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Respect My Authority! Uniforms Make the Difference Between a "No" and a "Yes"

[caption id="attachment_712" align="alignnone" width="551"]Marines in Dress Uniform Image source: 4gwar.wordpress.com[/caption] Why do we wear uniforms? Just because it looks nice? Well, everyone wants to look good, certainly, but the power of uniforms has a much deeper, psychological hold over us. Studies have found that a person will provoke dramatically different reactions based on the type of clothes he or she is wearing. Just how much of a difference, you wonder? You might be surprised.   Leonard Bickman, a psychologist and professor and Vanderbilt University, did extensive experiments on the effectiveness of uniforms and published his findings in "The Social Power of a Uniform." In one experiment, Bickman had three male researchers give orders to 153 randomly chosen pedestrians in Brooklyn, New York. The researcher would demand one of the following:  
  • "Pick up this bag for me!"
  • "This fellow is overparked at the meter but doesn't have any change. Give him a dime."
  • "Don't you know you have to stand on the other side of the pole? This sign says, 'No standing.'"
[caption id="attachment_713" align="aligncenter" width="503"]Security Guard Uniform Image source: Securitysystemsforhome.org[/caption]
The experimenters wore either a sports coat and tie, a milk carrier's uniform, or a guard's uniform that closely resembled a police officer's uniform. Unsurprisingly, the guard's uniform proved to be the most successful. A full 82 percent of subjects picked up the trash when the guard asked them to do it, compared to 64 percent when asked by the milkman and 36 percent when asked by the civilian. Similarly, 89 percent of subjects donated pocket change at the guard's request, but only 33 percent of subjects complied with the civilian.   I don't want to bore you too much with scientific studies. Suffice to say, what you wear has a major impact on how people perceive you. In fact, if Bickman's experiment is indicative of a human psychology on the whole, then your uniform is more important than anything else when determining how people react. After all, the guard in the experiment didn't even have a full uniform -- he lacked a gun, handcuffs, and (most importantly) the badge, which is the actual representation of his authority. Subjects didn't seem to care or didn't notice that the guard lacked a badge; they just obeyed him because of how he was dressed. [caption id="attachment_714" align="aligncenter" width="620"]Private Security Guard Image source: Pe.com[/caption] The type of uniform that your employees wear can make a huge impact on your business. Obviously, the impact varies on a business by business basis. Giving uniforms to your waiters and waitresses at a restaurant will have a moderate impact, whereas giving official uniforms to security guards can have a major impact.   You might be thinking, "But I don't want my employees to boss around my customers. Why would I care about uniforms and authority?" Well, that may be true. What you might want to keep in mind, though, is that your employees are also susceptible to the power of a uniform. Giving your managers or supervisors authoritative uniforms should (if Bickman's study is any indication) increase the likelihood that your employees will follow your manager's commands. You obviously wouldn't want to dress up your supervisors in guard uniforms, but a formal dress shirt paired with an embroidered company logo could make the difference between an employee ignoring or obeying a command. [caption id="attachment_716" align="aligncenter" width="571"]Police Officer Uniform Image source: Csus.edu[/caption] The science is clear on this issue: people view uniforms as symbols of authority. If you want to take advantage of that psychological quirk, all you have to do is head over to our store and design a line of custom embroidered uniforms.

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