Fitting in vs. making waves

CNN just ran an interesting article about the trade-offs between a strong personal style and workplace expectations. They used (of course) the NASA mohawk guy as one of their examples. Another person profiled comes to work daily in a very unusual outfit. She argues that having a personal style makes her more memorable and (combined with competence) aids, not harms her job search.

Decoding the workplace dress code

What do you think? Do you think that having such a striking personal style can be an advantage? Or does having people with a wide variety of styles tell you something positive about a company’s culture?


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. talkswithwind
    Aug 18, 2012 @ 03:01:38


    In my experience, in casual workplaces like a software development firm, a striking personal style is less remarked on. I kind of acts as a multiplier for whatever the person is known for. It acts as a silent 1.1x in front of the impressions others have of them.

    For professional workplaces, it also acts as a multiplier. But one thing it definitely does do is change, just a little bit, how you interact with the person. By being just a bit off the rails, it suggests they could do that in other areas too. Could be good, could be weird. Hard to tell, best to keep an eye on it.

    That second effect, keep an eye on it, is probably a way for someone who has a minimal impression on meetings to make more impact. That would be good for THEM from their point of view. A small edge, but it’s still an edge.


  2. bflynn
    Aug 18, 2012 @ 18:36:47

    This is very true. At the same time, if you start getting stereotyped as “weird” your ideas are more easily dismissed, I think. Do you agree?


    • talkswithwind
      Aug 23, 2012 @ 17:43:33

      As I said, it’s a subtle effect. Yes, your ideas may be more easily dismissed, but at least they’ll get aired which is more than many get. Also, feeling yourself the spokesperson for the silent, oppressed minority is empowering even if you get routinely ignored. The ‘loyal opposition’ if you will. Also, loud minorities get worked around, which is affecting the system even if they don’t agree with you.

      The peril here really is that you’ll get pigeonholed into the “loony, ignore freely” category.

      It’s not a choice I’d make, but I can see how it’d work for some people. Not generalizeable though.


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