Let me lay out a situation. At one or two of the offices I've worked in I've found, very unscientifically, that the assistants and secretaries dress much nicer than their bosses do. These people are mostly young and women and come into work dressed professionally, but much more fashionably and a little more formal than their bosses. Outfits might be a matching suit with heels, jewlery and make up or a skirt and heels outfit that looks like it might be out of a fashion magazine. Their bosses wear dress shirts and slacks mostly and the clothes are older, more conservative, less stylish, and less likely to perfectly match. The managers are also less likely to wear make up and jewelery. There are female and male managers and the trend seems to hold true for both.
I have a few ideas on why this might be that are complete conjecture:
- The assistants have heard the advice to dress your best at work
- The assistants have more recently entered the workforce and as such have purchased more modern and new clothes
- The assistants have more time to shop than the managers do
- Managers feel more secure in their positions so they don't spend as much time on appearances
- Managers might have more substantive assessments around performance rather than no assessments or subjective ones for assistants
- Assistants are a group of people with different goals/values than managers or the professionals they manage; they are more interested in shopping and less interested in career progression (the difference in dress holds true between non-managerial professionals and assistants, though it is less stark)
I'm curious as to the impact dressing very well has on these assistants' careers. Many of them are similar in age to me and dress better much better, but have significantly fewer and less important responsibilities. I know we don't take people who dress very poorly seriously in the workplace, but maybe the same could be said if someone dresses significantly better than the norm? I feel like it would be very dependent on context. The funny part is that the assistants are the ones in our office that can least afford to buy clothes yet the seem to have the most and the newest.
What has been your experience with people who dress better than their bosses? Does this phenomenon exist in your workplace? How does it affect career progression?