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Style cue from the boss

The New Zealand Herald Workplace section August 2, 2004 - article by Janine Ogier

How you are regarded at work has a lot to do with presentation, says Paul Barrett, adjunct professor of psychometrics and performance management at the Auckland University faculty of business.

So the pay rise you seek, the promotion you covet, and any dealings with management can be smoothed by your appearance.

Just like any other environment, workplaces are governed by group conformity, dynamics and stereotypes.

The best way to determine how to get ahead from a presentation perspective is to reflect what the boss is wearing, whether it's a suit or jeans, and to be aware of what is the group norm, Barrett says.

People who wear something different stand out. That is a good tactic if you are being deliberate, but it is a negative thing if you are doing it inadvertently.

Psychological evidence suggests a departure from the dress code will be measured against mitigating factors such as job performance and physical attractiveness, he says.

Customer perceptions also centre on presentation and appearance. In a streetwear retailer people expect the sales staff to be casually attired, but in Smith and Caughey's, a pristine and sophisticated appearance is anticipated.

Auckland image consultant Susan Axford says people have seven seconds to make an impression at a first meeting and half of that impression is made up of what you are wearing.

"You want to be noticed for how you do your job but because we are such a visual society, people do take into account how you look," she says.

And it's not just the clothes that. Grooming, such as clean shoes and fingernails, and eye contact and a good handshake are also crucial.

"If you look as if you have put some effort into yourself, if you look as if you care for yourself, it gives you an air of professionalism," ay Axford, whose company Your Style advises people on a wardrobe to suit their needs.

"If you look good, you have more confidence, you feel better, you perform better and people relate to you better - there's a whole chain reaction,"says Axford.


"I went shopping today and bought a lovely top - in just the right colour and style for me. Thanks so much- I am much more efficient now!"

Nicola, West Auckland

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