What Is Priming? And What It Means For Women In The Workplace

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Whether you are new to the workforce or have been working for years, office dynamics affect you and your work every day. The communication styles between coworkers and between bosses and their employees can really make or break morale! That’s where priming comes in. Never heard of it? We’ve got you covered. Keep reading to learn all about priming and how it can help you get a leg up on the competition at work!

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What Is Priming?

Priming is just like it sounds. In general, it is a technique that can be used by anyone to subtly change the behavior of another person by changing their environment. Examples of this are found in all sorts of contexts. Playing German music in a grocery store to increase the sale of German wine or placing an eye symbol near a bike rack to reduce theft change peoples’ everyday behavior. While it could be used to manipulate people, most times priming is used for the safety or enjoyment of the person being “primed.” Read more about priming in general in Psychology of Psychology of Priming (Perspectives on Cognitive Psychology)

In the workplace, priming manifests in a number of ways to change workplace dynamics. For instance, if an employer feels his staff is getting too comfortable and not working their hardest, he might swap out the chairs in the conference room to harder ones. Literally taking away their comfort wakes the employees up and helps them push themselves. To promote more openness and communication, a boss might remove the tables from her office or boardroom to remove both physical and emotional barriers between her and her employees. You can learn more about how priming works in the office setting in Work Motivation: History, Theory, Research, and Practice

Priming and Power

Ultimately, if you are in the position to “prime” other people, you have some power over them and their behavior. Even if you are the low woman on the totem pole at your office, knowing this psychological trick can help your situation when you otherwise feel a lack of control at work. One great way to do this (and to help your coworkers see you as an equal)?  Don’t be afraid to participate in the verbal “power games” often played in meetings. While men are keen to brag about their accomplishments at work, we women are taught to act more humble. Don’t! Your fellow employees and your boss judge you no matter what you say at work, so why not bring up all the awesome things you are working on? Learn how in Stronger Than The Storm: Proven Strategies To Conquer Fear, Discover Strength and Overcome The Unexpected

Another, smaller way to gain power at work using priming involves how you speak to people. Studies show that people surrounded by positivity will have better attitudes and higher motivation at work. Use this tactic one-on-one with your project partners or coworkers you don’t get along with. Sprinkle positive words into your conversations with them or email them positive affirmations in the morning. This small adjustment on your part will make your coworkers more pleasant to be around, which in turn will positively impact your workplace environment.

businesswoman holding laptop
Credit: geralt via Pixabay

What Does Priming Mean For Women In The Workplace?

While we have come a long way from men being the sole breadwinners. Women no longer have to stay at home and raise babies, though many people still hold onto these sexist stereotypes. Those in older generations are especially likely to hold onto these ideas. Women who rise to power are often perceived as “bossy” or “bitchy” by men and women alike. Those same women also often feel isolated and like they don’t fit in at “the top.” Woman to woman power struggles actually make up a huge part of power dynamics. Ladies who want to “have it all” with both a strong family life and a good career often see powerful women as bad wives and mothers. More career-driven females tend to perceive women who don’t want to make sacrifices in life as lazy and trying to take shortcuts to the top. Read more in Own It: The Power of Women at Work

Priming can help the people you work with, both male and female, take you more seriously. Speak up in meetings, push others when they aren’t doing their part, and always be one step ahead. You have to push through the discomfort of people not liking you, especially as a woman, if you want to be in charge. While you may be perceived as aggressive or pushy, at least people will listen to you. Push past the meek, quiet, passive personality you may have been taught as a kid and embrace your power!

Final Step: Priming Yourself

Most importantly, to succeed in your career, you have to prime yourself. Going back to the positivity example, try to surround yourself with words of self-love each day. We are all our own worst critics, so this may be the hardest step of all. When doubt starts to creep in, channel your inner alpha. Embrace the same confidence and power on the inside as you project on the outside. Soon you will be on your way to the top! Understand more of how this works in Before You Know It: The Unconscious Reasons We Do What We Do

Not only do you need to prime yourself for confidence, but for focus, too. No one was ever successful without a clear end goal in mind. Think of exactly who or where you want to be, then tell yourself that you are already there. Acting as if you have already reached your goals helps manifest them in real life. It also lets others see you as someone who is on-track to success, not just scrambling.

Read more about how you can prime yourself for success in Make Your Brain Work: How to Maximize Your Efficiency, Productivity and Effectiveness


At first glance, priming may seem weird or even wrong. But attempting to change people’s behavior without them knowing can actually have as much effect on you as on them. Priming your boss and coworkers to take you seriously and see you as a real contender in the workplace can do wonders for your career! Assert yourself using our simple, subtle tips above to be on your way to #girlboss territory.



“Priming Women For Success At Workplace”

“Your Guide To The Mysterious World Of Priming”

“How To Prime Your Mind For Success”

Priming your coworkers to see you as a contender at work does wonders for your career! Use our tips to be on your way to #girlboss territory.

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