Illustration: Ashley Siebels
There are people who will tell you that you should use LinkedIn to flirt with women.
Here’s our much better advice: Don’t do this. Ever.
Flirting on LinkedIn isn’t just counterproductive — it can come across as wildly inappropriate.
Yet we find that there’s still plenty of need to explain why you should never, ever — no, really, ever — use professional spaces to fish for dates.
A piece in Wired today calls LinkedIn “the ultimate dating site” — even despite public discouragement like the Tumblr site “Sexism on LinkedIn.”
Here are a few good reasons why you should think twice about asking someone to join your unprofessional network on LinkedIn.
The other person is there for business only
There are social networks that facilitate dates: Tinder and Match, of course, but even Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat have a mix of friends and casual acquaintances. Those are not professional platforms.
LinkedIn on the other hand, exists purely to make business connections. There are no video games on LinkedIn, no “Words With Friends.” It’s not a place for fun or to kick back. You should assume no one’s there looking for romance, much less to be ogled.
“It’s not a women’s network or a men’s network, or a locker room: it’s a professional networking site, and so it’s reasonable to expect people to behave like professionals,” Dawn Metcalfe, managing director of coaching and training company PDSi told Ladders.
“By definition, if you’re approached on LinkedIn, it’s an unwanted approach. It doesn’t matter if it’s the guy of your dreams. That’s not what it’s for,” Metcalfe told Ladders.
As Metcalfe put it, you wouldn’t negotiate a deal on Tinder, so why would you try to date on LinkedIn?
Let’s not get physical
A case out of London in 2015 demonstrates how very unwelcome romantic overtures can be on LinkedIn.
Human rights lawyer Charlotte Proudman was 27 when married, 57-year-old lawyer Alexander Carter-Silk messaged her saying that her LinkedIn picture was “stunning,” and also said, “you definitely win the prize for the best Linked in picture I have ever seen.” Proudman posted screenshots of the awkward come-on, which sparked a lively conversation about casual sexism at work.
She responded to him, saying, “I am on Linked-in for business purposes, not to be approached about my physical appearance or to be objectified by sexist men. The [eroticization] of women’s physical appearance is a way of exercising power over women. It silences women’s professional attributes as their physical appearance becomes the subject.”
Many women are all too sick of being evaluated for their looks rather than their accomplishments, and find it demeaning to be reduced to their physical characteristics.
Men have weighed in on the matter too: “Let’s get one thing straight, guys: It does not matter what words you use, if you’re reaching out to a woman on LinkedIn, there should be absolutely no non-professional content in that message. No matter how gleaming your endorsement of her physical features, she does not want to hear that from you on LinkedIn. It’s called being “suggestive.” Many men seem to think that if you’re not being overtly sexual, everything’s cool. It’s not,” wrote marketing director Eric Martin…on LinkedIn.
Why did Martin write the piece? Someone made advances to his wife on the social network.
Straight men who use LinkedIn to score a date assume that women will be attracted to a man’s money, not his personality. It’s a common mistake to believe that money and ambition also guarantee a date. On the contrary, many women accomplished enough to be on LinkedIn are unlikely to be impressed by flashy shows of status.
Metcalfe told Ladders about a time when she was approached by a man in a nightclub who came up to her and said, “I have a Rolex. Wanna dance?”
She said that the fact that he used an expensive watch as the only reason why she should want to dance with him is where he went wrong. It would be similar on LinkedIn: you can’t buy someone’s affections, and most would be insulted that you tried.
Unlike Proudman’s case, most straight men who approach women on LinkedIn don’t get publicly called out. Women who are approached on the platform “tend not to name and shame” because they’re fearful of “burning bridges,” Metcalfe said.
It’s common for people to tell a woman speaking out about a man coming onto her on the site that “it’s inappropriate,” “the guy was only giving you a compliment,” or to ask, “what’s your problem?” she said.
Public embarrassment is not the only penalty, however. Inappropriate advances will be come out eventually and will hurt anyone’s professional standing anyway. Consider not hitting “send” on that invitation to flirt.