Newsletter - August 2018 Print

The Body Language Mistakes You Don't Realize You're Making at Work, According to Experts

The Body Language Mistakes You Don't Realize You're Making at Work, According to Experts

Sophia Gottfried TIIME Magazine
June 28th, 2018
Featuring quotes from Patti Wood, Body Language Expert.

You met deadlines and put in extra hours at work—yet you still haven’t landed that coveted promotion or cultivated meaningful connections with coworkers. Could it be your body language that’s holding you back?

When it comes to communication, “you might be saying one or two words, but giving off thousands of nonverbal cues,” says body language expert and author Patti Wood. These nonverbal cues, which include everything from your posture to your expression, are crucial to any interaction—and it’s especially important to project the correct cues at work, she says.

Even with so much at stake, experts say we’re often completely unaware of a whole host of body language faux pas we’re committing in the workplace. Here are some common ones—and how to correct them:

Bad posture or slouching

It’s easy to lapse into less-than-perfect posture after long hours at your desk, but slouching “conveys you’re a slob [or] not as competent” as those who sit straight, says Dr. Lillian Glass, a body language expert and communications consultant.

Even if you find it more comfortable, “other people read that as not positive, not energetic, not caring,” Wood adds.

As for hunching over computer screens and phones, not only are ‘tech neck’ and poor posture bad for your physical and emotional health, but Wood says this body language also conveys that you are protective, guarded or inattentive.

If you find yourself slipping into bad posture, Glass tells her clients to move their buttocks to the posterior of their chair, with their backs remaining upright against the chair’s rear, without sitting too stiffly.


Whether you’re twirling a lock of hair, bouncing your knee or playing with objects on the table, experts say there’s likely no mannerism quite as distracting as fidgeting. Oftentimes, nerves drive these behaviors, Glass says.

But fidgeting too much in a meeting will cause colleagues to think, “‘why isn’t she paying attention, why isn’t she tuned in?’” says Wood.

“You don’t want to do things that distract, you want to do things that entice,” explains Joe Navarro, a 25-year FBI veteran who now writes about and lectures widely on non-verbal communication. In a meeting or a conversation, Navarro suggests channeling your energy away from foot-tapping, nose-rubbing or thumb-twirling, and focusing instead on making eye contact, tilting your head and keeping your hands visible. These small tweaks to your demeanor will make you look more attentive, he says.

Holding a tense expression on your face

You’re squinting at your computer screen when your boss stops by to chat. You may not realize it, but that look of deep concentration—eyes narrowed, brows furrowed—can come across as frustration or anger when you look up from your device, Glass says. To make the transition smoother, Wood tells clients to imagine going over a threshold when a coworker approaches them in the midst of concentrating. “Purposely do the exact opposite,” she says, consciously opening your palms, smiling and relaxing your face.

And if you can’t pivot into a more relaxed expression because you’re concentrating so intensely, Glass suggests finding a private place to work.

Being too casual

The modern workplace can be quite casual—from lax dress codes to office cultures that encourage socializing.

But assuming that clothing and grooming doesn’t matter is a huge mistake, according to Navarro. “There’s a false assumption that if we dress down, we’ll be treated and respected the same,” he says, or exude the same level of confidence as when you’re well-put together.

That doesn’t mean you should opt to wear a suit when others are sporting jeans. “You can have really nice casual clothes,” he says, but dirty or ill-fitting attire is inappropriate no matter how casual your office culture is.

And the ramifications of being too casual extend to how you carry yourself in the workplace, says Wood. She’s seen many people walk down the hall in a corporate environment “like they’re in their house, in their PJs.” Despite the increase in casual workplace atmospheres, “we’ve forgotten that our brain still reads people in very much the same way,” Wood says.

Looking down or not making eye contact

Even in a world dominated by smartphones, eye contact matters. Not meeting someone’s eye causes others around you to think, “‘I don’t know how to engage with this person’ or ‘I’m too busy to engage with this person,’” Wood explains.

Holding your chin down or staring at the floor makes you appear insecure, sad and displays a lack of confidence, according to Glass.

If your phone is causing you to look down or avoid eye contact, fight the urge to check it constantly in someone else’s presence, Navarro says. “The argument ‘well, everyone does it,’” doesn’t make it okay, he says. “People who don’t value you do it.”

And if you’re passing someone in a common area in the office, Wood suggests making that all-important eye contact, slightly raising your eyebrows and smiling. “It makes the other person feel safe and signals you’re their friend,” she says.

Crossing your arms

Wood also says people should look out for what she calls “closed” cues, such as crossing your arms over your chest, turning your torso away from someone while he or she is speaking, or placing objects between you and the person you’re speaking to. Even if your crossed legs or arms have nothing to do with the person who is presenting in a meeting, it sends off signals that “you’re only partially engaged or you’re pretending to be engaged,” she says. “When someone’s windows are closed we don’t feel as comfortable in an interaction.”

The fix? Wood says to make sure your body is oriented toward the person you’re interacting with. For example, don’t have your face turned toward a coworker while the rest of your body is aligned with the exit.

Standing too close to people

Most people need a lot more personal space than you might think, according to Navarro. Not only does standing too close to people make them uncomfortable, he says, but it also diminishes your ability to make a good impression or convey your point.

Personal space preferences vary from person to person—and even among different cultures. So, how do you determine how close you should stand to someone? “Lean forward and shake hands, then take a step back so you’re about four feet away,” Navarro says. “If the person is comfortable, they’ll stay there,” and if they want to be closer, “they will step forward or angle themselves toward you.”

And if you’re not sure of other body language boundaries you may be crossing, ask friends or trusted colleagues for feedback, Navarro suggests. Another good strategy is to identify people you admire—whether in your workplace or famous leaders—who carry themselves well, and take note of their habits. Above all, “life is theater,” says Navarro, and being aware of how you present yourself can be vital to getting ahead at work.

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Meeting Minutes


Minutes of the VALUE Planning Committee
July 25, 2018

Robert Barwick
Jamie Beckwith
Matt Fleming
Craig Liesener
Catherine Martin
Duane McKinney
Vicky Nash
Beth Schaack
Jen White

Learn From Your Peers
Jamie Beckwith shared that Dodge County has purchased a user license with Govspend.  She said it is a quick way to get quotes and seek out new vendors.  It also allows her to see other agencies purchase orders.  On Govspend you can search for products, agencies, vendors or contacts, view spending details and identify opportunities and you can save your searches and receive updates to your inbox.  She finds this extremely helpful since Dodge County does not currently have a vendor database. 

Treasurer's Report
Balance as of June 30, 2018:

Savings $10,016.56
Checking $15,541.69
Certificate of Deposit $6,162.65

The Certificate of Deposit matures 9/30/2019 and auto renews thereafter.

Vicki said we may want to consider putting the money that is in a CD into a non-interest bearing account.  There is an unpaid invoice owed from VALUE to WAPP for $2,887 to pay the balance of the spring conference expenses.  The balances provided above are balances before paying WAPP invoice.


Meeting with Nick Hammernik (Financial Advisor / Tax Professional)

The meeting began with an in-person guest, Nick Hammernick, E.A., from Hammernick & Associates, who came to discuss financial services that his firm can provide to VALUE.  The Committee provided him with the background and history of VALUE.  Nick stated that from the way VALUE was structured on our SS-4 form, there is not, and has never been, a need for VALUE to file tax returns.  The VALUE Planning Committee has decided to hire Nick ($225/hr) to contact the IRS and determine if the VALUE EIN # is still active.  To allow Nick to speak with the IRS on VALUE’s behalf, Chairperson Matthew Fleming will need to complete proper forms to make Nick our Power of Attorney.  If our EIN # is found to be inactive, Nick will find out why and when it was deactivated.  The Planning Committee will discuss Nick’s findings and the next steps to take during August VALUE meeting.

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Piggyback Updates


Below are changes or additions to the various piggyback opportunities available to VALUE member agencies.  Visit the piggyback page on the VALUE website, and click on the Pig to see the full list.

Do you have a contract to add to the list? Contact to add your contracts to the piggyback list!

New Contracts



Contract Extensions

Body Repair and Painting of Trucks and Heavy Equipment-Prequalification

Compliance Loan Program

Hose Bib Vacuum Breakers

Motor Fuel


Contract Expirations

Automotive Storage Batteries

Bayne Cart Lifter Parts

Coveralls, Shop Coats, Uniforms

Donaldson Filters


Storage Batteries



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State of Wisconsin Contract Updates


Updates to State of Wisconsin contracts are issued weekly by the State of Wisconsin.  VALUE is reprinting the weekly information received as a courtesy to our members. 

The following contracts have been updated for the week of 7/16/2018 - 7/20/2018:

505ENT-M14-DEBTCLLCTN-00 Debt Collection Services and Skip Tracing Service - Updated Contract End Date to 12/31/2018

505ENT-M16-NATURALGASWI-00 Natural Gas Supply & Management Non-Firm - Uploaded 2019 TC's

505 ENT M16-NATURALGASWI-01 Natural Gas Supply & Management - Primary Firm - Uploaded 2019 TC's

505ENT-M18-BUSCARDS-00 Class 4 Printing of Business Cards: Thermograph and Flat - Contract has been renewed for another year.  The point of contact at International Business Cards (IBC) has changed. Please use the revised order form attached.

505ENT-M17-WICOMPUTER-00 Computer Equipment and Related Services - Updated Insight Public Sector Pricing.  Updated Contact Information for Contract Manager in Quick Contract Guide.

505ENT-O16-NASPOCOMPUT-00 NASPO Computer Equipment, Peripherals, and Related Services - Updated Microsoft Reseller Information for Attachment 2. Excel File with Bands, Contractors, Auth Resellers and STAR info.  Updated Contract Manager Contact information in Quick Guide to using contract

505ENT-M14-LEGALRSRCH-00 Online Legal Research Tools - Updated Quick Guide with new Contract Manager contact information.

505ENT-M15-MOTOR FUEL-00 Motor Fuels – Statewide - Updated locations listing.

505ENT-M19-FUELOILSW-00 Fuel Oil – Statewide– New contract

505ENT-M14-FUEL OILSW-00 Fuel Oil – Statewide Locations (State-wide contract for fuel oil, dyed for off-road use only)– Contract Expired


The following contracts have been updated for the week of 7/23/2018 - 7/27/2018:

505ENT-M18-BUSCARDS-00 Class 4 Printing of Business Cards: Thermograph and Flat LOT- A Order Form has been uploaded again because IBC still wants all orders to be sent to even though she is no longer with the company. Her email is monitored by 3 people. This will change in the near future when IBC decides how they want to change things.

505ENT-O13-SERVICEPROF-00 Temporary Professional Services - The contract has been extended from August 1, 2018 through July 31, 2019.

505ENT-O16-ELECRECYCLE-01 Recycling of Electronic Waste Services- The contract has been renewed from July 28, 2018 through July 27, 2019.

505ENT-M17-SFTGLASSES-01 Prescription Safety Glasses- Updated User Guide (contract manager change)

505ENT-M19-FUELOILSW-00 Fuel Oil – Statewide- Updated Fuel Oil Price List.

The following contracts have been updated for the week of 7/30/2018 - 8/3/2018:

505ENT-M15-HZRDSWSTSV-01 Hazardous Wastes Services- Updated fuel surcharge rates.

505ENT-U18-SPICES-01 Spices and Seasonings- Order form and price list updated

505ENT-M17-DSPSBLFOOD-00 Food Service Disposables (FSD)- This contract will enter its first renewal period August 1, 2018 - July 31, 2019. Updated contract page to reflect new expiration date.

505ENT-W07-IVOICER-01 Interactive Voice Response (IVR)Solution - RPA # ADI0558 case number SW0919 was approved extending the contract two (2) additional years

505ENT-M12-MEDICALSUP-00 Medical Supplies- Extended contracts to 2/28/2019 per MMCAP.

505ENT-M18-RATECERT-00 Class 5 Legal/Public Notices: Rate Certification Program- Certification Rates Bulletin updated for August 2018

505ENT-O16-ELECRECYCLE-01 Recycling of Electronic Waste Services- Updated User Guide with Contract Manager Contact Information

505ENT-O16-NASPOCOMPUT-00 NASPO Computer Equipment, Peripherals, and Related Services- Updated Microsoft Reseller list.

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