Business Applications of Nonverbal Communication
Ronald E. Riggio
Kravis Leadership Institute
Claremont McKenna College
A number of popular books proclaim the importance of nonverbal communication in businesses and organizations. For instance, the cover of the book, Body Language in the Workplace, by Julius Fast (1991). claims "to show us how to understand not just the obvious in the workplace but how to go beyond that to the real meanings and hidden agendas of our co-workers ... [the book] can be used to benefit business dealings of all kinds." In addition, nearly every management textbook mentions the important role that nonverbal communication plays in organizational behavior. Yet, there has been surprisingly little research directly examining nonverbal communication processes in business and organizational settings.
There are several reasons for this paucity of research. First, communication in work settings is quite complex and occurs nonstop. Estimates by Mintzberg (1973), for example, suggest that managers spend 80 percent of their workday engaged in communication. Yet very few of these workplace interactions lend themselves easily to study by nonverbal communication researchers. Second, relatively few nonverbal communication researchers from Psychology, Communication, and other social sciences, are interested in studying organizational behavior. Finally, business organizations typically view research as a nuisance and rarely cooperate with research focusing on basic processes, such as nonverbal communication, that do not seem to have direct ties to organizational productivity and profits. In addition, concerns about privacy issues and rising employment litigation deter researchers from obtaining the videotaped samples of employees' behavior necessary for nonverbal cues analysis. Still, there is great interest in the role