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Casual Friday is designated as a day when professionals may dress in business casual attire.  Often this means employees may wear nice jeans, casual slacks, casual tops (women) and nice polo shirts for men. Bottom line: appropriate Casual Friday office attire is part of good business etiquette.  The goal is to still present a professional image while enjoying business casual attire at the office. However, as evidenced in an episode of The Office a few years ago, some take the “casual” in Casual Friday a little too far and appear as a “business casualty” instead.

I recently witnessed firsthand how inappropriate business casual attire can reflect poorly on the image of a company. During an unusually long wait at a doctor’s office, I expected to get out my phone and answer emails to fill time. But, instead,  found myself writing this article while observing numerous health care professionals as they scurried about their work through the hallways and reception area.

Whoa! Did I ever get an eye full–of what NOT to wear for “Casual Friday!”  I was aghast! This group appeared ready to clean out someone’s attic instead of taking blood pressures and reviewing lab reports.

A few business casual faux pas I observed included:

  • Jeans with holes
  • Faded jeans dragging the floor, frayed at the hem
  • Flip flops
  • Sports team t-shirts
  • Tank tops
  • Dirty tennis shoes
  • More flip flops
  • See-through blouses with undergarments showing through
  • Denim capris
  • Tons and tons of tattoos and body piercings

I pondered how I might feel if I was a new patient visiting this office for the first time. The unprofessional attire certainly did not give an impression of competence and credibility. While the doctor himself is very good, the Casual Friday attire worn by his staff clearly undermines the professionalism of his office.

This office staff apparently didn’t “get” that the goal for Casual Friday is still to present yourself with a polished professional image. Better choices would be nice jeans, woven or knit tops and shirts, casual sandals instead of flip flops and covering all if not most body art.

If your office has a Casual Friday policy, here’s a question to ask yourself as you look in your closet deciding what to wear: “Will this item make me look like I’m ready to clean the garage or go to the beach…or, will I look like I’m ready to do business?” I’m confident that when you ask yourself this question as you’re getting dressed on a Casual Friday morning, that you’ll show up for work wearing appropriate attire that sends a message that you respect yourself and want others to respect you and take you seriously as well.