Two employees chat during their lunch break.
“Did you meet the new boss?”
“What did you think?”
“I’ve heard that she is smart, but she has a limp handshake and doesn’t look you in the eye. I’m not sure she’s cut out for the job.”
We’ve known for some time that your body language contributes significantly to the images that others have of you. The Wonder Woman stance–hands on hips, shoulders back, legs slightly spread–communicates confidence and power.
Researcher Amy Cuddy and others suggest that you can actually increase your self-confidence and power by practicing power poses.
Cuddy asked subjects to sit for a couple of minutes in high-power poses—hands behind the head, leaning back, feet on a desk. Another group sat in low-power poses—bent forward, looking downward, hands folded.
Later, those who practiced high-power poses scored higher in simulated job interviews. Interviewers saw them as more confident, authentic and comfortable.
Cuddy and associates suggest that your body positions actually change the chemistry in your brain. For example, high-power posers’ testosterone levels increased and cortisol levels decreased. This resulted in the ability to be comfortably assertive.
Tiny tweaks in your body posture may actually result in big changes in your ability to persuade and influence others.
“I am exasperated,” proclaimed Jamison, “I’ve bent over backwards to help Jerry. He shows no appreciation.”
“Is Jerry a good employee?” I asked.
“He has good skills but if he does not like a task, he starts griping and does just enough to get by.”
Jerry was friendly and nice when Jamison became his manager. But after about three weeks, Jerry began coming in a late. When Jamison approached Jerry about his attendance, Jerry responded rudely, “We’ve been working too much overtime lately. Why are you on my back?”
Jerry is a bullying employee. He saw that Jamison was a kind, caring manager and perhaps vulnerable. Jerry first endeared himself to Jamison (an effort to cause Jamison guilt feelings). Later Jerry tested Jamison with rude behaviors.
While Jamison was compassionate and well meaning, Jerry saw him as vulnerable and he escalated his defiant behaviors.
Maybe it is the “law of the jungle,” but aggressive employees seek out leaders who may be vulnerable and they test them with inappropriate but acceptable behaviors. Appeasing and patient leaders may actually encourage increased employee aggression.
When dealing with predatory animals, school-yard bullies, or aggressive employees, one must respond confidently and firmly to avoid becoming prey.