Succeed with Colour - how colour and personality can bring success in the workplace

First impressions are made fast – within just three to seven seconds, in fact – enough time to walk into a job interview or a meeting, by which point the interviewer or colleagues will have unconsciously interpreted the message you are trying to communicate through the colours that are worn. Wear the wrong colours and the individual will create a negative first impression that is extremely difficult to overcome. Says Adam Gillbe, Office Solutions Strategic Marketing Manager, Canon Europe.

According to a recent report by Colour psychologist Andrea Mountford , wearing the right colours at work is extremely important. Colour can not only make a positive impact on colleagues and bosses around you, but it can also enhance your career. However, according to Mountford, it’s not just about wearing what are commonly perceived to be positive colours, it is all about the personality that is wearing the clothes.

Finding your type
So how does an individual learn about what colours match their personality? Mountford says that psychologists believe that people can be categorised into four different personality types or groups, which remain the same from birth to death.  This does not assume that people in each category are exactly the same, rather, that those people within a certain group have a similar set of behavioural patterns/characteristics in common.

The four key types are as follows:
1 Driver:
• Objective-focused
• Know what they want and how to get there!
• Communicates quickly, gets to the point
• Sometimes tactless and brusque
• Can be an "ends justify the means" type of person
• Hardworking, high energy • Does not shy away from conflict

2 Expressive:
• Natural salesmen or story-tellers
• Warm and enthusiastic
• Good motivators, communicators
• Can be competitive
• Can tend to exaggerate, leave out facts and details
• Sometimes would rather talk about things than do them!

3 Amiable:
• Kind-hearted people who avoid conflict
• Can blend into any situation well
• Can appear wishy-washy
• Has difficulty with firm decisions
• Often loves art, music and poetry
• Highly sensitive
• Can be quiet and soft-spoken

4 Analytical:
• Highly detail oriented people
• Can have a difficult time making decisions without ALL the facts
• Make great accounts and engineers
• Tend to be highly critical people
• Can tend to be pessimistic in nature
• Very perceptive

Once an individual has ascertained their personality type the next step is to then choose the right colour to match. There is no point in wearing a colour that suggests a personality type, instead it is imperative to wear the right shade and tone. For example, personality type 1 should not wear black but instead wear greens and blues. Interestingly, in all cases the one colour that Mountford recommends is worn very sparingly is black. Although black, especially for women, is the most common colour in the workplace, unless the wearer is a rare type 4 personality, it can make them look cold and unapproachable, as well as put up an emotional barrier.

The 4 colour groups
Colour Palette 1
Clear, delicate warm colours containing no black. Descriptors such as scarlet, coral, peach, daffodil yellow, emerald green, sky blue, cobalt and lilac apply. Personal characteristics associated with this tonal family are light, warm, friendly, new, young, lively, fresh, clean, and optimistic.  Negatively, they may be perceived as insubstantial, frivolous and immature.

Colour Palette 2
These tones are cool, contain more grey and, whilst also delicate, are not necessarily light. They are soft and subtle and examples are maroon, rose pink, grapefruit, sage, viridian, dove grey, Air Force blue, delphinium, lavender. The characteristics are understated elegance, cool, calm poise, graceful, upmarket, timeless, expensive, soothing, aspirational. Negatively they may be interpreted as draining, unfriendly, aloof, elitist, and ‘wishy-washy'.

Colour Palette 3
These tones are again warm, but much more intense and fiery. They contain black in their mixing (e.g. olive green is yellow mixed with black) but black itself does not belong in this group. Examples of the colours are described as tomato red, burnt orange, rust, butter yellow, leaf green, olive, teal blue, peacock, and aubergine. The characteristics are warm and friendly, traditional, solid, substantial, reliable, earthy, environmentally aware. They can also express iconoclasm and a certain flamboyance.   Negatively may convey heavy, old-fashioned, boring predictability and bossiness.

Colour Palette 4
These colours are very clear and strong, with no subtleties. The group includes black, white, crimson, magenta, lemon, jade green, ice blue, indigo, violet. They communicate characteristics of uncompromising excellence, material aspiration, efficiency, drama, sophistication, modernity, and ‘high-tech'.  Negatively may be perceived as cold, uncaring, unfriendly, materialist, and expensive.

An individual who understands their psychological type and the colour palette will, not only be able to leverage colour to express the positive aspects of their personalities, but also use it to support them in tasks they may undertake in the workplace.  For example, a manager in a serious board meeting may wear a dark blue suit to indicate the seriousness of the matter, as well as indicate efficiency and logic.  Conversely, the same manager may wear a softer colour such as green in a situation to relax a valued employee when discussing performance at work. Naturally, in each case, the colour hue should correlate to the person’s personality type and the type of dress should be appropriate for the task undertaken - turning up for a serious meeting in a navy blue tracksuit, rather than a business suit, is not likely to be appropriate.

Dressing appropriately for business can also provide a considerable psychological boost.  In the Western hemisphere, it is thought that most people fall into personality types three and one, signifying that they are externally motivated and influenced by the opinions of others; as a result they like to conform and often dress accordingly.  In this way, the suit has become a standard demonstrating success in all forms of professional endeavours.  Here, colour is important still.  Wearing a bold coloured suit as a bank manager is not likely to win customer trust.  Therefore traditionally, in the workplace, black, blue, grey and white are still mainly adopted to communicate the seriousness of work and the psychological mode of successful business practice.

What colours do high profile figures wear?
Looking at high-profile figures in Western society, it is clear that they also use colour to their advantage.  Mountford’s findings on Tony Blair, Prime Minister of Great Britain and Italian Designer, Giorgio Armani are such examples.  Tony Blair is thought to be Personality Type 1 – great charm, eternally young with a strong practical streak and inexhaustible energy. And, although having been through a turbulent time of late with his decision to step down as Party Leader, he wears a wide-range of colours in order to adapt to his environment. When meeting in more nurturing situations, such as with a women’s group, he wears a range of colours from a pink shirt and tie to blue and light brown suits, to communicate that he is caring, trustworthy and reliable.

Jacques Chirac, President of France has a very strong sense of justice and is environmentally aware, his clothing tends to consist of warm, earthy tones and this is reflected in the ties he wears and suits he wears, which vary in light and dark shades of cream, brown and blue, as opposed to the more straightforwardly conventional black or grey colour schemes.

As one of the most powerful women in the world, Angela Merkel has made a dramatic transformation with her appearance and is a key example of how she has used colour to make an impact. The Chancellor, who once wore browns and greys, now wears vibrant, light colours such as reds and peach tones to communicate success and control. Whilst a majority of successful women tend to stick to the more corporate fashion of wearing black, Angela Merkel goes against this in favour of colours that communicate assertiveness and approachability.

It is important to note that the one colour that is not worn regularly by politicians or high-profile figures is black. This is colour that communicates a lot of negative messages to its audience, yet is one of the most popular colours to wear at work.

What about the colour black?
When it comes to black, Giorgio Armani is very rarely seen wearing anything but midnight blue and black, which, he believes, makes him more noticeable. Additionally,   Blair’s leaving speech at the Labour Party conference recently, saw him also wear a black suit to reflect the emotional nature of the situation. Armani, has turned this colour into a positive image whereby he has taken black and turned it into his trademark style, which makes him a recognisable figure across the globe.

There is a common tendency to wear black in the workplace.  if worn by the correct personality type, it can signify seriousness and excellence. However, in its negative aspect, it can point to insecurity and vulnerability. And it is common for people to use black - especially in the boardroom - to hide behind when feeling vulnerable and shy.  Armani often admits to fearing rejection every time he brings out a new line of clothing.  However, Armani has managed to turn this blue and black dressing to his advantage by making it his trademark.  Armani has managed to succeed using a limited form of colour dressing – something which would not come easily to most others.

Dress your documents for success
Just as individuals can use colour for success businesses too can use colour intelligently to set themselves apart in an increasingly competitive environment.  Thinking about colour at work should extend farther than a company logo.  Use of colour in the office can make the working environment more inspiring and uplifting for employees. In fact, according to Dr. David Lewis, a colourful working environment can enhance problem-solving skills by 10%. Not only that, but sunshine yellow raises energy and productivity levels, whilst blue encourages thought and creativity.

In other areas, using colour in business documents including, presentations, spreadsheets, invoices, newsletters in colour can be effective strategies for success.
Printing in colour has been known to increase brand retention by up to 70%  and as a result is increasingly used in a range of sectors, including Marketing and PR sectors, where, research has shown, about 95% of these companies and departments both use external and in-house colour .  Dressing documents for success can also make an impact at work. Staff should look not only at printing documents in colour but also how it is presented, as a professional-looking report or booklet can make all the difference in a meeting or when presenting. All this can be achieved through finishing, which is the functionality to create booklets and staple pages, as well as print in duplex and simplex. Finishing can also ensure a document is can be transported easily – an A5 booklet is better to carry around when travelling. When in the office, an A4 booklet or document can really make an impression.

Although companies are increasingly adopting colour in their business documents, many still shy away from it, primarily because it is thought of as more expensive than printing in black and white. However, using colour strategically has been shown to reduce costs, as 61% of businesses have discovered by insourcing print jobs where they would normally outsource them .  This not only saves costs but also time.  A colour multifunctional printer, and associated solutions, can save a company money, plus reduce the total cost of ownership of print jobs. It can be successfully controlled so that it can be tracked and billed back to the relevant user or department – this will encourage careful use of colour printing and discourage misuse of office printing resources. With office colour printer, this method can be simply implemented by providing each employee and/or department with a specific identification allowing full monitoring and control in the use of the IT infrastructure.

Overall, colour is an extremely useful and powerful way to get noticed in the workplace and communicate the right messages to bosses, employees and colleagues. Combining the right coloured clothes with the right colour printed documents means you are really ready to make an impact, so now is the time to get printing and dressing for success.

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