If you think you deserve a promotion but aren’t getting one, it might be your clothes, the way you smell, or your attitude.

New results of a survey conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder reveal the physical and behavioural factors that can hurt an employee’s advancement prospects at an organization.

Turns out that maybe you should put on more clothes, iron your shirt, and/or turn that frown upside down.

A representative sample of 2,175 hiring and human resource managers across industries and company sizes was asked which aspects of a worker’s physical appearance would make them less likely to promote that person. The most popular answer was provocative attire, followed by wrinkled clothes or a shabby appearance, and piercings outside of traditional ear piercings. Other factors included tattoos, facial hair, and stinky breath.


    Provocative attire: 44%
    Wrinkled clothes or a shabby appearance: 43%
    Piercings outside of traditional ear piercings: 32%
    Attire that is too casual for the workplace: 27%
    Visible tattoos: 27%
    An unprofessional or ostentatious haircut: 25%
    Unprofessional or ostentatious facial hair: 24%
    Bad breath: 23%
    Heavy perfume or cologne: 21%
    Too much makeup: 15%

As for behavioural factors that prevent an employer from promoting an employee, a negative or pessimistic attitude topped the list of blockades, followed by consistent lateness, and having a potty mouth.


    Having a negative or pessimistic attitude: 62%
    Regularly showing up to work late: 62%
    Using vulgar language: 51%
    Regularly leaving work early: 49%
    Taking too many sick days: 49%
    Gossiping: 44%
    Spending office time on personal social media accounts: 39%
    Neglecting to clean up after himself/herself: 36%
    Always initiating non-work-related conversations with co-workers: 27%
    Taking personal calls at work: 24%
    Taking smoke breaks: 19%

“In addition to on-the-job accomplishments, employers also take attitude, behavior and appearance into consideration when deciding who deserves to move up in the ranks,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder, in a statement. “While your work performance may be strong, if you’re not presenting yourself in a professional manner, it may be preventing your superiors from taking you seriously.”

So, yes, if you’re looking to move up the ladder, don’t go to work looking like you’re going to a nightclub. Unfortunately, the reality is that when we talk about “provocative attire,” we’re usually talking about women. Men are less likely to go to the office in too-tight pants or short shorts than women are to show up with deep cleavage, or mini skirts and too-high heels. Everyone should be dressed professionally, with the sexy parts covered up, at work. If you can see up it, down it, or through it, it’s not for the office.

Less clear is where the “unprofessional facial hair” line might lie.

As for the behavioural factors, this is actually a good opportunity to check your self awareness. Because here’s the thing: if you’re showing up late all the time, leaving early, taking sick days, and harrumphing around with a bad attitude, maybe you’re not as deserving of that promotion as you think you are. It’s kind of hard to do all that and be great at your job at the same time. Take stock of your behaviour and clean up where you can, then see if it makes a difference.

For more on getting a promotion, read this.

See also:
Why not-so-smart but charismatic people get promoted, but the CEO has the least people skills of all