Pose for success: The importance of your posture in the workplace

Striking a strong pose can relieve stress, increase testosterone levels

Striking a strong, expansive pose can change your hormone levels, improve your behavior, and create a mindset for success in the workplace, Sue Shellenbarger writes in the Wall Street Journal.

Shellenbarger draws on University of California-Berkeley research that shows simply striking a "power pose" for a few minutes in private—such as standing tall and learning slightly forward with hands at one's side, or leaning forward over a desk with hands planted firmly on the surface—has been linked to a host of physiological changes, including:

  • Stress relief. UC-Berkeley researchers guided participants for five minutes in either high-power or low-power postures—slumping or leaning forward with arms and ankles crossed—before delivering a speech. Those who practiced a power pose showed lower cortisol and fewer outward signs of stress.
  • Increased testosterone. In another UC-Berkeley study, subjects who assumed power poses for two minutes had higher testosterone levels later and were more likely to gamble. About 86% of high-power posers risked losing $2 for a 50% chance of doubling the amount, while just 60% of low-power posers who took the bet.

Separately, research links power posing to higher college-entrance exam scores, says UC-Berkeley professor Dana Carney, author of the two studies.

In addition, Harvard Business School researchers have found that participants who struck power poses for several minutes before entering a mock job interview were more likely to be picked for the job, even though the interviewers had not seen them in a power pose.

Researchers are unsure why the effects of the power pose linger after a person returns to a relaxed position. According to the Journal, one theory is that it may prompt changes in voice pitch or facial expression (Shellenbarger, Wall Street Journal, 8/20).

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