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People Are Watching and Drawing Conclusions About You All of the Time – Personal Branding Blog


It seems incongruous in this digital age to write about the value of a person’s physicality since so much interaction is online, but it’s precisely that reason why it’s extra important now. You have infrequent face-to-face contact with colleagues, your network of connections, even your bosses, so when it does happen, you need to make sure that you send the message you intend.

Here are some descriptions I’ve heard from bosses expressing what bothers them about some employees when seen in person:

“Walks into the room like a loser, not the senior manager she is.”

“Runs his hands through his hair, adjusts his shirt collar, darts his eyes around the room, shoots his mouth off meaninglessly, and fidgets in every way.”

“Doesn’t have an executive laugh. She snorts.”

“Is lazy about his appearance. Doesn’t appear to have brushed his hair, and wears rumpled clothes.”

“Seems insecure in how he walks and talks; he’s defensive and protective.”

“Needs to smile more.”

“He’s always glancing at his watch when in a meeting.”

“He looked good on paper, but he came in not showing his best: wrinkled clothes, visible tattoos, and a nose ring.”

“His appearance definitely affected my promotion decision despite his qualifications.”

“Talks, dresses, and acts like a cast member from the Jersey Shores.”

These comments were said during private conversations but not to the person. The boss isn’t allowed to say a lot of these things to you. Human resources instruct them not to. So if you wonder if any of this is holding you back, you have to initiate the conversation. Even then, expect the filtered truth. As one CEO told me, “There are lots of acts of kindness to help someone out that aren’t permitted anymore.”

Benton and Wright, co-author of The Leadership Mind Switch (McGraw-Hill, 2017)

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