The wrong workplace attire can still derail a promotion
- Work attire in corporate offices has become more casual, but the wrong clothing choices can still derail an employee's career, according to a new OfficeTeam survey. Among those polled, 86% of professionals and 80% of managers said clothing choices can keep people from advancing on the job.
- Respondents put an average of 11 minutes a day deciding what to wear to work; men spent on average 12 minutes while the same figure stood at nine minutes for women, and workers ages 18 to 34 typically spent 13 minutes doing so. HR managers in the survey said that jeans, tennis shoes and leggings now top the list of items that were once taboo but have become more acceptable over the past five years, yet the same group said tank tops, cold-shoulder tops and shorts became less acceptable over that time.
- Among senior managers in the survey, 44% had talked with employees about inappropriate attire, and 32% had sent staff home for this reason — but half of this contingent said they were uncomfortable doing so. A smaller number of this group (15%) didn't want to have the conversation in the first place.
Culture is an important consideration when discussing workplace norms and expectations, including fashion. The prototypical startup environment, in which both employer and employee trend younger, tends to evoke a more relaxed dress code characterized by jeans, t-shirts and similar items. Even legacy companies like Goldman Sachs have opened up to this trend. Other professions and industries keep things traditional, sometimes weaving the suit-and-tie look into their very identity.
In reality, businesses should factor in other elements: nature, for instance. With warmer days arriving in many parts of the country, employees will want to dress more comfortably. This is especially true for those whose workplaces are mainly outdoors.
Others might take inspiration from General Motors' two-word guidance: "Dress appropriately." CEO Mary Barra's philosophy, according to Quartz, is that giving employees ownership of a policy means they'll make the right decision. Barra reportedly insisted that company executives stop assuming, through restrictive rules, that workers wouldn't make appropriate choices, telling Quartz in a recent interview that this philosophy has been incorporated in matters beyond dress code.
Workplace culture can be essentially boiled down to a list of expectations; "you know it when you see it," the saying goes, even if that list gradually changes and adapts over the life of an organization. Employers who craft consistent cultures set the stage for an environment that produces positive business results.