The Effect of Physical Appearance in the Workplace

by Elizabeth Smith; Updated September 26, 2017
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Physical appearance can have a far-reaching impact on your professional life. It can affect how your employers treat you and how much stock clients put in your abilities, regardless of your actual skill level. Even if your company does not have a published dress code policy, paying attention to what your appearance says about you can benefit your career.

Professionalism

Physical appearance gives immediate clues about your level of professionalism in the workplace. A certain level of neatness is expected in most businesses, even those with a very casual dress code. Sloppy dressing and personal presentation implies that you don't care about your job, even if that's not the case. The way you look can affect the way people communicate with you and show you respect.

Company Image

The way employees look impacts the overall feeling of a business. Young, trendy employees can give the impression of a fast-paced, edgy company; older, more formal employees communicate a sense of steadiness and experience. Company uniforms and grooming standards exist to manage the overall image of a business. More traditional companies might instruct employees to remove piercings and cover tattoos. The way you look also has an impact on hiring decisions, especially when your appearance goes against the core values of a business: A fitness center may be hesitant to hire an unhealthy or unfit person.

Client Perception

Employee appearance is an important consideration when meeting potential clients, especially if the employees look very different from what the client typically sees. Very young employees who do not look professional may worry older clients who will be entrusting the business with a great deal of responsibility; older, traditional employees may not give off a "cutting edge" vibe to a client looking to move forward. Research new clients before the first meeting to get a sense of their styles and personalities; if your appearance is very different from theirs, go into the interview prepared to work harder to convince them of your abilities and suitability.

Advancement

Conventional wisdom says to dress for the job you want, not the job you've got. According to "USA Today," the way you look can affect how you advance in your career and how much money you make; people who look better often earn more. People will take clues from your appearance about your ambition, working style and how much you care about your job. If you look put-together and dress appropriately, you may find that employers take a greater interest in you, or your colleagues give your ideas more weight.

About the Author

Elizabeth Smith has been a scientific and engineering writer since 2004. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, newspapers and corporate publications. A frequent traveler, she also has penned articles as a travel writer. Smith has a Bachelor of Arts in communications and writing from Michigan State University.

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