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Office pull-itics; Caroline Storah finds out why it's fun to flirt at work.

Byline: Caroline Storah

PICK one tasty man, stir in a few saucy looks across the kitchen and add generous helpings of flirting and ... you end up with a real dish of the day.

That's chef Claire Price's recipe for romance.

The 19-year-old from Wallsey, is a strong believer in the power of a good flirt at work.

And she's not alone. A recent survey discovered most women found it good to flirt, saying it boosted their confidence and providing it was harmless, was all part of working life.

Claire spotted Stephen (Burger) Hampton across the kitchen at the Pan-Am bar at the Albert Dock where she is a commis chef and he is a senior sous-chef.

``He is such a lovely person, I fell for him straight away,'' she laughs. ``He's tall - I had to stand on a pan for the photo - and he's lovely.

``But it took some work. I had to go into flirt overdrive. I used to make sure I looked good for work and that my hair was OK.

``Then I used to mess around with him - far more than any others - and make up reasons to have to go over and chat to him. It makes me laugh looking back.

``But there's nothing wrong with a good flirt at work and in the end we got together.''

Claire and Stephen, 29, from Kensington, have now been together for about six months. Flirting with the right man at the right time certainly paid off for Claire.

Nearly two-thirds of women surveyed by magazine Top Sante said it had been good for their confidence.

But it also comes with warnings from the experts.

Peta Heskell, who wrote the book Flirt Coach and runs the UK's only `flirting academy', thinks flirtatious behaviour in the workplace makes for a better overall atmosphere.

``We flirt at work because it's a natural instinct we all have,'' she says. ``I think it generates great fun.

``We're all sexual beings and I think the workplace is always improved when people are much freer and open about being themselves.''

But she warns against being too flirty with the wrong types.

As many as 31% said they had flirted with a boss and 22% said they would do so to improve their job prospects.

Heskell warns: ``You have to be careful at work about just flirting with someone who's important.

``If you flirt with people at all levels in your workplace people will just think that's the kind ofperson you are and won't mind but, if you're just doing it with someone above you, you will probably come a cropper because other people will notice it too.

Angela Baron, an advisor at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, accepts that flirting will occur at work.

``You can't legislate against people having relationships at work and they obviously do because a lot of people meet their partners that way.

``It shouldn't become an issue unless people allow their behaviour to spill over into their work and they're not getting their job done.''

But she says how you behave should be determined by the atmosphere at work, which can vary hugely.

``Some are very friendly and jokey naturally and, if everyone is happy with that, it's fine. But you have to behave professionally and in a way that isn't going to offend your colleagues.''

Another couple who met through work are Liz Coleman and husband Alan when romance sparked at the tax office.

It started when Liz walked into Alan's section at the Inland Revenue. She fell for him but it took a while - and a drunken Christmas do - for him to finally get the message.

Liz, 38, now Head of Fiscal Investigations at Cobham Murphy solicitors in Duke Street, says: ``I believe work-place relationships make good ones. You have work in common and you know where your partner is.

``When I first saw him I thought: He looks nice and used to flirt with him. But so many people met their partners at work and the younger members of staff were always flirting around.

``Flirting at work can lead to both successful and non-successful relationships. I was lucky!''

CAPTION(S):

CHAT'S LIFE: Flirting can put the fun into work; RECIPE FOR SUCCESS: Claire Price and Stephen
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 3, 2002
Words:711
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