Dress down

During my longish career the single most powerful statement I ever heard a leader make was in relation to how we dressed for work.

I was working for a large multi-national financial services group and for a couple of years there had been experiments with dress-down and smart casual days. Hours had been squandered writing up and communicating detailed guidelines about who could wear what and in which circumstances. Each new memo, meeting or addional clarification seemed to have the opposite affect intended. People felt more and more constrained. Each new clause seemed to target a couple of individuals who would then get pissed off and moan about some other group who were getting away with it. Time for a follow up clarification message. On and on it dragged…

Cue the most powerful message… A simple email from a director.

“We employ adults and professionals. I think you’re all equipped with the intelligence to decide what is appropriate to wear at work.”

It was some years ago, so forgive me that I’ve paraphrased the original. It is one old email that I wish I’d kept.

The key message of this should be clear; if your people are good enough to be trusted with running your business, trust them to have the judgement to wear what they wish. If you don’t trust them to dress themselves, exactly why did you employ them?

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One thought on “Dress down

  1. Amazing how companies like to spend energy with small and stupid questions. I just came to agree with you: if you don’t trust your employees, why did you employed them?

    Very nice post, indeed!

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