Power poses might signal authority, but they won't actually boost your career

Sarah Spickernell
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Putting your feet up signals power (Source: Getty)

Put those power-lunges away, people: it turns out the idea that striking a dominant pose at work gives you an ego boost and makes you more competent at your job is false, a new study has shown.

It had been thought (and oft-repeated in management books) that holding yourself "like a boss" (ie. feet apart, head up, chest out, etc) increased levels of hormones linked to greater risk taking, such as testosterone and cortisol. As well as making us more healthy, improving posture was thought to result in better negotiation skills, reduced personal stress and boosts in sales.
Indeed, a small-scale study carried out by Harvard Business School in 2010 provided evidence supporting this – it claimed walking around "like a superhero" caused a hormonal shift to more confident behaviour.
But by taking hormone samples from 200 volunteers and asking them to report how “powerful” they felt before and after striking powerful poses, a team at the University of Zurich has disproved this under much more rigorous testing conditions. The results were published in the journal Psychological Science.

What is a power pose?

If you still feel the need to walk around like the dominant force of the office, then you need to stand up straight and puff out your chest.
Poses associated with power tend to take up more space than those linked to weakness. Sitting down examples include leaning back in a chair with your feet up, or leaning across the desk. Powerless poses tend to involve physically withdrawing and being closed in, like holding your hands in your lap and being hunched forward.

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