Unprofessional Appearance: How to Fix a Toxic Look

PSOW Staff - Monday, June 5, 2017

According to a poll by the Center for Professional Excellence at York College of Pennsylvania, "appearance" ranked second only to "communication skills" when respondents named qualities most often associated with professionalism. In today’s climate of more casual office wear, employees may not realize what the rules of conduct—or fashion—may actually be.


As we look at behavior and personality traits that can lead to toxic workplaces during National Business Etiquette Week, we have to take a hard look at appearance as something that can be harmful to your reputation and something that can hinder good working relationships. First of all, we are not talking about physical appearances, body shape or brand name clothing. Everyone can create their own sense of style and professionalism no matter their body type or budget. What we are discussing is more about levels of taste and what is appropriate or inappropriate for the workplace. It’s true that clothes not only make the man and the woman, but they certainly speak volumes about taste and decorum. Style is a relative term and one woman’s idea of elegance is another woman’s version of what not to wear, but there are some universal apparel etiquette rules to follow in the business world. Here are some universally accepted appearance rules that can put you on your company’s “best dressed list” and cleanse the toxicity associated with an unprofessional look.

First and foremost, wear colors that look good on you: You want to select clothing that enhances your complexion and that creates balance for your overall look. In general, neutrals are a safe bet since they go with practically anything and can be paired with a classic white button-down, or some colors and eye-catching (but not over-the-top) accessories.

Learn how to properly accessorize: Classic jewelry is always a safe bet, but make sure you don’t wear too much bling on the job. It could be thought of as ostentatious or gaudy. Another good rule of thumb is to make sure not to wear too many accessories at once. You don’t want to look like a walking display case. Add a belt or mix up your colors to dress up a casual business suit. But remember, less is always more.

Wake up to good makeup:Clowns get a bad rap these days and maybe one reason is that they go way overboard on their makeup—often with scary consequences. In all seriousness, makeup should be understated and you should avoid heavy mascara, avoid fake eyelashes and leave the heavy eye shadow for nighttime events. You should also avoid glittery eye makeup, lip gloss or any other cosmetic that makes you look less than professional.

Clean up your act: For both men and women, personal grooming can make or break someone’s professional appearance. Dirty hair or nails are a real turn off and can distract from your image. Deodorant is a necessity and if you’re concerned with the safety of such items, there are many organic alternatives in your drug store. And on the subject of making good scents, try to avoid over the top cologne or perfume. You don’t want to leave a lingering impression that causes your coworkers to sneeze or get a headache.

Fit to be tied: Finally, when it comes to looking your professional best, consider whether your clothing is a proper fit for your body. You may have lost or gained weight since you purchased an item and your clothes may hang on you or be too snug. A good tailor can help you look your best at any size.

Want more? Click HERE for Top Five Toxins in the Workplace Infographic




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