Over the last five years since moving to the Silicon Valley, I’ve observed how lax technology companies are about the way they allow their employees to “show up” for work. Today’s young employees are expected to work long, dedicated hours. Work environments are designed to engage employees as teammates and to keep them tethered to the workplace as long as necessary to get the job done.
The resultant atmosphere may feel a bit like the common area of a college dorm, only with over-the-top perks and accoutrements: foosball, free meals, dartboards, mini swim tanks, Segways, etc.
Sloppy dressing. Yes, this is part of today’s modern office culture at technology companies, where the playground atmosphere seems ideal as a fuel for creative thinking.
It may be just the perfect place for kidults, a segment of the population typically defined as young adults in their twenties who act more like adult teenagers by avoiding personal responsibilities. One in five Americans in this age range, capable of living independently, actually lives at home and lacks the financial independence to be on their own. To be clear: not all twentysomethings are kidults. I have numerous twentysomething clients who take great pride in achieving their successes, and are proof that it is possible to work in high tech and be successful while looking good, too. But these are the proud and relative few compared to the many others who look like they have not bathed, washed clothes, or given any thought of what to wear to work.
The appearance of the kidult has morphed from those solely in their twenties to those into their forties and beyond. There comes a time when looking like crap and seeming to take no personal responsibility for one’s self has to end. I just don’t subscribe to the mantra that irresponsibility is good.
The truth is that at work, kidults are often charged with a lot of responsibility. So why slack off on the appearance factor when it depreciates the connection others have to your brand?
Mature employees working in more youthful environments face fresh challenges. If you have gray hair you no longer think about whether coloring it will make you look younger as in the past. Fitting into the environment of a workgroup has newfound pressures having less to do with how agile you handle your work, but with how agile you can play foosball or ride a Segway around the office, even if you don’t want to. Coloring gray hair, toning up your body, wearing modern clothes, and wearing a modern hairstyle all help to show the younger people around you that you can keep up.
Dressing like crap communicates with abundance a message that very clearly says, “I don’t care about my responsibilities. I don’t care about myself. And I don’t particularly care about you.” But the more responsibility you have, the more ambition you have, and the more mature you are – which has very little to do with chronological age – the more your personal image should mean to you.
So while sociologists are learning lots about kidults, learning to take lessons on dressing from them is not a good idea!
Joseph Rosenfeld helps high-profile individuals revitalize, manage, and be secure in their personal visual brand. Visit JosephRosenfeld.com for details.