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How to Get Your Millennials to Dress Professionally

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When interviewed about business casual attire, employees confirm that they consider it a perk that they don’t want to give up. It’s no surprise that employees, including sales associates, back office workers and furniture delivery people prefer to dress down, just as young children prefer to eat pizzas, hamburgers and candy bars, rather than carrots and broccoli. But parents who let their children eat what they want are not doing them a favor, and indulgent companies that institute a business casual policy because employees demand it may not be doing their staff a favor.

If your customers were interviewed about business casual instead of employees, the results would be quite different. Clients get it when you dress to impress them, and they are flattered. They also get it when your attire shouts, “My comfort is more important than impressing you.” Your actions are tantamount to hurling an insult at them. 

It has been firmly established by university studies that employees are less productive when they are dressed down. There is also more tardiness and absenteeism after implementing a casual dress policy. Our country’s productivity has plummeted in the past decade, and it’s time we addressed one of the underlying problems. The way you look and dress announces the outcome other people can expect from you. Are poorly-attired employees causing us to expect less and less of them?

What’s a company to do? Some companies implement a dress code to define business casual attire. The problem with this approach is that business casual can’t be defined, because it’s truly an oxymoron. You’re either dressed for business or for casual activities. Business attire and casual attire are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Most companies going the dress-code route   outlaw jeans and flip flops, but permit khakis and polo shirts for men. Capri pants are given the okay for women. Here’s why they all have negative connotations and shouldn’t be worn:

  • Khakis appear baggy, rumpled and sloppy
  • Polos accentuate a protruding tummy and suggest sloping shoulders
  • Capris make women look broader in the beam and stunted in the legs; and when they are baggy, they are even more unbecoming

There’s a proven method for eliminating business casual in the office when it has morphed into business casualty. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Dress codes won’t work because they create resentment
  • You must get employees to buy into making changes with their appearance
  • They need to see for themselves that it is for their own betterment
  • They must become aware that they judge by appearances like everyone else

An established way to do this is with a hands-on workshop that consists of the following:

  • A series of two-minute Mini Makeovers of employees that astound their peers
  • A slide show with Before/After photos of people just like them. Before shots are with casual attire; after shots are with professional attire
  • Employees see for themselves that simple changes can make a person appear more dynamic, credible and authoritative.
  • They also see that people look more attractive, and this is an unexpected benefit that is appreciated
  • Employees gradually discover that they do judge by appearances, just like everyone else
  • Ultimately, they gain the awareness that dressing professionally has a lot of benefits, including a better chance for promotion and success in life

During the workshop, employees are learning how to dress professionally. However, the most powerful element of the workshop is the discovery that dressing professionally will get their sales up and advance their careers, and maybe even speed up a promotion. They are motivated to dress to impress. Ultimately, the person they impress the most is the person in the mirror when they leave the house each morning ready to conquer the world!

About the Author: Sandy Dumont is an internationally-acclaimed image consultant with 30 years experience helping Fortune 500 companies improve the appearance of their staff. She has presented workshops on three continents and has written numerous books on the subject of image. Contact her at www.theimagearchitect.com.  


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