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

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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 There are other reasons why these outdated rules are impractical.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

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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 November 15, 2021

20 Ways to Describe Yourself in a Job Interview

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20 Ways to Describe Yourself in a Job Interview

“Please describe yourself in a few words”.

It’s the job interview of your life and you need to come up with something fast. Mental pictures of words are mixing in your head and your tongue tastes like alphabet soup. You mutter words like “deterministic” or “innovativity” and you realize you’re drenched in sweat. You wish you had thought about this. You wish you had read this post before.

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    Image Credit: Career Employer

    Here are 20 sentences that you could use when you are asked to describe yourself. Choose the ones that describe you the best.

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    “I am someone who…”:

    1. “can adapt to any situation. I thrive in a fluctuating environment and I transform unexpected obstacles into stepping stones for achievements.”
    2. “consistently innovates to create value. I find opportunities where other people see none: I turn ideas into projects, and projects into serial success.”
    3. “has a very creative mind. I always have a unique perspective when approaching an issue due to my broad range of interests and hobbies. Creativity is the source of differentiation and therefore, at the root of competitive advantage.”
    4. “always has an eye on my target. I endeavour to deliver high-quality work on time, every time. Hiring me is the only real guarantee for results.”
    5. “knows this job inside and out. With many years of relevant experience, there is no question whether I will be efficient on the job. I can bring the best practices to the company.”
    6. “has a high level of motivation to work here. I have studied the entire company history and observed its business strategies. Since I am also a long-time customer, I took the opportunity to write this report with some suggestions for how to improve your services.”
    7. “has a pragmatic approach to things. I don’t waste time talking about theory or the latest buzz words of the bullshit bingo. Only one question matters to me: ‘Does it work or not?'”
    8. “takes work ethics very seriously. I do what I am paid for, and I do it well.”
    9. “can make decisions rapidly if needed. Everybody can make good decisions with sufficient time and information. The reality of our domain is different. Even with time pressure and high stakes, we need to move forward by taking charge and being decisive. I can do that.”
    10. “is considered to be ‘fun.’ I believe that we are way more productive when we are working with people with which we enjoy spending time. When the situation gets tough with a customer, a touch of humour can save the day.”
    11. “works as a real team-player. I bring the best out of the people I work with and I always do what I think is best for the company.”
    12. “is completely autonomous. I won’t need to be micromanaged. I won’t need to be trained. I understand high-level targets and I know how to achieve them.”
    13. “leads people. I can unite people around a vision and motivate a team to excellence. I expect no more from the others than what I expect from myself.”
    14. “understands the complexity of advanced project management. It’s not just pushing triangles on a GANTT chart; it’s about getting everyone to sit down together and to agree on the way forward. And that’s a lot more complicated than it sounds.”
    15. “is the absolute expert in the field. Ask anybody in the industry. My name is on their lips because I wrote THE book on the subject.”
    16. “communicates extensively. Good, bad or ugly, I believe that open communication is the most important factor to reach an efficient organization.”
    17. “works enthusiastically. I have enough motivation for myself and my department. I love what I do, and it’s contagious.”
    18. “has an eye for details because details matter the most. How many companies have failed because of just one tiny detail? Hire me and you’ll be sure I’ll find that detail.”
    19. “can see the big picture. Beginners waste time solving minor issues. I understand the purpose of our company, tackle the real subjects and the top management will eventually notice it.”
    20. “is not like anyone you know. I am the candidate you would not expect. You can hire a corporate clone, or you can hire someone who will bring something different to the company. That’s me. “

    Featured photo credit: Tim Gouw via unsplash.com

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