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The Elements of Style—In The Workplace

By Paige Seles

Let’s have an honest conversation about how we show up at work.

The Elements of Style, written in 1918, is a highly regarded guide to writing in which the authors advocate for better communication by using plain English. Keep it simple, what a concept! And here’s the thing—the elements of our personal style are subject to the same rule—keep it simple, just be you! A company’s culture is made up of each individual’s authentic personality, skills and gifts. At a time when companies are looking to navigate return-to-office policies, it’s never been more important for people to show up physically, and show up as themselves.

Most companies hope to foster great culture, and the building blocks of that culture are the individual team members, with each person contributing to the collective in their own, unique style. Do you encourage this? Or do you constrain it? In the context of the workplace, the elements of style that we can all bring to the office everyday will not only foster better communication, but also create a vibrant community of individuals that supercharge each other’s project leadership, creative problem solving and overall team functioning.

If you asked me to define what I mean by “style in the workplace,” I would say it is fundamentally the way you show up to work. While this includes the clothes that you wear, “style in the workplace” goes beyond that to include your attitude, posture and disposition, as well as your leadership style and your approach to problem solving. It includes the words that you choose and how you use them, and it also includes the times you speak up and the times you just listen. In other words, everything matters, and it all adds up to your unique style.

The two most important words in that definition are “show up!” That’s right, you need to show up, in the office, in person. While Zoom has its role, it can often stifle your individual style and your ability to truly express yourself to those around you. Working from home can not only limit the ability for your own expression, but it can also drastically reduce the opportunities for collaboration, understanding and growth with your colleagues.

Style in the workplace, when encouraged, can also be a key differentiator. All businesses are eager to differentiate themselves from their competition. We often hear the call to be “better, faster, stronger,” but maybe there is a simpler way to differentiate ourselves in a crowded field. We’re all different after all, so maybe we differentiate ourselves as a team when we invite and encourage our team members to show up in an authentic way, to “bring your whole self to work” in the words of Hughes Marino’s business coach, Mike Robbins. At the very least, our clients, colleagues and mentors deserve to see you in your most true form. Inspired by that ethos, I personally intend to show up as only I can. But hey, that’s just my style.

It is crazy to think that there was a time when employees were uniformly expected to conform to a certain corporate standard or behavioral norms, spoken or unspoken. I would find that unbearably stifling, with all the comfort of a polyester tracksuit. In what ways are your employees suiting up in order to fit in every time they show up to work? Is there any wonder that over time this can lead to stress and burnout? Think about how much effort it takes to show up a certain way when just being yourself is simple! And dare I say, fun.

The team at Hughes Marino talks a lot about our foundational ten core values. Quite the opposite of stifling, these shared values are, for me, uplifting and challenging. There is plenty of room within these inspiring behavioral guardrails for me to display my unique style every day when I show up to work. But at the same time reflect the tenants of our unique company culture.

The classic book, The Elements of Style, got it exactly right—keeping things simple can be our superpower, and this is true in every mode that we choose to express ourselves. The ability for all our team members to explore personal style enhances creativity, boosts overall well-being, fosters authenticity and contributes to a more inclusive and innovative work culture. As organizations continue to evolve, celebrating individuality while working cooperatively will be a cornerstone of success. Next time you are sifting through your closet to plan for the day ahead in hopes that what you select will be approved of those around you, pick the shirt, the sweater, the pants, the dress that makes you beam with joy from the inside out. And don’t forget to choose the attitude that gives you the confidence, the poise and the identity to squeeze all the juice out of the day.

We sometimes rally the troops here at Hughes Marino with an expression, “Storm the gates!” I think we can do one better. Come on team, let’s “Storm the gates—with style!”

Paige Seles is a senior advisor of Hughes Marino, an award-winning commercial real estate company specializing in tenant representation and building purchases with offices across the country. Contact Paige at 1-844-662-6635 or paige@hughesmarino.com to learn more.

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