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Consequences for Bad Professional Appearance in the Workplace

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Most workplaces have standards for employee dress, grooming and hygiene. An unprofessional appearance may not only violate your company's policies, but can have tangible and intangible effects on your performance. Maintaining professional etiquette and appearance are central to career development.

Dull Performance

Dressing down can affect your psychological approach to work. If you don't dress in a way that suits your profession, it's difficult to adopt a productive mentality. A car salesperson who shows up in jeans and a polo shirt, for instance, would likely have a harder time getting into professional sales mode compared to his colleagues in suit and ties.

Turning Off Customers

Organizations that deal face-to-face with clients and customers typically have higher dress standards for employees. If you look unprofessional, customers may take you less seriously, view you and your company in a negative light and may even complain. An under-dressed business-to-business sales rep could miss out on some sales by offending well-dressed buyers.

Trouble Ahead

If you violate your company's dress code policy, you could face consequences. A verbal or written warning is often the starting point. If you don't correct your appearance, you could face suspension, demotion, job reduction or even termination. Repeatedly bad dress that violates standards is typically viewed as insubordination. If you lose your job over poor dress, you likely won't get a favorable job referral.

Tense Employee Relations

Employees who follow the rules often don't appreciate it when you dress in a way that negatively reflects on the work group or team. Tension can be intensified if peers point out your unprofessional appearance and you react in anger. The impact from bad dress is especially significant in tight-knit groups where a professional image is critical.


Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.

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