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Does how you dress matter?

December 4, 2013

Article courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

By Cheryl Kuch

According to a recent Society of Human Resource Managers (SHRM) study, about 34 percent of employers allow casual dress every day.  SHRM added that “some people come to work dressed in ways employers never would have dreamed of just a short time ago.”  Perhaps tellingly, though, a recent CareerBuilder survey found that 41 percent of employers said that people who dress better or more professionally tend to be promoted more often than others in their organization.

We all want to believe that we are judged in the workplace solely by the quality of our work and what we are producing; but the truth is that how you present yourself can affect you professionally.  Dressing well is part of how you present yourself, and it can affect your professional productivity in many ways:

  • You look professional.  People like to work with people who look professional because it looks like we know what we are doing; it builds trust.
  • It affects your reputation:  Your appearance helps you build a positive reputation.
  • It affects your confidence level:  When you feel good about your appearance, you feel good about yourself and it shows in your work.
  • It affects your company brand.  How you present yourself is how you are presenting your company brand.  See bullets above.

And we cannot overlook the more subtle effects that dress has on us personally.   When we put on an item of clothing it is common to adopt the characteristics associated with that garment.  The meanings we associate with different clothes invoke feelings that put us in different mindsets and can ultimately affect our performance.  For example, we may associate pajamas with lazing around the house, whereas we may associate a business suit with hard work and professionalism.

Is it time to toss out the jeans and casual wear and go back to wearing suits?  Not necessarily.  Dressing more casually has its benefits as well; it can reduce stress and increase collaborative activity. The key is to find the right balance between professional standards and non-stressful ones. To achieve this balance:

  • Review the company dress code to clarify what is and isn’t appropriate.  Ask for clarification if it isn’t clear.
  • Clothes should be clean, free of stains and holes.
  • Consider your job and dress for maximum productivity.
  • Dress for the position you would like to have, not for the position you have.
  • If you are a woman, you should stay clear of low necklines, short skirts and revealing looks.  If you are thinking it may be too revealing, it likely is.
  • If you would wear it to the beach, don’t wear it to work.
  • If you would wear it to the gym, don’t wear it to work.
  • If you would wear it to a nightclub, don’t wear it to work.
  • Dressing up jeans with a nice pair of shoes, crisp shirt and jacket or sweater is OK.
  • A sweater, jacket or cardigan can be helpful to have handy at all times to dress up an outfit in a pinch.

In the workplace, you want to be recognized for what you say and what you do, not what you wear.  Presenting yourself professionally can help.

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