Professional Development

Your Complete Guide to Understanding Body Language at Work

Written by Kate Lopaze

Do you have a good sense of how you come across at work to your bosses and coworkers? Sure, you might feel like you’re on top of things: you now your tasks and accomplish them well. But never underestimate the ability of your body to give off clues that you’re not as professional as you feel.

You may talk a good game, but are your words being undermined by your posture? A weak-ish handshake? Nervous tics that you, umm, barely even notice? Taking control of your body language is a major part of your career, whether it’s in a job interview or your everyday work self.

Here we’ve put together the best resources for understanding body language so that you can communicate the best version of yourself.

What Can Strong Body Language Do for You?

It may not be a skill you can list on your resume, but strong body language is something that can boost your confidence, and help you know that you’re presenting your best self. It’s a sneaky skill set that can make you more attuned to your surroundings, and navigate those surroundings more easily. Read on to find out how little tweaks can really make you shine:

20 Extremely Easy Ways to Building Confidence at Work

Of course you only get one chance to make a first impression, but are you aware the impression starts before you even start talking? Strong body language can shine you in a positive light from your first “hello”:

What Does Your Handshake Say About You?

And it’s not just your body language that matters. In order to progress in the working world, you need to learn how to read cues your bosses and coworkers give off. Interpreting others’ body language can help you diagnose problems at work and adjust your behavior in a way that’s ideal for you and your job:

21 Subtle Signs Your Coworkers Hate You

22 Signs Your Boss Hates You

Being aware of what you and your coworkers are saying behind your words is a great skill to have as you navigate your career.

Job Interview Body Language

Your first chance to make a great in-person impression is in your interview. When you’re prepping your resume and your skill-supporting anecdotes, don’t forget to make sure you’re giving just as much prep time to your body language, as well. Bad body language can cost you dearly:

11 Body Language Mistakes You’re Making in Your Interview

21 Unprofessional Habits That Will Keep You From Getting The Job

5 Reasons You Just Had a Really Bad Interview

Keep control of your nerves, study yourself in the mirror, and practice, practice, practice. Anticipate those things that will make you nervous, and give yourself a pep talk about what you will do if they come up in your interview.

So how do you prepare? We can’t say it enough—like getting to Carnegie Hall, it really just involves a lot of practice. It can feel tempting to skip through it and figure you’ll just take a deep breath and relax. Really, though, body language is a skill you need to work on as much as answering, “So tell me about yourself.”

These articles can help you target your interview prep so you’re working on all the right moves:

7 Body Language Tricks For Nailing Your Job Interview

What to Do With Your Hands During a Job Interview

How to Effectively Prepare for a Second Interview

5 Tips to Prepare for a Job Interview

Your 3 Step Cheat Sheet on How to Get a Job

7 Interview Secrets for Introverts

Body Language for Getting Ahead at Work

Once you’ve got the job, that doesn’t mean you can let that handshake lapse, or stop paying attention to your body language while you interact with coworkers. Rather, it’s time to shift into a more aspirational body language, and figure out how to present your best self every day, not just on special/formal occasions.

If you want to be taken seriously, you need take the professionalism that might already exist in your emails, your work, and your phone manner, and extend it to your in-person skills. Take assessment of yourself, and then use the following information to grow and improve:

Is Your Body Language Professional?

21 Body Language Tips for the Workplace

How to Get Ahead with Body Language [Infographic]

10 Body Language Tips for Success

10 Simple Body Language Techniques for Career Success

Finally, for those of you who work internationally, study up! Make sure you have the basics of pleasantries memorized so you a) don’t embarrass yourself and b) present yourself respectfully and professionally:

How People Shake Hands Around the World

While your skills, experience, and resume are essential parts of your professional self, be sure not to neglect your physical body language. Good eye contact and a firm handshake can be a solid entry through the door, and confident behavior just may be the key to that promotion or raise you’re seeking.

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.