It’s 90 degrees outside, and the idea of putting on a light sundress and those cute new sandals you bought this weekend is seriously tempting. You have a meeting with a client though, who might not appreciate your cute new outfit, nor will your boss, who has a strict policy forbidding employees from going sleeveless. Even though your outfit isn’t overly sexy, it’s still not appropriate for work, and if you choose to wear it anyway, you could be harming your career.
Lack of Advancement
If you want to land a spot in the corner office, leave the low-cut blouses and fishnets at home, reports a study by Peter Glick, a psychology professor at the Lawrence University in Wisconsin. According to his study, women who dress sexy are perceived as less competent than those who cover up, regardless of their skills. So while you might have an MBA, if everyone can see your bra, people will still think you’re unqualified. Apparently, it’s impossible to climb the career ladder in stilettos.
Creating a Distraction
Chances are you’ve encountered him: the guy that stares at your chest instead of your eyes while you’re having a conversation. Now imagine it’s your boss and you’re making an important presentation. Kind of makes you feel icky. Even if your boss is George Clooney and you wouldn’t mind it if he stared at you, dressing in such a way that draws attention to certain assets -- such as short skirts or tight blouses that show extra cleavage -- creates a distraction, and not in a good way. Both male and female co-workers will be so focused on what you’re wearing (or not wearing) that they won’t hear the brilliant ideas that you’re sharing.
Poor Reflection of Your Work
Inappropriate attire isn’t just limited to clothing that’s too sexy for work. You might be dressed conservatively, but if you aren’t well-groomed and well put together, you’ll attract a different sort of negative attention. Imagine if you went to visit your bank, for example, and the teller’s blouse was stained, her pantyhose full of runs and her shoes scuffed. You wouldn't trust her to handle your money, and the same goes for you.
When you don’t take care of your clothes, wear items that are ill-fitting or hopelessly out of style, and fail to engage in basic grooming, you may give the impression that you aren’t taking proper care with your work either. You don’t have to have a wardrobe full of designer clothes, but everything should be clean, well-tailored and in good condition, or you risk a reputation as a slacker.
If your office has a dress code -- your pushing the limits or blatantly ignoring it can lead to reprimands -- and could even cause you to lose your job. If your boss thinks that your dress is better suited for a night out on the town than meeting with a client, she might start with a written or verbal warning, and then escalate the reprimands if you continue to skirt the rules.
Repeated violations will show up on your performance review, meaning your love of spaghetti straps could be what's keeping you from getting a raise or promotion. No matter how much you might love a particular outfit or want to express yourself at work, you have to consider whether it’s worth losing your job over a trendy top.
An adjunct instructor at Central Maine Community College, Kristen Hamlin is also a freelance writer on topics including lifestyle, education, and business. She is the author of Graduate! Everything You Need to Succeed After College (Capital Books), and her work has appeared in Lewiston Auburn Magazine, Young Money, USA Today and a variety of online outlets. She has a B.A. in Communication from Stonehill College, and a Master of Liberal Studies in Creative Writing from the University of Denver.