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Office Romance: Where Is the Line Between Flirting and Schmoozing At Work?

The Huffington Post  
First Posted: 02/10/2012 12:02 pm Updated: 02/10/2012 6:09 pm

True, Jim and Pam's "Office" romance is a rare and beautiful thing. But while office romances are common, office flirtations are probably even more common -- so much so that it's sometimes hard to tell when they're happening. When you lock eyes with a certain someone across the conference room table, is that someone flirting or just looking to silently commiserate about the abject boredom in which you are both mired?

Today on The Grindstone, Linsey Cross asked whether or not it's appropriate to use flirtation as a managing tool at the office. Cross isn't the first to raise the question -- Catherine Hakim's "Erotic Capital" famously argued that women and men should use all the tools at their disposal to get ahead -- including their sex appeal. Cross ultimately came out against this technique, recalling how a flirty boss went from having devoted subordinates and universal popularity to being resented by all once they realized "their devotion would never be returned."

In an interview with Forbes, Nicole Williams, author of "Girl on Top: Your Guide to Turning Dating Rules into Career Success," argued her case for flirting at work, calling it "empowering" and describing it as an "extension of good networking skills"; after all, it involves eye contact, listening and smiling, just with what Forbes called "a dash of flirtatious nuance":

Williams defines flirting as an effort to make the other person feel confident and attractive (the dictionary definition isn't far off: "to behave amorously without serious intent"), so she also advises giving an authentic compliment or offering a touch on the hand.

While being sociable at work is clearly a component of of success, where do you draw the line between 'schmoozing' and actual flirting? And is flirting really that harmful?

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