16 Things Your Boss Wishes You’d Stop Wearing to Work (2023)

    RD.COM Clothing

    16 Things Your Boss Wishes You’d Stop Wearing to Work (1)Marissa LaliberteUpdated: Feb. 02, 2023

      You won't be getting a promotion in any of these outfits. Learn which surprising pieces are killing your credibility in the office.

      16 Things Your Boss Wishes You’d Stop Wearing to Work (2)Alena Mozhjer/Shutterstock

      Too-casual jeans

      There’s nothing wrong with wearing jeans to a casual office, but be cautious when choosing the style, says certified etiquette instructor Callista Gould, author of The Exceptional Professional: What You Need to Know to Grow Your Career. “I had a client that allowed employees to wear jeans on Fridays and was disappointed when some employees were not wearing ‘professional jeans,’” says Gould. Office jeans should have a straight leg and not be ragged, frayed, or bejeweled, according to her client.

      Psst! Wedding, party, or business event, we’ve got a handy guide to help you decide what to wear as per the dress code.

      16 Things Your Boss Wishes You’d Stop Wearing to Work (3)Anthony Hall/Shutterstock

      Backless tops

      Your chest isn’t the only thing that should stay fairly covered at work. Laura Handrick, workplace analyst of fitsmallbusiness.com, says she’s had to loan an employee a sweater to cover a backless top that showed her bra, after her male manager called it inappropriate and distracting. “There was nothing in our dress code that prohibited a backless top, so it was a bit uncomfortable to discuss it with her,” says Handrick. “She thought her blouse was fine, as she was showing no cleavage.” Even a halter top reveals more than your employer wants to see, says Gould. Wear a light cardigan over a backless top or dress to make it work-appropriate.

      16 Things Your Boss Wishes You’d Stop Wearing to Work (4)I am Kulz/Shutterstock


      Sandals might be acceptable in a casual office, but flip-flops cross the line, says career coach and professional resume writer Krista Morris. “There is no world in which flip-flops are acceptable. Ever,” she says. “I don’t care how sparkly or blinged or expensive they are—flip-flops scream ‘don’t take me seriously.’” Men in particular should avoid shoes that might show unkempt toenails or cracked heels, says Handrick.

      16 Things Your Boss Wishes You’d Stop Wearing to Work (5)NikomMaelao Production/Shutterstock

      Spaghetti straps or strapless tops

      Missing or nearly invisible straps could provoke some double takes—and not in a good way. “I once had a person on a Skype call with me, and she had on a strapless shirt. She looked naked the way the camera was positioned, and she was in her office,” says Karen Russo, president of executive recruiting firm K. Russo Consulting. “It was strange looking. Even if you don’t see people often, it is important to be ready to look professional and neat.”

      16 Things Your Boss Wishes You’d Stop Wearing to Work (6)Sharomka/Shutterstock

      Clothes from five pounds ago

      It’s tough to toss favorite clothing after you’ve either gained or lost significant weight, but well-fitting clothes are a must in a work setting. Jill Gugino Pante, director of the University of Delaware’s career services center, says she worked with an employee who had gained weight but hadn’t updated her wardrobe to fit her new figure. Parts of her body that we don’t reveal in a career setting were being revealed unintentionally. “It was uncomfortable to be at a professional event and see part of her stomach showing because her button-down top didn’t fit properly,” she says. “Eventually, we had to open a discussion with her because it became a distraction and was harming to her brand.”

      16 Things Your Boss Wishes You’d Stop Wearing to Work (7)mlasaimages/Shutterstock

      Anything you keep adjusting

      How revealing is too revealing in a professional setting? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. International Coach Federation-credentialed life coach Flame Schoeder says to follow this rule of thumb: If your attention is on it, so is your colleague’s. “If I keep needing to tug my shirt up, it’s too low cut. If I need to adjust my skirt, it is too short. If my necklace keeps jangling or getting twisted, it’s distracting,” she says. Wear something you’re comfortable in so that your smarts and confidence are the things people notice.

      16 Things Your Boss Wishes You’d Stop Wearing to Work (8)fizkes/Shutterstock

      Thin leggings

      Leggings are too casual for most workplaces, and even in a casual office, be wary. Success coach Michelle Gomez, MBA, says she worked with a woman who wore leggings that didn’t cover her backside or her crotch. “She hadn’t considered that the material of the leggings was quite thin, and whenever she walked through the department, fellow colleagues noticed just how ‘thin’ this material was,” says Gomez. “I alerted her to the matter, and she opted to wrap a sweater around her waist for the remainder of the day.” Women who want to dress for success: These14 office attire updates could score a women a promotion.

      16 Things Your Boss Wishes You’d Stop Wearing to Work (9)I am Kulz/Shutterstock

      Running shoes

      Sneakers have a place in some offices, as long as you choose an appropriate style, says Kelly Finn, principal at talent acquisition firm WinterWyman. “‘Casual’ sneakers that are more about fashion than running performance can be OK in some very casual settings,” she says. But keep actual workout shoes in the gym, she adds. Avoid these 12 outfit mistakes that make you look messy.

      16 Things Your Boss Wishes You’d Stop Wearing to Work (10)Matryoha/Shutterstock

      Strong cologne

      No matter how nice the smell is, you want to be known for your work, not your scent. If you wear cologne, wear just a small spritz, so the scent isn’t overpowering. “You don’t want people breaking into coughing fits when you enter a room,” says Pante.

      16 Things Your Boss Wishes You’d Stop Wearing to Work (11)Syda Productions/Shutterstock

      Too-revealing clothes

      Sensible, well-fitting clothing is the foundation of professional attire. Schoeder recalls an employee who was asked to change before a meeting because her sweater was too revealing. “I saw a boss once pull a well-endowed employee into the hallway during an important meeting to tell her that several people had been looking at her cleavage,” she says. “The boss pointed out that her ill-fitting cardigan actually drew attention to her chest rather than downplaying it, as the employee had intended.” Downplaying certain body parts in a professional setting doesn’t mean that you don’t love your body, he adds—it means showing self-love for your professional image.Use this infographic about what’s office-appropriate when dressing for work.

      16 Things Your Boss Wishes You’d Stop Wearing to Work (12)DenisProduction.com/Shutterstock


      Even in the type of office where basketball shorts get the green light, coming to work in your PJs is a no-no, says Matthew Kerr, career adviser and hiring manager at ResumeGenius. “It gives the impression that you just got out of bed and rolled in to work—which makes it seem like you don’t care,” he says. Putting an effort into wearing the right daytime attire ensures you’ll be taken seriously.

      16 Things Your Boss Wishes You’d Stop Wearing to Work (13)yayha/Shutterstock

      Anything against company policy

      Check your company handbook to make sure you’re up to date on the dress code. “I’ve served in an HR role [at a company] with a dress code of no open-toe shoes, only to have the (female) VP of operations undermine our policy by showing up to a meeting in tiny strappy sandals with a perfect pedicure,” says Handrick. “No one objected, but it confused staff.” You may look great—and even totally professional—in your outfit, however, if it’s undermining company rules it can erode your credibility.

      16 Things Your Boss Wishes You’d Stop Wearing to Work (14)Anatoliy Karlyuk/Shutterstock

      Crop tops

      Anything that you’d wear to a club doesn’t belong in your office, says Finn, especially anything that bares your midriff. “I discovered that an employee here has a belly ring,” she says. “While there is certainly nothing wrong with that, it’s not something I should see for myself in an office setting!” Keep everyone’s eyes on your killer results, not your killer abs.

      16 Things Your Boss Wishes You’d Stop Wearing to Work (15)margostock/Shutterstock

      Anything your coworkers wouldn’t wear

      Dress codes vary widely from company to company, so make sure your attire is a good fit for your office culture, says career consultant Christopher K. Lee, founder of PurposeRedeemed. “I generally advise people to not be the most casually dressed person in the office—even when you may ‘get away with it,’” he says. Don’t push the boundaries. Even if a clothing choice isn’t quite inappropriate enough to get you reprimanded, you can bet your teammates will be making comments behind your back (or at least in their heads). Don’t miss these other 9 surprising things that make your coworkers think less of you.

      16 Things Your Boss Wishes You’d Stop Wearing to Work (16)WAYHOME studio/Shutterstock

      Offensive clothing

      You’d think keeping it PG (and PC) would go without saying, but Kerr says one of his coworkers was told to change when his T-shirt with a naked woman on it made others in the office uncomfortable. Keep the sexual or offensive shirts for the weekend. “If the text on your shirt isn’t something you’d say to your mother (or could get you beaten up if said to the wrong person), then it’s probably not something you should be wearing to work,” says Kerr.

      16 Things Your Boss Wishes You’d Stop Wearing to Work (17)De Repente/Shutterstock

      Crazy tight jeans

      Whether you’re sitting at the desk for long hours or running around for client meetings, you won’t be able to perform your best if you’re wearing something you can barely move in. “For men—especially the younger ones—every time I see one in skinny jeans too tight to sit down and do a mock interview, it cracks me up,” says Morris. Quit making these otherinterview outfit mistakes that could cost you the job.

      Originally Published: May 29, 2018

      16 Things Your Boss Wishes You’d Stop Wearing to Work (18)

      Marissa Laliberte

      Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s Medscape.com and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.


      What is unprofessional not to wear to work? ›

      Workers consider crop tops, flip-flops and cycling gear to be unacceptable in the office – while dungarees are also a no-go. A study of 2,000 employees found gym gear, Crocs and hotpants are also not appropriate. Other items believed to be something to avoid workplaces were vests, trainers and jeans.

      What is considered inappropriate clothing? ›

      Dirty or wrinkled clothing. Tight-fitting or revealing clothing. Too casual, such as yoga pants, overalls, flip flops or shorts. T-shirts with inappropriate messages or offensive content.

      How do you tell an employee Their clothes are inappropriate? ›

      Only discuss fact-based evidence of when and why your staff are in violation of the dress code for work. Never discuss their appearance, attractiveness or intrusive comments. Avoid saying anything that may be taken as inappropriate, such as, “Your body looked amazing in that dress, but you can't wear it at work!”

      What your clothes say about you at work? ›

      Clothes reflect who you are, how you feel at the moment and sometimes even what you want to achieve in life? Always remember whatever you wear should reflect the real you. Your dressing sense reflects your personality, character, mood, style and what actually you are as an individual.

      What colors should you not wear to work? ›

      Worst Colors to Wear to the Office
      • Yellow. This is the happiest of all the colors and usually stimulates joy. ...
      • Grey. Grey implies that people are passive, uninvolved and have a lack of energy. ...
      • Red. This is the color of aggression and passion—great for a first date, not so great for the office.

      What should you never do at work? ›

      8 things you should never do at work
      • Complain too much. ...
      • Volunteer all the time. ...
      • Dress inappropriately. ...
      • Talk politics. ...
      • Spread rumors. ...
      • Spend too much time on personal calls, social media, or anything else that isn't work-related. ...
      • Come in contagious. ...
      • Steal your coworkers' food.
      Jul 11, 2017

      What does a toxic employee look like? ›

      Toxic employees are typically overconfident, have self-centered attitudes, and are rule breakers. They tend not to cooperate with others or respect their co-workers because they're always looking out for number one, which can make them difficult people in the workplace environment where teamwork is needed most often.

      How do you screen a toxic employee? ›

      12 Interview Questions To Identify Toxic Employees
      1. Ask About an Idea They Previously Had at Work. ...
      2. Ask About Past Workplace Mistakes and Difficult Situations. ...
      3. Tell Me About the Achievement You're Most Proud of. ...
      4. Are There Any Types of Personalities or People You Avoid Interacting With in the Workplace?
      Oct 18, 2022

      What is an example of inappropriate workplace behavior? ›

      Examples of inappropriate behaviour in the workplace include: harassment - offensive, belittling or threatening behaviour that is unsolicited, and may be repeated. bullying - repeated abusive and offensive behaviour, which in some circumstances may involve inappropriate physical behaviour. aggression and violence.

      Can your boss tell you what to wear at work? ›

      You are allowed to enforce a dress code in the workplace to ensure that employees are dressed appropriately so long as it doesn't unlawfully discriminate against anyone.

      Can clothes tell you much about a person? ›

      Clothes being part of today's fashion and trend can tell us a great deal about a person's background, social status, esthetic tastes, mood, and even about climatic conditions. They also show whether one is bereaved or not. Most likely, one can be able to know about a woman's marital status by way of dressing.

      How can I show my personality through clothes? ›

      Wearing the right kind of clothes can give your confidence a huge boost. If you like what you are wearing it will reflect on the outside, enhancing your personality. They say it takes less than ten seconds to make a first impression and the clothes we wear play a very significant part in it.

      What should you not wear professionally? ›

      Denim, or items cut like denim (e.g., 5 pockets) — cords, khakis, etc. Lace or sheer clothing. Sleeveless tops or dresses (worn without a cardigan or blazer on top) Any item that can be worn to the gym (sneakers, yoga pants, terrycloth wristbands, large shapeless t-shirts)

      What you wear is not consent? ›

      They realized a pervasive question heard often was, “What were you wearing?” To summarize, clothing has nothing to do with someone getting assaulted. This is because: Experiences and research show clothing does not make someone more likely to experience sexual violence.

      What is the most powerful color to wear? ›

      The Psychology of Colors behind Famous Brands
      1. Red. Red is the most powerful color amongst all. ...
      2. Blue. Blue is the King of all colors as it is the most visible amongst them. ...
      3. Green. Green color is associated with health and prosperity. ...
      4. Yellow. Yellow holds energy and warmth. ...
      5. Black. Black radiates elegance and power. ...
      6. Grey.

      What color helps you get work done? ›

      Blue is considered the most productive colour, as it promotes calm and a state of flow, Chambers said. A 2009 study from the University of British Columbia found that blue also boosts creativity.

      What is the safest color to wear? ›

      White. This color is associated with cleanliness and perfection. It is always a safe choice for a shirt or scarf, but too much white denotes timidity and sterility—not good for workplace relations.

      What should you never tell your boss? ›

      Phrases to Never Say to Your Boss
      • “I Need a Raise.” You want to make more money? ...
      • “I Can't Stand Working With ____.” ...
      • “It's Not My Fault.” ...
      • “But We've Always Done It This Way.” ...
      • “That's Not Part of My Job.” ...
      • “That's Above My Pay Grade.” ...
      • “I Have Too Much on My Plate.” ...
      • “I'm Bored.”

      What not to tell coworkers? ›

      Don't let these simple little career-killing phrases pass your lips or you could lose some of those friends and hurt your professional reputation.
      • “We've always done it this way.” ...
      • “This will only take a second/minute.” ...
      • “That's not my job.” ...
      • “It's not fair.” ...
      • “I'll Try” ...
      • “I can't stand my boss.” ...
      • “You look tired today.

      What not to share at work? ›

      14 Things to Never Share or Discuss with Your Co-workers
      • Salary information. What you earn is between you and Human Resources, Solovic says. ...
      • Medical history. ...
      • Gossip Whomever. ...
      • Work complaints. ...
      • Cost of purchases. ...
      • Intimate details. ...
      • Politics or religion. ...
      • Lifestyle changes Breakups,

      What are signs of disrespect in the workplace? ›

      Examples of disrespect include malicious gossip, threats or intimidation, giving people the silent treatment, and the unwelcome use of profanity. While not unlawful, disrespect saps employee morale and is typically the first step toward harassment and possibly even workplace violence.

      What are the warning signs of unhappy employee? ›

      Typical warning signs of unhappy employees include voicing concerns, exhaustion, work quality and attitude changes, poor attendance, inappropriate behavior, and major life events.

      What are negative coworker traits? ›

      Greedy, selfish, braggadocious, and stubborn. These are just a few of the characteristics or "anti-skills" that you do not want to bring into the office—and how to deal when your coworkers bring their worst to work.

      How can you tell you work for a toxic boss? ›

      A tell-tale sign of a toxic boss is someone who sets unrealistic expectations for their employees. Whether they expect their employee to meet an impossibly high standard or unreasonable deadline, you'll notice something is amiss when employees begin to burn out, disengage, and even leave the company.

      What is undermining employee behavior? ›

      A study in the Journal of Organizational Behaviour defines social undermining as behavior intended to hinder a worker's success, reputation, and positive relationships over time. This behavior might look like: Someone badmouthing your work or reputation.

      How can a toxic employee be fired? ›

      8 Tips for Firing Toxic Employees
      1. Properly document toxic behavior. ...
      2. Don't procrastinate, but don't jump the gun either. ...
      3. Act decisively. ...
      4. Always listen to feedback from the workplace. ...
      5. Surface the toxic behavior at the very next employee performance review meeting.

      What are 5 behaviors that are considered to be irresponsible in the workplace? ›

      Negative Behavior Defined

      Hostility or aggressiveness. Narcissism or lack of accountability or responsibility. Rudeness, disrespect or bullying toward colleagues or clients. Actions or statements that undermine team motivation or business goals.

      What types of behaviors would be considered unprofessional? ›

      10 Unprofessional Behaviors to Avoid
      • Missing a Deadline. ...
      • Failing to Be Forthright. ...
      • Withholding Information. ...
      • Not Respecting Privacy of Information. ...
      • Not Respecting "Need to Know" ...
      • Plagiarizing. ...
      • Passing the Blame. ...
      • Overstating Qualifications and Experience.

      Can I refuse to wear work uniform? ›

      The Fair Labor Standards Act is a federal statute that says that employees do not have to wear work uniforms but allows employers to mandate them. The Act also states that if employers do require uniforms, they should pay for them (or reimburse the employee) and deduct them as business expenses.

      Can HR tell you what to wear? ›

      In general, an employer can impose a dress code to regulate the appearance of employees, as long as it is not discriminatory. For example, an employer cannot impose dress codes on only one person, one race, or one gender.

      How do you tell a female employee to dress appropriately? ›

      Instead of telling an employee, “Your appearance is too messy,” say, “I think your appearance could be more polished.” Or, rather than say, “Your clothes are too revealing,” explain, “It would be beneficial for you to dress more modestly.” Use language that is clear, but also kind.

      What is body shaming with clothes? ›

      Body shaming is the act of saying something negative about a person's body. It can be about your own body or someone else's. The commentary can be about a person's size, age, hair, clothes, food, hair, or level of perceived attractiveness.

      How do you know if you have a lot of clothes? ›

      🛑 Signs You Have Too Many Clothes
      1. You can't find stuff in your closet. ...
      2. Getting dressed takes a long time. ...
      3. You forget what you own and buy duplicates. ...
      4. Many of your clothes don't fit you. ...
      5. A lot of items still have the tags on them. ...
      6. Your drawers or closet doors don't close. ...
      7. There are piles of clothes all over.
      Aug 19, 2022

      How many clothes does the average person have? ›

      People own an average of 148 pieces

      Most survey respondents seem to have between 77 to 155 pieces in their wardrobe with a few outliers in the 300+ range.

      How do you dress like a smart person? ›

      A simple way to look smart is to dress smart. Choose clean, well-fitting clothes so you look professional and put together. A button-down shirt and slacks are always a good choice. A pair of good-looking, clean shoes will bring your outfit together.

      What are the 7 types of fashion? ›

      There are seven (7) dressing styles:
      • Classic.
      • Relaxed.
      • Dramatic.
      • Creative.
      • Rebellious.
      • Feminine.
      • Elegant Chic.

      What is considered unprofessional dress code? ›

      Avoid: *Blingy/shiny/lacey fabric, sequins, khaki, skinny and capri pants, shorts, tight skirts, skirts shorter than knee length, low-cut and sleeveless blouses/dress, large jewelry, bulky purse, sandals, wedges, and heels > 2.5 inches.

      What is not professional clothing? ›

      Never wear jeans, athletic apparel or athletic footwear. Offensive T-shirts, distracting jewelry and rips in clothing are not appropriate in a business professional dress code. Women adhering to a business professional dress code should avoid shirts that expose cleavage and back areas.

      What is not acceptable for dress code? ›

      Never Acceptable

      Dirty or wrinkled clothing. Tight-fitting or revealing clothing. Too casual, such as yoga pants, overalls, flip flops or shorts. T-shirts with inappropriate messages or offensive content.

      What are some examples you should not wear in a professional setting? ›

      7 Things You Should Never Wear in the Workplace
      • Don't Wear Dirty or Wrinkled Clothes to Work. ...
      • Don't Wear Tight or Revealing Clothing to Work. ...
      • Don't Wear Work Clothing That Is Too Casual. ...
      • Don't Wear T-Shirts With Offensive Messages to Work. ...
      • Don't Wear Club Clothes to Work. ...

      What is unprofessional behavior in the workplace? ›

      Examples of unprofessional behavior in the workplace

      Sharing personal opinionsDominating meetingsExaggeration of work experienceIntimidation and bullyingSexual harassmentChronic latenessRefusal to perform tasksAggressiveness.

      What is improper attire? ›

      Provocative or Improper attire means inappropriate and unsuitable office attire. Sample 1.

      Is it appropriate to show your back at work? ›

      Anything that shows off your back, cleavage, or tummy

      Your torso needs to be covered in the workplace.

      What makes an outfit look professional? ›

      What is dressing professionally? Dressing professionally refers to wearing clothes and accessories designed for a professional workplace. Professional outfits are modest, well-tailored and free of images or graphics. Your clothes should be clean, ironed and free of rips, holes or stains.

      What color shirt is professional? ›

      Business professional typically refers to clothing choices like dark-colored (gray, navy) suits and ties, pantsuits, tidy dresses, skirts or slacks. Tops include button-down shirts (in colors like white or light-blue), blouses and a blazer.

      What is female corporate wear? ›

      For Women. A dress pant or skirt with matching jacket is considered business formal for women. Depending on the season, jackets may be ¾ length or short sleeve. A crop pant suit is also suitable, however the pant hem should hit mid-calf and this style is not recommended in an interview setting.

      How much cleavage is appropriate at work? ›

      Don't reveal more than an inch of cleavage at work, Rothschild says. The same holds true for your company's holiday party and meeting your boyfriend's parents for the first time.

      Can your employer tell you what to wear at work? ›

      Can I be told what to wear? There are many valid reasons why an employer may impose a dress' code (corporate image, identification, health & safety) but it must relate to the job, be reasonable in nature and ideally be set out clearly in the organisation's policy.

      What are some examples of inappropriate attire for a job interview? ›

      “Attire that is always inappropriate for a job interview includes flip flops, wedge sandals, ripped jeans or shorts, tank tops, halter tops, sandals, strapless tops and dresses, and athletic attire like yoga pants and sneakers,” says Devoreaux Walton, an etiquette expert and founder of TheModernLady.com.

      What are the four types of attire for work? ›

      If you ask someone what the dress code at their office is, they'll generally give you one of four dress codes: business professional, business casual, smart casual or casual. There are some other in-between dress codes, but these four generally cover the spectrum of what your average American wears to work every day.


      Top Articles
      Latest Posts
      Article information

      Author: Terrell Hackett

      Last Updated: 09/10/2023

      Views: 6062

      Rating: 4.1 / 5 (52 voted)

      Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

      Author information

      Name: Terrell Hackett

      Birthday: 1992-03-17

      Address: Suite 453 459 Gibson Squares, East Adriane, AK 71925-5692

      Phone: +21811810803470

      Job: Chief Representative

      Hobby: Board games, Rock climbing, Ghost hunting, Origami, Kabaddi, Mushroom hunting, Gaming

      Introduction: My name is Terrell Hackett, I am a gleaming, brainy, courageous, helpful, healthy, cooperative, graceful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.