Before you answer, consider this: When Madeleine Albright became the first female U.S. Secretary of State, she led high-level negotiations between mostly male foreign government leaders. In 2009, comedian Bill Maher asked Albright if she ever flirted on the job and she replied, “I did, I did.”
In a new study, UC Berkeley researchers set out to discover if “feminine charm” is an effective way for women to gain negotiating mileage.
“Women are uniquely confronted with a tradeoff in terms of being perceived as strong versus warm. Using feminine charm in negotiation is a technique that combines both,” says Haas School of Business Professor Laura Kray .
Flirtation that generates positive results is not overt sexual advances but authentic, engaging behavior without serious intent.
In fact, the study found female flirtation signals attractive qualities such as confidence, which is considered essential to successful negotiators.
In the two-part study researchers asked 100 participants to evaluate to what extent they use social charm in negotiation on a one-to-seven scale.
Earlier that week, the participants evaluated their partners’ negotiating effectiveness. 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.
Kray says many of her students who are senior women executives admit they love to flirt and describe themselves as “big flirts.” Kray maintains flirting is not unprofessional if it remains playful and friendly.
“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.”
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