Decoding Body Language in the Workplace

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Nonverbal Communication Matters in the Workplace

Your nonverbal communication is more important than you think, especially in the workplace. How your coworkers interpret what you say has everything to do with body language and tone. In fact, fifty-five percent of a message is conveyed through nonverbal elements, like your posture and facial expressions. (1)

  • 55% of a message is conveyed through nonverbal elements
  • 38% is conveyed through tone
  • 7% is conveyed through the actual words

When cultivating business relationships, body language can make or break your success. Below, we break down the messages you could be sending to your coworkers – and boss – so that you can put your best foot forward.


The Message it Sends

  • You’re tired or bored.
  • Your workload is overwhelming.
  • You don’t take your job seriously. (1)


  • Do your best to avoid slouching.
  • Look into supplying the office with standing desks.
  • Invest in a chair that doesn’t recline, or switch it out for an exercise ball.

Good posture makes you look confident and engaged.

Invading Personal Space

The Message it Sends

  • Standing too close to someone makes them feel uncomfortable.
  • Touching someone can be disrespectful and perceived as harassment. (2)


  • Imagine a personal privacy bubble around everyone, and don’t bust it.
  • Maintain a reasonable distance to ensure engagement without stepping on anyone’s toes.

Keeping your distance shows respect.

Avoiding Eye Contact or Rolling Your Eyes

The Message it Sends

  • You’re distracted or not paying attention.
  • You’re uncomfortable or nervous.
  • You don’t care what the person is saying.
  • You’re upset.


  • Stop what you’re doing, and focus on the other person.
  • Look at the spot just over the other person’s eyes.
  • Don’t be afraid to break eye contact for a few seconds to avoid staring.
  • If you don’t agree with something, politely voice your opinion.

Lillian Glass, a body-language expert, recommends looking at the “eyes for one second. Nose for one second. Mouth for one second” and then the total face for one second. (3)

Studies have shown people are more memorable when they pair direct eye contact with body movement, such as a handshake. (4)

Crossing Your Arms

The Message it Sends

  • You’re being defensive, aggressive, or stubborn.
  • You’re being distant.


  • Jot down notes when speaking with someone.
  • Hold your arms to your side

Do cross your arms when working alone. Research shows you are 30 percent more likely to complete an assignment when your arms are crossed. (5)

Crossing your arms in front of people should always be avoided.

Leaning Against Walls

The Message it Sends

  • You’ve disengaged.
  • You’re tired or bored.


  • Stand up straight.
  • Focus your weight onto one foot at a time but don’t shift too often. You’ll come across as restless or bored.

Standing up straight makes you appear engaged and professional.

Not Mirroring Others

The Message it Sends

  • You’re not engaged in the conversation.
  • You’re not comfortable around the other person.


  • Give the person your complete attention.
  • Mirror the pace and volume of the person speaking.
  • Identify and use the other person’s most-used punctuator (raising an eyebrow, certain hand gesture, or using your fingers when discussing a list of ideas or goals).

Mimicry has been known to achieve higher sales rates and may result in better compliance with sales clerks’ recommendations during the sales process. (7)

Only mirror positive nonverbal movements.

Nervous Gestures

The Message it Sends

  • You aren’t credible.
  • You’re anxious or uncomfortable.


  • You may not realize you have nervous habits, so ask a coworker if you do.
  • Take deep breaths to quell your nervousness.
  • Practice and prepare ahead of time.

Nervous gestures can be annoying, like cracking your knuckles.

Mastering good nonverbal communication doesn’t happen overnight. Forming new habits can take as long as 66 days, making today the best day to start changing up your body language and communication habits. (8) Sitting up straight, eliminating nervous habits and looking your boss in the eyes could make all the difference in landing that promotion you’ve been wanting.

Communication is extremely important in today’s business world. The online communication degree from Alvernia University will help you develop the skills needed for a variety of careers.



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