Skip main navigation

What is corporate culture?

As businesses and industries grow, consolidating workers and locations, complex corporate culture begins to emerge. 
Colleagues conversing in common area

Shared behavioural principles are not unique to humans as a species. As the saying goes, ‘birds of a feather flock together’. However, unlike most animals, people take ideas of belonging far beyond survival rationale and mating rituals. Similarly, as businesses and industries grow, consolidating workers and locations, complex corporate culture begins to emerge in the same way.

Do looks matter?

We can turn these into guidelines for inclusion or discrimination. What colleagues or peers may look like too often becomes prescriptive. On one hand, uniforms are typically designed with practical occupational necessities in mind to aid efficiency and safeguard wellbeing of the workers. On the other hand, uniformity as a concept can lead to a toxic organisational culture. Canadian social psychologist Elliott Jaques, who pioneered the field of organisational/corporate studies in the 1950s, helped identify several principles of a favourable working environment:

“Work for everyone at a level consistent with their level of potential capability, values and interests. Opportunity for everyone to progress as her or his potential capability matures, within the opportunities available in the organisation. Fair and just treatment for everyone, including fair pay based upon equitable pay differentials for level of work and merit recognition related to personal effectiveness appraisal. Leadership interaction between managers and subordinates, including shared context, personal effectiveness appraisal, feedback and recognition, and coaching. Clear articulation of accountability and authority to engender trust and confidence in all working relationships. Articulation of long-term organisational vision through direct communication from the top. Opportunity for everyone individually or through representatives to participate in policy development.”

Requisite Organisation by Elliott Jacques

The importance of looking and feeling your best

It is worth acknowledging that looking and feeling one’s best contributes greatly to achieving these goals. However, clothes are not worn in vacuum. To understand the role of Power Dressing in the pre-digital workspace, let’s consider some features of a typical physical office pre-2020.

Our five senses received synchronised stimuli at once: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste to inform us of what would be happening around us. In most spaces, we had 360-degree visibility to see people and be seen by others. Cubicle partitions usually stood at 5 – 6 feet of height and allowed up to 4 feet of personal space to express ourselves with desk and wall ornaments. We would be able to hear others and speak back to them in surround “Dolby” sound. These elements provided us with an immersive shared realistic experience of co-working. Remote working upended nearly all of these markers.

This article is from the free online

Power Dressing in the Zoom Era

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education