Reading Nonverbal Signals From Your Co-Workers or Boss – Esteé Lauder

Your fellow employees communicate nonverbally, and understanding their messages can make or break your job! Here are five ways to read signals from your co-workers or boss — with a special focus on the office or cubicle (not body language). And, a sprinkle of inspirational career quotations from Esteé Lauder might increase your motivation to succeed at work…

“I didn’t get there by wishing for it or hoping for it, but by working for it.” ~ Esteé Lauder.

She didn’t become one of the most successful businesswomen in history by wishing she knew how to approach her boss or deal with toxic co-workers! Lauder trusted her instincts and followed her heart (and her head!). To learn how to trust your gut at work, read The Power of Intuition: How to Use Your Gut Feelings to Make Better Decisions at Work. And, here are five office and cubicle items that offer clues to your fellow employees’ personality and tastes, which can help you work with them better (and maybe get the promotion you’re hoping for!).

Reading Nonverbal Signals From Your Co-Workers or Boss – Esteé Lauder

“The workplace is sometimes a mini-replica of home, with many of the same elements squeezed into a few revealing items,” says Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, author of Reading People: How to Understand People and Predict Their Behavior–Anytime, Anyplace. “Office furnishings, then, usually won’t reflect an individual’s personal taste or priorities as well as photos, calendars, and other items.”

And, work settings and office props may express your boss’ or co-workers’ personalities more accurately than their home environment. At home, their surroundings are influenced by roommates, spouses, kids, relatives. At work, people are free to decorate their offices and cubicles as they wish – and thus reveal their true personalities and styles.

1. Personal or family items on desks and bookcases. “Someone’s desk can be a small collage of his personality,” writes Dr Dimitrius. “A messy, disorganized desk usually points to a messy, disorganized person, and never mind the standard assurances to the contrary…And someone who tries to impress office visitors with expensive pens and crystal paperweights will likely find the need to do so in all aspects of his life.” To read nonverbal signals at work, check if the desktop items are made by kids – or are all the items functional and practical? Are the pens designer or company-issued? These hints can change how you interact with your boss or co-workers.

2. Calendars on office or cubicle walls. The type of calendars on your boss’ or coworkers’ walls are office props that reveal personality – they’re not just measures of time! Do their calendars sport red racecars, Norman Rockwell paintings, or motivational sayings? A calendar can help you read your fellow employees by telling you about their personality, habits, and style. Calendars are also great conversation starters for awkward moments.

“In a perfect world, we’d all be judged on the sweetness of our souls,” said Esteé Lauder…but in the work world, we’re judged on our nonverbal signals and verbal communication skills at work.

3. Photos and picture frames. Does your boss or worker have photos of family, pets, landscapes, or the solar system on the cubicle or office walls? Are those pictures professional or amateur? Are the frames expensive or inexpensive, gold or wood? These workplace props can reveal hobbies, priorities, and tastes – and those tidbits can help you succeed at work.

4. Plants, fresh flowers, bouquets of roses. “The person who goes to the trouble of keeping fresh flowers or growing plants at work often cares a lot about beauty and nature in his environment,” writes Dr Dimitrius in Reading People: How to Understand People and Predict Their Behavior – Anytime, Anyplace. People with plants in their office may also be artistic and health conscious, and may have hospital and caring natures.

5. Office layout. Is your boss’ or coworkers’ office space arranged so people can sit and talk comfortably? Does the desk face a wall, window, door, or is it in the center of the room? These are nonverbal signals that don’t only teach you a great deal about your colleagues and increase workplace communication, they can also help you cope with negative or bossy co-workers by teaching you how to pick up meaningful details.

Two final inspirational career quotations from Esteé Lauder:

“I never dreamed about success. I worked for it.”


“When you’re angry, never put it in writing.” 

What do you think — do you read nonverbal signals from your co-workers or boss, and has it helped your career?

We share ideas to encourage women over 40 to make positive changes and Blossom in a new season of life!

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