Signs That Say "I'm the Boss"
in the photograph is leaning back in his chair, fingers
laced behind his head, one foot on his desk.
“What do you think he
is communicating?” I ask a group of management communications
students. To many of the students, the man appears casual
In fact, he is communicating
superiority. The foot on the desk conveys
ownership or territoriality.
If this man is not the
boss, he is someone his co-workers need to watch
out for, say Gerald I. Nierenberg and Henry H. Calero,
authors of the popular How to Read a Person Like
Calero studied the meaning of non-verbal communication
in business and found many gestures that appear on the
surface to be casual are in fact signs of dominance
Such gestures also include
straddling a chair or sitting with one leg over the
arm of a chair.
If this seems far-fetched,
you may want to ask yourself who appears casual in your
Is it the boss? A co-worker
who seems to rub people the wrong way? A junior
employee who likes to challenge authority?
If a junior employee
uses such gestures it may be only when the boss isn’t
around. If the boss happens by, the employee may
“snap to attention”.
Notice the non-verbal
communication in your workplace, but don’t assume from
a single gesture that someone is communicating dominance
A particular gesture
may be a habit or may have an entirely different
meaning for the person making it.
Watch for clusters (a
group) of gestures that communicate a similar message,
and notice the circumstances in which they are used.
Does someone adopt dominance
gestures during a negotiation or in the presence of
certain people? If so, those gestures may be more
than just a habit.
Should you use dominance
gestures yourself? In a negotiation, such gestures may
help to convey that you are confident.
However, if you would
not verbally challenge your boss or someone else in
a position of authority, you should not challenge them
non-verbally either unless you are prepared to face
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