Archive for February, 2011

Danger: sharp suits at work

22nd February 2011

Apparently, football coaches wearing a suit and tie during a match more positively effect the performance of their team than those in track suits. This, it seems, is the finding of Dr. Richard Thelwell published in the International Journal of Sports Psychology. imgresThe general rule from the research is that coaches in formal clothes are felt by their players to be more strategically acute. More able to direct the play. More authoritative and credible. For training, sports clothes are good because they demonstrate technical ability but come match day, choose Armani over Adidas every time. The exception is for those coaches whose waistline speaks more of armchair sports than the running around variety. Plump men in suits may as well be wearing bin bags, it seems, when it comes to influencing their players from the sidelines.

This reminded me of the case of Peter Gwinnell. Lucy Kellaway at the FT, brought Peter to my attention following his conviction for fraud at Southwark Crown Court at the end of January. Gwinnell was appointed to the £165,000 Deputy CEO’s job at Ahli United Bank in the City through Connaught Partners, a headhunter. Connaught had found Peter’s CV through a nameless job search website. They were impressed with his Oxford and Harvard degrees, excited by his experience with JP Morgan and quite liked his qualifications from the Chartered Institute of Bankers. They liked him enough to put him up to the bank’s CEO who also warmed to him and Peter was offered and hired within a few weeks. Prompted, I expect, by FSA requirements rather than anything else, the bank used Control Risks, an exotic security firm, to check Peter’s background and discovered that his qualifications and experience were bogus. By this time, he’d been out to the Middle East to meet clients and had drawn his salary for a few months. Sadly, we don’t know how his performance was rated and whether or not the clients liked him as much as the CEO did but he was duly sacked, prosecuted, convicted and returned to his Harrow home.

I don’t intend to make any jokes here about the competence of bankers or headhunters (or football managers, come to that). You can fill in your own punchlines, I’m sure. The most truly gobsmacking thing in the story for me was that Connaught charged the bank £10,350 despite their epic fail. I dare say they figured Ahli United were fortunate to be able to claw back the £34,348 they’d been invoiced for the appointment. Given a free hand, I’d be inclined to sue Connaught for fraud as well as poor old Peter but, hey, what do I know?

What I think I do know is that the clothes you wear influence what people think of you, as Dr. Thelwell’s research demonstrates. I don’t know whether Peter’s clothes and manner got him the job. I don’t know whether Connaught’s Savile Row finery got them theirs. But I suspect the CEO at Ahli will ask the next recruiter and the next candidate to come in jeans, just to be on the safe side.