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Company Culture and Dressing Appropriately at Work

“Don’t dress for the job you’re interviewing for, but for the job you want.” That’s the rule of thumb that everyone has been told when it comes to dressing professionally for work, but I am here today to debunk that age-old saying.

If this were to be followed literally and without question as the dress code for company culture, I’d be dressing up as Batman every day. While this is a gross exaggeration, the joke behind it is very applicable to company culture. Everyone should strive to stick out at work through the quality of their work as well as their work ethic, but not through the clothes they wear.

Dress codes are created by the managers and therefore you are less likely to be promoted if you are not pleasing those managers, who happen to be the people recommending and executing promotions. The saying goes, “the nail that sticks out the most gets hammered down first.” While this does not apply to being promoted based on your professional dedication and creativity, it applies when it comes to company culture and your behavior in the workplace. Maybe it would be more appropriate to make the saying, “the nail that flashes neon gets hammered down first,” because if you try to change your physical appearance (the aspects that can be altered on a day to day basis, such as your clothes or your hairstyle) in order to stick out too much from your coworkers and the dress code, you will be attracting unwanted attention to yourself. If everyone is dressing in casual wear and you come to work in a tailored suit, you will immediately be branded by coworkers as ‘that guy/girl,’ who unfortunately exists in almost every company- like Milton in the company culture comedy, Office Space.

The instinctual pack mentality of animals that humans still subconsciously live by (proof of this is that you have never befriended a hermit before) is not shed after college. In your personal life you will be much more likely to associate with people who are similar to you because that is where you feel most comfortable. Chances are you behave no differently in your professional life either. By becoming the loner among your coworkers you lose almost all chances of being promoted, since promotions lead to increased leadership responsibilities and if no one likes you they aren’t going to take kindly to listening to you, even in a professional environment.

The point is that although you want to be ahead of the pack in everything you do, sometimes being ahead means being in the middle. It’s about showing how unique you are through your work and not by wearing plaid cutoffs to your quarterly review. It’s about ‘playing the game’ (that makes three cliché sayings, if you’ve been counting) because being the starting quarterback gets you further than sitting on the bench. You want to be a part of the company culture because that is what you are progressing through, and doing otherwise is sure to get you nowhere. There are ads you will see for jobs that say ‘we have a casual dress code, kicked back environment, with a fridge stocked full of beer and Funyuns,’ but even ‘casual’ is a dress code, and you will have to adhere to that even if you prefer ties to t-shirts, because to do otherwise would be the unprofessional thing to do.

What are your thoughts on dress code and dressing in the office? Do you think the way you dress affects how you fit into the company culture? Share with us in the comments section below!

IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by laverrue

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Bane is a Purdue graduate and has been through a lot of the trials and tribulations every job seeker goes through. He is looking to spread his knowledge so that other job seekers don't make the same mistakes. Learning by doing is fine, but knowledge is king.

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