Last summer all workplace-wackness erupted here on the 43rd floor of the BusinessWeek mothership. Taking a cue from Microsoft’s happiness czar Lisa Brummel—she who has worn shorts every day of her career fame—BW’ers started to show up baring some knee. Gasp. This was a starch and sensibility culture.
I wrote then of how New York City was a steamy, drippy disaster.
I rambled: “I wake up sopping in my Huis Clos of a bedroom with no air conditioning. I stare at the closet. Suits. Pants. Work-appropriate wear. So stifling. So unappealing. So Sartre. I have long been tempted to pull a massive corporate dress code violation and show up in shorts at the office. The heat wave, melting everybody, is making a madness of pants. Our photo editor—he of the pressed Oxfords and professional-man slacks—started popping onto the 43rd floor in mod-Dad Bermudas, gruppie sneakers, and a delighted bounce in his step. Inspiration!”
I started wearing a pair of gold Alice + Olivias to the office, discovering how work days could be all leg-cooling bliss. A marvel.
Or a faux pas?
Comes now a survey that says those who don’t put out with the suit-and-tie stuff are sure to be damned to promotion-less hell at nearly half of surveyed companies (release pasted below).
Mon dieu! Yet…hasn’t the the very notion of shorts changed (see the leggy catwalkers above).
Doesn’t the corporate dress code deserve an update for the age of global warming?
Yet I must admit, this summer I have succumbed to my own insecurites. So far this year I have only worn the gold Alice + Olivias on weekends. That photo editor took a buyout. (I hope he’s enjoying leisurely bliss (in shorts) this very moment).
Our industry is in peril. People are scared. I have—sorry Lisa B.—reverted to norm.
Here’s the release on the survey:
Forty-One Percent of U.S. Employers More Likely to Promote Employees Who
Wear Professional Attire, Reveals CareerBuilder.com Survey
CHICAGO, June 17, 2008 – If your wardrobe makes you an ideal contestant
for a TV makeover show, you’re probably wearing those clothes to work too;
and that may not be in your best interest. A new CareerBuilder.com survey
reports that 41 percent of employers state that people who dress better or
more professionally tend to be promoted more often than others in their
organization. The survey was conducted from February 11 through March 13,
2008 among 2,765 employers.
Financial services is one of the industries that place the most emphasis on
professional dress, as 55 percent of them state that people who dress more
professionally tend to be promoted more often than others in the
organization. On the other hand, IT and manufacturing employers are two of
the industries that place the least amount of emphasis on professional dress,
as only 37 percent and 34 percent, respectively, said that employees who
dress more professionally tend to be promoted more often than others.
“Even though we are seeing a trend of more relaxed dress codes in the office,
especially in summer, it doesn’t mean that professionalism should go out the
window,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of Human Resources for
CareerBuilder.com. “How you dress can play an important role in how others
perceive you at work, and dressing professionally can help you project a
motivated and dedicated image.”
Some workplaces have taken action into their own hands and are getting
employees to dress more professionally by banning certain items of clothing
and footwear. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of employers surveyed have
banned flip flops, 49 percent have banned mini-skirts and 28 percent have
In addition to banning certain items of clothing, some employers have gone as
far as to send employees home for unsuitable work attire. More than one-
third (35 percent) of employers have sent someone home to change clothes
because they were dressed inappropriately.
Not only does your appearance count once you get the job, but dressing
professionally on an interview with potential employers is also important. Fifty-
four percent of employers surveyed give greater weight to candidates who
show up to interviews wearing a business suit than those who do not.
Haefner recommends the following tips for dressing professionally on the job:
•Stock your closet – Start with the versatile basics, such as a pair of black
pants, a dark pant suit, some button-down collared shirts and a classic pair
of dark shoes. Once you have the staples, you can continue to build your
wardrobe to give you plenty of professional options.
•Keep it neat and clean – Make sure your pants, shirts and other clothes are
ironed, stain free and in good condition. When your clothes look sloppy, so do
•Steer clear of bar attire – Don’t mistake the office for your local watering
hole. Leave the slinky shirts, tight pants and cut off t-shirts at home.
•Look the part – Have a client presentation or a meeting with the CEO? Dress
for the part, making sure you choose appropriate articles of clothing for your
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