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Does the way a person dresses effect their performance at work?

With the sheer abundance of articles written about this topic, it is a fair assumption that people think so. Over the years there have been countless studies on the effect of a person’s appearance, both on their performance and how they’re perceived by those around them. Traditionally, studies pointed to the halo effect, the habitual tendency to create a cognitive bias towards people who dress well and are well groomed. However, there are shifting winds in the workforce climate when it comes to dress, as companies face the growing pressure to accept a more relaxed dress code. This leads to conflicting viewpoints of whether it is best to “dress up” or “dress casual”.

 

Looking Good = Feeling Good

A person’s self-confidence will have a tremendous effect on their productivity, self-efficacy, and overall workplace happiness. It is important to note that taking the extra time to ensure that a person looks and feels their best does not necessarily mean coming to work dressed in formal attire each day. From an internal perspective, looking good simply means feeling confident in one’s own appearance. External perception aside, productivity reaches its peak when a person feels good about their appearance, regardless of the level of dress.

Perception Can Be Reality

While “dressing the part” is certainly a step in the right direction, the way an individual chooses to wear and style their clothing will shape how they are perceived more than wearing a brand name will. Ensuring that pieces of an outfit match and fit well can be just as important as the style of clothing. It is better to look good in a well put together, casual outfit than it is to wear a mismatched suit and tie. Regardless of the level of dress, it is important to put the time and care into making sure a person looks their best at all times. This is also true for grooming and personal appearance; a great looking outfit gets overlooked when a person comes into a meeting with messy hair.

 

Dress for the Setting

Attending a meeting with Wall street executives may call for a different style of dress than one with a tech startup. It is important to tailor an outfit to one’s daily schedule. Before getting dressed for the day, consider any important meetings, who will be in attendance, and what the environment will be like. A person does not have to dress to the nines every day if their schedule does not require such. This allows for dressing up and dressing down to exist interchangeably.

Dressing comfortably may be important for one’s self-confidence and productivity, but be aware of other people’s perceptions. Dressing too far outside of the norm for a particular setting can be detrimental to how someone is perceived by others. For example, wearing cargo shorts to a wedding may make other guests feel uncomfortable. The same goes for presentations made to the board. If one’s outfit choice makes the people around them uncomfortable, it is likely that the individual will begin to feel self-conscious and uncomfortable as well.

 

Knowing how to utilize one’s wardrobe suitably for any occasion allows for more comfort, more confidence, and more respect.

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If you have been dressing for the job you want, but that job isn’t at your current company – don’t feel bad about exploring opportunities. If there is no vertical mobility or career advancement opportunities where you are at, take a look and see if there are better avenues for your career path!

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