Play the Game and Play It Well
We’ve all seen people who are less talented than their coworkers earn big promotions. Naturally, peers and colleagues are left scratching their heads. How is it possible that this person who was barely qualified for the position he was in has risen to a position he truly doesn’t deserve?
Well, this person, while perhaps unfit to perform the job he was hired to do, probably plays the office game and plays it well—and a big part of that game involves body language. Chances are he is a master at projecting a positive attitude, a happy demeanor, and knows exactly where and when to place himself so it appears he’s involved in more than he is. And just as important, he knows how to keep out of the petty office politics.
Though it kills us to admit it, he’s doing something right—something that the rest of us could learn from. Try these body language tricks to portray a positive outlook around the office, and see what happens.
• Look interested in meetings, even if you feel the topic is a waste of your time. Sit up straight, open your eyes, and make eye contact with whoever is speaking. Assume there is interest in what is going to be said and look as if you are in fact interested.
• Make yourself more visible. Pipe up and ask questions in meetings—speakers and employers love to know that people are listening and interested.
• Be friendly and happy. Take the time to smile when you say hello to people. When people engage you in conversation, tilt your head to the side, make eye contact, and nod every now and then—you’ll win tons of allies just by looking like you’re a good listener.
• Lose the meekness. Stand up straight and use a confident stride when you’re passing through the office. It’s all right to look like you know exactly what you’re doing, even if you don’t.
• Don’t let anyone look down on you—literally. Let’s say someone stops by your desk to give you instructions on a project and this is clearly going to take several minutes. Invite that person to sit, or stand to be at their eye level. The person who is physically highest in a conversation is deemed dominant.
One caveat: If you’re trying to win a promotion, this is not a one-day commitment; it’s a cubicle-lifestyle change. But don’t worry. For one thing, you can bite your tongue all day long, and for another, once you leave the office, you can let it all hang out.
Everyone is under pressure in this current economy. Employees are doing more work for the same—or less—money, and employers are just trying to keep the lights on and the doors open. A positive attitude (even if you’re just pretending) can go a long way toward showing that you get what your boss is up against and you’re the person to help him lead the way to unimaginable success.