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Is Coffee Your Ticket to a Raise or Promotion?

By Maurie Backman - Jan 27, 2019 at 10:18AM

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If you bring it for your boss, it might be.

If your goal this year is to snag a raise or land a promotion, you're probably aware that there are certain steps you can take to improve your odds. Maybe you'll volunteer for some new projects, or take a course that boosts your skills. Or maybe you'll be that person to consistently burn the midnight oil, thereby forcing your boss to note your dedication.

Those tactics are fine and good. But if you really want to increase your chances of getting the pay boost or promotion you're after, you might try a less conventional tactic -- bringing a cup of hot coffee for your boss to that discussion.

It ties into a concept known as embodied cognition, which states that physical body signals impact brain activity. To put it in a less science-y manner, the logic goes like this: When your coffee-loving manager is sitting there holding a warm cup of joe, savoring its smell, his or her mental perception might be altered in a manner that increases your likelihood of getting what you want.

Man in collared shirt holding out to-go cup


Not convinced? Then consider this: Researchers at Yale conducted a study to prove that touching different objects could influence perception. Participants were handed cups of either hot or cold coffee to hold while rating a stranger's personality. The results? Those who held the hot cups were more likely to identify the stranger as generous and sociable than those with the cold cups. In other words, the comfort of the hot cups might've actually produced a warm, fuzzy feeling that impacted participants' analysis.

And it's not just touch; smell can impact perception, too, as can environmental factors, like the weather. That's right: The next time you ask for a raise, you might want to do so when it's pleasant and sunny out, and avoid that conversation when it's raining.

A highly speculative approach

Of course, the above research does need to be taken with a grain of salt. While there may be some truth that physical feelings impact our thought patterns, that isn't to say that you can slack off at work, throw a cup of hot coffee into your manager's hands, and wait for a raise. What it does mean, however, is that you might want to be more strategic when scheduling discussions about promotions or pay boosts. That could boil down to something as simple as choosing the right spot to have that talk.

For example, research also finds that people's perceptions change when they're more physically comfortable. Therefore, if you're going to talk money, you might hold that discussion in your company break room -- the one with the soft, roomy couches -- as opposed to the corner conference room with hard chairs and tables. And, you might choose to bring along a cup of your boss's favorite hot beverage, whether it be coffee, tea, or even some basic water with lemon. You'll still need to prove to your manager that you're worthy of whatever it is you're asking for, but a little outside influence certainly wouldn't hurt.

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