Are you looking and feeling like a million bucks? Did that new suit jump your self-esteem into over-drive, thus kicking up your performance and driving your National Agents Alliance business to the next level? According to new research, there may be a link between how you dress and how well you work.
The study, conducted by professors at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, shows that “when research subjects wore a scientist’s or medical doctor’s white coat, they performed better on a test known as the ‘Stroop test,’ which asks participants to say the color of a word being shown on a flash card, rather than the word itself. The group who donned white jackets identified as lab coats performed better on conflicting flash cards, such as when the word ‘blue’ is spelled in red letters. Those wearing the lab coats, which people typically associate with care and attentiveness, made about half as many errors as their peers,” the Washington Post reports.
But interestingly enough, when the subjects wore similar white coats and were told that they were artists’ coats, they did not perform above average. As a result, scientists believe that their finding shows that it’s not just the experience of wearing the clothes, but the symbolic meaning they hold for people.
So, what does this study apply to the workplace? Like all studies, it’s hard to know how this research translates to the actual workplace. But it does point out that leaders should think through their company’s dress code or workplace fashion norms, not just how your employee’s dress is perceived by outsiders. “It reminds people that clothes aren’t just a device of perception, but a tool that can really affect how you perceive yourself,” researcher Adam Galinsky says.
Clothes may not make the man, the saying goes. But as the authors write, “they do hold a strange power over their wearers.”