Poor old (or is that young?) Gen Y, they are in trouble again for not understanding the rules and dress codes for the workplace and taking a too casual approach! Isn’t it okay to wear a t-shirt, Havianas and have the band of your undies showing, when you are meeting clients? Does it affect your ability to the job? Doesn’t Mark Zuckerberg (facebook founder) LIVE in a hoodie? And he’s a Billionaire!
Ettiquette and dress codes have definitely relaxed in recent years. Some of us can remember a dress code at work that included skirts, not pants for women, only black or navy suits for men and NO coloured shirts and women required to wear stockings all year round.
While it is great that some of those rules have relaxed, for many there is still the expectation you will present a certain way at work and after all, first impressions DO count. Plus, many bosses (and customers) are either Baby Boomers or Gen X with a different perception of what is the right dress code for work. Some companies have resorted to hiring Image Consultants to advise staff on the appropriate dress code. This was usually spelt out in the past when you were hired. If your workplace has a uniform much of this dilemma is solved, although ‘policing’ the wearing of the uniform, including name badges and appropriate makeup, hairstyles and jewelry/piercings may still be an issue!
So who is right? Well if the person making the decision about your pay rise, hiring or promotion is from the ‘Baby Boomers or Gen X’ generations, then you probably will need to dress to suit their expectations to get the pay rise, job or promotion, rightly or wrongly. One way to look at it is that the Company ‘pays you to present a certain image’ to the community/clients, so at work you dress the way they expect and leave the ‘self expression’ for your spare time. Another school of thought says ‘dress for the job you want, not the one you have’ and that will help you take the next step up.
If image doesn’t matter, why do organisations have uniforms? Qantas and other large corporations even go to the expense of employing Fashion Designers to design their uniforms. Imagine an Airline Steward in hoodie, baggy jeans and thongs giving the safety demonstration, how would you feel – safe, confident, sure they could do their job?
While the way we dress may not effect our ability to do the job (other than in the case of PPE and safety clothing) it can effect others’ perception of our ability and therefore whether or not we are hired, promoted or given the pay rise. So maybe image is worth thinking about.