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REP: ImpREssions in the Workplace

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Ladies and gentleman, you may be readers of this blog every other day, but today I need you to be a jury and help with a debate. I had an instant message conversation with my buddy, Kevin, and we got in an interesting debate about fashion, impressions, and the workplace. The essence of our debate was whether or not it matters if you dress nicely (to work—and in general). Now although the previous statement is simply put, both Kevin and I bring up interesting points. Intel has a casual dress code and employees dress the way they feel most comfortable. I enjoying dressing for style (Michael, another friend who feels the same will also weigh in on this in my next blog post) while Kevin enjoys dressing for comfort. I like that Intel gives employees a lenient dress code (because who can really wear business casual five days a week, week after week after week?). What I’m wondering, and readers please weigh-in, is does it matter if you dress for style or comfort? If no, why not? If yes, why? Therefore, I’d like to submit our IM debate for case review and let you be the judge.

The Case…

Prosecution (me) believes: dressing for style matters and it influences others’ impressions of us at work and in life.

Defendant (Kevin) believes: dress for style should NOT matter. Impressions should be shaped (mostly, if not completely) by our ability to deliver results and our character.

Kevin [10:40 AM]:

hey Kirsten!

Kirsten [10:40 AM]:


[…skips to the good stuff…]


Kevin [10:42 AM]:

Ah, I hate dressing up!


Kirsten [10:42 AM]:

Dressing up? For what?


Kevin [10:43 AM]:

I lost a bet to my brother

Kirsten [10:43 AM]:


Doesn’t seem like such a bad bet to lose

Kevin [10:43 AM]:

But it is!!

Kirsten [10:43 AM]:



You know who you’re speaking to, right?

Kevin [10:44 AM]:

LOL, that’s right—I should realize my audience

You dress up all the time

Haha, I bet you’ve never worn PJs to work


Kirsten [10:44 AM]:

PJs??? Haha!

 Never….pure blasphemy!

Kevin [10:45 AM]:

Haha! Yeah, I wore PJs to work yesterday

*waits for tomatoes to be thrown*

Kirsten [10:45 AM]:





Kevin [10:45 AM]:

Technically it was at night.

I went in to work at night to check my tool.

It was relaxing.

I need to do it again

Would you ever wear PJs to work?


Kirsten [10:46 AM]:


Not once.

I felt awkward wearing a t-shirt the other day, haha!

Kevin [10:46 AM]:

Why not?

It’s amazing!


Kirsten [10:47 AM]:

PJs sound relaxing. But, I wouldn’t want to run into anyone.

Can you imagine???

Impressions matter.

You never know who you’ll see (cute boy/girl? VP? Will.i.am?)

I’m surprised more people don’t dress up for work

Kevin [10:48 AM]:

But it’s what’s on the inside that counts, no?


Kirsten [10:48 AM]:


Kevin [10:48 AM]:

If you do your job well that’s all that should matter.

Results matter, right?

Stylish clothes don’t make someone work harder


Kirsten [10:48 AM]:


The inside that counts?

 LOL! Umm… Lots more to it!

It’s why you wear a suit to an interview

…why Michelle Obama is a style icon

Kirsten [10:49 AM]:

Results matter—yes. But! Presentation and impressions matter too.

Haven’t you ever heard “dress for the job you want?”

Kevin [10:49 AM]:

Yes, but it should be about delivering good work.

…the merit of your work.

And, I do dress for the job I want! Haha!

Haven’t you noticed the most technically influential people at Intel dress like me—comfortably, haha!


Kirsten [10:50 AM]:

Agreed, at Intel, results matter.

As engineers, technical merit is priority

But!!!! Humans evolved to make split choice decisions

And we base those decisions on first impressions.

It’s the difference between getting the job and not getting the job.

Being taken seriously, or being thought of as the weird guy in the corner.

Kirsten [10:51 AM]:

Example 1: Bob and Ryan are equally good job candidates.

The difference between them is Ryan wears suits, looks polished, projects when he speaks, and stands tall.

Bob wears PJs to work-cough- cough

and dresses comfortably .

…all else being equal, who would YOU give the job to?

Kevin [10:52 AM]:



Kirsten [10:53 AM]:

Example 2: Lauren and Michelle are equally attractive. Lauren wears sweats, a stained t-shirt, has messy hair.

Michelle wears skirts, styles her hair, and wears lip gloss.

You can ask EITHER girl out on a date (without fear of rejection).

Who do you ask?

Kevin [10:54 AM]:


Can Michelle cook?


From our IM chat, you can tell Kevin and I have different perspectives on whether dressing up for work is important.  Kevin believes results and task-orientation are more important than what shirt he’ll wear to work.  And I think Kevin is over-simplifying the situation and self-presentation (in this case, how you dress for work) is important, because people make snapshot judgments of others based on their looks.  What do you think?  Do you agree with Kevin?  Do you think I’m right?  Or do have a different point of view?