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Flirting Pays Off In the Workplace, Study Says (But Women Only)

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- There's a growing body of evidence that flirting can help you get ahead in your career, but with one fairly huge caveat:

You have to be a woman.

That's the conclusion drawn from a study by the University of California at Berkeley's Hass School of Business.

Of course, women shouldn't actually call it "flirting," not when terms such as "feminine charms" are available.

That term actually makes its way into the study's title, Feminine Charm: An Experimental Analysis of its Costs and Benefits in Negotiations, published this month in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. The report was written by University of California business professor Laura Kray with assistance from Connson C. Locke of the London School of Economics and Hass school Ph.D. candidate Alex B. Van Zant.

In it, study researchers say women can leverage their flirting, but only if they strike the right balance.

"Women are uniquely confronted with a tradeoff in terms of being perceived as strong versus warm," Kray says. "Using feminine charm in negotiation is a technique that combines both."

She also notes that by using the term "flirting," that doesn't mean "overt sexual advances." No, it's more delicate than that, with what Kray cites as "authentic, engaging behavior without serious intent."

The flirting gene is especially helpful in business negotiations, in which the term equates strongly with confidence, but once again, only with women.

According to a survey of 100 participants that serves as the backbone of the study, "women who said they used more social charm were rated more effective by their partners. However, men who said they used more social charm were not regarded as more effective."

In a separate survey, also included in the study, male sellers of an imaginary auto were more willing to give a playful, flirtatious woman $100 off on the sale of the car than they would a serious, no-nonsense woman.

Notably, neither the "playful" nor "serious" woman catch a break from female "car sellers" included in the survey.

Kray also notes that students in her class freely admit they are serial flirters and not above using their feminine charms to gain leverage in the and outside world. She also says that is OK as long as women use their "flirt" gene in a genuine way.

"The key is to flirt with your own natural personality in mind," Kray says. "Be authentic. Have fun. That will translate into confidence, which is a strong predictor of negotiation performance."

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