Q:  Why do people forget the importance of professional dress after they are hired?

A: (from Patricia A. Hoffmeir, Senior Vice President) Excellent question! We addressed the issue of dressing appropriately during the interview process in Tyler’s Tidbits, Spring 2012, “Infamous candidate missteps.” But you are right; some people bend or forget all rules of dress once they land the job.

While many organizations adopt a formal dress code, rules may vary by role. For example, clinicians would be allowed to wear sneakers with their scrubs, but administrators might be required to wear dress shoes to the office. It’s important to remember that regardless of the role, an employee represents that profession and organization. This is critical in positions of great responsibility. Unfortunately, these rules are forgotten, and professionals arrive to work in wrinkled attire, inappropriate footwear (e.g. sandals, clogs or crocs), or what can only be generously described as “business casual.” 

Have you ever noticed that C-suite administrative assistants are some of the most elegantly dressed professionals in an organization? They realize they are the public face of that organization. Ask yourself, “‘What does my wardrobe say about me?’ The last thing you want to do is create any doubt in your ability or the ability of the company because your image and fashion are saying something negative about you.”1 Remember, people form instant opinions upon seeing a person, even before any words are spoken. Those working behind closed doors should be concerned enough about their career to dress as professionally as the administrative assistants in the executive suite. 

Besides their appearance to the rest of the organization and general public, it’s important to note that employees are continually on display to senior management. A boss may listen to an employee, but how he/she looks is important too. Continued advancement depends on presenting a complete package.

Every organization has its cultural norm; stay attune to yours. If every man wears a tie, and every woman dresses in a tailored suit, then model that attire. Also, different situations call for varying degrees of dress. A day dedicated to busywork isolated in your office might allow for something fairly casual. But if you are moving about the organization or attending meetings with peers and/or superiors, you must dress more carefully. Even if you are a clinician who has to go directly from the OR to a meeting, take a moment to put on a lab jacket over your scrubs.

Naturally, there are exceptions. But as a general rule, think of the image you project if you want to progress. Think of yourself as the face of the dean, department chair or CEO.

Reach Patricia A. Hoffmeir, Senior Vice President, at +1 610 558 6100 or phoffmeir@tylerandco.com.

1 Grigg, Mila. “Dress for Success in the Office.” June 24, 2011,www.bizjournals.com/nashville/print-edition/2011/06/24/dress-for-success-in-the-office.html.