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Sexy colleagues; it remains a touchy and subjective subject. Are sexy clothes appropriate attire for the workplace? When is someone too sexy? And what exactly is sexy clothing? The percentage of Dutch people who dislike colleagues dressed in a provocative or sexy way was the topic of recent research.
A recent survey asked 1068 Dutch people their opinion on sexy clothing in the workplace. The data collected was broken down by gender and age. The result; 41% of Dutch people take colleagues who dress too sexy for the workplace less seriously. What really stands out is the vast difference between men and women’s opinion on this matter. Only about 33% of men, whereas 52% of women take sexy colleagues less seriously. The highest scoring group is women in the 30 to 39 age group, a staggering 61% take the colleague less serious. Men over the age of 60 scored the lowest, only 19%. When I was reading these results I was surprised to see a relatively low percentage. I’ve often heard people say they find a sexy style comes across as being less professional but looking at the results of this survey it seems that most people are not overly concerned.
In compassion with women are men really so relaxed when it comes to a sexy style? Maybe, but I expect Dutch culture also plays a role, we are, after all, more down to earth. Let’s compare the results with a similar survey which took place in England. In the UK 45% of male managers find a low cleavage offensive and a sign of incompetence. For female managers the percentage is slightly higher at 61%. 1 in 5 men find it enough of a reason to let someone go.
It sounds crazy to fire someone because they are too sexy but in 2010 this is exactly what happened to a then 33-year-old Debrahlee Lorenzana. Her male manager at American Citibank forced her out of her job citing her appearance as being too distracting.
What is sexy?
The tricky thing about the Dutch research is that is has never been defined what falls under sexy. When is someone sexy? The definition of sexy varies per country and culture but also per individual. For example there are people who find feet to be extremely sexy, in this case would a peep-toe shoe be deemed too sexy? Or it the shoe sexy because it shows a little flesh which is not always appropriate in the business world. If this is the case should we drop the word sexy and replace it with the word bare? And is bare really sexy or inappropriate and distasteful. Sexy means something difference for each of us.
Of course there are certain generalizations that spring to mind when we think about what makes up a sexy appearance. A short skirt or cleavage are generally considered sexy. But these are explicitly female. When is a man too sexy? Is that based on how many shirt buttons he has left undone? Visible chest hair or a tight shirt? If this is ever researched, I will definitely let you know.
I am curious to hear your opinion about sexy colleagues. When is someone too sexy and do you experience problems with this at work?