Friday, November 11, 2011
Seriously, you wear that to work!
One day, as I was getting ready to go to my newly acquired job, I picked this cream shirt, with cufflinks and it had a matching tie, but I decided to leave that one out for now. May be another day; I told myself.
It also turned out that that was the same day that our Country Director would be visiting our office, so there was a flurry of activity around the office, and you can’t blame a new guy for wanting to impress!
Moments later I was at work, ready to meet the supreme boss. For some reason, he seemed to have noticed me, something I took for the aforesaid cream shirt. He even called my manager aside and whispered in her ear while indicating where I was seated.
Other than that, the meet-the –top-boss activity well without a fuss, till tea time when my manager asked me to stay a while, and could you please wait in my office? She asked me.
For one who dressed to impress, I didn’t even have a single disturbance in my mind that there was anything amiss. She probably wanted to compliment me on my effort to dress well. You know, employees must be complimented on every small effort they make, it is part of motivation; thoughts were running in my head.
Closing the door behind her, she seats herself behind her desk and studies me.
‘You know what we do here. Don’t you?’ Which kind of question is that! Of course I could recite, with eyes closed our vision, and mission statements.
She continued. “We work among the rural poor, those affected by disease. We seek to make a difference in their lives through skills development.
What I mean here is that we are a Civil Society Organization. This is not that kind of place where we wear gold cufflink’s while working with people who are looking for a few thousand shillings to buy their children food and medicine.”
This was not going well.
“The Country Director has suggested that you go home and change, and in future learn to dress more appropriately.”
The meeting was over, and because our stakeholders, as we called them, had already arrived, I was saved the trip home to change and instead spent the whole day with my sleeves rolled up, cuffs and all.
My next shopping trip involved picking up more short sleeved, chequered shirts and khaki pants that ensured I blended in well with the work environment.
That episode above marked my first lesson on how to dress for work.
Now let us get to you.
According to Forbes magazine, the way you dress affects how others view you. It's nothing personal, just business. It is also true that a lot of professional women and men are guilty of multiple fashion faux pas without realizing it, and their lack of judgment can sometimes lead to being passed over for a job or promotion. For the women for example the biggest fashion mistake you can make, is showing too much cleavage. It's distracting and inappropriate in a business environment. Dressing in what is seen as sexy attire may get you viewed as less competent; regardless of your skills and experience.
Of course we also wish workplaces came with manuals for everything including how to dress to work. Some actually do but even those who don’t expect you to figure it out.
The best advice experts give is to simply look around the office: Is your manager one who rarely takes off his jacket or, perhaps, does the Company President favor short skirts and skinny jeans? The fashion and social service industries, for instance, ordinarily have much more relaxed dress codes than, say, law firms.
Even if your position doesn't require you to see outside clients, you are still "making an impression on your boss [and] your potential future boss," notes Heather Kleis, a human resources adviser.
Don’t take it that being overly conservative the key to advancing. Don’t. As you may have noticed I was more overdressed that under dressed-if there is such a word. Mark though that despite the lengthy manual and pep talks from the HR manager, asserting a little bit of individuality and personal style can boost your confidence and ability. Remember that statement as you make career advancement plans- the way you dress affects how others view you. It's nothing personal, just business.