In thinking about the job candidates who failed to get out of the starting gate due to their wardrobe choices, I reflected on how formality provides a guide for “good” behavior. Being formal in addressing people with “Ms.,” “Mr.,” “Dr.,” etc. is a good starting place. It is likely you will soon be told to be less formal, but starting out informally might be like wearing shorts to a job interview, a non starter. Assessing the situation, listening to others, and being situationally aware allows one to determine what is appropriate, or not. Melissa can explain the psychological concepts related to internal/external focus further. There are many ways to evaluate a situation; checking websites and social media are good indicators. Turning on one’s listening and observational skills are a requirement. Showing respect by using formal titles, dressing formally (situationally) and being appropriately deferent are good ways to get off on the right foot in a new work situation or a situation involving a new client or customer.
Social psychologists have an explanation for most kinds of people’s encounters with others. In the situations to which David refers, one’s self monitoring level is crucial to the impression they make upon others. Self monitoring is defined as the degree to which people regulate the way they present themselves, including their emotions and behaviors, in response to other people and situations. Some people are low self monitors, with little awareness and/or concern about the impact of their behavior on others. They go through life doing as they please, without much consideration of other people’s thoughts, feelings, or reactions to them. High self monitors, in contrast, have more malleable personalities and are aware of the impact of their behavior on other people and the social environment. Using David’s example, a low self monitor who is applying for a job at Magnus might not be concerned about the requirement to address me as “Dr. Pigott,” as opposed to “dude,” “hey girl,” or the ever dreaded form of address, “Ms.” A person who is a high self monitor would be expected to realize that, in a formal situation in which he/she is being interviewed by someone with a Ph. D., addressing her as “Dr. Pigott” is the only appropriate thing to do. Needless to say, Magnus has never hired anyone who is low on the self monitoring scale.