Do We Flirt To Win Business?

I would like to pose an open question.

I am not asking, “Should we flirt to win business?” or “Could we flirt to win business?” I am asking, “Do we flirt to win business?”

In my view, the answer is yes, we do, but maybe it shouldn’t be called flirting. Is it right or wrong? Well, I’ll leave that for you to decide.

To start with, any proper debate should define the terms of the discussion. For me, in any business setting, there should 100% be no sexual overtones, as that is the definition of harassment. Absolutely not, that is wholly inappropriate. However, in order to understand the nature of “business flirting”, I would like to first examine the Wikipedia definition:

“Flirting usually involves speaking and behaving in a way that suggests a mildly greater intimacy than the actual relationship between the parties would justify, though within the rules of social (business) etiquette. This may be accomplished by communicating a sense of playfulness or irony.”

Firstly, I would like to broaden the definition of flirting to make it gender neutral, and take away the sexual context.

Does the example of two male business partners going for a few beers and enjoying corporate hospitality at the football suggest a greater “intimacy” in their relationship? Yes, I think that it does. Will the sales guy attempt to build a closer relationship with his customer, maybe talking with him as “one of the lads” rather than purely in a business context. Well, depending on the person, yes, maybe. In these situations, there is often “man-flirting” that goes on.

Is it so “wrong” therefore for a male business person to complement a female business person in a pleasant and non-threatening way, maybe cracking a few playful jokes, thus making her feel good about herself? Some people would see this as overstepping the mark, although we do this in our social lives all the time.

Would men in male-dominated industries not welcome a nice chat with a pleasant female “client relationship manager” every now and again. Yes, the relationship would be business oriented, but we would be lying if we said that a heterosexual man would not value a compliment from a member of the opposite sex on the suitability of his tie or an admiring chat about how many miles he cycled on the weekend.

Maybe you don’t call this flirting? Actually, I would not class these last two examples as flirting at all. Maybe you just call it being interested in each other?

Many people, however, still see taking a personal interest in a business context as overstepping the mark. In my view, we need to be a little less politically correct and a little more human.

We live increasingly more of our lives at work, and it is a shame if we cannot take a genuine interest in others for fear of being overly familiar. From my point of view, that is what good business is all about – getting to know each other and understanding how we can make a difference.

Without a little harmless “flirting,” it is hard to break down the barriers.