Body Language & Performance Reviews: Subtle Connection

Body Language & Performance Reviews: Subtle Connection

As a manager, before reviewing performance of your direct reports you’ve prepared yourself. There is no doubt in your mind as to what you want to say & how you want to say it, to convey the right message & in the right tone. But as an employee, you go into the review prepared with the right information. To discuss different aspects of performance with your manager.

In either of the cases, your choice of words and tone certainly matter. But, have you considered the nonverbal aspect of your feedback discussion? (i.e. Body language)

Research shows that body language accounts for 55% of the effectiveness of your message.

You might be delivering a glowing performance review, but if your body language doesn’t reflect that, your employee will leave the review feeling confused. Likewise, if you are giving an employee negative feedback about their performance, they are far less likely to understand the gravity of your message if your body language doesn’t convey that they should sit up and take notice of what you are telling them. Likewise, as an employee, your body language can either make or break the tone of a conversation with your manager.

Before you give or receive your next performance review, here are some things you should consider regarding your body language as it relates to effective communication.

Make eye contact to inspire trust

We’re all chronic multitaskers. We check email while we take calls, we watch the news while we read the paper–we have competing priorities and a limited amount of time. It’s natural to want to make the most of it. A performance feedback meeting, however, is not the place to multitask.

Studies show that conversations where eye contact is held 60-70% of the time create an emotional connection and confidence between both parties. When talking to your employee (or your employer), don’t shuffle through papers or stare at your monitor. Maintain eye contact for the majority of the conversation, whether you are speaking or listening.

It can be challenging to maintain eye contact when delivering or receiving a message that is less than pleasant, but it’s especially important in conveying that you understand the message is a serious one and will be treated seriously. If you look around the room or at the floor or ceiling, you’ll appear nervous and disinterested. Instead, hold eye contact with the speaker or as you listen to show that you are fully engaged and interested in the conversation.

Open up your posture to appear approachable

Posture and body positioning is one of the first things you notice when you walk into a room for a one-on-one meeting. If the person you are meeting is sitting with their arms crossed, it immediately sets a negative or uneasy tone. On the contrary, if the person is relaxed, with their arms uncrossed and their body facing you in an open stance, it conveys a feeling of openness, setting a much more comfortable tone for the meeting.

During a performance review, pay special attention to how you are sitting. Are you squarely facing the person with whom you’re speaking, or are you angled away from them? The former implies that you’re invested and actively participating, while the latter gives the impression that you’re ready to bolt at any second.

What are your arms doing as you speak?  Are they drawn in close to your body and crossed, or are they relaxed and open, using natural hand movements? Are you hunched over in your chair, or are you sitting up straight? Take a quick mental inventory of how you appear to the other person in the room and make a few small adjustments to your posture and body language. It won’t just help the other person feel more at ease. Research shows that sitting with an open posture and your arms and legs unfolded can help you remember details of the conversation more effectively.


The benefit of face-to-face communication is the ability to prevent miscommunication. In a feedback discussion, it’s especially important for both parties to be heard and understood correctly by the other. Positive, confident body language is the best and easiest resource available to you to reinforce your words and create a meaningful conversation.