I'd like to think that I coined this term, "Tie Anxiety". It occurs in an office environment where people who normally don't wear ties are seen wearing ties. How common is this and what is the reasoning behind it? I've often heard "dress for the job you want, not the job you have" - I'm trying to reconcile the double standard that I've witnessed on several occasions. I've also heard "How'd the interview go?" several times.

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    I can't say I've ever seen or experienced this. – David K Feb 12 '15 at 15:01
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    if you coined the term, aren't you best placed to answer? Also, where does the "anxiety" bit come from? – bharal Feb 12 '15 at 15:07
  • This cannot really be answered. It's a lot of interpretation and opinion (welcome to the human race), influenced by your (office) culture which is a subject in itself and we don't know anything about. – user8036 Feb 12 '15 at 15:12
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    I would suggest a jacket rather than a tie if you want to smarten up while not standing out too much. – Eric Feb 12 '15 at 15:12
  • Just trying to see if this exists elsewhere and how people handle it. My assumption is people think you're on the way out or trying to elevate your image above others for personal gain - hence the anxiety and comments. – V1GG3N Feb 12 '15 at 15:14

I would say that there could be several reasons for the "tie anxiety" but I will share with you the three most common that I have seen:

"Tie guy #1" - It isn't the fact that he is wearing a tie. It is the fact that in a laid back office with a lacks dress code that he comes in with his tie on and assumes that people should treat him different. Whether he be treated like a boss, a superior, a person with more knowledge, or whatever. "Tie guy #1" isn't trying to impress, he is impressed with himself. He will put off many people in the office but his act may work on a few people and if it works on those making decisions... well all of a sudden tie guy #1 can keep wearing his tie and his schtick. The anxiety is that we have to deal with the pompous guy who thinks we should treat him different because he has a tie on.

"Tie guy #2" - This is a well meaning guy who breaks out the tie because he wants to impress or make a good impression with the higher ups. He could be a brown noser or just a good guy. But this guy comes to the office with just his tie and means no harm. The anxiety here is juvenile. It is because co-workers may think that now they might appear sloppy or unprofessional and worst case scenario... the tie may become part of dress code.

"Tie guy #3" - This guy comes in to work in his suit and tie because he is interviewing with other companies before, during, or after work. People surely understand that this may be going on. The anxiety is that your company may be losing a good worker, that tie guy #3 might understand a reason to leave that you don't, or just jealousy. There should never be hate for tie guy #3.

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    I worked with "Tie guy #4": In a very casual company, he always wore a suit and tie because he just liked to wear suits and ties. – gnasher729 Feb 12 '15 at 17:50
  • I like this break-down. I guess in my case this would be based on the locale first and foremost. My grandfather was a tie guy every day of his life and although I'm not that way I think I draw a lot from him. I guess its worth noting to anyone else out there: if your place of employment is perfectly OK with wearing tattered jeans and the like, you'll probably run into some weird conversations if you try to look well-kempt. – V1GG3N Feb 12 '15 at 18:13
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    @gnasher729 I think in the context of the question the Tie guy #4 wouldn't be relevant. The question is effectively someone who doesn't wear ties than does out of no where. If he just normally where's ties there is no "tie anxiety" he's just that chap who wears ties all the time. – RualStorge Feb 12 '15 at 18:45

It's simply a matter of being over-dressed. Being over-dressed can be just as bad as being under-dressed. If you show up in a tuxedo to your friend's low-key, casual birthday party, it'll cause the same kind of tension. It doesn't matter if someday you want to be this friend's best-man at their wedding('dressing for the job you want', so-to-speak), it's just odd to draw attention to yourself in this manner. In fact, it might backfire if people think you're trying to steal attention from your friend(who is the person everyone at the party wants to see, not you).

If you dress in a tie when others are wearing shirts and jeans, then you're calling attention to yourself. People are going to question why you're wearing a tie, especially if you've been a shirts and jeans kind of person for a long time. Why now? What changed? Why are you doing this? What's your goal? blankip's answer covers that well enough so I won't go into it more.

As for "dressing for the job you want", there's a few things to remember:

  1. If you're a lowly minion(like I am) at the start of your career, then dressing like the VP of Engineering doesn't make much sense. You don't jump from Junior Developer to VP of Engineering just because you put on a suit. There are intermediate steps between the two positions, and you'll have to traverse those first. Doing so will require more than cosmetic changes; you'll have to prove you can be successful at the next level each time you want to move up.

  2. Over-dressing for the actual part is also bad. Let's say the next step is the VP of Engineering for you. If the current VP of Engineering and other VPs are also walking around with shirts and jeans, then you're also implying that you know how to dress for the position 'properly' and they don't. If you really want to move up a step, wear the same kind of thing the next step wears. I only bring this up because you mention an office environment that seems really casual - no ties at all.

Another way to think about it: if your boss, and their boss, and their boss, and their boss - all the way up to the CEO - are all dressing casually, then you're not dressing for any of their jobs, you're dressing for the job you have idealized in your head. And that's where people start assuming you're interviewing for other positions. If you're not dressing for any position at the current company, the logical conclusion is that you're dressing for a position at another company.

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    I always amend the "Dress for the job you want" with "with company in mind" So your a jeans and shirts kind of place. Even then you can "step it up" without over dressing to a point of looking out of place. You can get a nicer pair of jeans and shirt than most without going over the top. You can also get nicer belts, shoes, watch, etc. If most of the staff doesn't wear belts, just wearing a decent belt will improve your image. The critical thing is to not go too far over the top. Basically find what's appropriate, and try to be near the top of it. – RualStorge Feb 12 '15 at 18:57
  • I think no1 depends both on locale type of company and class I don't think twice on the rare occasions a wear a suit that my $1000 suit and $250 shoes are over dressed – Pepone Feb 12 '15 at 20:23

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