Study links performance ratings to appearance


October 29, 1990|By Gary Dessler | Gary Dessler,Knight-Ridder News Service

How you dress on the day of your performance appraisal can affect the rating you receive, a study in the periodical Personnel suggests.

There are several conclusions to draw from this study.

* First, it's possible that informally dressed raters may feel at some disadvantage in rating your performance. And wait, if you can, to be appraised when your boss is not wearing his or her "power suit."

* Second, women, on average (based just on this study) seem to get better appraisals when they're dressed up.

* Third, don't go too far. The study concluded that you should not dress too dissimilarly from your boss when you're being appraised. Wearing a suit when your supervisor is wearing a blue work shirt will surely backfire, although looking a bit more formal than usual could very well help your rating.

Here's what the study involved: Ten-minute video clips were made of two actors, a man and a woman, "at work" -- either presenting a newscast or presenting a published market report.

In one set of clips, the actors were formally dressed. The man had a dark suit, plain shirt and tie, and the woman wore a plain jacket and a plain blouse with small bow collar.

In a second set of clips, the same actors were informally dressed. The man wore an open-collar striped sport shirt, and the woman wore a collarless casual shirt.

As an interesting twist to the study, the 127 executives and managers who watched various clips and actually did the appraisal ratings of the actors also wore either formal or informal clothes. The rating you get may well depend on how you and your rater dress for the appraisal, this study found.

For one thing, raters who were told to dress in formal attire turned out to be tougher raters than ones who weren't. Other things being equal, formally dressed raters consistently rated the actor lower than did raters who were informally dressed.

Did informally dressed raters just feel more easygoing and laid back? Did they feel more ill at ease and less in charge? It's hard to tell.

But if your boss is more dressed up than usual the day you're appraised, perhaps you'd best try to postpone the appraisal until a day he or she looks more laid back.

And what about your attire? The results here were mixed. For women, it seemed that those formally dressed came out on top. These appraisals, on average, were much higher than those of the women who were informally dressed.

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