WSJ: Is the Boss Looking at You? You’d Better Hope So.

The following is an article from the Wall Street Journal, covering eye contact in the workplace with research from Quantified Communications!

Is the Boss Looking at You? You’d Better Hope So.

By Sue Shellenbarger

How do people gauge their career progress: Praise from the boss? Landing a promotion? Scoring an office with a window?

Another important leading indicator is often missed – the amount of eye contact received from co-workers and supervisors. If the boss looks at you longer than at your co-workers during conversations or meetings, it may be a sign your star is rising.

A growing body of research shows eye contact signals status and influence in both one-on-one conversations and group meetings. High-status people receive more visual attention from their conversation partners, says a 2009 research review in the journal, Image and Vision Computing.

People who are seen as lacking in influence, however, get less eye contact from influential participants in meetings, according to another study published in 2010 in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior. The pattern is strongest among male bosses, says the study of 17 work teams composed of a total of 94 people in several workplaces.

The most dominant person in a small group spends more time speaking than others, and also looks longer at others when speaking, the study says. Gazing into others’ eyes is a way of dominating the conversation. High-status women use even more eye contact than men to establish their dominance during meetings, the study says. The demands on women managers may cause them to feel “they need to be tougher than a man to succeed at the workplace,” the study says.

But when researchers assessed “visual egalitarianism” – the degree to which speakers allocated their eye contact evenly among other meeting participants, regardless of status – high-status women tend to be more democratic than men, dividing their eye contact equally among all other participants in a group. High-status men tended to spend more time looking at other high-status participants.

Many people are unaware of the importance of eye contact in conveying a message, as reported in today’s “Work & Family” column. The nonverbal elements of a speaker’s presentation – passion, voice and “presence” as conveyed largely through facial expression and eye contact – account for 65% of listeners’ evaluations, compared with only 35% that is based on the content of the presentation and the speaker’s apparent knowledge of the topic, according to research by Quantified Communications, a communications analytics company.

“We see this over and over again: Everyone is focused on the words they’re saying, and they don’t realize that these nuances, and how they’re saying it, is sending an even stronger signal than their words,” says Briar Goldberg, director of feedback for Quantified Communications.

Readers, are you ever annoyed by bosses’ or co-workers lack of eye contact? Have you been in a situation where a supervisor or colleague stopped looking at you? How did you interpret it? Do you consciously use eye contact to convey an impression or to influence or impress others? If so, what works for you?