Looking to get ahead in your career? Start by being nice to your co-workers, says leadership researcher Christine Porath. In this science-backed talk, she shares surprising insights about the costs of rudeness and shows how little acts of respect can boost your professional success — and your company’s bottom line.
My closet looks exactly like Donald Duck’s: two dozen identical white shirts all in a row.
About three years ago I decided to start wearing a uniform to the office, so I went to J. Crew and ordered three of the same suit in the same fabric and a score of white oxford shirts with button-down collars. My uniform, I thought, would free me from the daily anxiety of standing in front of my closet wondering, “Does this match?” or “Am I wearing this sweater too often?”
At first, I had just swapped one anxiety for another: Would people think I was lazy or boring for wearing a uniform? But as I eased into my new uniform lifestyle, I started to feel better at work because I knew I would look good and I would be dressed perfectly for almost any occasion. Simply put, the decision to go all uniform all the time is one of the best I’ve ever made. I had joined the ranks of very successful people who dress the same every day — Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Barack Obama — and I appreciated that I could so easily communicate who I am.
“The whole idea of uniformity and adopting a uniform for yourself, it keeps things very simple,” said the fashion designer Thom Browne, who wears one of his signature “shrunken” gray suits every day.
“I think there’s something refreshing when you see someone who has a true sense of their own style,” Mr. Browne said, joking that his uniform is so consistent he could probably get dressed in the dark.
“There is a real confidence in being able to project that image,’’ he added. “I hope that’s what people see as well.”
Research supports that correlation between self-confidence and the way we present ourselves. In one study from 2012, people were given a coat and told it was either a doctor’s coat or an artist’s smock. Researchers found that the subjects paid more attention to certain tasks when they thought they were wearing a doctor’s coat, but that there was no improvement in performance when they thought it was an artist’s smock.
Dr. Adam Galinsky, who ran the study and is a psychologist and professor at Columbia Business School, calls this “enclothed cognition.” When we wear certain clothes, particularly uniforms, we take on the characteristics associated with those uniforms.
“The clothes or uniforms that we wear affect our basic processes,” Dr. Galinksy said.
For this to work, a person has to understand the symbolism associated with a given outfit. So, if a person begins to conflate their work uniform with a certain persona, they will start to embody that person. It’s kind of like Dumbo’s magic feather, but hopefully covering a lot more skin.
Dr. Galinsky added that when a person starts to embody that persona in the office, co-workers will recognize it, reinforcing that persona in the wearer’s mind. This creates an endless feedback loop between how a person wants to be perceived and how they are perceived.
Basically, this is the psychological justification for the “dress for the job you want, not the job you have” speech your mother gave you when she bought you your first interview suit after you graduated from college.
So what should shoppers do when looking to start a uniform?
“The key question you’re asking is, What behavior do we want to produce and what impression do we want to portray?” Dr. Galinksy said. “You work backward from that into that uniform.”
Dawnn Karen, a fashion psychologist who teaches at the Fashion Institute of Technology, added that people should look to dress appropriately for their specific office.
“You don’t want to be in a tutu when everyone else is wearing a suit,” she said, adding that it goes both ways. For those at a tech firm, a few pairs of the same jeans and two dozen of the most comfortable T-shirts and hoodies are going to get you a lot further than a closet full of stuffy suits.
Rather than creating a uniform, Lauren A. Rothman, a stylist who lives in Washington, and wrote the book “Style Bible: What to Wear to Work,” practices “capsule dressing” with her clients, which is curating a small set of clothing that can be mixed or matched together. She suggests four capsules, one for each season. She added that people generally wore only about 25 percent of what was in their closets, so start by finding that 25 percent and replicating it.
“The problem with variety is that it is unpredictable and can be unsuccessful,” Ms. Rothman said. “A uniform does communicate who you are. It is great if you have consistent messaging every day about who you are, and what you wear will show that.”
When you are buying a uniform, take comfort into account, but also body type, physique and what will make you look and feel good, Ms. Rothman said. And while budget is always a consideration, it does not mean a solid collection can’t be found inexpensively.
“A great capsule can be created at Kohl’s and Bonobos as it can at Neimans or Nordstorm,” Ms. Rothman said.
Mr. Browne suggests people stick with high-quality goods, things that will last a long time through repeated wearing, and to consider tailoring when possible.
And don’t forget you can still customize the details. Dawnn Karen got a client out of her all-black clothing rut by incorporating more jewelry into the client’s everyday attire. For men, consider a rotation of lapel pins, colorful socks and shiny shoes to mix things up.
One admittedly clichéd sentiment worth remembering: Less is more. That is certainly a philosophy that Donald Duck, my uniform bête-noire, subscribes to as well.
Chinese billionaire Jack Ma realized a policy of not hiring the best candidates for a job during Alibaba’s early years and it eventually paid off.
According to the book “ALIBABA: The House That Jack Ma Built,” Ma hires applicants who were a notch or two below the schools’ best graduates.
Written by China-based investment adviser Duncan Clark in 2016, the book also revealed Ma’s unflattering opinion of those who graduated from business schools:
“It is not necessary to study an MBA. Most MBA graduates are not useful… Unless they come back from their MBA studies and forget what they’ve learned at school, then they will be useful. Because schools teach knowledge while starting businesses requires wisdom. Wisdom is acquired through experience. Knowledge can be acquired through hard work.”
As the entrepreneur pointed out, candidates from the so-called “college elite” have the tendency to get frustrated easily when faced with real-world challenges.
Ma revealed in a speech:
“A good team does not mean you hire excellent people from Harvard or from a multinational or from Fortune 500 companies.
“I remember when we raised the first $5 million, we thought, ‘Ha, now we have money.’ From $50,000 to $5 million, so we should hire great people. We hired close to 10 excellent vice presidents from many multinational companies. One of the guys who was a marketing expert vice president of a big company, he gave me a business plan, a marketing plan: $12 million.
“And I said, ‘Hey, we only have $5 million, how could you give me a business plan for next year’s budget in marketing set for $12 million?’
“He said, ‘Jack, I’ve never made any plan below $20 million!’
“Hire the right people, not necessarily the best people. The best people are always the ones you train. There’s no ‘best people’ in the market, the best people for you are always the ones you train yourself.”
Ma understood that it would take thick-skinned individuals to survive a company which was then still finding its place in the modern economy.
“Today is brutal, tomorrow is more brutal, but the day after tomorrow is beautiful. However, the majority of people will die tomorrow night. They won’t be able to see the sunshine the day after tomorrow,” Ma would often say to new recruits.
The new hires had to contend with very low salaries and grueling work hours, working seven 16-hour work days per week and earning barely $50 per month.
Alibaba employees were also required to live no more than ten minutes away from the office to save traveling time.
But what sets the company apart from the other firms in China is how Alibaba was managed like a Silicon Valley company from the start.
It has remained one of the very few Chinese companies which issue each employee share options in the company, vesting over a four-year period.
When the Alibaba’s clientele eventually grew, customer service demands also increased. Ma’s employees responded to the challenge by turning themselves into free “tech support” to customers.
From providing basic troubleshooting tips on computers to resolving delivery issues, the instant customer care team managed to respond to every email within two hours, further establishing the company’s “customer first” principle.
With the right people behind him, Ma was able to transform Alibaba into a multinational e-commerce, retail, Internet, AI, and technology conglomerate considered to be one of the biggest companies in the world today.
By discovering what drives you and your art, you can tap into your deepest motivations and achieve your full creative potential, says writer and professor Meta Wagner.
What’s your creative type?
Do any of these sound familiar?
— You believe you have a great creative talent, but you think your dreams of pursuing it full-time are childish and impractical.
— You spent months on a creative project. Then, you couldn’t decide if it was brilliant or worthless so you. just. stopped.
— You’ve sold a drawing/song/podcast/story/web series, and you’ve got more under way. But even though you’re succeeding, you find yourself waking up at night, worrying about competitors.
If you can relate to one or more of these scenarios, welcome to the creative life. Any artist you’ve ever heard of has had something besides talent, dedication or luck behind them: Most of them knew why they created. When you know what drives you — and what encourages and discourages you — you’re better able to keep yourself on track and enlist friends and colleagues to rally you during dry times or tough times.
The five creative types here grew out of the extensive research and thinking I’ve done for the “Creativity in Context” seminar I teach at Emerson College. My students have responded enthusiastically, and I realized I’d tapped into something valuable for anyone creative.
Take the quiz, discover your type, and embrace a life fueled by your imagination and art.
Have you ever wondered what is the best way to keep calm under pressure? Perhaps you are dreading giving a musical performance, a talk or having to get through an interview. The pressure is relentless and the brain does not seem to help at all as it is overreacting and you are getting more nervous by the minute. Here are 10 ways you can reverse all that, keep really calm and sail through it.
“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
1. Learn how to defeat the panic signals
When we are in danger or facing a really challenging situation, our minds and bodies go into the ‘fight or flight’ mode. Neither of these is really appropriate when we are about to give a PowerPoint presentation or turn up for an interview!
Stress hormones flood our system and can really help us overcome an emergency. In the long term, we do not need these at all as they can lead to chronic conditions. I know, because it happened to me and led to a state of permanent anxiety which was mistaken for a heart condition, known as angina. After hospitalization, the message was pretty clear. I had to find ways of combating these ‘fight or flight’ reactions. The best way was to train myself to use a relaxation response.
2. Learn how to breathe properly
One of the most effective ways to train this response is to learn how to breathe properly. Shallow breathing means that the diaphragm muscles are not being used. Thee secret is to inhale deeply so that the chest and stomach are filled with air. If you are lying down, you can easily feel your stomach rising by placing your hands over your belly button area. Then exhale slowly. As you do so, concentrate on the movement you feel and also repeat a mantra such as ‘breathe in’ and ‘breathe out’. Simply put, you are now channelling the autonomic nervous system into much more productive activity which will be extremely useful in fighting the panic response.
3. Learn how to improve your vagal tone
We mentioned the autonomic nervous system above. The principal nerve involved in the calming nervous pathways is the vagus nerve. This is rather long gangling affair which stretches from the brainstem right down into the stomach, intestines, heart and lungs. It is no accident that people use terms like ‘he lost his nerve’ or ‘he hasn’t got the guts’ when stress takes over.
The best way to stimulate this vagus nerve to calm the whole system down so that we feel safe and secure is to improve its tone. You can do this in the following ways:
practice meditation or mindfulness
generate positive thoughts
do exercise or some physical activity
increase omega 3 consumption by eating more fish and nuts
4. Learn how to get things into perspective
Learning how to prioritize and re-evaluate our talents, skills and experience is a great way of building self-esteem. This can also help us to put things into perspective when we are facing a critical challenge. Dr. Andy Martens of the University of Arizona has done some interesting research in this area.
5. Learn how to avoid negative people
You are in control but not when you are surrounded by anxious, negative and cynical people. Learning how to avoid these people is crucial especially when preparing for an extra stressful event.
6. Learn how to be grateful
When you are under pressure, cortisol is released and functions well as a sort of lubricant for the nervous system. The problem arises when long term, constant stress produces too much cortisol and this in turn can damage the nervous system.
One great way to reduce cortisol is to regularly practise gratitude. Researchers at the University of California Davis, led by Robert Emmons, found that this practice was very effective in reducing cortisol by as much as 23%. There were added benefits in that people were in a better mood and felt better physically and mentally.
7. Learn how to re-label emotions
Esther Sternberg, a researcher at The NIMH has done a lot of research on mind-body interaction. One of her recommendations is that when, under pressure, you are successfully able to re-label the ‘fear or flight’ emotions. For example, fear can become anticipation while dread can become caution. Being under pressure can be simply re-labelled as being courted! If you are successful with this technique you become watchful and aware rather than being frightened and ready to flee.
8. Learn how to get in the ‘zone’
Now I know saying ‘practice makes perfect’ can sound banal. Is there any scientific evidence that this is really true? Actually, the more you practise something, the more automatic it becomes. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has given lots of talks about getting in the ‘zone’ or ‘flow’ where extremely heightened focus and immersion in an activity can lead to really superb performances. There is a perfect match between your skill level and the challenge you are facing.
In fact, time is non-existent and you forget your ego and other physical restraints. One of the ways of achieving the flow is not only practice, but overlearning a skill where you can stretch yourself to new limits. This is essential when you are under pressure. You can refer to some of Mihali Csikszentmihalyi’s books which outline the whole ‘flow’concept with practical examples of their application in daily life.
9. Learn how to get on auto-pilot
There are experiments which show golfers performing lousy swings after being told that they should watch the position of their elbows. The secret here is that our conscious attention is hijacking our perfectly honed motor skills and we normally perform, speak or run much better than this! Ramping up pressure like this is not helpful. If I tell you to watch your grammar before your presentation, then your performance may be less than your best. Sports teams know all about this pressure when their fans get too enthusiastic and noisy, especially when playing at home.
Just tell yourself that your sweaty palms or beating heart are not signs that you are going to fail! They are just the side effects of somebody who is ready to give the best performance in his or her life. Tell yourself that this test/match/interview/presentation is no big deal. Sian Bellock’s book,‘Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To.’ is a fascinating insight on this process.
10. Learn to look after yourself
So, you are under pressure. But what steps are you taking to make sure that your body is going to perform well on the day? That means looking after all the essential maintenance such as diet, sleep, exercise, and relaxation. Did you know that if you have too many carbs in the morning, your blood sugar may fall? That can lead to bad temper, whereas if you get enough protein, this can keep you going for much longer without that annoying sugar crash.
“Calm mind brings inner strength and self-confidence, so that’s very important for good health.” –Dalai Lama
Let us know in the comments below how you manage to stay calm under pressure.