Posts Tagged 'office attire'

Free to be you and me? Yes, but there’s a but.

The subject of what to wear and how to behave at work can be a tricky one, especially in our increasingly casual and laissez-fair world. So, I was interested to read that Ernst & Young decided it was a subject that needed to be addressed. The firm of accountants recently hired a consultant to run seminars for more than 400 women on staff about appropriate clothes, make-up, jewellery and colours for the workplace. Not to be outdone, Leeds Metropolitan University has put together an etiquette guide for new members of staff, which points out that, among other things, licking one’s knife at the table is a definite no-no.

The impact that our clothing and actions have on those around us, and indeed ourselves, is something I find fascinating. What I find even more fascinating is that some people think it’s inconsequential; either that it doesn’t really matter or that they should just be allowed to ‘be who they are’, no matter what. It’s a fair point in some ways, we should be allowed to be who we are, but there’s a but. There’s always a but. In this case the but is that first impressions matter.

If you choose to dress or behave in a manner that is completely outside the norm of your given environment – too casual or too formal – then you’re relying on others’ abilities to see through a veneer (sloppy, aloof, indifferent, etc.), in order to finally get to ‘you’ and recognise your value. In an ideal world most people might take the time and make the effort do that. In our world, first impressions count, and although we should (and to our collective credit, sometimes do) make the effort to get past the veneers – be they good, bad or indifferent – we are often too busy or too tired to do so.

Anne Freden, chair of Ernst & Young’s women’s network said of the training, “The firm doesn’t view this as something that’s nice to have, but as an integral part of business strategy. There is a huge number of capable and talented women at Ernst & Young looking to maximise their achievement in the firm and in their career, and looking for the skills and tips and tools to do that.”

Although it may not always be our preference to conform to the ‘norm’ or to the corporate life, it’s to our benefit to make the effort in the first instance rather than relying on others to make a double effort in the end.

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