It’s clear that how one dresses will affect how others perceive you.
I am wondering what is known about whether one’s manner of dress affects one’s own effectiveness in the workplace.
Is there any such effect?
I ask because I am the most casually dressed guy at my workplace* and have recently been hit with a ton of new responsibilities. I have to like, be organized and stuff now, and not only meet my own deadlines but push others to meet theirs.
Is there research that addresses the question of whether doing things like, you know, wearing a tie and shaving, will affect how well I get the other stuff done?
Thanks for any insight.
(I’m thinking about stepping it up a notch or two or three in the dressiness department in any case if only because the people who have to report to me now (and the ones who won’t “report to” me per se but who I need to be able to motivate and communicate tasks to nonetheless) may be at least subconsciously more likely to enjoy my intrusions if I’m dressed at least as well as they.)
*Officially, we’re business casual, jeans allowed. I don’t think I even count as being on the low end of that. I’m straight casual. Not like holes in jeans or oddly shaped shirts or anything like that. “Fully dressed casual?” That’s it. Shaggy with the facial hair too.)
This is a tough one for me because I tend to be very casually dressed at work and have been told, on more than one occasion, that I should consider stepping up my work garb. But I sit in a cubicle for 8 hours a day and don’t necessarily interact with other humans face-to-face very often, so I just don’t see the need (and am content to live with whatever potential consequences come from not wearing nicer clothing…)
THAT SAID… if I were dealing with other people more frequently, or I had people reporting directly or indirectly to me, I would definitely make an effort to dress more professionally. Your effectiveness at work is now more or less intertwined with the effectiveness of your team, and I think-- for better or worse-- your colleagues’ perception of you improves when you look good. YMMV, of course, but I think you’ll find that they are more respectful, take your perspective more seriously, etc.
The interesting thing is, people seem to take me pretty seriously already. I seem to “work well with others” even being the most shabby looking guy in the room. I run a damn good meeting, let me just put it that way. I can sit there in a room filled with people with egos, many very smart, many very dumb, and I can keep them on task and goal-oriented, and nobody gets mad and everyone feels understood and knows how to contribute.
It would be funny if somehow my being the least-well dressed guy in the room somehow contributes to this, giving me an aura of sympathetic iconclasm or something. But that’s pure speculation on my part. Probably I should just dress up a little and things will be even better. For all I know, people are cooperating with me but inwardly seething the whole time and I just don’t know it.
I read this article a while back. Kind of an interesting experiment. TLDR: undergraduates were randomly assigned to wear a lab coat vs. street clothes, and then given a test for selective attention, with the ones wearing a lab coat scoring higher.
It’s actually pretty various. We’re a university, and there are some who dress in classic academic dress, some in business casual, and one guy who wears a business suit every day. The big boss wears a style I don’t know how to name, “fancy dress” almost might be the right way to describe it. It’s not business attire in any sense I know of, but it is dressy. So it’s like… fancy. He’s a character.
Daily shaving is less important than it used to be. A few days of scruff is forgiven, if not entirely accepted anymore. I have reduced the frequency of a full shave to once a week by making small daily touch-ups around the edges. Takes exactly 30 seconds.
The answer is “it depends on the person you’re asking”. Some people work better in a suit and tie, others in shorts and a t-shirt.
The OP acknowledges perception of others can be influenced by dress and, even though that was not the question per se, I think that how others perceive you can have an impact on how you work as well - both quality and quantity. So it’s possible that upping your style may cause others to perceive your work as more valuable, in turn making you work more/better because you feel your work is more valuable. Clear as mud?
I’ve worked from home for many years. I don’t have to wear pants or get up before noon if I don’t want to. But I start work early, dress neatly, and commute some days to work from elsewhere. It helps keep some separation between work and personal time, and stops me from dropping my standards too far.
I think part of being a professional is doing more than just the bare minimum that’s required. I could get away with working in shabby clothes, starting late and finishing early. But being merely acceptable isn’t good enough, I’m better than that.
My manner of dress does affect my work - I work better being in clothes that I’m comfortable in. Dressing up or dressing down would both make me less effective.
As far as I can tell, I’ve never seen anyone in my large company wear a suit, though I suppose salesmen calling on banks do. That’s right up to the billionaire at the tippy top of it.
You won’t be compromising your integrity just because you upgrade your wardrobe, but, if you don’t actually enjoy wearing your new clothes, it will be kind of a sell-out.
If you haven’t got a well-developed sense of fashion and you are not in the habit of shopping for clothes, it will probably be a good idea to take some time to warm up to the idea and to find clothing that you actually like. Unless you know exactly what you’re looking for, you’ll probably get better results if you avoid the bargain stuff.
I only do my neck but maybe 2-4 times a year it’s needed.
This is important while teaching as it affects how people react to you. If you’re younger, it might be good to dress up. Like I know a professor who is 35+ but 5’2" and looks young and so (AFAIK) dressed up to give more authority and gravitas. Some dress younger to be the cool instructor. I’ve given up on being cool by now, but the upper end of casual works for me.
For me, it makes a difference - on official ‘dress down’ days I still wear a shirt and tie because casual dress makes me feel like I’m not at work. Even when I work from home, I dress differently (although I don’t usually bother with the tie), just because I find it helps me stay in the right frame of mind for work.
I don’t think it’s the same for everyone though - I work in IT and many of my colleagues dress very casually and that seems to work for them - my role involves some customer and supplier-facing stuff though and I find people take me more seriously if smartly dressed.
It’s actually enabled me to speak with more authority in some contexts - for example, in product evaluation meetings with external suppliers where I’ve been the only one with a tie on, the visitors will often look to me for confirmation of assertions made by my casually-dressed peers or superiors - I can end up being the de facto leader of a meeting just by bothering to turn up properly dressed.
This isn’t remotely research, but in theatre the effects of costume are pretty important. If you want to read up, I would look at mask work. Try Keith Johnstone’s book Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre, he has a whole chapter on mask work and trance. An important part of that is seeing yourself in the mirror in your mask.
For normal everyday life I do something similar to mask work: I can use a pencil to emphasise my eyebrows as more gently arch-shaped or slightly more angular. OK, sounds weird, but the actual difference to my eyebrows is minimal, it’s that they give a slightly different impression of my face. More angular eyebrows makes me look a little stricter or more forceful, but you would probably never even know why. In fact you probably wouldn’t see the difference at all, but I do see it in the mirror. So it makes a difference to me when I look in the mirror before I go into a difficult meeting. Or who knows, maybe it’s all in my head and it’s just a way I have of trying to exert control over how I am perceived…?
I suppose it depends on you and the type of work you do. If I’m doing development work or some sort of analysis that requires I just sit for hours in front of a computer screen, I feel just as effective working in sweatpants in my home. As a management type, I feel much more effective if I’m dressed professionally. It doesn’t have to be suit and tie, although I like wearing suits. But people should think their manager is a bit overdressed IMHO.
Although it reality, since my clients, my boss and most of my reports are all remote anyway, it really doesn’t matter how I dress or where I work from.