In Ricardo Semler’s Maverick he tells the story about the first few times he came in on a weekend. The first thing he noticed “people dress differently when they come in on the weekend, why is that?”. They did it to be more comfortable. But don’t we want everyone to be comfortable when they are working all week long?
The dress code era at Semco was ended.
The executive dealt with the obvious backlash. “What if someone doesn’t want to do business with us because of the way someone is dressed in a meeting?” Ricardo’s answer; “if someone doesn’t want to do business with us because of the way one of our employees ‘looks’ then that’s probably someone we shouldn’t be doing business with”. Wow, that’s leadership.
Isn’t that simple? Why do you try to make your staff conform? Because you’ve always done that? That’s not a good reason why. Ask your staff, what they think, you may stumble upon a smart way to make your company culture better.
I always compared a dress code to what the “tried” to do to Will on the Fresh Prince of Bell-Air. His “coat” he had to wear to school every day was turned inside out to make it a retro cool look. I always wanted to be the Will in a group, always confidently different.
At StratLab we ask our staff to dress comfortably. If you want to wear a Toque to a meeting I can’t stop ya!
The first sales meeting Addison attended, he was in a t-shirt and a Toque. Half way through the meeting I actually stopped, laughed and said “did you actually wear a Toque to this meeting?”. The look on his face and the future client of ours (he made the sale) said it all, there was nothing weird about the Toque, it was very fashionable, what was weird was my opinion of it.
I was wrong.
Comfort > Faking to look like a “professional”
What the hell is a “professional” anymore? I really don’t think wearing a suit and tie or dressing up makes you professional. It may fool potential clients because you understand Dr. Robert Cialdini’s “Liking” Principle, but that’s about the only plus side to “over dressing”. Just something they taught us in business school, possibly along the lines of Amy Cuddy’s “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are“. Look the part and one day you’ll be the part. I would focus more on doing the hardest thing possible instead of just “looking like a business person”.
What are you socially signalling?
Dressing up like a business person is just to convince yourself that you’re something you’re not. Conspicuous Consumption is purposely buying things to signal to others “where we’re at socially”. When you have nice things you have some social capital. But we’re always signalling the opposite of where we’re socially at. The extremely rich wear flip flops to board meetings because they can. The person wearing a three piece suit might be compensating for something. Public displays of wealth do the exact opposite of what you’re setting out to do. From the NewYorker article, The Power of the Hoodie wearing C.E.O.:
This is how conspicuous consumption works: jewelry is costly, unless you’re rich and won’t miss the cash. Similarly, deliberate nonconformity shows that you can handle some ridicule because you’ve got social capital to burn.
Dress up all the time? Not confident in what you do.
Dress down regularly? No need for public approval.
You won’t see any suits or ties at the Stratlab office, though we won’t go so far as the Virgin Executive offices. At Virgin if you wear a tie, Sir Richard will wait till the time is right, pounce on you with scissors, decapitating your tie whilst you still wearing it around your neck. Rumour has it Eric Dillon has cut a several ties at Conexus, but those are just rumours until verified.
What else has changed about the workplace? What has no place in business in2017? Along with ties I could see away with Executive washrooms, ridiculously sized offices, and labeled parking spots. All items to increase the ego of the select few people at the top. Instead I like to think the future of business is much more inclusive.
Down with the corporate pyramid, dress code and all.
Want to learn more on dress codes and why people dress the way they do?