5 Ways Your Boss is Judging the Way You Look

Posted April 8, 2013 by Marcy Twete in On the Ladder

A recent article in Forbes called out “The Seven Ways Your Boss is Judging Your Appearance,” and while I agree that your boss is definitely judging you, I don’t necessarily agree with the findings of the article, even if they’re backed up by research. More so than talking about your boss, the article talked about hiring practices across the board and a study done recently about the way hiring managers judge candidates:

While appearance was deemed less important than gravitas and communication skills, it’s the very first thing people see. So a major grooming mistake can instantly undermine your chances of showing just how good you really are. From the CTI researchers’ interviews with high-level leaders, these emerged as the top seven physical traits that you’re being judged on.

The article goes on to say you’re being judged on your physical attractiveness, height, and even your “slimness.” While, again, I don’t necessarily agree, I do think there are things that your boss – the one you have now, not the one you’re interviewing with is judging you on every single day. And these are the kinds of missteps that could make or break a promotion or even get you fired. So listen up.

5 Ways Your Boss is Judging the Way You Look

  1. In the difference between what you wear on Monday and what you wear on Friday. Sure, many offices have “casual Friday,” but that doesn’t mean “Hello Kitty t-shirt Friday.” What you wear on Monday and what you wear on Friday may be different inherently because it’s “casual Friday,” but if they are drastically different, trust me, you’re being judged for it. Instead of wearing casual clothing to work, consider thinking of casual days as ways to “dress down” your work clothes. Perhaps you wear a dark pair of jeans instead of slacks or pair your blazer with a sweater instead of a button up. But don’t go all the way to Sunday afternoon wear lest ye be judged.
  2. In the difference between what you wear on the day of an important meeting and a non-meeting day. I’ll use my husband as an example here, as men’s wardrobes are more cut and dry. My husband works in a corporate environment where daily attire is not business casual, but also doesn’t require a jacket or tie. However, on days when outside consultants are in the office, or meetings with anyone in the C-suite, he wears a jacket and tie. Your boss is judging this kind of difference in your dress. They want to see that you know the way you have to uplevel your wardrobe for important clients or internal key players. So dress appropriately, even overdress, for important meetings.
  3. In the time you choose to change your shoes. Women often come to work in one pair of shoes and leave work in another. Totally acceptable. But what time do you change out of the heels and into the flats? Say you have a meeting at 2pm, but nothing going on after that. If you’re changing into flats, your boss (especially a female boss) may be judging. She may also be thinking, “Oh, I see, you’re done for the day.” Changing into your commuter shoes can imply you’re “leaving early.” Don’t! If you can’t handle heels all day, then don’t wear them at all!
  4. In the way you dress when you come in on a weekend. You’re making a sacrifice by coming into the office on the weekend, we know, but showing up in clothing you would never wear during the week isn’t appropriate even when the office is closed. Ask yourself this: if you ran into the CEO on Saturday and he or she said, “Let’s grab lunch,” would you be appropriately dressed? If not, then don’t go to work in it!
  5. In the way you dress for after-hours company outings. Two years ago, when working in a consulting firm, I had the occasion to attend a black tie dinner. Most of the women in my firm were older and more conservative, so while I knew that my long strapless black dress would likely be appropriate for a black tie gala for a younger crowd, instead I shopped for a dress with sleeves specifically for the event. And while I would normally wear bare legs, I shopped for black hosiery to stay appropriate for my boss and the women in my firm who were more traditional.

No one wants to be judged, and sometimes we all feel like petulant teenagers screaming, “I’ll wear what I want!!!” But the facts are facts. You’re being judged – by your boss and the other superiors in your company. It’s your job to think through these potential judgment points and dress accordingly.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."