alacrity in action

It’s Friday today.
If you work in a large organisation today might be the day when, like every week, you are allowed to dress down. Unlike the other four days of the week today you can leave you tie and shirt at home. You may even be able to wear you favorite T-shirt, slightly worn out jeans and some comfy trainers. I have witnessed and experienced this corporate ritual many times. It’s also one which I struggle most with understanding. It’s utterly incoherent.
Let’s assume the company believes an elegant appearance of their employees creates a desired image. Let’s assume they think it’s important for the customers they may interact with. Perhaps somebody thinks it professional for the staff to look smart. Could it be that wearing a tie makes us more productive? If indeed any of these things were true I struggle to comprehend how come an arbitrary day in the calendar invalidates these assumptions or makes them inapplicable. Seems no less superstitious then Friday the 13th nonsense.

If however, these assumptions were not true and the dress code had absolutely no meaning or significance whatsoever… in that case it would mean that I agree to follow an utterly meaningless and ineffective rule 80% of my working time. That effectively I behave like a mindless cog in a machine. Nobody would want that, right?

The ever fantastic Tom De Marco comes with his own explanation for a dress code. In peopleware he writes:

By making everything uniform, the “owner” of a territory exercises and demonstrates control. Like the gardener who plants seeds exactly under a taut string so that the carrots will grow in a perfect row, this manager is threatened by the kind of disorder that nature (in this case, people’s human nature) prefers.

Uniformity is so important to insecure authoritarian regimes that they even impose dress codes. […] Accomplishment matters only to the extent it can be achieved by people who don’t look different.

In that reality a dress down Friday is simply a threat to those who established and enforce dress code in the first place. Perhaps thought of as a necessary evil required to give people an illusion of freedom and independence. Only one day of the week though. Otherwise they might consider it OK to think for themselves. Brrr… what a scary though.


Comments4

  1. I think it’s the opposite. by allowing a Dresdownday, the controllors are saying ” yes now it’s fine”
    and thus keeping control over the situation.

  2. Even on dress down days, there are generally still rules. No dirty trainers. No ripped jeans. So there’s still control

  3. though I kind of agree about control and preception, I know a number of phone sales agents who come to work in suit and tie, as they feel more professional and ‘salesy’ when being dressed up, thought they are on the phone and could be in their dirty underwear, for all the client can tell…
    so is there something about morale and dress-sense?
    but also that, one day of the week we ant to be more relaxed, but this one day then does not impact on our overall performance…
    not sure where I stand… just a though…

    • I have no problem with an environment where people dress up because they feel it helps them to do their job. It’s just that in my ideal world I’d love the company to trust their employees to dress appropriately without having to resort to dress code.

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