Thursday, January 29, 2009

Code stupid

This could be the most powerful argument against dress codes: They didn't help the Bush administration perform any better and, from all accounts, George enforced a dress code rather strictly.

Every time I read a memo or e-mail about the dress code at whatever company I happened to be working for at the time, I wondered who had enough time on their hands to worry (and write) about something that had nothing to do with the company's business. It always seemed like a waste of time to me. But then again, I never bought into the notion that workers were more capable, competent, talented or productive in Dockers than in blue jeans. As noted in a previous post on this subject, I'm hardly alone in thinking that.

I remember a company meeting with a particularly clueless owner. Business at the company was bad, and we were treated to a rambling speech about the big plans he had to grow the business each year for the next five years. Part of his plan was to do away with dress-down Friday, as if that additional weekly wave of khaki would be accompanied by an onslaught of new clients begging our business-casual representatives to take their business.

Needless to say, things have gotten worse for the better-dressed company, and there have been at least two rounds of layoffs. And with such competent management, more are all but certain.

The bottom line: Telling adults how they have to dress does not improve their work performance and is bad for morale. And any manager who relies on dress codes to improve productivity or profitability has probably run out of ideas.

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