If you’re like any responsible adult who goes into work five days a week, you’re probably hoping to be promoted one day. You work your butt off, complete every assignment by overly exceeding your boss’s expectations, and always arrive 10 minutes early before your shift begins.
However, just because you check off some of these qualifications to be considered a great employee doesn’t exactly mean that your boss is going to call you into his/her office to give you a well-deserved raise. There are other factors that need to be taken into account — you know, aside from just showing up to work.
Your body language, for instance, could actually be the one thing that’s holding you back from growing in your career.
Without you realizing it, you could be crossing your arms too often, slouching in your seat, or — gasp — using your phone. While these little nuances may not seem that big of a deal in the comfort of your home or around your besties, doing them too often in the office could make you seem anxious or incompetent. Not sure which body language mistakes you’re making? Here are 12 that you should try to stay away from if you want to grow in your career.
Rolling Your Eyes
Here's an easy one: Rolling your eyes is a big no-no. The gesture is simply rude.
Invading Personal Space
Whether you’re super friendly with your colleague or not, it’s best to keep a healthy distance between you and your work friends — and your boss — when you communicate about a professional topic. If not, you can make the other person feel uncomfortable and even threatened by your presence. The best rule to follow? According to Square Up, three to eight feet is the perfect amount of distance to have between you and your colleagues.
Slouching in Your Seat
Everyone knows that slouching is not only bad for their back, but could also make them feel small and unimportant.
However, if you constantly slouch in your seat at the office, your boss and/or fellow employees could assume that you don’t care and are too comfortable at your job. Solution? Try to use a standing desk. This will not only could make you stand up straight, but could make others believe you’re more engaged in your work.
Crossing Your Arms or Legs
While criss-cross applesauce used to be the cool-kid thing to do in elementary school, you’ll get a big fat ‘F’ if you even try to do that at work.
Crossing your arms, legs or feet may feel comfortable while you’re trying to pump out a million emails or listen to your boss speak during a meeting, however, this nonverbal behavior could give off negative signals to others around you. For instance, others may not engage with you because they think you’re being defensive, stubborn, or distant, and no one wants to play that game. Trust us.
However, do cross your arms if you’re alone in your cubicle, working on a tough assignment. According to research completed by Ron Friedman and Andrew J. Elliott, you’re 30% more likely to stick through an assignment if you use this type of body language. So get to crossing!
Not Mirroring Others
Mirroring your colleges enhances your chances of building a positive rapport with them. Why? Because using the “the chameleon effect” often allows you to engage in more deeper conversations with other people, which in the long run, could allow others to trust you more.
Failing to Make Eye Contact
While it’s a known rule to not break eye contact when you’re interviewing for a job, the same applies for when you’re engaging in a serious conversation at work. One may reduce their gaze if they don’t feel confident in what they’re speaking about or prefer to not engage in embarrassing conversations. But if you want to increase your chances of having better conversations with people at work, look them in the eyes when you or they are speaking because it produces a deeper connection between the both of you.
Too little eye contact and you might seem insecure. However, too much can be intimidating or a tad inappropriate. Channel your inner Goldilocks and strive for something just right.
Giving a Weak Handshake
Thanks to our current president, we’ve learned how important a handshake is in a very professional setting. And while we don’t recommend pulling your colleagues’ whole arm towards you, it’s suggested to have good posture; make eye contact; and give a nice, firm shake. Follow this guide, and you’ll be good as they come.
Sneaking into the Room
First impressions matter. When you walk into a room or a meeting, say hello (even if just with a smile or a nod). Don't skip this step even if you are entering late.
Staring at the clock? Aimlessly doodling on a pad of paper? Sighing at your desk? All of these things could show your boss that you're bored at work — even when you don’t think they’re noticing.
Try to be mindful of your body language — especially since nonverbal behavior accounts for 55% of the messages you communicate. Go for a walk if you feel bored or ask your colleagues if they need help with anything. The more proactive you are at work, the better you may feel.
Avoid the "Fig Leaf"
Another posture to avoid is crossing your hands over your genitals (sometimes called the "fig leaf" position). This may have worked for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, but at work, it just looks defensive and uncomfortable.
Doing Nervous Gestures
Cracking your knuckles, playing with your hair, biting your nails and lip all fall under the examples of a nervous gesture.
While these little nuances may be okay to do in the comfort of your home, displaying these nervous habits in front of your boss or colleagues may lessen your credibility and make others believe you’re anxious or incompetent. And even though you know this is not the case, it’s best-practice to steer clear of these little mistakes. Ask a friendly colleague to point out when you’re unconsciously doing any of these nervous cues. The less jittery you are, the more calm and confident you may appear — which is always win-win in our books.
Leaning on Walls or Furniture
Remember to stand up straight. It'll help people know that you are alert and confident. Keep your feet about shoulder-length apart and engage your core.
Don't Forget to Smile
Smiling is one of the easiest ways to convey confidence. Show your engagement and put everyone at ease.
Hiding Your Hands
We have some bad news for you, Introverts: Hiding your hands when you're engaging in a conversation can be perceived as being not trustworthy. Plus, according to a study by Colgate University, people are more inclined to listen to you if you use your hands when you speak. While you don’t want to wildly wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care, you should have your palms open and facing up to be viewed as trustworthy and open.
Sitting in a pigeon toed position can make you appear young and tentative.
Eyeing the Clock
Be careful not to sneak too many glances at your watch, especially if you are in a conversation with a colleague. Watching the clock implies impatience and can be considered disrespectful.
Expressing With Exaggerated Gestures
In most startup businesses, the culture has become more relaxed over time. However, that doesn’t mean you can express your ideas with exaggerated gestures. Wild hand motions could indicate that you’re unprofessional and don’t have a lot of confidence. Instead, keep this type of nonverbal behavior to a minimum, unless it involves happy hour drinks with a few friends.
Expressing with High Gestures
As a general rule of thumb, keep your hand gestures below your shoulders.
Standing "Square to the Camera"
When having a one-on-one conversation, try to keep your body positioned towards the conversation but not directly face to face. A face-off can accidentally feel confrontational.
Facing Too Far Away from the Conversation
You don't want to be squared off, but if your body isn't facing a group conversation, you run the risk of seeming disengaged (or even rude). Take a moment and move your shoulders and torso towards the team. If you're sitting down, turn the chair to face the action.
Using Your Phone
Unless it’s part of your job to be on your phone 24/7, it might be best to refrain from using it as often as possible.
Using your phone at work, especially during a meeting, shows a lack of respect to the person who’s talking. Ideally, try to keep the relationship with your phone at a minimum and if you do need to use it in front of your colleague, say excuse me before you text away. Trust us — mom would be proud.
Being Stingy With Nods and Smiles
Often simple smiles or nods can be used as powerful nonverbal cues to let someone know that you are actively listening.
Consider Voice Tone
Sometimes professionals get into trouble because of how they say things, rather than what they said. Try to read the cues of a situation and match the tone and volume of your voice with the people around you. Both too quiet and too loud can be problematic.
Physically Separating Yourself From Others
While it’s normal to feel shy when you begin a new job, you don’t want to create enough space between you and your new colleagues because that could indicate that you don’t want to feel a part of the team. Research has shown that when you position your body away from someone, they could perceive you as uninterested, uncomfortable, and even distrustful. We say get out of your comfort zone and scoot in a little closer (remember, not too close) to engage with your teammates.