You are a gift to the world. The gifts and unique talents that you bring to your workplace should not be sold short by your employer, boss or by yourself. One great way to bring out your best, is to wrap yourself in clothing that could enhance your workplace performance. Often when the topic of “dressing for success” is approached the conversation turns more to “dressing to impress”. By that I mean, dressing to create an impression on others. However, one point that is not always discussed is how our clothing actually affects performance.
Studies have shown everything from medical professionals displaying increased cognitive abilities when wearing lab coats, to athletes performing at a higher level when wearing certain colors. Science even has a term for this phenomenon “enclothed cognition” or the “systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer’s psychological processes”. There is no reason to believe that by taking appropriate care and consideration of our costume we can not improve our mindset in the workplace.
The point here is that a little extra attention to our daily attire can be rewarded with a change in attitude and even aptitude in our job. Everyone in an organization from the bottom up can take measures to create a culture that supports proper attire. Whether it is embracing uniforms or branded clothing or just providing positive reinforcement when people dress up for their work day, a good attitude can go a long way.
Performance enhancement aside, there is always the perception issue to address as well. As mentioned above, it is well known that what we wear can have a drastic impact on how people perceive us. In some ways there are certain ground rules from the past that need to be reconsidered and this can actually make dressing for professional situations more difficult than before. Professional norms used to be, just that, norms. Now, following decades of cultural transition, appropriate dress can be determined by, industry and geography as much as by event or just the bounds of the business norm. A little extra thought into where you will be working and who you will be working with can go a long way.
Even though this may mean that in certain circumstance or in certain places more casual attire is appropriate, the traditional tenants surrounding personal grooming still apply. Whatever “look” we are going for, it is important to take care of and remember that we can encounter a variety of people during the course of business. Even just going out to lunch we may run into someone who knows that we are associated with our employer and how we are presenting ourselves can make an impact. In financial services, this may be more pertinent than in some other industries since we are responsible for the safety and soundness of personal wealth. A customer or member seeing someone who can’t even take care of their hair may have a negative impact.
Another concept to keep in mind is the idea of, “If I want what you have I’ll do what you do.” This encompases two concepts related to business dress:
- Identify those you respect in your organization, or those held in high regard and note how they present themselves.
- 2. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
These seem like basic ideas, however they require a moment of personal reflection and honesty about what role we want to play in our organization and how we would like to be regarded by our peers. We may not like the fact that our appearance has an impact on our working relationships with others. We may feel that we should merely be judged on the merit of our production saying “My work is good, why can’t I wear a t-shirt?” However it behooves us to take the long view and recognize that our choice of attire could be having an impact on our career or on the image of our organization.
In closing, I would just like to say again, remember the value that your professional gifts bring to your position. You owe it to yourself to present those gifts in a way that reflects your professionalism, commitment and respect for those around you. And and at the end of the day, if nothing else, at least you will look good!