Appearance between professionalism and work-related stress among marketing employees

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BACKGROUND: Appearance and body language are key components of non-verbal communication and play an important role in the service and marketing sector. OBJECTIVE: The aim was to explore experiences and perceptions of appearance issues related to work among employees in the marketing sector in Sweden. METHODS: Interviews were conducted with 15 marketing and communication employees (five males, ten females), at multinational companies and a university. Thematic analyses were conducted, and content was organised in two themes with sub-themes: 1. Appearance from a resource perspective (Appearance benefits; Physical activity resources; Age benefits). 2. Appearance from a demand perspective (Adaptation to gender roles; Investment in appearance; Adaptation to situation and culture). RESULTS: The findings showed that appearance was perceived as a resource for professionalism, work engagement and career in various ways. Appearance-related issues were not considered on organisational work level, but employees perceived unspoken demands to look good and appropriate to represent the company brand. The employees spent a considerable amount of time, money, and effort on appearance. CONCLUSION: Appearance creates dualistic questions and points out several dilemmas that the individual struggle to solve, which creates stress in work. The character of unspoken demands on appearance and absent communication on organisational level make the stress-coping strategies complicated and the stress coping is mostly left for the individual to handle. A gender difference shows that compared to men, women more often experience negative stress generated by appearance-related issues in work. Education and actions at the managerial level of companies are needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1231-1242
Number of pages12
Issue number4
Early online date2023-Feb-13
Publication statusPublished - 2023-Aug-11

Swedish Standard Keywords

  • Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology (30302)


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