Tag Archives: body language

No country for grey-haired men

No country for grey-haired men In America it seems more and more men are seeking hair colouring since the recession.

Men of a certain age are trying to retain just enough grey hair to look distinguished but not so much that they look over the hill in the job stakes.

Over the last 10 years the number of men colouring their hair has doubled to 6% overall but risen to 10% for the  over 50s. Sales of DIY hair colouring have risen by the same amount.

First impressions are obviously … Read More

via EI 4u with permission

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1, 2, or 3 buttons?

How buttoned up you are could influence your career prospects. Literally.

But many women know that already. Even if you have the brains using your “erotic capital” might give you a boost.

As a former city trader said; “do you want to get noticed or play safe?” in the Sunday Times article  (19/12/10) “Which button says I get promotion?”

On women’s shirts 3 buttons undone is too much but only one or two looks dowdy. It seems dress codes are back in style. And not just relating to cleavage but hemlines, collars, suit pockets and shoes. Swiss Bank UBS has produced on of the most detailed dress codes I have come across.

And this is a subject I have first hand knowledge of. Back when I was an HR Director I suggested that a female member of the team might want to wear something that wasn’t completely backless. (And I mean totally. From behind she looked like she was topless). I felt it didn’t reflect a professional image. My boss the CEO heard about it and his only comment was “good luck with that”. It was considered too delicate a topic to have an open discussion about (we eventually resolved it by getting all the staff to agree what was acceptable and what wasn’t).

So UBS has views not only about how to dress but also about personal hygiene eg sweaty feet, garlic breath and other aspects of grooming which they believe will improve performance at work. And the detail is truly awe-inspiring: heel height, number of buttons on jackets, when to button and when not to, colour of women’s underwear, lipstick, mascara and nail polish, hair style (mustn’t take more than 30 minutes to prepare each day) and perfume strength.

So is this “uniforms r us” and back to wearing ties and cuff-links for men? The recession might have brought an end to “dress down Fridays”. It seems managers are seeing a link between smart dress, a confident mindset and high performance. Will this approach filter down to other jobs? Do you really want to look different when redundancies are looming?

But however detailed your dress code and wherever you work the article suggests one definite “no-no” for men – never tuck your tie in your trousers.

Updated 5 July 2011: Harrods are being accused of having a too strict dress code about wearing make-up (this only applies to women as far as I know).

The Guardian (02/07/11) reported that it made one sales assistant in the HMV department so stressed she felt she was driven out of her job. The 24 year-old says she was sent home on two occasions and also sent to work in the stock room. HMV were supportive but Harrods became insistent.

She says she worked for 4 years without make-up and was described as one of the best employees by her manager and had received a commendation and excellent mystery shopper feedback.

She didn’t wear make-up at her interview and had no problems until senior managers doing a floor walk spotted her and sent her home for refusing to wear it. She was later summoned to a manager’s office where it was suggested she wore some makeup. She didn’t and continued at work for several more weeks until a new floor manager said that the girls had to be made up at which point she decided she couldn’t go through with more meetings with management and resigned.

The dress code requires women to wear full make-up at all times: base, blusher, full eyes (not too heavy), lipstick, lip liner and gloss, and to maintain this during the day. When she refused to wear make-up she was offered a make-up  workshop so she could see what she looked like.

Clearly she has worked there without make-up for several years and performed well. Dress codes have to be reasonable and you might expect them to be concerned with too much or inappropriate make-up.

Harrods insist she left of her own accord but equality lawyers are probably smacking their lips.

Lies, damned lies

Goebbels famously said in 1941:” The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness.

The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous”. And so the BIG LIE idea, 16 years after Hitler had first used the term in Mein Kampf, passed into popular usage.

I thought of this when I read about Stephen Wilce. He was, until exposed by TV journalists, New Zealand’s Chief Defence Scientist and had a high security clearance and access to highly sensitive information.

According to his CV he had been in both MI5 and MI6, played international rugby for Wales, swam for England in the Commonwealth games, competed in the bobsleigh in the Winter Olympics, been a member of the New Zealand yacht squadron, fought alongside Prince Andrew in the Falklands and Gulf wars, been decorated for bravery, and had an honorary PhD from Cambridge university.

He did have an MBA, had been in the Royal Navy, had competed in bobsleigh events, and had worked as a bar manager at the Americas Cup but everything else was pure fantasy. It sounds funny but how embarrassing after all the security vettings and selection processes.

So while Wilce was clearly a fantasist, research tells us that people in positions of power are better liars.

Dana Carney, at Columbia University Graduate School of Business carried out research to see if it made a difference if you had more power. The research subjects were divided into bosses, with bigger offices and more power eg they could assign salaries, and employees. Half of each group were then asked, via computer instructions, to steal a hundred-dollar note then lie about it later when interviewed.

The subjects were then measured on 5 variables associated with lying:

  1. accelerated speech – liars utter more syllables at a higher pitch and repeat words and sentences more
  2. shoulder shrugs – liars shrug more when trying to suppress the lie
  3. cortisol – liars’ saliva contains a higher concentration of the stress hormone
  4. eyes – liars’ pupils dilate
  5. mouth – liars press their lips together and involuntarily smirk when they think they’ve got away with it

Only the low-power liars could be seen to be lying. High-power liars were indistinguishable from non-liars. A sense of power seems to buffer people from the stress of lying and increases their ability to deceive others. As most people can’t detect liars better than chance unless specially trained it suggests most people in a position of power can get away with it. Perhaps they are in positions of power because they are good liars. (See “Leadership – the dark side“)

Occasionally of  course powerful people get caught out lying. MPs are a case in point and many lost their seats following the expenses scandal exposed by the press. More significantly perhaps, former Labour Minister Phil Woollas has been found guilty of contravening an old statute that prohibits “false statements” against a rival’s “character or conduct”. He accused his Lib Dem opponent of cosying up to Islamic militants (this was particularly sensitive in a town that had been the centre of race riots previously). His appeal against the decision – which means the election will be re-run – continues.

Another aspect of the research was about power posture compared with low power, non-assertive postures. Power postures take up more space, like a peacock spreading its feathers, whilst subordinates want to take up less space.

The researchers found that those people asked to adopt power postures, even though they didn’t know why, had higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol. In other words they felt more powerful and less stressed out.

Emotional Intelligence and empathy

Guest blog from EI4U

Emotional Intelligence and empathy In an earlier post about Emotional Intelligence and marshmallows I referred to the findings of a Demos think-tank report which reported on an increase in social mobility between the end of WW2 and the 1970s followed by a period of stagnation up to 2000. Amongst the three traits that were most important for children to improve their social lot was empathy – the ability to be sensitive to other people, to read their emotions and understand non-verba … Read More

via EI 4u

Body Language and the B problem

The day after my last post on body language (NVC) there was Judy James on Sky News talking about politicians and their ritual handshakes. Useful and entertaining stuff.

But back to facial expressions and the B problem. Yes Botox.

Used by women and men to smooth the furrowed brow, stamp out the crows feet and even to enhance power negotiations apparently. But what tricks it plays when trying to interpret that smile – or a frown for that matter.

US studies, to be published in Psychological Science, show that not only does Botox get rid of your wrinkles but that it may damage your social life as well. Failure to show appropriate emotions, especially sadness or empathy, will be interpreted as a lack of sympathy or interest.

And this goes further than an argument about vanity. The debate about the mind-body connection goes back a long way including Darwin’s hypothesis that facial expression is important in producing emotion in the brain. If you smile more you will feel happier (an idea adopted by positive psychology), if you stand tall you will feel more confident, if you look at the ground you will feel more depressed etc (exercise is recognised as a good way of countering depression by the way).

So not being able to frown or facially respond to sadness not only means other people will think you don’t care but may actually slow down your empathetic response. http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/beauty/article7094238.ece

Updated 24 July 2010: And “dimpleplasty” – the creation of dimples by cutting a hole in your cheek and stitching it to your muscles – can have a similar effect by making you have a permanent Cheryl Cole-like smile.

As Carol Midgley writes in the Times magazine (24 July 2010). having a permanent grin when you hear your neighbour’s dog has died could be awkward!


Body language watching opportunities

The election is on with its endless PR and photo opportunities. And it’s not just what they say but how they say it – or don’t.

Non-verbal communications (NVC) or body language provides good sport for the amateur psychologist in us all and politicians are fair game at the best of times. For example, what do you make of Brown’s odd jaw movements when he speaks, as if he has to force the words out against his better judgement? Some might still prefer his more down to earth accent however to those of Cameron and Clegg.

And when it comes to using body language effectively  author James Borg says that Clinton and Obama beat him hands down:  http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/management/article6513280.ece?print=yes&randnum=1245257891843

But back to those photo opportunities; can you tell whether or not the smiles are genuine? Try out your own skill at detecting fake smiles at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/mind/surveys/smiles/index.shtml

The warm weather has definitely brought out the non-verbals. Dr Mark Porter in The Times 27 April says: ” Doctors, like party leaders, must learn to control their body language – and read that of their patients”.  He also offers some guidance to MPs on using NVC.  http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/expert_advice/article7108830.ece