Posted by Barry Siskind
I recently read a news article about Debrahlee Lorenzo, an attractive woman who worked at Citibank. The story stated that she was dismissed because the clothes she wore were too provocative and not appropriate to the financial industry image. She fired back with a gender-discrimination suit saying she couldn’t help the way she looks. The case will probably go on for years. The issue that this raises is what is the appropriate dress for people who work on the front line engaged in face-to-face marketing and selling to customers? Years ago the answer was simple. People who work on the trade fair floor and meet customers should look professional; men in ties and women in dresses. Now when I attend a face to face marketing event I never know what I will see. Some people are over dressed and don’t seem to fit into the industry they represent while others opt for personal comfort in their choice of wardrobe.
In the 60’s psychologist Albert Mehrabrian wrote an interesting thesis titled Communication without Words. Mehrabrian studied thousands of workers and found that 55% of their customers’ perception of these people – whether they liked them or trusted them – was passed on through their non-verbal; the way they looked, their body language and how they dressed. Mehrabrian’s work is just as relevant today as it was a half century ago.
The dilemma exhibition organizers face is a definition of what is professional and therefore appropriate for their staff to wear. I think there are two answers to this:
1. Dress professionally which means wearing what would be considered appropriate to wear to a client meeting from Monday to Thursday.
2. Everyone dresses the same which gives the company and its representatives an opportunity to stand out at the event they are participating in.
Is there a universal answer to the question of what is the appropriate dress code?