8 Proven Methods to Get the Upper Hand at Work

Published On 09/08/2015 Published On 09/08/2015

You’ve been staying late and working your ass off for a long overdue promotion, but your boss still won’t pony up. What gives? As it turns out, the way you're perceived around the office can be -- and usually is -- even more important than the actual work you do. Check out these tips on how to get ahead, make a good impression, and land that sweet raise you so dutifully deserve. 

Pexels/S. Charles

Don't try to make a splashy first impression

Contrary to popular belief, a first impression isn't the best time to be aggressive or self-promote. When you meet a potential superior, making them feel comfortable is your best bet, according to Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist at Harvard Business School. Ask questions, let them do most of the talking, and show that you’re the kind of person they'd like to be around. Negotiation and power plays have their place, but not now. There will be time later to indulge your inner Don Draper.

Dress to make people like you

If you’re Mark Zuckerberg, you can easily skyrocket to the top with a hoodie on, but the rest of us may have to work a little bit harder. Research indicates that wearing red makes you more likable, and people generally take to you better if you’re wearing a tailored suit rather than a fancy one that doesn't fit as well. In fact, simply wearing formal clothes is shown to mentally make you feel more powerful.

Pexels/Karolina Grabowska

Say nice things behind other people's backs

Gossiping about how lazy the new secretary is won’t do you much good -- research shows that what you say about other people makes listeners link those traits back to you. Call someone a thief, people will think you’re one.

Luckily, the inverse is also true: saying positive things about your co-workers will make your audience think more positively of you. So don’t avoid talking about your fellow employees behind their backs. Just focus on their good qualities, even if you have to make something up.

Recall the last time you felt powerful before you head into meetings

Getting your boss to take you seriously is actually crazy simple: just think about the last time you felt particularly powerful or confident before you go to an important meeting, and they'll pick up on it. In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, participants either wrote an application letter or interviewed for a position. One group was asked to recall a time they felt powerful beforehand, “priming” their subconscious to change their behavior. It worked. The unknowing judges who read the letters and conducted interviews consistently perceived the members of that group as more powerful.

Pexels/Ed Gregory

Own up to your mistakes

Nobody’s perfect, no matter how many articles about Jennifer Lawrence say otherwise. You’re going to screw up at your job. Hell, if you’re reading this at work you’re screwing up right now.

Luckily, admitting it will dramatically increase your odds of avoiding trouble. Doctors who take responsibility for their mistakes lose far fewer patients than those who get defensive. The same principle applies in your office -- we trust people who are willing to be honest about their imperfections and are less likely to punish them.

Compliment your boss for his or her... uh, weaknesses

Okay, so kissing ass works. Make someone feel good about themselves, you’ll get on their good side. But the key to doing it right is to target your flattery towards traits the person might be vulnerable about. If your boss is known for sending out impeccably worded emails, giving him props for that will just make you look like a brown-noser. Instead, studies show that it’s more effective when you flatter someone based on a weakness. If your boss can’t control his temper, telling him how much you admire his patience will make him a lot less likely to lose his temper with you.

Pexels/Eric Bailey

Ask for favors and advice

Obviously it's important to be useful to get on your boss's good side. But a lesser-known, way cooler way to score points is to make your boss feel useful by doing you a favor. It's called the Benjamin Franklin Effect, and here's how it works: essentially, you ask someone for help and make it clear that this person's special skill set is just what you need to get the job done. Not only does it make them feel valued and important, but subconsciously they'll know that if they did something nice for you, they must like you. Similarly, asking for advice will make people more likely to agree with you.

Look physically bigger and more confident

Feeling insecure at work? That’s gonna reflect in your body language, which will have a major impact on how supervisors perceive you. Carol Kinsey Goman, PhD, author of The Silent Language of Leaders, recommends taking up physical space at the office to convey a sense of authority. Sit with your legs about hip-width apart, or spread your belongings out to use all the space on your desk. If you're stuck in a confrontation, slightly angling your body away will help to defuse the situation. 

If you need a quick confidence boost, assuming a confident stance -- chest open, shoulders back -- results in an increase in testosterone and decrease in cortisol (the stress hormone) in as little as two minutes. Act confident, and you’ll feel confident.

Joe Oliveto is a staff writer for Supercompressor. Following him on Twitter will also (maybe) help your career. Couldn't hurt.

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