We all want to land our dream job, but what lengths are you willing to go to ensure you will secure that position? Is flirting your way to the top okay, or are there moral consequences?

Last summer I met a girl who’d just graduated with a respectable humanities degree from one of the top universities in the UK. I’ll call her Jane* for the sake of this article; we got talking, and I asked her what her plan was now she’d graduated. She told me she’d sent off what felt like billions of applications, and pulled any strings her family connections could offer. After much disappointment she got an interview for a fairly big and successful publishing company. Prior to the interview, she researched the company and the person she knew would be interviewing with her. She managed to find out a few of his interests and hobbies. She also took note of his age and gender.

So, she turned up to the interview in a borderline appropriate dress, ‘office sexy’ if you will. She deliberately flirted with him, talking about things she knew he would like. She said he definitely flirted back, and enjoyed the attention and flattery. She got the job.

I wasn’t sure what to say after she told me this. I feel like she did what she could to secure her future, knowing that her impressive credentials were not quite cutting it. Now she’s landed her dream position. I don’t know if the manner in which she interviewed came back to to bite her in any way, and I hope it didn’t, but it got me thinking: how acceptable is it to use one’s sexuality for advancement in the workplace?

One the one hand there’s the ‘if you got it, flaunt it’ philosophy: people have every right to use their bodies and characteristics in any way they see fit. If it can have a positive effect on their future, then that’s great. But on the flip-side it’s also unfair for people who aren’t so confident, or not so good at flirting, for example. It’s discrimination against the less blessed of the population. Additionally, if this use of one’s ‘sexiness’ is thought to be commonplace, then those who are naturally flirty just in personality, or very attractive, run the risk of being judged prematurely as being ‘one of those people’ before getting a chance to show the stuff between their ears.

I personally would always want to get a job based on my experience and achievements. I also wouldn’t want to work for someone who is so susceptible to a bit of flirtation. Then again, I’ve not yet had to face the horror of graduate-job searching, nor been so desperate as to use ‘other measures.’ I don’t judge Jane, I think she did what she felt she needed to do. Nevertheless, if her use of her sexuality is what really helped her get the job – which is what she believed was the case – then I do completely judge her employer, as someone who’s weak and liable to discriminate. These people shouldn’t be bosses and are hinderances to equality in the workplace.

Image by Charlotte Richards

Image by Charlotte Richards

3 Comments »

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  • Simon
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    Of course the interviewer should not have offered a job based on being attracted to her. (assuming for the purpose of the discussion that flirting tipped the balance between a rejection and a job offer) However that doesn’t mean that what Jane did was right. She manipulated the interviewer and, even if she didn’t lie explicitly, it is in effect lying to lead someone on when you actually couldn’t care less.

    Even from Jane’s own point of view, I think flirting to get a job is a bad idea. Since if I was the interviewer and on reflection thought that I had been conned in to giving someone a job I would find it hard to work with that person constructively. Ultimately it is not going to lead to having a good relationship with your boss.

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  • Name
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    Judging the employer as someone who’s weak? I’m pretty sure a lot of men, and women, would find it difficult to completely ignore the chemistry in the room ( even if forced be Jane) and would take it into account. Not weak and biased, just normal. She’s clearly a smart woman doing what she needs to get a job in very competitive market. Good for her. In an ideal world everyone would get jobs based on merit, but thats not how it works obviously. I do however draw the line at using physical acts of sex to get a job, but a cheeky bit of flirting is fine.

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    Simon
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    This attitude annoys me, and I see it a lot in people. The idea that if you want something you should do everything in your power to get it, regardless of any values or morals broken along the way, is quite frankly ridiculous. And everyone else is supposed to complement these people on how clever they are? No thank you.

    To be honest I think this applies to a lot of situations in our culture nowadays, and it is not helped by shows such as Game of Thrones, House of Cards etc. which glamorise manipulative and ‘ends justifies means’ behaviour. I love those shows, but they are hardly a moral handbook.

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