DR. E. CAROL WEBSTER’S
CASUAL FRIDAYS SINKING YOUR SUCCESS?
E. Carol Webster, Ph.D.
Original Copyright © 2004
Casual Fridays are not for everyone. In fact, they’re probably not great for a lot of people. While the idea of allowing employees to relax dress codes one day a week so they can work in more comfortable attire is fine, some people have interpreted this to mean “ready for the weekend” and have diminished the image of their companies as well as their own. This has caused some employers to rethink the practice, and many individuals need to do so as well.
Work Is Work
Whether we like it or not, work is work. There is a “uniform” associated with jobs and, though some are more formal and fussy than others, your appearance should make it perfectly clear when you’re “on duty” rather than “at play”. In some offices, particularly on Casual Fridays, it’s hard to tell the difference. If your job requires you to represent highbrow goods and/or services, your efforts to communicate this elite stature and instill confidence in you and your company are undermined if you’re doing this in jeans and flip flops. While you may generate your most brilliant thoughts and are at your creative best when your toes are catching a breeze, your customers probably won’t get to the point of learning about your great ideas because they will be turned off by your lack of professional presentation. People expect you to be at work. They expect you to look and act a certain way in a business setting and even though your company allows you to skip the suiting up requirement one day a week, remember that you are on the job and not readying for a trip to the beach. Besides, as those who run businesses at home will tell you, though they may truly believe that they are at their best when they are relaxed, they find that they are more productive when they shed the pajamas and put on some type of “uniform” that signals that they are now “at work”.
Determine The Dress Code
Rather than proceed in a manner that undermines your success, find out what the dress code is for Casual Fridays. Many people take their lead from management and this is reasonable, but management may not have their act together either and, thus, asking the question will invite everyone to take a look at the policy and practice in light of the company’s positioning to see what can be improved. The guidelines should be clearly defined so that the average person easily understands what type of clothing is expected and what is considered unacceptable to wear on these days. And, by all means, get input from some customers or those outside your immediate department. How did they expect employees to dress? What do they think about the way they do dress? Is this the image the company intends to project?
Look At Yourself In The Mirror
Once you are clear about what’s considered acceptable casual dress at the office, does this type of clothing look good on you? While most people make at least some minimal effort to check their appearance before leaving home for work, make it a point to look at yourself in a mirror once you get to the office. Catch a glimpse as you pass the reflective wall in front of the elevator or as you assemble for a meeting in the conference room. Better yet, play back any videotaped gathering at your office so that you can see how you’re coming across during these dress down days. Shorts and sneakers may be allowed, but you don’t have to wear them. Same with jeans when they are allowed at work — especially those that haven’t seen an iron in years. There is no law that says you must wear denim in order to embrace the spirit of Casual Fridays, or that the crinkled shirt look is for you. Permitted or not, all styles are not flattering on all people and you should stick with what makes you look your best.
What Image Should You Be Projecting?
Though you may present a satisfactory impression of yourself when wearing a polo shirt and khakis like everyone else on Casual Friday, what image should you be projecting? What is your role – within the company? – in the eyes of your staff and colleagues? – in the eyes of your customers? Your image may need to be distinguished from others or it simply may be different and require you to project greater professional “packaging” at all times. Yes, this is burdensome and no, it’s not fair. But, so what? It’s a part of your reality and is likely to be a critical component to your success. Image is a large part of what drives sales and consumer satisfaction in our society. If you are asking your customer to pay top dollar, or are conducting business with them as an agent of some “official” or “authoritative” entity, for example, you will be expected to embody the characteristics associated with that stature and your image should reflect the associated symbolism accordingly. Even those representing industries more typically thought of as “laid back” must ensure that those in the front office and those identified as “in charge” look the part and provide the business with the professional image it requires to instill consumer confidence. People like to feel that they have made a correct choice and that their affiliation with you enhances their image and feelings of importance, not detracts from it. Interestingly, this applies to your staff and others above and below you as well. You may find that your authority is curiously less effective on some dress down days and your other interactions may be diminished as well. Your input and opinions can rise and fall with the way you appear to others, so dress in a manner that is in keeping with your level of power and influence. Your appearance should make you feel proud, confident, and ready to go if invited out by your boss or if you are called to meet with your most important client, for example. At the very least, stash a suit or blazer, business shoes, and some “dress up” accessories in your office closet so that, if caught off guard, you can make a quick “uniform” change and be ready for action.
Get Personal Feedback
So how are you doing in projecting success on dress down days? Invite feedback. Ask your spouse, partner, or a good friend to stop by the office to check you out. What’s their honest impression? If your appearance looks too informal, too sloppy, too provocative, too unsophisticated or otherwise negative in the context of your business setting and job – do something about this. Stop sinking your success because of Casual Fridays. Polish your image and get professional coaching if necessary so you can learn how to look like a winner everyday.
About the Author:
Dr. E. Carol Webster is a clinical psychologist consultant in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
She is author of the book for those dealing with the stress of success ―
Success Management: How to Get to the Top and Keep Your Sanity Once You Get There,
The Fear of Success: Stop It From Stopping You! ―
the book to help you overcome fears that may be holding you back in your life and career
The Private Practice of Clinical Psychology in: Voices of Historical & Contemporary Black American Pioneers
To contact Dr. Webster visit online at http://drcarolwebster.com or call 954.797.9766.
E. Carol Webster, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychology Consulting
Mailing Address: 7027 West Broward Boulevard, #262 Fort Lauderdale, FL 33317
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