Odd Body Posturing at Work

So, I have a new coworker who I’m trying to get up to speed, and there have been some issues with how to best direct her. She’s smart, but has an odd tendency, to me, with getting direction. In trying to get her to that point, we had a talk today, and , halfway through, she put her hands up on her head, as up above akimbo, to make a point. Here’s an approximation, sans goofy expression of the guy in the photo.

I know by studying body language that this is an expression of insecurity by trying, literally, to make oneself bigger, in a monkey body sense . And it must be a very emotionally potent body sense , or why would you do this, it’s really an awkward posture.

That made me think: I don’t recall seeing that posture in TV or films, at all. Is it because it is just dopey looking, so not appropriate for film?

Kinda wierd question, but, would love y’alls input on it, as it is perplexing me to no end lately.

*She has an odd tendency with getting direction?

You’re trying to get her to . . . what point?

. . . as up above akimbo?*

Perhaps she’s having trouble interpreting your odd syntax.

I’m sorry; I don’t have any useful advice, but I had to open the thread because the mouseover looked like this:

Yep. It stopped just before the critical word. I wasn’t sure exactly where she had her hands, but clearly it was necessary to find out.

I don’t think she was trying to make herself bigger as in your monkey example.
I just put my hands in the same position to see how it would feel, and the only reason I could think of that I would do something like that is if I was deep in thought and having a really hard time understanding someone.

In other words I agree with panache, maybe you are a difficult person to understand.

I sometimes do that when I’m processing information that I don’t really understand. Perhaps the way you are explaining things is not clear to her (especially if your OP is how you generally communicate). Is English your first language?

Also, wouldn’t this posture make her boobs more prominent?

I thought that was a look at my boobs pose on women. It’s look at and smell my sweaty arm pits for guys.

Maybe she’s trying to cram so much new information into her head at once that she needed to hold onto her skull for a moment to make sure it didn’t crack?

I agree that it can a just a symbol that the person is having to think a lot in order to understand what you are teaching her.

While I don’t find your syntax difficult to parse (to the point where I didn’t even notice), I could understand why someone else might.

As for you’re actual question: I think it does look goofy, and there are other ways to communicate both meanings.* The only people I’ve actually seen do it on TV actually are playing someone who is “kinda dopey.”

(People who want to look bigger often just widen their stance and carry their arms not quite next to their sides, and use a lot of gesticulation. People who can’t understand something usually just get a pained look on their face, like they have a headache.)

BTW, I personally can’t imagine doing that except in a chair with a high back or head rest, so I have a place to put my arms. And, in that case, it’s more of a relaxing pose.

I didn’t find you hard to understand either el.

I have seen people do that thing, if that’s what you’re asking. I reckon there might be two or three different reasons for it … seems like some people do it when they’re in thought. Some people do it if they are impatient for you to get through talking with them.

I do that when I’m stretching or yawning, maybe she’s just bored.

My assumption is that she didn’t get what you were telling her. That it didn’t fit into what she had been thinking. Basically, she’s having issues adjusting mindsets.

I was sitting here in that exact pose as I read the thread! I do that all the time when I’m sitting in the computer chair and lean back to relax. I do it any time I need to stretch my neck or my back. I don’t think it is an indication of any particular mindset.

I think it means…

wait a sec… Let me process that…


Personally I’ve found myself sometimes making that gesture when talked to by people esp. women who are the sort of people who

  • talk quickly and at length, not letting me get a word in edgewise
  • particularly: don’t take turns in conversation but talk over the other person

Is your colleague’s own conversational style (particularly in conversations with other coworkers) perhaps of the ‘take turns in calm, short statements’ sort? If that’s the case the meaning of the gesture could be: Don’t overwhelm me; slow down/don’t interrupt me/don’t force me (by too-long monologues) to interrupt you/listen to what I said…

I would view her gesture as a sign of frustration with you. A sort of ‘I can’t believe what I’m hearing’, or this is really out of line, or this is a bad idea.

I used to have a co-worker who made that gesture during meetings where it might have been inappropriate for him to say what he really thought about an upper management proposal.

I would ask him about it later and I was always reading him correctly.

Thanks much, y’all. You’ve given me a lot of good perspective. I apologize for the rather hasty wording last night: this was really frustrating to me, it was late, and I blurted it out. I wasn’t as clear as I normally try to be. The odd syntax comments were deserved.

I’m her supervisor, and, in many years of managing all kinds of personalities, have never run across someone with this level of difficulty in taking directions. In this encounter, she was standing up, with her arms akimbo on top of her head. As said here, when sitting down, it’s a more relaxed position. Doing that when standing up seems reactionary, and just looks goofy when talking to your supervisor.

I think she is overwhelmed by the job, but I try very hard to make working for me a good experience, with clear channels of communication. My past employees have loved working there, and all say they learned a lot. This employee is kind of a cipher; doesn’t ask questions, and is more internal. I want to draw her out, and need to in order for her to learn the job. She seems to view every time I tell her what to do as a personal confrontation, and the hands on the head position was an expression of that.

What’s been said here is valuable to me in seeing her side, especially in being frustrated, so thanks for that perspective. At the same time, I have to tell her what to do, she’s only been there a month. I’m seeing a real generation gap, too, in her seeing us as equal, and, um, sorry, I’m her manager. Again, it’s odd, and I’ve never had this problem before in nine years. That body language was the kicker in the month of trying to learn how to deal with a different sort of personality.