Is My Office Too Casual?

Has Your Office Image Gone to the Dogs?

You’re walking through the office on a normal Monday morning and you see the sights of, well, any other workday:  hoodies; leggings (as pants); ragged jeans, and (wait,…. are those pajama pants?). You wonder how it ever came to this. Your team is talented, committed, and engaged, yet they look like they just rolled out of bed and came to the office as an after ripped-jeans-123rf-8307831_s-© John McAllisterthought.

If your people aren’t client interfacing, you might have no problem. The fact that you’re reading this article, however, suggests otherwise. If you hesitate to invite clients to your site for meetings, isolate prospective customers to a single zone in the office to limit employee exposure, or feel inclined to make “dress up tomorrow” announcements when visitors are expected, consider the following practices:

Give credence to your appearance policy
Publish it. Post it. Refer to it.

When no one knows you have a policy, conformance is a far away fantasy. Let your people know why the code exists (i.e. “we desire to send a positive and consistent brand message to our clients, prospects, peers, and community at large”), and help them interpret it.

No policy, you say? There’s your first action step.

When expectations are unclear, haphazard results ensue. Develop a written document that staff can reference when questions arise around what is appropriate. Provide examples, preferably visual, of what is office-worthy, and what isn’t. Human beings, by nature, better support a program they’ve had a part in creating, so consider forming an internal committee or task force to develop the policy.

Special note: If segments of your staff work outside of the office in client settings, or entertain customers, it’s valuable to address protocol for those environments as well.

Lead by example
If the CEO arrives to work looking like he’s on the way to his kid’s soccer game, all bets are off. Expecting to uplevel your staff’s image is futile when the Big Kahuna sends an opposing message.

Rally the support of your entire leadership team when striving to raise the bar on workplace professionalism. When not all departments or business units back the company’s goals and equally enforce guidelines, dissention may result from finger pointing and perceptions of favoritism.

Elevate “Jeans Style”
Whether Friday is jeans day, or every day is casual at your office, there remains a difference between workday jeans attire and weekend jeans style. Communicate that difference to your team. And, at every turn, demonstrate it (see: “Lead by Example,” above). Share the following tips for office-worthy jeans wearing:

  • Dark wash jeans (dark, indigo blue or black) vs. pre-worn/faded jeans uphold higher professional decorum in a casual office.  In other words, they look new.
  • Pair jeans with long-sleeved shirts and sweaters for a more office-appropriate impression.  casual-couple-jeans-and-jacket-123rf-8747148_s-©nyulThe more skin that shows, the less formal the message.
  • Shirts with collars support a more polished appearance than those without. Imagine a t-shirt and jeans at the far left of the casual-to-formal dress continuum. Collars serve as a key point in moving toward the more buttoned-up end of that scale.
  • Take the office blue jean to the highest level of neatness and professionalism by wearing it with a jacket or blazer. A cardigan sweater over a shirt or blouse is a more relaxed, but still pulled-together, approach to 3-piece dressing.


Have the conversation
When things aren’t working, address the issue. If another system in your office is off-kilter, you talk about it. You look for solutions, and you get a handle on it. Your organization’s brand is no exception. A problem ignored is a growing problem, and denial about your public image can cost you projects, clients, and ultimately, money.

Make sure everyone understands that this is an important (and highly visible) success factor for your firm. A company-wide training initiative to raise awareness around professional presence assures that each and every member of your team receives the same brand-boosting message.  They learn the value of impression management, not only to the company, but to their own advancement potential as well.  Contact me to explore how an impression management training program can bolster your company’s brand.

What strategies have you found to support a professional atmosphere in your office?  Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.

Want to learn more? Work with me.

Patty Buccellato Image CoachPatty Buccellato is an image coach and founder of Refined Images. She brings extensive knowledge and expertise to her work with men and women individually, as well as with corporate employee groups.

Patty established Refined Images in 1994, and while her studio is based in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, you’ll find her serving clients throughout North America in their homes, offices — and, yes, even in shopping malls! To get your FREE copy of Patty’s “How to Shop Like a Stylist,” visit or contact Patty.

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This entry was posted in Business Professional Image, Dressing for Success, Men's Image, Personal Image, Women's Image, Workplace Style and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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