Travelling for business is a sure way to understand the importance of body language in the office. Whether you introduce yourself with a firm handshake or a subtle bow, or whether you hand over a business card with one hand or two, the correct mannerisms can win you clients. As host or visitor, it should be standard practice to air on the side of caution until you’ve managed to figure out whether it’s ties off and martinis at lunch.
Within an office, however, body language is more of an unspoken kind of politics. Asserting yourself is part of the game and striking the balance between acting your part and trying to show you’re so much more can alienate just as much as it can get you ahead.
A recent article in Bloomberg Businessweek gave some tips on how to “unleash your body’s inner alpha dog”. Suggesting five authoritative poses, it set out to give tips on how to show you’re the boss – or to practice at home how to psych yourself up for that daunting interview or speech. Stand upright, firm and broad, it recommends. Or, pop your arm around the chair next to you, lean back and cross your legs (not too tightly!). Here, you have the chance to display “power, dominance, and status”. Not only that, holding these poses can trigger a jolt of testosterone to give that air of animalistic overconfidence.
But, at work, are we all meant to be alpha dogs?
At Monocle, we like to think the hierarchy of the office is a little more relaxed than elsewhere. There are still those that run sections of the magazine, radio shows, or story meetings – but everyone is welcome to pitch in. A functional office is one where you’re not competing with colleagues, but collaborating. It’s where one’s responsibilities are defined but not so rock solid that you ever feel compelled to reference what is or is not “in my job description”.
The loud bark of an alpha dog and puffy-chested power plays aren’t so much a shortcut to a promotion or a pay rise, as they are simply abrasive and annoying.
You might not necessarily want to take orders from someone who spends the day with their feet kicked-up in your face from across the desk. In some people’s world that might make you a CEO but at Midori House it’s more likely one of our editors just suffering from a Napoleon complex (there are a few). Compensating for one shortcoming by having more of your body visible above the desk might just have others fixated on gum stuck to your shoe than to anything you might be asking them to do.
Getting people to do what you’d like isn’t about strutting, it’s about subtlety.