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Etiquette at Work

Appearances can say a lot about you

Last week I challenged readers to conduct a self-review as a way to increase the opportunity to build stronger relationships at work. That review entails looking at actions (which were focused on last week), appearance (this week’s column), and words (next week’s column).

Your appearance has a direct effect on people’s image of you. Realize that no matter how good you think you look when you leave for work, if you walk into the morning meeting and people look at you and wonder, “What on earth is he/she wearing that for?” then you chose the wrong clothes. In business, the opinions of others matter.

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Here are four questions to consider:

Do my clothes conform to the company policy, or do I push the limits? Adhering to the company policy is respectful not only to the company but to colleagues. Are my clothes bordering on too tight, sheer, low cut, loud, or short?

Are my clothes in good repair? Are they washed and odor free? Do they have stains, rips or tears? No matter how expensive it is, if that silk tie or blouse has a stain on it, it’s not appropriate for work anymore.

Do I dress appropriately for the situation? A meeting at Ben & Jerry’s may necessitate different clothes than a meeting at a private equity firm.

Am I ready for an emergency? You’re dressed casually when your manager asks you to accompany her to a meeting with an important client. Or, on the way to work you spill a cup of coffee on your shirt or blouse. Keep an extra outfit at work for these situations.

In addition to attire, appearance also is reflected in body language:

Eye contact. Do you engage people by looking them in the eye, especially during greetings and when saying good-bye?

Posture. Check out Amy Cuddy’s great TED talk on power poses for more information on the importance of posture. By standing or sitting straight and tall you convey a confident image as opposed to slouching.

Gestures. Do you sit back in a chair with your arms folded across your chest? This indicates you aren’t receptive or interested as opposed to sitting up and forward, which shows your engagement.

Nervous ticks. You want to indicate you are a confident person, but your twitching foot or tapping of the pen on your notebook makes you look nervous and uncertain.

E-mail questions about business etiquette to etiquetteatwork@emilypost.com.
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