Dress codes are something that people often get pretty passionate about, some will argue that employees should be able to dress in ways which promote their creativity – often citing Steve Jobs, while others will talk about the investment that the business has made in its branding – with the dress code being an integral part of that brand. I’m neither for or against, I dress the way I feel most comfortable, and I work in organisations where people dress in a way which I see as appropriate and professional.
The way we dress communicates an aspect of the culture of the organisation, and so long as your employees dress in a way which communicates the desired culture then whether you have a formal dress code or not, it doesn’t matter. Some people simply don’t wish to wear formal business attire, and so will select not to work in organisations with that expectation, others will select to work for organisations whose members do wear formal business attire.
I have an aunt Mary, who now retired used to do HR consulting following a successful career as an in-house HR Manager/Director. She tells a story of a new senior manager who wore long sleeves to work, and her Executive Assistant mentioning that he wouldn’t last. The usual standard in this organisation was short-sleeved business shirts rather than long-sleeved. From what Mary tells me the individual worked well, however, he didn’t quite fit in and left within a few months. With or without a dress code, we self-regulate. As a gregarious specious we have an inbuilt desire to fit in – where we don’t fit in we either leave or are pushed.
People’s behaviour in this area is actually really interesting, casual Fridays are a thing in many organisations I’ve worked in. I don’t really participate – I’m more of a suit and cufflinks kind of guy. I’ve noticed as a trend, that I have fewer non-work conversations with my colleagues on Fridays that I do on any other weekday. We’re certainly an interesting species.
So to provide some kind of a wrap up to this post, whether your organisation has a written dress code or not, it has a dress code. And your dress code will influence the people that work for you, as long as you’re happy with the people that you employ and the talent that applies to work for you then you’re fine. If however, you’re not happy, then it’s time to have a conversation.