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.