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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 There are other reasons why these outdated rules are impractical.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 10, 2020

Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

Have you ever caught yourself in a daydream where you’ve gone for that upcoming promotion, and you’re now the boss at work? Or how about the one where you’ve summoned up all your courage to quit a job where you’re feeling stuck in your career and live your dream instead? Or when you’ve changed career paths to do what really makes you happy?

Then, you snapped back to reality and realized that you’re not the boss, not living your dream, and not even happy in the career path that you’re on.

Over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of individuals who’ve told me they feel stuck in their careers, that something had to change for them to break free and be happy, but they lacked the confidence to take that step. My mission is to make sure that nobody feels stuck in their career because of a momentary lapse in bravery that’s dragged on for too long.

Read on to find out how you can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work. .

Here are my top ten tips for becoming unstuck in your career.

1. Make Time for You

If you’re feeling stuck, frustrated, or unhappy with how your career is panning out, the first step is to work out why.

Maybe you’ve arrived in your current career by accident and haven’t ever made time to deliberately think or plan what you’d love to do and how you’d get there.

Prioritizing time to think is the first step you need to take to stop feeling stuck and start getting ahead. Book some time into your day where you can have an uninterrupted meeting with yourself. This is your thinking time.

Work out what makes you happy at work, what doesn’t, and where you might want to go. Decide on the steps you want to take to progress your career in the direction that you want it to take.

For example, are there training days, evening courses, or online learning that you can do? Have you considered getting a mentor to help you get ahead?

By booking in a meeting with yourself, it signals it’s important (to you and your colleagues) and also stops others spotting a gap in your day and filling it with a meeting.

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2. Grow Your Network Before You Need It

Who you know is more important than what you know for career progression. Don’t wait until you’re feeling stuck in your career to start expanding your networks. Do it now.

Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take, says you’re 58% more likely to get a new job through your weak ties than through your strong ones. Your strong ties are those in your immediate circle whom you interact with often. Your weak ties are your friends of friends. They move in different circles to you, they know different people, make different connections, and are more likely to introduce you to new and different opportunities[1].

When I was thinking about setting up my current company, Lucidity, I turned up to every networking event. I drank a lot of coffees with a lot of different people to understand what they did, to ask for advice, to unpick what their problems were, and to look for opportunities for collaboration and connections.

It paid off because, when I launched my business, I let my network know how I could help them, and soon I had my first clients.

Pay attention to building and nurturing your networks and focus on how you can add value to other. That’s where your next career opportunity is most likely to come from.

3. Surround Yourself With People Who Inspire You

According to Tim Ferriss, “You are the average of the five people you most associate with,” and his associations with different people ebbs and flows depending on what he’s working on and trying to achieve[2].

For example, if you are trying to be fitter, it’s easier if you hang around with people who love doing exercise–they help you to up your game.

If you want that promotion, a career change, or to set up your own business, seek out people who are excelling at it already. They’ll have valuable things to teach you about breaking free and getting ahead.

4. Work on Your Personal Brand

Jeff Bezos defines a personal brand as “what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” People will talk about you when you are not in the room anyway, so you might as well be deliberate about what you’d like people to say!

Your personal brand isn’t about pretending to be something you’re not. That can actually keep you feeling stuck in your career. It’s really about being your best “real you.” It’s about owning your strengths and being purposeful about how you want to be perceived by others.

What do you want to be known for? By being more deliberate about how you want to come across and what you’re looking for in your career, you’ll increase your chance of attracting the right opportunities.

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Once you’ve given your personal brand some thought, make sure that you show up online. Is your LinkedIn profile up to date? And if you don’t have one, get one. Make sure it communicates what you want to be known for and that it’s consistent with your other social media profiles.

Try these 5 Steps to Master Networking Skills and Perfect Your Personal Branding.

5. Be Accountable

Achieve your career goals faster, and grow and learn by making yourself accountable. Tell other people your goals and a timeline. and have them to hold you accountable.

For example, you might want to get a promotion by the end of the year, have decided the sector you want to move to by the end of the month, or have got your new business idea before the next pay day. Whatever your ambitions are, you can tell a friend or a colleague, or share this with a mentor or a mastermind group.

When we tell other people our goals and intentions, they hold us accountable, and we are more likely to make progress faster.

6. Make Sure Your Values Are Aligned With Your Company’s

All the professional development, goal setting, and networks in the world won’t make you happy if you’re working for a company that ultimately has opposing values to yours.

Figure out what’s important to you in a job. For example, does your company’s product help people live a better life? Do you feel strongly about your company’s ethics and social responsibility? Does the company culture allows employees to be themselves and shine? Or maybe flexible working and more holidays for employees with families is where your heart is?

Some companies put their employees well-being at the core of their business; others put profits first. If you feel that your values don’t match the core values of your employer, it could be a reason why you’re feeling stuck in your career and unhappy.

It’s important to work through this and identify whether it’s the job that is not right for you, or if it’s a great job but the organization or sector is wrong for you.

7. Get out of Your Comfort Zone

Your comfort zone is your safe place. For any change to happen, you have to step out of your comfort zone.

It’s actually much easier not to change anything and to keep grumbling on about how you’re stuck and unhappy in your career than to step outside of your comfort zone to address the fearful unknowns associated with change. It’s part of human nature that we’d put up with the devil we know rather than risk the devil we don’t.

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This is true even if the devil we know is a boring, unfulfilling job because we’re wired to think that making a change to find a better option might actually leave us worse off.

If you feel stuck, it might be that your confidence has got the better of you.

To get ahead at work, start taking small steps outside of your comfort zone. Consider what you’re scared of that is stopping you from making a change. Then, tackle that in small steps.

For example, if you know that to move into the job you want, you’ll have to do more public speaking, but public speaking terrifies you so much it’s stopping you from going for the job, then start small to build your confidence. You can speak up more in team meetings, then slowly build from there.

You might also choose to set up or be part of a specific group. One of my clients, who found that confidence was holding her team back in achieving work goals, set up a “get out of your comfort zone club,” where they challenge and support each other to build their confidence by regularly leaving their comfort zones.

8. Learn to Embrace Failure

Failure is part of life. A New York University study found that children learning to walk averaged 2,368 steps and fell 17 times an hour[3]. Failure is simply the natural path to success.

The truth is that we don’t get everything right the first time. We fail, we learn, we pick ourselves up, and we try again.

In my experience, it’s common that whilst the theory of learning from failure is supported, the reality of being open about failures to enable personal learning is much harder to achieve.

We don’t like to admit that we’ve failed. We have a fight or flight response to failure. It’s a normal gut reaction to ask ourselves: “Will I get away with it if I don’t tell anyone?” We are fearful of criticism, of losing face in front of others, or even being fired for failure.

However, if you’re going to stop feeling stuck in your career, you must be open to learning from failure.

Reframe failure by viewing everything as an experiment because you can’t have a failed experiment—you just learn whether something works or not. Think of Edison inventing the lightbulb, when he said:

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“I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

9. Build Your Resilience

Resilience is the ability to tackle difficulties and setbacks, to bounce back, regroup, and to keep going.

Getting unstuck in your career, taking a different path, and achieving the results you want will take resilience. Having resilience is also the capacity to choose how you respond to the unexpected things that life throws your way and adapt and thrive in times of complex change.

Given that the world we live in is in constant flux, and the only thing that is certain is uncertainty, the ability to adapt and bounce back is an important life skill, as well as a career skill.

In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth’s research shows that when measuring success, the ability to persevere beats talent every time.

Learn more about how to build resilience in this guide: What Is Resilience and How to Always Be Resilient (Step-By-Step Guide)

10. Ask for Help

It can be hard to ask for help, as it can make us feel vulnerable.

No one person can be expected to have all the answers. That’s why we need a group of people that we can go to for help, people who can pick us up when we have setbacks and also help us to celebrate success.

My advice is to be deliberate about creating your group. You can do that with a tool called a “Me Map”:

  1. Write down all the things that you might need support with, like help with career progression, interview practice, making new connections, talking through business plans, learning from failure, etc.
  2. Next to each thing, write the names of the people you go to when you need that particular thing.
  3. Make sure you get in touch and regularly connect with them.

Final Thoughts

You can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work by applying the tips in this article. Start small by incorporating three new things in your first week, and then adding more as your comfort zone and capacity expands.

Remember, no matter how stuck you feel, it’s never too late to make a change and land the career that you truly want.

More Tips to Stop Feeling Stuck in Your Career

Featured photo credit: NEW DATA SERVICES via unsplash.com

Reference

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