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This Is Why We Should Forget About Dress Code In The Workplace

This Is Why We Should Forget About Dress Code In The Workplace

One of my students once went to an interview. He was formally dressed but when he got there, he was astounded to find everyone in casual gear! He did not get the job and I am not sure whether his attire had anything to do with it. Of course, he could have avoided all that discomfort and unease by simply phoning the company beforehand to find out what the dress code was.

Of course, there are health and safety reasons for some dress code rules. For example, when operating machinery or doing nursing, jewellery is not recommended! Cooks are asked to tie their hair back or cover it for obvious hygienic reasons. There are also cases where the dress code helps to reinforce the company’s brand. I cannot imagine a flight attendant in a T- shirt, shorts/jorts and flip flops! Dealing with the public may also demand certain rules. Apart from these issues, it seems to me that dress code is serving no useful purpose at all and is unnecessarily complicated. Here are 5 reasons why we should forget this in the workplace.

1. Clothes can make employees feel uncomfortable

Certain rules about always wearing a tie for men or women have to wear business suits can make employees feel uncomfortable, especially when the weather gets warm. There are other reasons why these outdated rules are impractical. People feel better and they want to produce their best when they are wearing what suits their body shape, mood and duties. Knowing they can choose what suits them best allows them to concentrate on the task. Google interviewers do not take dress code into account as their stated policy is that they care more about what the candidate says than what they are wearing!

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2. Dress codes can impede transparency and trust

Having to wear formal clothes all day and every day can and does produce a rather stuffy and conservative atmosphere. It does nothing to help employee empowerment. Staff start to judge people on how they look. That judgment can affect how people assess their colleagues in job performance and can also create a rather subtle discrimination. When people are more relaxed and dress as they wish, there is a much better chance of collaboration, dialogue and team working. Colleagues are appreciated for the quality of the work they produce and not how they look. It is not a fashion show!

“No matter what sort of uniform it is […] to put on such livery is to give up one’s right to act as an individual” – Alison Lurie

Apple set the tone when Steve Jobs walked around his office barefoot. It has a very casual corporate culture which is all about fostering innovation and making great things happen. Dress code has no impact whatsoever.

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3. Dress codes need to be reviewed

There is still an enormous amount of prejudice about tattoos and piercings, especially in the service industries. The consequences were that employees had to cover arm tattoos as they slaved over a steamy stove. Starbucks have recently relaxed their rules and servers are now allowed to display their personal body decorations, within certain limits. One enormous benefit is that they feel more empowerment about self-expression. This will have a knock on effect in being able to connect better with the customers and provide them with better service.

4. Rigid dress codes may lead to racial discrimination

Imagine when a company insists that all the male members of its staff are clean-shaven. This often creates problems for African-American men who suffer from a skin condition called pseudofolliculitis barbae which is often aggravated by shaving. Having a no-beard policy here is creating racial discrimination and should be relaxed. It can also reduce sick leave and make employees more motivated when they feel at ease with their bodies.

Another negative consequence of the no-beard policy for men is evident in the Senate office on Capitol Hill. Sideburns were not allowed to be longer than the earlobe and there was no point in even contemplating growing a well trimmed beard as they would be sent to the men’s room to have a shave! Relaxing the dress code means that appearance will take second place to what the employee actually produces and that is how it should be.

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5. Dress codes are an anachronism

Dress codes are a continuation of the school uniform idea where students are actively discouraged from standing out as individuals in the way they dress. Girls are especially vulnerable as society demands conformity in the workplace while society praises Beyonce for going against the rules to show that she is empowered. If they do not toe the line, they will be shamed. Dress codes should be as fair as possible for both sexes so that women do not feel that they are being over-scrutinized.

“Pop culture tells [girls], ‘Be cute and pretty and sexy, but if you’re too cute, pretty and sexy, you’re a slut.” – Niv Myasato

Employers sometimes have a dress code which discriminates against employees who feel compelled to dress according to their religious or cultural traditions. For example, a company which insists that all women must wear skirts or dresses might well upset Muslim women who feel more at ease when wearing trousers. Just another consequence of having a dress code which serves no useful purpose at all.

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The bottom line must always be that what a member of staff wears has no effect on their work performance and achievements. Is the dress code going to have any impact on innovation, creativity and productivity? I doubt it!

Featured photo credit: Kitting up for a client visit/ Lars Ploughmann via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on July 16, 2019

7 Powerful Habits To Win In Office Politics

7 Powerful Habits To Win In Office Politics

Office politics – a taboo word for some people. It’s a pervasive thing at the workplace.

In its simplest form, workplace politics is simply about the differences between people at work; differences in opinions, conflicts of interests are often manifested as office politics. It all goes down to human communications and relationships.

There is no need to be afraid of office politics. Top performers are those who have mastered the art of winning in office politics. Below are 7 good habits to help you win at the workplace:

1. Be Aware You Have a Choice

The most common reactions to politics at work are either fight or flight. It’s normal human reaction for survival in the wild, back in the prehistoric days when we were still hunter-gatherers.

Sure, the office is a modern jungle, but it takes more than just instinctive reactions to win in office politics. Instinctive fight reactions will only cause more resistance to whatever you are trying to achieve; while instinctive flight reactions only label you as a pushover that people can easily take for granted. Neither options are appealing for healthy career growth.

Winning requires you to consciously choose your reactions to the situation. Recognize that no matter how bad the circumstances, you have a choice in choosing how you feel and react. So how do you choose? This bring us to the next point…

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2. Know What You Are Trying to Achieve

When conflicts happen, it’s very easy to be sucked into tunnel-vision and focus on immediate differences. That’s a self-defeating approach. Chances are, you’ll only invite more resistance by focusing on differences in people’s positions or opinions.

The way to mitigate this without looking like you’re fighting to emerge as a winner in this conflict is to focus on the business objectives. In the light of what’s best for the business, discuss the pros and cons of each option. Eventually, everyone wants the business to be successful; if the business don’t win, then nobody in the organization wins.

It’s much easier for one to eat the humble pie and back off when they realize the chosen approach is best for the business.

By learning to steer the discussion in this direction, you will learn to disengage from petty differences and position yourself as someone who is interested in getting things done. Your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is mature, strategic and can be entrusted with bigger responsibilities.

3. Focus on Your Circle of Influence

At work, there are often issues which we have very little control over. It’s not uncommon to find corporate policies, client demands or boss mandates which affects your personal interests.

Gossiping and complaining are common responses to these events that we cannot control. But think about it, other than that short term emotional outlet, what tangible results do gossiping really accomplish? In most instances, none.

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Instead of feeling victimized and angry about the situation, focus on the things that you can do to influence the situation — your circle of influence. This is a very empowering technique to overcome the feeling of helplessness. It removes the victimized feeling and also allows others to see you as someone who knows how to operate within given constraints.

You may not be able to change or decide on the eventual outcome but, you can walk away knowing that you have done the best within the given circumstances.

Constraints are all around in the workplace; with this approach, your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is understanding and positive.

4. Don’t Take Sides

In office politics, it is possible to find yourself stuck in between two power figures who are at odds with each other. You find yourself being thrown around while they try to outwit each other and defend their own position; all at the expense of you getting the job done. You can’t get them to agree on a common decision for a project, and neither of them want to take ownership of issues; they’re too afraid they’ll get stabbed in the back for any mishaps.

In cases like this, focus on the business objectives and don’t take side with either of them – even if you like one better than the other. Place them on a common communication platform and ensure open communications among all parties, so that no one can claim “I didn’t say that”.

By not taking sides, you’ll help to direct conflict resolution in an objective manner. You’ll also build trust with both parties. That’ll help to keep the engagements constructive and focus on business objectives.

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5. Don’t Get Personal

In office politics, you’ll get angry with people. It happens. There will be times when you feel the urge to give that person a piece of your mind and teach him a lesson. Don’t.

People tend to remember moments when they were humiliated or insulted. Even if you win this argument and get to feel really good about it for now, you’ll pay the price later when you need help from this person. What goes around comes around, especially at the workplace.

To win in the office, you’ll want to build a network of allies which you can tap into. The last thing you want during a crisis or an opportunity is to have someone screw you up because they harbor ill-intentions towards you – all because you’d enjoyed a brief moment of emotional outburst at their expense.

Another reason to hold back your temper is your career advancement. Increasingly, organizations are using 360 degree reviews to promote someone. Even if you are a star performer, your boss will have to fight a political uphill battle if other managers or peers see you as someone who is difficult to work with. The last thing you’ll want is to make it difficult for your boss to champion you for a promotion.

6. Seek to Understand, Before Being Understood

The reason people feel unjustified is because they felt misunderstood. Instinctively, we are more interested in getting the others to understand us than to understand them first. Top people managers and business leaders have learned to suppress this urge.

Surprisingly, seeking to understand is a very disarming technique. Once the other party feels that you understand where he/she is coming from, they will feel less defensive and be open to understand you in return. This sets the stage for open communications to arrive at a solution that both parties can accept.

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Trying to arrive at a solution without first having this understanding is very difficult – there’s little trust and too much second-guessing.

7. Think Win-Win

As mentioned upfront, political conflicts happen because of conflicting interests. Perhaps due to our schooling, we are taught that to win, someone else needs to lose. Conversely, we are afraid to let someone else win, because it implies losing for us.

In business and work, that doesn’t have to be the case.

Learn to think in terms of “how can we both win out of this situation?” This requires that you first understand the other party’s perspective and what’s in it for him.

Next, understand what’s in it for you. Strive to seek out a resolution that is acceptable and beneficial to both parties. Doing this will ensure that everyone truly commit to the agreed resolution and will not pay only lip-service to it.

People simply don’t like to lose. You may get away with win-lose tactics once or twice but very soon, you’ll find yourself without allies in the workplace.

Thinking win-win is an enduring strategy that builds allies and help you win in the long term.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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