There can often be a bit of tension between personal style and professional presence in the workplace. Fortunately, dress codes have certainly loosened over time in many companies nationwide, with khaki pants and button-down shirts winning out over suits, ties, and pantyhose. However, it depends on where you work.
According to a recent CNN article, “When it comes to personal style in the workplace, there are no hard and fast rules. What is suitable changes with where you work and what you do.” Indeed, there might be some lawyer’s offices where anything goes, and some medical facilities where employees are required to iron their color-coded scrubs and polish their white sneakers.
One key to emanating professionalism in the workplace is figuring out what the rules are in your office. Since corporate style “varies by company and culture,” you may need to investigate a bit before you decide to wear a top hat to work. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Navigating Professional Presence
1. Read up on the official company dress code that should be on file with human resources. Are there any specific types of clothing or hairstyles that are specifically off limits?
2. Ask co-workers and supervisors that you look up to about their own professional presence. How do they manage to create a persona that is both professional and expressive of their personalities?
3. Observe other employees. What seems to be acceptable and unacceptable based on what people are actually wearing? Does it vary based on division or job level?
Once you have a sense of the professionalism in the workplace playing field at your office, try to figure out ways to express your personal style within the confines of the established dress code and overall company culture. According to one expert, it is “crucial to have some personal branding around,” whether it be unique clothing and accessories or personal photographs on your desk. Basically, these personal touches help employees stay in touch with themselves and their lives outside of work, and they help express personality and creativity.
If you’re lucky, then you work for a company that recognizes the importance of a combination of personal expression and professionalism in the workplace. This can even boost the company’s overall success, since it is “important to encourage the uniqueness of others without judgment because it emboldens both confidence and creativity.”