Posing For Power: Why Body Language Matters in the Office

Body language can be tricky. For example, why is it okay for a man to cross his ankle over his knee at work, but less acceptable for a woman to do the same? Why is it good for a manager to pat an employee on the back, but more awkward for an employee to pat a manager on the back?


Understanding the basics of body language can be an important step in your managerial journey. While body language can be difficult to read and control, learning about what your body language says about you can help you to succeed and be perceived positively. It can also help you understand more about how you make others feel and what they think about you.


Eye contact is one of the most important factors in body language. While maintaining eye contact indicates interest and demonstrates listening, too much eye contact can seem aggressive. The best way to master eye contact is to learn the balance between submissive, or looking away too often, and domineering, or looking too closely too often.


Posture is another key component to body language. Slouching posture indicates disinterest and fatigue, whereas straight posture shows that you are powerful and engaged. However, when sitting and standing up straight, be relaxed and comfortable to avoid looking rigid.


Gestures with your hands can reveal your state of mind, which is especially important to notice when something negative needs to be portrayed in a positive light. Because managers often have to conceal emotions, understanding gestures is vital. Repetitive motions such as tapping show boredom, and emphasizing words by beating your hands on something shows power and authority.


Speed also reveals what you are thinking. Slower movements, such as slow nodding, suggest that you are giving something your full attention. Fast nodding reveals impatience. If you are still, it suggests you are comfortable and in control. But if you move too quickly, people will think you are nervous.


In management, the messages your body sends are just as important as what you say. Motivating and managing your staff is a core part of the manager’s role, and understanding how to do this more effectively with body language will improve relationships and give you more confidence.

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