Addressing the Business Etiquette of Dressing Up

Conducting business has changed significantly over the last 50 years. A person needs only to look at old films to be reminded of the image of professionalism at work with businessmen dressed up wearing their suits and ties and businesswomen sitting upright at work wearing starched dresses. Having a polished presentation by dressing appropriately and proper communication was essential to having a professional demeanor. Respectful communication was natural that was found within interpersonal relationships in the workplace and within everyday life. The standard of what was considered acceptable is different than we have today. The incivility of today must first be recognized as a real issue and then addressed by a revolutionary, inspirational call to raise the standard of etiquette within society for the better.

Revolving the wardrobe in the closet to find something to wear is not hard now-a-days. Within the work environment, dress has changed from the formality of suit and tie, to business casual wear for most professions. The term “business casual” means even less than business casual in some workplaces. For many it may mean whatever they can get away with or justify as work wear. In group job interviews I have seen tight leather pants on other candidates, ripped up jeans worn by employers interviewing me in fancy offices, and low-cut and see-thru blouses that no one has the gumption to make a call on. As I held to the recommended business jacket, skirt, white pressed collared shirt, hose and modest heels for my interviews, I realized that it was more of an image that was being preserved by interview expert writers than the actual interview experience within most offices. In several cases I was knocked for being “overdressed” before finally dressing more simply with a jacket, pants and wearing a business casual shirt as a shell. Within retail environments, dress code is usually mandated with a provided company shirt or a constructed uniform such as jeans and a generic black t-shirt. While the presentation is more controlled and upheld, there still is a sloppiness with what is acceptable. Often it is at the discretion of the manager of the store and the level of strictness and importance he or she finds with it. The pride in taking the time to dress appropriately show care about employment and extends to respect for the job, other co-workers, and customers. Today too much casualness in how a person dresses for work may be resulting in taking away from the professionalism of how business is conducted, making business, too casual-business.

Communication has also changed significantly. The interaction from employee-to-employee and employee-to-customer was much different back then. At that time, politeness was expected by all. Greetings and words such as “Would you…”, “Yes, please…”, “Thank you” and the formal greetings of “Sir” and “Madam” were used frequently. The formalities of written communication to follow up after a meeting, with accepting an offer, or for conducting business were all a means of good business etiquette. Overall communication had more constructed thoughtfulness and respect put into it with its formality. Today communication is concise and less is seen as more. A quick email or text today will suffice, if even a response is bothered to be sent. How many interviews have I been on where after taking the time to dress up, print a resume, and drive out to the company one time or even for a second interview, and was promised a call back to let me know either way, no call or email was received. Even following up, no response. There is business etiquette lacking in my opinion when proper communication falls by the side as unimportant. Civility and etiquette in business is part of good business.

Whether within the professional arena or outside of it socially, too much casualness and lack of respectful communication creates habits characteristic of incivility. Rudeness can even go further manifesting itself to hate speech, with mockery and insults, and intolerance which even can lead to segregation. At its extreme, casualness to a lack of etiquette can even cause death. The combination of intolerance and barbarism, forgetting how to maintain civility despite differences, is lethal. Knowledge for what is appropriate is completely forgotten as the standard for etiquette fades away.

Over time, any relationship can become too comfortable where proper respect for each other falls away. Individuals involved start to take each other for granted with how they speak and act. People become lackadaisical and careless, sometimes without intent and without realizing it. It becomes the new standard of “just the way we talk” in today’s world. It can be hurtful and damaging. In business it can only negatively effect a business’ reputation when employees are mindless of respect and etiquette. This happens in marriages, it can happen in families, in the workplace and among friends and it can become a habit. It takes practice of good etiquette to strive to always be respectful.

The impact of the same digression found in media and social media has transformed culture the last 20-50 years significantly. When civility becomes less pertinent, the result is the metamorphosis of culture into an immature society. It is then passed on to the next generation because it never was corrected. In today’s culture of immaturity, this is evident, where the majority of the population has forgotten, or never learned, the difference of when and how to be respectful.

Pause Poise in Vogue
Today’s culture is more casual in how we speak and interact in any setting. There has been a significant change in etiquette expectations, as the Internet and social media has become part of everyday life. Media has contributed to the development of a culture of individualism and me-ism. Media leads the way in providing an example of how we speak and what we find as funny, even if it is very rude, negative, and mocking. Social and business expectations have changed as generations teach the next generation that the superiority of self over others is right, labeled as individualism rather than selfishness and self-centeredness. Likewise, casualness with etiquette is seen as more welcoming and productive than the respect and formality of old.

Dressing with Class
What is compromised by this casualness is etiquette and respect. With all the benefits that dressing casually and speaking informally seem to offer, the result is it is easier to slip into “too much comfort” in how we speak and act, becoming careless and thoughtless. Dressing up inadvertently seems to change the way a person speaks and acts. There is a certain respect for the person or event at hand when a person takes pride in dressing up. The overall presentation in how a person speaks and carries themself is generally positively affected. The communication is more appropriate, office talk is up a notch, and customers are placed once again on the pedestal they should be on, rather than as an inconvenience or subject to be hashed.

Casual and Sloppy
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not necessarily opposed to some casualness in business settings. In some situations a person can still present themselves well in jeans and a nice shirt. It can be a nice benefit, especially for those people who work long hours. In store environments where dress code is mandated by uniform, the uniform does not seem to have much of an effect on the way other staff and customers are treated. Regardless of HR handbooks, what is allowed in the workplace both in the business environment and retail stores is disregarded. Communication and propaganda spreading in any workplace is at an all-time low of what should be acceptable. Most employees should be fired for what is allowed by managers to be said at work. Entire teams speak profanity intertwined as part of their everyday conversations causing the workplace to be hostile for those who are unwillingly subjected to it. Negative gossip and propaganda spreading is not stopped but inspired by managers. Employees have the nerve to ask for a raise in order to stop speaking inappropriately thinking it is their right. The transition of formality to casualness has already affected the new generations of managers and employees the last 20 years. Culture has allowed such casualness that it has transformed culture into not knowing the difference of what good business etiquette is or what acceptable etiquette is for any setting.

Etiquette Next for Trending
How can culture revert back to a standard of good etiquette and respectfulness for all? I’ve read books that suggest that the transformation needs to start at the core of the family. Families who have retained good values can impact those they interact with leading by example. This is slow but meaningful method for changing the entire world as people encounter an inspiration for better humanity on an individual basis. Trends are faster ways to change culture. If a social effort was started with ad campaigns, slogans, media, and national celebrities advocating a higher standard of etiquette to increase civility in our nation, this would be a more effective means and reach more people. For a nation that is screaming racism, citizens fail to see civility as an overall problem. We have defined it as an attack against only one race, but overall civility is lacking towards all, in how people interact with each other. The mass population fails to accept any number of differences in others because of race, color, belief, ability, religion or any other reason. Anything that is seen as not in status quo is not acceptable. For a “melting pot” this is not in line with what our country is about. We need to appreciate the differences in all people and address them with respect, even if we disagree or are uncomfortable. By learning about individuals on an individual basis, we grow in appreciation for our commonalities with one another, and can find unity rather than division. A change in how we interact with each other, with proper civility, takes a commitment to a change in a standard of etiquette. How we view each other, with human dignity despite differences, how we speak to others about those we seem so different from and cannot seem to understand, and how we show respect in all situations of conflict can change our nation.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Carla Hollis says:

    I like your thoughts on how we dress leading to more civil discourse between people. I think it does begin at home. I was a little taken back to see all of the fashion magazines featuring Kamala’s step daughter as the “it ” girl dressed in a way not descriptive of your suggestions. Your thoughts on this and how to start the movement?

    1. cherylvaca says:

      Media and fashion has a big influence on culture. If leaders of our country,whether they are in government, executives at companies, educators, and church leaders could see the problem and address it, this would be a start. When disrespectful speech, profanity, and sloppy dress is allowed, it isn’t being lenient as much as it is becoming more acceptable, which eventually creates a new standard. A non-profit might be a solution but one with these connections who believe this revolution is needed.

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