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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 There are other reasons why these outdated rules are impractical.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 March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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