative when compared to their non-flirting counterparts. However, the participants perceived the female actor to be more flirtatious and more likeable than the male actor who was seen as less attractive during flirting episodes. The researchers say their results suggest that the same types of behavior are judged and perceived differently in men and women, possibly because flirting is attributed to the female stereotype of attentiveness to others and people are sensitive to such behavior.
So what is flirting? Flirting is an amorous behavior without serious intent, which shows just a superficial or casual interest or liking. Scientists say that flirtation does not always carry a blatant sexual intention but can instead be innocent and playful. Based on this, the experts believe that playful flirting might be quite advantageous and useful for business women during negotiations with partners if used as a subtle way of increasing attraction and likeability, or softening a tough negotiation process.
The results of this research will be published in October, 2012 issue of the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.