Excel at the Job Nov 02 2010

Posing For Power: Why Body Language Matters in the Office

By kyle stock

Want more power at the office?

Forget about a promotion, Machiavellian machinations or bringing in new business. Just throw your feet up on your desk.

According to new research from the Columbia and Harvard business schools, certain poses not only make people feel like big swinging Richards, but actually -- physically -- make them more powerful.

Subjects who kicked back and threw their feet on a desk or leaned over and planted their hands far apart on a desk for about a minute showed spikes in testosterone, a hormone that cultivates dominant behavior, muscle growth and risk tolerance. At the same time, they showed decreases in cortisol, a hormone that is released as a response to stress. The results were consistent for males and females alike.

Those in more submissive positions, such as sitting with slouched shoulders, showed the exact opposite hormonal swings in tests.

The research, which was just published in Psychological Science journal, also showed that "high-powered posers" behaved differently and made different decisions based on the hormonal shift. After the initial posing experiment, each of the 42 subjects was given $2 and the choice of gambling the money on a 50/50 chance to win $4. Some 86% of those who had just struck powerful stances took the bet, compared to 60% of the subjects who had been in weaker positions.

The take-home message for the working world is clear: The next time you are feeling meek or nervous about a big play, kick back and throw your hands behind your head. Better yet, whip off your shirt and do some curls Ron Burgundy style.

Write to Kyle Stock

Related: F-Bomb Your Way to the Top | The Upside to Lying and Procrastinating at Work

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