Does How You Look Really Matter?

Studies show that what you wear to work may impact how effective you are
Studies show that what you wear to work may impact how effective you are

Image Credit: Matthew Kenwrick

When you go into the office, how do you dress? Do you put on a suit, find just the right tie, and make sure that your shoes are polished? Or do you slide on that pair of jeans that you’ve been wearing for a couple of years now, grab the shirt that’s hanging over the back of the chair in the bedroom, find your car keys and you are off? Having the CIO postilion is a bit unique in so much that a lot of us have come up through the ranks where our company, realizing the importance of information technology, employed us for our brains – it’s what we could make happen that made us so valuable, not how we dressed. However, now that you are the CIO, things may have changed…

The Power Of Dressing Nicely

Apparently because a group of scientist had nothing better to do with their time, they’ve recently concluded some studies of the impact of what we wear to work. What they have discovered is that by wearing a suit or a blazer to work, we can boost our productivity. It really doesn’t matter what we are doing at the office: negotiating, participating in sales meeting, or even just video conferencing.

What the scientists discovered is that when we wear nicer clothes into the office, what happens is that we end up boosting our own confidence levels. Additionally, our clothes can affect how others perceive us. The best part of the studies showed that nicer clothes can even boost our abstract thinking – this is the kind of thinking that we’re supposed to spend most of our time doing. The results of these studies have shown that when we wear clothes with high social status they allow us to increase our social status along with our dominance in the workplace and boost our job performance in what are called “high stakes” competitive tasks.

So what magic powers do our clothes give to us? In the studies that were done, what was discovered was that when we wear more formal clothes we are sending a signal to those around us. What we are telling them is that we are both more successful and more confident in what we are doing. When we show up at work wearing more casual clothes is when we find that we’re more willing to give in and back down in discussions. When we wear formal clothes we pick up on the fact that other people are treating us with more respect and this causes us to become more forceful.

Does Dressing Nicely Boost Your Productivity?

The impact of dressing nicely at work can have an impact on your productivity. The reason for this is that the clothes are not just having an external impact, they are also affecting you internally. When we dress fancy, we spend more of our time engaging in higher levels of abstract thinking. This is the kind of thinking that senior executives like the person with the CIO job are expected to spend their time doing. Potentially wearing more formal clothes to the office will help you to do a better job of seeing the “big picture”.

The need to see the big picture is what dressing formally can help you do – it will boost your productivity. Dressing in nice clothes will result in you feeling more powerful. The end result of this is that you’ll feel as though you don’t have to focus on the details. What’s interesting about all of this is that if you are working in an office like most of us are where there are relaxed rules regarding what people can wear, then dressing more formally can have an even bigger impact.

We all need to realize that just exactly what dressing nicely really means probably depends on what industry you are involved in. Your goal here is going to be to dress nicer than everyone else in the office, but not too nicely. You do want to take it up a notch, but not too far. You don’t want to make everyone else in the office uncomfortable when you show up in a tuxedo. Do be careful, there are some senior executives (think Mark Zuckenberg) who can get away with dressing causally all the time. You are not one of them!

What All Of This Means For You

It turns out that your mother was correct. You do need to “dress for success”. A variety of studies have shown that the more formally we dress when we go into the office, the more productive we will be. There is a real power in the clothes that we choose to wear.

Wearing more formal clothes to the office allows us to boost our confidence. When we boost our confidence, then people start seeing us differently. We are also able to spend more time doing abstract thinking. The clothes that we wear send a clear and distinct signal to those people who are around us. When we dress up, we can spend more time thinking about “the big picture”.

If something as simple as wearing more formal clothes to the office can boost our productivity, then it sure seems as though this is something that we should all try out. Yeah, just like you, I’ll miss wearing those comfortable jeans and shirts to work. However, if we are willing to give that up, we just might gain a better view of that big picture thing and then think about what could happen!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that you should dress up to go to work every day or just some days?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I’m thinking that by now we can all agree that social media is important. However, how to go about using it correctly is a bit of a mystery. Every company wants to make the most of the free service that each of the different social media channels offers, but the challenge is that they are not 100% exactly how to go about doing this. In a lot of firms, this is where, because of the importance of information technology, the person with the CIO job can step in and lend some help. No, you don’t have to become the social media manager, but you do need to provide the company with some advice.