The Lowdown on Low-Cut: Salary’s Dress Code Survey

Posted October 11, 2012 by

Woman at work in low cut topWe asked about office dress codes and boy did you answer. Loudly. Nearly 4,600 people responded to our survey and proved dress codes are, and always will be, a hot topic that gets fairly contentious in a hurry.

Dress codes—whether to have them, what clothing should be allowed/prohibited and how to implement them—will all vary depending on the atmosphere of the individual companies. A small beachside surf and skate shop will likely be more informal than three-piece suits worn by employees at a Fortune 500 company.

But whether your ideal job consists of T-shirt and jeans or strictly formal business wear, our survey results indicate people make assumptions about work ethic, intelligence and professionalism based on how others are dressed while at the office.

Make Your Dress Code Policy Clear

Many people who took our survey disagreed as to whether or not they like dress codes. Some feel it fosters professionalism and hard work, while others refuse to believe wearing jeans somehow detracts from your job performance.

But even though our respondents differed about dress codes in general, people on both sides agreed that uncertainty breeds confusion which can lead to serious problems. More than 3 percent surveyed said they’re not even sure if they have a dress code. So whether or not a company implements a dress code is actually secondary to making it clearly understood and enforcing it fairly.

“I do not know of an official dress code at my company, rather it seems to depend on who your particular manager is, and even then is only selectively enforced,” said one person. Another agreed and said “Our dress code is nonexistent and essentially established within each department. Some people are wearing suits and others flip-flops. It’s very haphazard and gives an unprofessional image.”

Many Employees Want a More Structured Dress Code

The majority of people who took the survey said they are satisfied with their company’s dress code policy. But after that, the results are surprising.

Nearly one-quarter of respondents said the dress codes in their workplaces are too lenient. Readers regaled us with horror stories involving low cut tops, ripped jeans, sandals and exposed tattoos and body piercings they deemed inappropriate for an office setting. One respondent issued a cautionary tale and said “We let one instance go and then before we knew it, everyone was in flip-flops and stretch pants.” And he wasn’t alone in seeking strict wardrobe rules.

“I believe people who dress professionally tend to be more professional on the job,” he said. “Dressing in jeans and a T-shirt does not exude professionalism, especially when you are seated in close proximity to an executive dressed in a suit.”

I’m Telling HR on You!

If you’ve ever worked in an office setting, chances are you’ve dealt with at least one colleague who seems to have zero sense of decorum when it comes to appropriate dress. To that end, hundreds of people told us about employees wearing shirts sporting drugs, drinking and violence, skimpy mini-skirts, pajamas, revealing low-cut blouses and even some unorthodox body piercings.

Yet despite all the angst towards their dressed-down cohorts, only 14 percent of survey-takers have ever registered a formal complaint with human resources. Just more than 22 percent of people said they’ve really wanted to tattle, but haven’t because of office favoritism (the one dressing inappropriately is the boss’ pet, or IS the boss) and fear of creating a hostile work environment.

“I didn’t complain because I didn’t want to be ‘That Person’ and be viewed as nitpicking on this specific individual. And nobody listens anyways,” said one respondent.  Continue reading . . .

Article courtesy of

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Posted in Advice for Employers and Recruiters, Career Advice for Job Seekers, Industry News and Information | Tagged Tagged ,