You shouldn't dress down if you want to move up
Tribune Media Services
Q: My boss gave me a poor performance review saying I need to upgrade my wardrobe. He said my clothes are sloppy and unprofessional. My boss isn't my mother, so why does he think he can tell me how to dress?
A: Clothes may not always make the man or woman, but they do convey information about social status, role and personality.
I think your boss could have done a better job about describing what type of "costume" might be helpful to your career, but I don't disagree that poor choices in clothing can hurt you on the job.
Sometimes people at work give us good feedback in unskillful ways. If we want to benefit from the feedback, we have to work through our emotional reactions to being criticized and consider the information.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
1) What clothing is typical for the most successful people in your company?
2) What jobs would you ideally like to have in your organization?
3) Is your clothing similar to that of people who hold the jobs you want?
I've often heard clients bemoan the unfairness of workplace "clothing codes."
They point out to me, accurately, that no one can control the way they dress. I, conversely, point out that they can't force their companies to promote them, either.
In a business world that moves faster every day, the way we dress broadcasts instant information about us.
Yes, this information can be wrong, and yes, it is based on stereotypes. Unfortunately, when people are forming 60-second opinions about us, they don't care.
We are in control when it comes to deciding what type of information we want to convey. For an artist, an eccentric-looking outfit might be perfect.
If you were a banker, the same outfit might say "I break the rules." Bankers who break the rules don't make banks feel fuzzy about hiring them.
To evaluate the impact of your clothes, take a photo of your usual outfit. Show it to 10 strangers and ask them to tell you what job they think you have.
If you don't like the answer, experiment with some new costumes. The only thing you have to lose is your boss's poor opinion.
The last word(s)
Q: I'd like to start a business with a friend. Is there an easy way to evaluate whether he's a good person to run a business with?
A: Yes. Would you marry him?
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., is an executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. She can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027- 7001; by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; or at www.interpersonaledge.com. Sorry, no personal replies. To read other Skube columns, go to www.seattletimes.com/daneenskube.
Copyright 2006, Tribune Media Services