7 Ways to read people’s secret language at work

There are many different types of workplaces, from corporate settings to clinics, community centres, contracting in private homes and working in outdoor spaces. If you work alongside others, you will notice that some ideas, plans and interactions are out in the open and some are not.

Every workplace has rules, regulations and personalities to contend with as well as business to be achieved. How you work effectively with others can make or break your career, or be the difference between costing and keeping a job.

No matter what type of workplace you find yourself in, using this guide to your and other’s behaviour could help you get ahead in business, whatever type of industry you are in.

1. Workplace politics

There have been recent studies that have indicated that people rate working with personable co-workers as more important to them than job security or work/life balance and flexibility. It is important to get along with those you work with, no matter if they rank above or below you on the workplace scale.

2. Make politics work for you

Every organisation has a social and political landscape, even schools and community groups. It’s important to know the existing relationships and history of a workplace, and make it work for you. Too many employees manage to get off on the wrong foot with someone early on, later discovering that that person was a significant boss or manager. When you are just starting out somewhere, take the time to listen and learn before you act and speak.

3. Look at building relationships

Be the person that others want to turn too. Often this can be achieved by being nice and by being helpful and consistent, but simple things like saying good morning and good bye and obeying office or workplace etiquette can go a long way to fostering decent workplace relations.

4. Have respect for others

Everyone wants to be respected and showing good manners to everyone, including the CEO and cleaning guy can make a difference to how you get along in the workplace. Show others the respect that you would like for yourself. If someone is rude to you, take a break and think of a suitable plan of action or response, rather than lashing out. Rise above and reap the rewards.

5. Body language

First impressions last, and before you’ve even said a word, your work colleagues will notice your body language. How people communicate with their bodies is an immensely complicated area of interpretation. There have been studiesthat have indicated that the human body can produce over 700 000 different movements, which also vary in meaning from culture to culture.

Paul Ekman, a leading psychiatrist in the 1960s, went on to do further testing and confirmed that certain recognisable facial expressions are universal among people; they do not need to be learned to be understood.

Learn to pick up on social cues. Is your workmate walking around with hunched shoulders and closed body language? This could indicate that something is wrong. Is your boss walking around scratching her head and pointing her finger at various people? Is she stressed out and on the war-path?

Consider your own body language too, particularly in meetings with your boss. Crossing your arms in front of your chest can make your appear closed, defensive and as if you are not really listening to feedback.

6. Jargon

Corporate, or business jargon, is the jargon often used in large corporations, bureaucracies, and other types of workplaces. Just about every type of business has its own particular language. Becoming familiar with the jargon in your industry can be a great way to get ahead.

According to Wikipedia, some of these words may be actually new inventions, designed purely to fit the specialised meaning of a situation or even to spin negative situations as positive situations. There is also a suggestion that many employees would prefer needless workplace jargon to be removed altogether.

Either way, it is a fact of life. Finding a mentor in your industry can be an effective way to learn not only the jargon of your workplace’s culture, but the importance of it and other rules.

7. Gossip

This occurs in very workplace and can be a positive or negative thing depending on how you view it and use it. Ralph Ellison once said, “If the word has the potency to revive and make us free, it has also the power to bind, imprison, and destroy.”

Some studies have indicated that gossip can actually help to foster relationships and to get information moving. It can certainly have its place in an organisation. Gossip is often intended to call attention to the person that is gossiping.

The best rule to apply is to not say anything about someone that you wouldn’t want to say in front of them. It’s imperative to arm yourself with facts and to try to ignore negative and unnecessary comments you might hear. Be sensitive to people’s cultural differences and acknowledge that sometimes workmates might be having personal issues that they are dealing with. It’s not always about you!

Final words

Getting along with others at work can make or break your career. This is just as true at the start of your career as at its end. By spending some time to investigate, listen and respond appropriately, we can make the most of our potential business opportunities.

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