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The Importance of Appearance

The Importance of Appearance

Beauty comes from the inside. I totally agree. But, I’m not talking about beauty today. I’m talking about professional standards in our own appearance and the appearance of the product we send out. We are here to represent our company, our brand, ourselves as professionals and how we do so is very important. Perception is reality. I have listed a few areas where the perception that we’re giving off may be hurting us.

 

Corporate dress codes:

Does your company have a dress code? Thoughts on hair, colors, cuts, tattoos, piercings? If not, why not?

 

In the multihousing industry, we work with all kinds of people, and that’s one of the perks of our job. Shouldn’t we be allowed to be our own person? Have our own look? Of course, but let’s be completely honest, your choices in how you dress and present yourself will determine how far you go in your career.

 

If your company’s image is corporate and professional, why struggle against it? You knew it when you were hired. I love tattoos, I love all the vibrant hair color, I love everyone individual enough to stand out in the crowd. I’m just suggesting that IF individuality is frowned on at your place of business, don’t flaunt them there.

 

If you’re not sure whether it’s appropriate, please consult your HR Department for a copy of the dress code. If you don’t have one, do a quick Google search for “example of corporate dress code” and see what comes up.

 

  • Perception of dressing appropriately: I trust them. Look how professional they look. I want to learn more about their community.
  • Perception of dressing inappropriately: They really don’t look like a very professional company, I’m not so sure I want to live there.

 

Written Corporate Standards:

Does your company have standards for email signatures? For how you communicate? The way things look?

 

Again, this goes back to my earlier statement of perception is reality. When you send out a letter in Comic Sans (Comic Sans, people?!) or a signature in Curlz (just come on now!), it is going to be perceived as unprofessional. Many companies have adopted corporate standards in regards to fonts, signatures, colors, etc. Find out if your company has professional standards in place and change accordingly. Save the fun fonts for your correspondence at home.

 

  • Perception of maintaining professional written standards: I trust them. They know their job.
  • Perception of maintaining unprofessional written standards: If they can’t look professional in emails or letters, how can I trust that they’re going to take care of my home in a professional manner?

 

Grammar and its importance:

Ok, so you’re dressing professionally and following along with your company’s written corporate standards, fantastic. But did you know, bad grammar will make you look unprofessional every time. Trust me, I have been known to write some pretty obvious grammar and spelling mistakes, and it gives me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I do.

 

Take a few seconds to copy and paste what you're writing in Word for a quick spelling and grammar check. Read it out loud several times. Give it to a coworker or friend to proofread. Are you stuck on where to use things like effect vs affect or their, there, they’re, go online. There are numerous resources available to you.

 

  • Perception of sending proofed, beautiful, mistake-free correspondence: I like these people. I trust that they’re smart and can take care of this community.
  • Perception of sending error-riddled correspondence: They can’t even spell correctly? How on earth are they going to care for this community?

 

To sum up, appearance is vitally important. We have enough challenges renting apartments, why add to them with things that we can easily control?

 

  • Perception when you dress well, you use professional standards and write impeccably: I like these people Oh heck yeah, I’m going to move in there! (That’s right, with an exclamation point, they’re that happy!)
  • Perception when you do not dress well, you do not use professional standards and send out error-riddled correspondence: Nope…just nope. Not going to move there. (They use Comic Sans for gosh sake!)

 

Perception is reality. In our industry, we are asking people to trust us to take care of their community, their homes. And if we’re giving off the perception of being unprofessional or uneducated, then we’re neither going to earn their trust, nor ultimately, their rent.

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Leave your comments

  • Shellie...great article. thank you. I am particularly interested in the tattoo issue. Ink on the body has become a huge issue when we talk about professionalism. My clients want it covered! Bandaids and make up are used, but sweating and rubbing on clothing messes that up very quickly. The biggest concern is with the maintenance/service team. In the summer, long sleeves are hot, however completely inked arms and necks are hard to hide otherwise. I would love to hear what other companies are doing. As for me, I have 'permanent' cosmetics, brows, eyeliner and lip liner. So far I don't have to hide those!

  • Great article, Shellie!

  • Thanks, Brent!!

  • That's very interesting... How do you think prospects perceive initiatives like Camden's "No Package Deliveries Accepted" policy or the ability to support any amenity on property for that matter?

  • Good questions! How do you feel about them? I work with our reputation management & resident reviews and I can tell you, no one is shy to tell us how we're perceived when we aren't able to support an amenity or stumble on the job. Absolutely being able to do one's job & keep up the community is a huge part of how we're perceived. I don't even want to think about Camden's policy, really look at the numbers and see how it's affecting our properties. I personally feel that getting mail at your home is pretty important. But as I don't have anyone to check my mail for me, I typically have packages sent to my work.

  • Shellie, thanks for talking about this timely and important topic! My team just had a facilitated session with all our Managers (THANKS, Jennifer Creech) on this subject, since our written policy still says no open toed shoes and associates must wear panty hose! (By the way, anyone know where you BUY panty hose?) We are still working on consensus among the team...there were so many differing views and much to consider, such as rules on body art (33% of millennials have it!), rainbow hair, how many piercings and where, and whether or not leggings are pants! Whew! Thank you for keeping customer perception in the forefront!

  • Thanks, Mary!! I can't remember the last time I saw panty hose for sale. Can you imagine one of our younger employees wearing panty hose?! The workforce is SO diverse right now, I think we all have a huge challenge striking the right balance for everyone. But keeping the customer in mind when doing so, may help narrow it down a bit.

  • Evelyn Holland

    Very good points made - thank you!

  • Good grief; panty hose? Even my generation doesn't wear them. In Texas summers we would die! I noticed that the fashion industry tried to revive them for this season; still haven't seen them anywhere but on line and they are all lace, printed, fancy. Still would like to know how more of you are handling tattoos, especially maintenance.

  • We probably won't have our new policy completed till December, and I'll be sure and post info from it! I'm with Anne, if others of you have insights, would love to see them!

  • Tricia

    Wow, I work a very small (60 units), local owned community. We don't have a dress code here (it's just me and my maintenance man). I wear hose. I buy them regularly (??), when I'm wearing a dress, skirt or capris. Perhaps thigh highs and stockings as well, but wow, I wear them every single day that I work. I dress very conservatively but mostly "office casual" (I would call it). Perhaps to others I'm a little dressier since I do wear hose. Didn't realize soooo many do not wear them that they don't even know where they can buy them (any department or drug stores, they're everywhere).

  • Frankly, appearances can be deceiving. It's archaic thinking in my opinion to create policies of one size fits all. (And I love wearing patterned tights in the cooler winter months!) The USMC forbid body art on its soldiers and those that went against the grain paid a price (as in no promotion, a demotion, and write ups in the record.) I am unsure if they have relaxed that - I certainly know a lot of Marines who sport some impressive ink! Personally, for properties where the maintenance team looks like a team and is clothed in unison by a uniform, most residents are not going to be too offended to see some remnant of ink on an arm. As far as the Office goes, I have seen some pretty objectionable dress in warm climates of too short shorts and tight, tight tanks by leasing team members. That is about as unprofessional as it gets. Nowadays, there are some nice corporate apparel programs out there and I don't mind that. However, I guess I am different from others in that what I wear does NOT affect my level of professionalism, or my ability to get a lease when I am needed to help out. But dictating that I cannot have six earrings in my ears is crazy to me or a single nose piercing of a tiny stud. I think someone having bad breath is way worse.

  • Mindy! ALWAYS respect your thoughts and perspective! But 6 earrings YOU might select, or a tasteful nose stud aside, what about when a customer service person tries to talk to you with a big distracting tongue piercing, or those ear bolt things, or a face full of scary tattoos, etc. (OK, so I always wonder how people get their phones out fast enough to capture these things: I was in a grocery store parking lot and a guy with short hair had STUPID tattooed in BIG letters on the back of his neck. Do you think he KNEW it was there???) What is reasonable and tasteful to you might be unreasonable to the next customer. I think we have to recognize that our target work force is going to have tattoos, piercings, etc. (30%+ of millennials have tattoos), so what is reasonable?

  • My concern is with blanket policies that lack respect for personal preferences in one's own body. It sounds like there is a group of company executives, HR and whatever else corporate people are sitting around worrying that suddenly someone will get a tattoo and THAT alone will so offend a customer that the customer will leave the premises without buying. Or, that someone's ear bolt will also result in kind. In order to PREVENT this, and possibly offend a future or current customer, we must create a BLACK/WHITE policy people must adhere to in order to work somewhere. My question now becomes, who are you worried about and are your worries related to the customer or to your onsite teams?

    True story. Management Company comes in with all the HR people when the property was transitioning from one management company to another. Sign here, fill out this application, initial here - they didn't even give anyone time to read anything. Rebel that I am, i come across their "DRESS CODE" policy. Restricted to wearing either a wedding/engagement ring, 1 necklace, no more than 4 holes in earlobes. I got up, turned in the paperwork without signing. Hey! they shouted - you didn't sign this. NO, I did not, I said - because I already was wearing peep toe shoes, 6 earrings, ear cuffs, an ankle bracelet and toe rings. A call to the president of the company was made who assured them they could officially "hire" me anyway.

    Finally, again, because I embrace the weirdness of people in general, like violence/sex on TV/media, should we desensitize customers at some point? Just playing Devil's Advocate here. Is it important to ban visible tattos on the maintenance team, or is it better to provide uniforms that cover tats? Is it better to ban certain forms of jewelry, such as tongue piercings? Or, is it better to say, as long as clear articulation is not hampered by a tongue piercing, it is not restricted. I don't know what is right for your company. Only those unknowns sitting around your corporate offices can decide that. I am just one person, and it affects me deeply on a very personal level for someone to force their idea down my throat because the people at the lowest end - who are the backbone of the company - have no choice if they want to work there and/or keep their jobs. I understand brand image and perception of the customer. But it is still, in my opinion, insane to think a one-size-fits-all policy works; it is a colorful world out there, not always a clear black and white one.

  • Thank you, Mindy.

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