A STUDY FROM California State University,
Northridge, cited by Joe Pinsker in The Atlantic
(April 2015), says that “wearing clothing that’s
more formal than usual makes people think
more broadly and holistically, rather than narrowly and about fine-grained details.” The study
suggests the old saw (paraphrased) is correct:
Clothes make the person.
However, Geoffrey James, responding in
Inc., thinks the study implies the opposite. He
summarizes Pinsker’s findings: “When formally dressed, most individuals:
• Feel more powerful but less connected.
• Think holistically rather than being
• Favor abstract reasoning over
James then writes, “Those characteristics
describe a person who is:
• Pompously aware of his or her
FOR A SMALL business to thrive, everyone on the team needs to be highly
engaged in his or her work.
“The good news is that employee
engagement isn’t the result of expensive
perks or time-consuming programs,” says
Costco member Michael Lee Stallard, a
business consultant and leadership
trainer, and co-author of Connection
Culture: The Competitive Advantage
of Shared Identity, Empathy, and
Understanding at Work (Association for
Talent Development, 2015; not available
at Costco). “It comes from having a com-
pany culture where people care about
each other and about their work. In these
‘connection cultures,’ people invest time
to develop healthy work relationships,
and the resulting bond creates a sense of
connection, community and unity that
energizes the team and spurs productiv-
ity and innovation.”
Stallard offers the following tips.
Cast a clear vision. Employees are
more engaged in their work when they
understand the company’s mission, are
united by its values and are proud of its
reputation. Communicate goals clearly
and keep people in the loop.
Recognize the value of each individual. Your employees need to feel
respected and valued. Encourage
employees to express appreciation for
their colleagues’ contributions and help
others achieve their potential.
Give people a voice. Having a voice
in decisions empowers people to make a
difference. In connection cultures, people
seek the ideas of others, share their ideas
and opinions honestly and safeguard
relational connections by not cutting
others down when disagreements arise.
Be a servant leader. Connection
cultures need leaders who are willing to
put the needs of others before their own.
Doing so gains the respect of employees
and encourages others to do the same.
Celebrate committed members.
People in your company who are committed to excellence and connection are the
heart of the company, and should be
encouraged and celebrated. C
EMOTIONS ARE IMPORTANT in business. They
contribute to being passionate and convincing in describing your business, aid your
ability to make decisions and are the
foundation of intuition. And, they can shape
the premises or assumptions you make in
dealing with people.
For example, if you need to collect money
from someone, the assumptions you make
shape the manner in which you seek to get
Consider each of these assumptions
about a customer who doesn’t pay on time:
• I feel this customer is trying to get
away with as much as he can. I may never
get paid unless I go to court.
• I think this customer is having a hard
time making ends meet and feels bad about
being behind on bills. I wonder what kind of
arrangements we could make to help out.
• I don’t know why I am having difficulty
getting paid. I will contact the client and ask.
If there’s a problem, I want to fix it.
What your assumptions are and what
PAUL AND SARAH EDWARDS: LIFESTYLES FOR THE MILLENNIUM
person reacts and if you find a resolution to
If you operate from the assumption
people are out to bilk you, you are apt to feel
angry and project that in how you communicate. This puts other people on the defensive,
so their reaction may be anger as well.
If, on the other hand, you think people
are having a hard time, you are apt to feel
empathetic. If you operate from this
position, you may be able to negotiate a
If you go into conversations without
any assumptions and are curious about why
you haven’t been paid, you may discover a
problem of some kind that you can remedy,
enabling you to keep the customers and
This example points to the finding that
assumptions, expectations and definitions
affect everything you experience in your
business and life, from customer relations,
to marketing, and to hiring and managing
By paying attention to what your
assumptions are at any given moment, you
can alter your emotional reality, your behavior
and your results. So before making an
important phone call, sending a text or email,
or going into a meeting, take a moment to
think about your assumptions and whether
they will lead you to a desirable outcome. C
are the authors
of 17 business
More in archives
On Costco.com, enter
“Connection.”At Online Edition,
• Uses vague, fuzzy buzzwords
• Has a ‘ 50,000-foot view’ that’s oblivi-
ous to facts on the ground. Your
average corporate bureaucrat, in fact.”
James adds, “As I interpret the study, the
typical person who ‘dresses for success’ (in the
traditional sense) becomes less self-aware,
less intelligent, and less perceptive than if he
or she dressed more casually.”
While some businesses are moving toward
casual dress and altering draconian dress
codes, suits are still selling and still being worn.
Referring to another study, Pinsker points out,
Building a culture
“It takes a long time for symbols and our
agreed interpretations of those symbols to
change, and I wouldn’t expect the suit as a sym-
bol of power to be leaving us anytime soon.”
How do you see the issue? Email your
responses to firstname.lastname@example.org with
“office dress” in the subject line. C
Suit up for success?