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Boardroom or Bedroom: Body Language That Hurts Your Career

As an early teenager, I read the same magazines my friends read (Seventeen, YM, Cosmo)… In all of these magazines, then and now, you’ll find a ton of articles about dating, flirting, and sending “those” vibes.  Who doesn’t want to attract love to their life, right?  I think a lot of us paid attention to those articles about body-language and letting your date know “you’re interested.”

Torrid Plus Size Navy Ruffle Shirt Dress with Braided Belt

Dating mastermind I was not. Considering myself rather “unlucky” in the romance department, I looked for advice anywhere I could.  I read those articles and practiced their tips with a vengeance.  I was gonna’ catch me a man (or a free dink–Haayyy)!  For the most part, the advice on dating body-language is spot on.

Fast-forward to…well…now.  How many of us have incorporated these gestures into our habitual body language?  You might be surprised.  What works for finding dates and keeping them on the proverbial hook, might actually be hurting our chances of being taken seriously on the job—and consequently—preventing us from getting the promotion we deserve.

After reading this article, I had a complete “WHOA” moment (a la Joey Russo). Even though I have not needed “dating advice” in well over a decade, some of these maneuvers I do all the time!  It’s important to be aware of the signals we are unconsciously sending—balance the “sexy-vixen” with the “CEO” inside us all.  What we learned in the blossoming stages of our womanhood could be dangerous to our careers.

The trait I really identified with, from the article, was tilting my head to listen.  Part of the problem might be legitimate hearing loss (I feel old just typing these words), but it has become habitual for me to show “I’m listening and tuned in.”  It also can make me look like I agree or have sympathy–when I really think the person is talking crazy!


Hayden Panettiere demonstrates the “head tilt” I may use too much…

As I read, I realized there were a few other body-language signals women unconsciously use at work that would be better suited for a date:–when you want to get to the board room and not the bedroom–

  1. Dangling shoe off foot
  2. Twirling hair/tucking behind ear
  3. Touching neck or face
  4. Looking up through eyelashes (Doe Eyes)
  5. Leaning-in or sideways
  6. Light touching
  7. Adjusting clothing (especially skirt)
  8. Legs crossed at knee
  9. Calling attention to hands, nails or wrist
  10. Caved chest or crossed “I’m cold” arms


If you can’t walk properly in heels or if heels change the way you stand or move, maybe you should think about alternative footwear (or a lower heel).  Seriously, we all—and I mean ALL—know a woman who wears shoes she cannot walk in.  Stop doing it!  Being conscious of how your shoes make you move can help you make smarter decisions for work.  I’d rather be given a raise than have people always compliment me on my killer heels.  Wear your hot shoes out on the town instead.BodyLanguage_StandingGirl

Ill-fitting clothing, especially skirts you constantly have to pull down, is also a poor choice for work.  Just as uncomfortably high shoes might cause you to lean more (looking more submissive than you might want), your clothing might cause you to fidget more and call attention to your body more often (which is great for dating, but not good for the office).

Do you know a woman that is always pointing or showing off her nails?  I can think of a few.  Congratulations on your manicure.  I’m talking about women who seem to overly display their hands, wrists, put on hand lotion often, twist their rings, and fiddle with their bracelets.  Men don’t really do this (unless they are really nervous).  If it does not come across as flirtatious, it is definitely distracting.  These actions call attention to you and not your ideas or valuable input.

The way we sit is a big one.  Because we wear skirts (and men typically don’t) we have to be conscious about “flashing” anyone.  This causes us to cross our legs, pull down our hem, smooth out our skirt over the backs of our legs, etc.  Over time, many women become comfortable sitting with their legs crossed at the knees.  It is not an authoritative look.  Having your body crossed in any way, arms or legs, can come across as submissive and/or closed off or uncertain.  If you are wearing a skirt, you have to be careful.  Make sure, at the very least, you don’t dangle your (uncomfortable) shoe or slump back (making your knees/legs more prominent).

Read more on the topic with this article.  Linda Slater interviews the author of Body Language For Dummies, Elizabeth Kuhnke, who says, “Women tend to give away their power. We cross our legs when we sit down and make ourselves smaller, where guys sit with their legs spread wide and take up two spaces.”  Throughout this article, Slater mentions several postures that seem to separate women and men on the job.  She even offers some tips, “If you’re trying to influence or persuade someone who’s sitting with crossed arms, it’s a good idea to give them something to do or to hold, so they have to unlock their arms. It will lead to a more open attitude and you’re more likely to succeed in changing their mind.”

C01-Confidence-198x300If the boardroom is your target, and not the bedroom, you might want to keep this article in mind.  Although it is hard to change habits that have developed over the years, your career might thank you.    Just as body-language can be effective in sending messages of flirtation, changing your body language at work might start changing how your coworkers and supervisors perceive you (without them even realizing it).

How do you think you might incorporate a few of these into your life–sending the message of authority and that you are ready for a raise?  Have you noticed that you might “unconsciously” be using postures that display submissiveness or uncertainty?

Share this article!  I’m curious to hear your thoughts.


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