If you're trying to figure out how to ask for a raise at work, you probably have enough factors swimming in your head that your outfit is probably the least of them. And while I will not pretend to be a fashion expert by any means, the psychology of color cannot be denied. The way we perceive color influences our emotions, our impulses, the way we think about other people and the situations we're in. And by extension, the clothes that you wear — particularly the color of them — can also unconsciously influence the mindsets of people around you.
Odds are you have seen this kind of research before. Studies have shown, for instance, that people who wear pink are perceived as less threatening — indeed, the effects on reducing aggression are so pronounced that a color dubbed "Drunk Tank Pink" has been installed in certain jails to prevent hostility. You probably already know by now that food brands capitalize on the color red and yellow stimulating hunger to get you in through the doors, or that attorneys advise their clients wear particular colors to court based on the nature of their cases and testimonies. There's no doubt of the unconscious effects color has on our psychology — the real question here is how you can use it to your advantage, particularly in a crucial moment in your career.
The truth is, when you're picking a color to wear to ask for a raise, it's not just your supervisor you want to subtly influence to have confidence in your — truly, it's yourself. As it is, men are four times more likely to ask for a pay raise than women are, particularly because women are afraid of the (very real) social cost of negotiating. A 2005 study at Harvard University indicated that women who negotiate their salaries in the same terms and methods as their male peers are perceived as aggressive, and male superiors were less likely to want to work with them. It's a tricky field to navigate, especially when these biases are unconscious, and pointing them out wouldn't exactly help further your cause.
Your best defense, of course, is to go into a negotiation upbeat, confident, and positive. You should take the opportunity beforehand to prepare by researching equivalent salaries of people with similar experience in similar positions. You should create a list of your major contributions and impacts to the company, as well as ideas for contributing further in the future. And you should definitely go into any negotiation for a pay raise with a specific number in mind — both in salary dollars, and in the percentage raise from what you're currently earning, because you never know what kind of terms they'll put the amount in until you're at the table.
But if you're going for extra credit on preparedness, there are actually two colors you can consider wearing for to negotiate for a raise: red and blue. Here are the cases for both.
If you're going into a negotiation with an excited, trailblazing attitude, confident about what you've already accomplished and pumped for what's ahead, you might consider wearing red. Being the color that has the longest wavelength, it projects power, confidence, warmth, and strength. By wearing this bold color, you unconsciously draw the listener into your ideas and give them a little extra punch.
Red can also signal aggression, so be sure that if you're using this color for an energized, stimulating conversation about your future with the company, you remain upbeat and positive in your points. What you're wearing aside, according to Forbes, falling back on complaints or negativity in a negotiation will make a supervisor less inclined to negotiate in your favor. The same way the color red will help punctuate your positivity, it has the double-edged sword of glaring on negativity as well. Tread boldly, but make sure you're prepared!
If you have worked hella hard, done all you can to prepare for the negotiation, and are still incredibly nervous going into it, you might want to consider wearing blue. Blue will not only create a calming atmosphere in the negotiation, but wearing it will make you personally feel more balanced and calm as well. It creates a much more mental reaction than the physical reaction to the color red, helping ensure that your points and ideas are thoughtfully considered in conversation. While the color might come off as more clinical and reserved, you might be in the kind of field where you want to project the awesomeness and logic of your ideas more than you want to put yourself in the spotlight — and for that, blue is a good bet.
Of course, all this being said, there's no wrong color to wear to a negotiation, or an interview, or any other day of the work week. Ultimately you have to take all this color psychology advice with a grain of salt. At the end of the day, your greatest weapon in any situation is your confidence, so as long as you're wearing something that makes you feel like your best, shiniest self, you're already raring to go.