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I searched for this question before posting it. If this is a duplicate please notify me so I can remove it.

I work in a private company that requires business-professional dress (For men, tie is minimum.). I am new to the company (in IT), so the first couple of days of work I wore a jacket and nice slacks. As the days went on, I was told by several individuals within my team (they have all been in the company a minimum of 10 years, some 35), throughout the department, AND by my manager that it is an "unwritten rule" that IT is allowed to get away with not wearing suits, unless they are meeting with vendors.

This struck me as a little odd. However, I knew they were not lying because some days men would wear suits and most other days simply no jacket, but still tie/slacks/button-down. I have also seen other people walking around without jackets as well - some I have never seen wear a suit/jacket.

I have seen posts on here regarding Dress to impress, and Dress for the job you want. While I agree, there are days I am running late or don't have a jacket that matches the shirt/tie combo, and thus don't wear a jacket.(Please refrain from answering "Just buy another one.")

Am I losing 'professionalism' points or possibly giving myself a bad connotation because I am not wearing a suit everyday?

Note: My manager only wears his jacket into/out of work and in meetings with someone higher than him (his boss, CIO, etc.), as does my previous manager .

10

When in Rome, do as Romans do.

  • If not wearing jacket is OK when not meeting with customers, and you don't have any matching jacket, don't wear one.
  • If you have one matching and feel like wearing it, wear it even if not meeting with a customer.
  • If you think you may meet with managers from more formally dressed business side, wear one if convenient.

  • Don't be the single under-dressed person in a room, sticking as sore thumb. But being constantly overdressed will not buy you much either.

  • Have spare in some place so you can change to it in case your current one will get spilled over by a coffee or something, just in case.

Relax. Quality of your work is more important that how you dress.

Edit: More tips:

  • Don't worry about being skipped for promotion. Show dressed up often enough so they will see you have more than one suit and matching tie.
  • And other way around: If you are so concerned about being judged by your IT coworkers as "overdresser", take few of them to a lunch and express your opinion about dressing policy. Don't be overly negative, but you can be slightly more negative about policies (because you are not on company premises anymore). Don't be too negative either.
  • Thanks for answering. While I agree 100% that the quality of work is more important, there is always that looming thought of "What if I am up for a promotion and they think of me as 'that guy that doesn't wear suits' " or something silly. – Mark C. Jun 6 '14 at 23:31
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So... I'm going to bet that a LOT of the posts you've read are around either wanting a promotion or to get a job offer - I haven't seen all that many posts about what to do when you are just hired and not trying to make a major change. Context is important here.

Also "dress to impress" is not "dress as formally as possible all the time". Different cultures will be impressed by different things. I had a problem early in my career in over dressing - I worked in a demo lab, where upscale business casual was the norm, and moved to a pure development group with little customer contact, where very casual was the norm. No one spoke to me for 6 months, because they assumed I worked in sales, and not that I was a new college grad with a limited budget for restocking her wardrobe! All of a sudden, when I decided to dress a bit more downscale, everyone noticed we had a new person in engineering!

It's not unheard of for an IT shop to have a more casual bending of the rules - many IT shops are informal, while others are quite formal - the rules are in flux and sometimes the department will go with "feel free to be a bit more casual when no one is looking".

A wise approach is to have the upper end clothing on hand at all times - I knew a fellow manager who kept a suit in his office, so he could do a quick change if he was ever called into the big boss' office. Others may keep a jacket on hand, if the general dress is shirt and tie.

  • Thanks for your answer! I appreciate your experience and first person accounts. Your answer is full of great ideas and I wish I could accept both. – Mark C. Jun 6 '14 at 23:32
  • Thank you @bethlakshmi for the juicy personal experience. Real life can be sometimes like a Dilbert cartoon. Maybe because cartoons are based on real life experiences. – Peter M. - stands for Monica Jun 6 '14 at 23:42

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