The world of business has changed a lot over the last three decades; technology has impacted almost everything about the way we communicate, execute, and even where and when we work. These changes haven’t happened in a silo. As technology changed our world, it also changed us and employer-employee expectations.
Technology has also shrunk the globe. Thirty years ago I would not have been competing with content writers in India, and the need for business content was a tiny fraction of what it is now. As our world became smaller and we began to regularly work across time-zones, the timeline of the workday itself became blurry.
Tomorrow at 8 am I’m meeting via video chat with a Chinese client. I am lucky that they are exactly twelve hours ahead of me or I may be rising at 4 am to have that call. We do what we have to do to keep building business.
Global Workforce Analytics reported that nearly 3 percent of the employed American workforce work remotely full time. Add the self-employed to that number, taking into account that remote work has grown 80 percent since 2005, and the shift is very clear. As we pour ourselves into our careers and allow our careers to seep into our personal time, most of us outside of fiercely traditional industries have changed our attitudes towards when we work.
What does any of this have to do with Appearance, Language, and Self-Respect in Business?
I often write in my pajamas. I do my best work early in the morning, and because I work from home, no one can see me. Any remote worker will tell stories about taking an important business call in non-business attire. It is one of the perks of working from home.
This has made many of us become more casual about our attire across the board, although I will admit that every day I make a point of getting dressed and business ready simply for the attitude it inspires in me.
Prior to my remote work life, I worked in a traditional suited-up sales management job. Moving into social media marketing, which hovers closely around the tech industry, was a big change. I was told in very clear terms not to wear a suit to the first marketing conference I was attending, I would look out of place.
The famous tech uniform of jeans and an “I-care-too-much-about-my-work-to-be-distracted-by-dress” attitude is familiar to anyone who works in or on tech’s edges. And I’m ok with that. We aren’t working on wall street, and there is no need to wear a suit and tie every day.
There is, however, a big difference between business casual and pajamas, and that is my point. I don’t care how smart you are or what big plans you have for life, unless you are Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, you need to dress as if you actually care about your business and your clients.
If most of your clients aren’t in tech, this is even truer. The old saying “the clothes make the man” is still true in business. There is something about a freshly pressed shirt that raises everyone’s level of professionalism.
It is the reason I would never take a video call with a client in anything less than professional attire. My appearance speaks volumes about how I see my work, and how much I value my client.
As the lines around work rules changed, so did the rules around language. Blogging has taken over as one of the primary channels for brands to communicate with customers. It has also seen the rise of the Mommy blogger, the Social Media guru blogger, and a myriad of forms of monetizing the web through blogging.
As the lines of journalism have become blurred and people who were not schooled on The Elements of Style and The Chicago Manual of Style self-name as “journalists,” the rules of grammar and communication have softened as well. This style is often called “conversational.”
Many bloggers will tell you that because their blog is conversational, they don’t need to adhere to traditional rules of grammar, and they are correct. There really are no Grammar Police ready to mark up a blog with their red pen or bring you up on charges for desecrating the English Language.
Yet your customers are paying attention, and as I referenced in a recent post, the way you use language has a huge impact on how much consumers trust you and your brand.
The way you speak and write are intimately connected to how people see you, be it a prospect or potential employer, venture capitalist or a business leader you admire.
I know, I can tend towards sounding like a stuffy curmudgeon when I talk about words and appearance, but I am right and the research backs me up.
“In our perception of people, and their perceptions of us, the hidden, subliminal mind takes limited data, and creates a picture that seems clear and real, but is actually built largely on unconscious inferences that are made employing factors such as a person’s body language, voice, clothing, appearance, and social category.” ~Leonard Mlodinow, Psychology Today
There are rare individuals who can transcend the rules of society; normally we classify them as eccentric if they’re wealthy, and daft if they’re not. The same holds true in the rules of business; the super successful can flout the rules of decorum, but for the rest of us who are simply trying to succeed and make our way in the business world, the rules of appearance and language still apply.
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Photo credit: Sỹ Phong Bùi of Ononpay at Tech in Asia Singapore 2015 via photopin (license).
Photo credit: Silly pose via photopin (license).
Photo credit: black and white trust via photopin (license).
This post originally ran on Blue Sea Content.