By August 17, 2017

Dressing Better Than… Your Boss?

Dressing code is something we all live with but something we don't pay too much attention.

Picture this:
When you arrive at a new job, there are tons of things that go through your mind but I bet none of it is regarding how you should dress, unless, this is something the company really stands for.

However, this has more importance than you can think of. How should you dress? Should you dress better than your boss?

Transcript Of The Video

John Sonmez: 

Hey, what's up? John Sonmez here from Today, we're going to be talking about dressing better than the boss. Can they fire you for that if you dress better than the boss? Been dressing better than the boss and peers. Jason asked this question and he says, “My company has no dress code and my boss often comes in wearing hoodies or T-shirts. I see a mix of colored shirts and T-shirts all around and almost everyone is wearing jeans or shorts. I'm more of a button-up shirt and khakis kind of guy when I'm at work. The only people that dress close to the way I do are at the top people in the company. Should I take the age-old advice of dress for the job you want, not the job you have, or is it more advisable to just fit in with everyone else?” I think you know the answer to this question, my friend. He says, “I'm a junior developer and the youngest employee of a mid-sized company, about 150 employees, currently pursuing an MBA.”

I actually devoted an entire chapter to this in my new book and some additional content. There's a lot to say on this. If you haven't gotten it yet, go check out my book called The Complete Software Developer's Career Guide. I've got a chapter in there on dressing, but I'm going to address it here as well. No pun intended, although I suppose if you ever say no pun intended, you must have been intended a pun because you didn’t have to say it.

Anyway, here's the thing, okay? You're right. Dress more—dress for the job that you want to have. I mean you just said that your boss wears hoodie and T-shirts. That's cool, that's great. He doesn’t have a dress code. He's confident with his style and fashion. That's fine, cool, but the executives, the only people that are dressing like you are the high-level people that are higher than him in the company. What does that tell you?

You know, if you want to be there, then dress like them. That's great. I always say that you should dress a couple of levels above your station or where you should be, but you should two levels above in any job. Now, I haven't always followed this advice myself. This is true, but I've been way more successful when I have and having talked to people, and just the perspective that I have now on this, I can tell you for sure that this makes a huge impact.

Now, I'll give you an example for those of you that disagree with me here because a lot of people say, “Well, it doesn’t matter—” well, there's a couple of things, I think, arguments that they get here. One of them is that if everyone is wearing shorts and flip flops and I wear a suit or I dress up, I'm going to get made fun of and they're actually going to think that I'm trying to think I'm better than them and it's going to hurt me. Not true at all, but let me tell you why this is and how perception works because you can't control perception.

If I were to take—if I were standing here right now in a police uniform, you would think of me differently. You know I'm not a police officer, but if I were standing here with a full get-up, the full outfit and uniform, you would have feelings and whatever feelings—some of you don't like police. Some of you highly respect police. Whatever feelings that you have, if you honor the police, you would not be able to control yourself from having some of those feelings just seeing that image. If you interacted with me, I guarantee you would treat me and talk to me in a different way than you would. If I were wearing the clothes I'm wearing now or if I were wearing just my underwear, or if I were wearing some shorts and a tank top, you're going to talk and interact with me and then perceive me differently, even though you know I'm the same person because that's just how we work. This is very true. You could take the same thing. Imagine someone in firefighter gear. You're going to treat them differently. Imagine someone for a really extreme thing. Imagine them in like a Nazi uniform.

Regardless if you know they're just dressing up for a part in a play or something, you're going to treat them differently and you're going to have some feelings associated with that. Perception is always there whether people say it or not. The reason why I'm saying that is because if you have a company that says, “Oh, we have no dress code. No, seriously. Just wear shorts and tank top, or flip flops or whatever it is,” or they say, “Oh, for the interview, don't get dressed up. Don't wear a suit or anything. Just come in a T-shirt. You're totally cool. That's how we roll here,” bull shit. Don't buy into that. I mean, yes, they believe and they may say that, and at a surface level, they may tell you, “Hey, you're dressing up too much.” At an instinctual level, at the perception level that we all have, they're going to perceive you differently. If you are wearing clothes that say that you are successful and you are wearing clothes that say—that have a certain sense of style, they're going to perceive you as that whether they want to or not and whether they deny it or not. Do it.

Yes, some people will make fun of you. Yes, some people will have a problem with it. Whenever you change your style, by the way, if you want to dress up more and I recommend that you do, it's going to take about two weeks and people are going to make fun of you and they're going to say, “Oh, you got a job interview today. Oh, you think you're a big shot. Oh, that's funny.” They're going to say all this stuff and then it's fine. Then after two weeks goes by, that's going to be the new normal and they're going to forget that you ever dress like a bum before. They're just going to forget about that. They're not going to rag on you for the rest of your life every single day. If they do, then you need to like—what you need to do is go to the gym and get into boxing so you can knock those fuckers out, but that's not going to happen. Okay? It's not going to happen.

Yes, do it. Make sure that you dress above the level that you're at and who cares what your boss does. Don't disrespect him. Don't be like, “I mean you dress like a slob.” I don’t think that will go over too well, but just do it. If people harass you about, if your boss says, “Hey, you know, I don't think you know about the dress code here.” Just say, “Look, that's awesome. You guys are awesome that you allow anyone to wear anything. That's cool. I just feel more comfortable wearing this. This is just my style. No insult to you guys. It's cool but I just want to wear—this is how I dress.” That's all you got to do. That's all you got to do.

Good question though. I think this a topic that comes up a lot. Like I said, you can check out the chapter in my book, The Complete Software Developer's Career Guide, to get more information on not only how to dress but how to deal with your boss. All kinds of problems that you might have at work. How to deal with co-workers that don't shut up. How about that one? That's in the book. All right, that's it. That's all I got for you today. I'm going to shut up. If you haven't subscribed, make sure you click that Subscribe button. Actually, I'm just going to say click the bell. The bell is what you want to click so that you don't miss any videos. I'll talk to you next time. Take care.

About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."