Tuesday, 3 May 2016

One-tenth of a second

As a manager do you dress for work without hesitation? Or do you consider how your appearance influences the perception and reactions of others? Or how the way you dress might influence you? A few weeks ago, someone challenged me. “Do people really care what people wear these days? Surely managers can see beyond a person’s appearance and focus on the individual’s knowledge, skills and achievements.” Well, yes and no.

Performance-based management should focus managers and employees on achievements, not effort. As long as an individual is delivering against their objectives, relationships with customers and colleagues are good, and their approach is legal, everything else should be unimportant.

Unfortunately numerous psychology studies demonstrate we judge each other very rapidly based on appearance. In one-tenth of a second. Or less. Longer exposures don’t significantly alter these first impressions (although they may boost confidence in your initial judgments).

Professor Karen Pine’s research and associated book from 2014 suggests that what you wear can boost or lower your self-esteem *. Not only that, the clothes we wear can influence the way we think.  Research teams from California State University, Northridge and Columbia University in 2015** found that “the formality of clothing might not only influence the way others perceive a person, and how people perceive themselves, but could influence decision making in important ways through its influence on [cognitive] processing style”. These preliminary findings have extraordinary implications. Processing style can influence many important factors in the workplace, from the way people approach decisions to the way people focus on a task.

The industry you work in, the culture of your organisation, the nature of your job, specific activities coupled with your personality, figure and personal style all influence your choice of dress.

Blog by Jo Strain, Women in Management Lead for CMI Southern Region

Update (19/5/2016)

At CMI Southern 'Dressing with Confidence' event 19 May 2016, Linda MacDonald, formerly Dressmaking and Promotions Co-ordinator for McCall, Butterick and Vogue Paper Patterns, explained the basics of figure types, garment shapes, lines and styles, and looked at the options for what to wear when based on the scenarios that managers may encounter. 
There is no right or wrong way to dress. The event gave insights for developing your own style of confident dressing.

Tips for what to wear for media or corporate videos were also featured as part of the event.

External links

Dressing with confidence in the fight for the vote - Dr Maureen Wright's blog on the use of dress by prominent suffrage leaders