Body Talk

Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D

Guest blog – Employee Body Language

You can learn a lot about your employees and what they’re thinking or feeling simply by watching the way that they react physically as you interact with them. The next time you hold a meeting or have a discussion with your employees, take a second to try and pick up on any subtle context clues they may be giving you through their body language. Here are four common body language habits that can help you decipher what your employees are really thinking:

1.     Never establishing eye contact. If you find your employees are frequently looking down or are reluctant to establish eye contact with you during a discussion it can signal one of two different things. First: they could simply lack confidence, either in themselves or in the idea that you’re pitching to them. They may not know how to respond to what you’re saying and so instead they are seeking comfort in avoiding the topic by not meeting your eyes. Or it could be that your employees are busy working on a project or deadline that they know needs to get done and they value the project completion over the current discussion. This is a sticky place for an employee to be, because they may have trouble deciding what’s more important: talking with you or finishing their work.

2.     Frowning and hunching over. Nothing is a more obvious sign of dissatisfaction with the way things are going then frowning and hunching over during a meeting or discussion. These two traits, when combined, signal that your employees are unhappy with the way that things are going and uninterested in engaging in the conversation at hand. Frowning on its own, however, could signal dissatisfaction OR intense thinking. Hunching over on its own could signal a lack of self-confidence or possession OR simply bad posture. It’s when the two are combined that you can pretty confidently assume that your employees are unhappy with the current discussion.

3.     Folding arms during a meeting or discussion. If you see an employee folding his arms during a meeting in a tight, defensive way then it’s likely that this employee has taken offense to something you’ve said or is in staunch disagreement with your idea. This can also signal that the employee thinks that the discussion or your idea is beneath him. When your employees are sitting with their hands loosely clasped and open it signals that they are interested in what you have to say and are receptive to your ideas.

4.     Sighing and typing or writing quickly. Sighing is a clear sign of frustration and when it’s conjoined with frantic typing or writing then it could indicate that you’re moving or talking too fast for your employees to thoroughly take notes or keep up. As excited as you may be regarding your current brainstorming session, to effectively manage your employees it’s important to lead the discussion in a slow enough way that they are able to process what you’re saying, think about how to respond, and keep up as they try to take notes.

Your employees’ body language cues can tell you a lot about how they feel when you’re having discussion with them. In fact, what they aren’t saying could be more important than what they are saying. Be on the lookout for any of these telling signs that signal that your employees are uninterested or frustrated so that you are able to address any problems right away.


Jack Meyer is a regular contributor for As a detective he wants to spread the knowledge of terrible things that can happen when people don’t fully verify the credentials of a caregiver or any employee. He also writes for various law enforcement blogs and sites.

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