JANUARY 2017 The Costco Connection 27
YES FROM EXPERTS IN THE FIELD
NO FROM EXPERTS IN THE FIELD
Opinions expressed are those of
the individuals or organizations
represented and are presented
to foster discussion. Costco and
The Costco Connection take no
position on any Debate topic.
owns The Protocol
School of Texas
texas.com) and is
the author of the
for a Better Life
not available at
White is managing
director of MTI
a corporate training
and talent development firm.
WHAT BEGAN AS casual Fridays has transformed into a weeklong clothing
free-for-all in many offices. I see it often in my own work as a modern manners
professional. Companies often hire me to work on-site, coaching their team
members on the finer points of executive etiquette, including business attire.
I’m frequently asked to reinforce existing dress codes when employees have
strayed too far from company policy. Many businesses provide professionals
such as myself to help staff members improve their workplace clothing choices.
Top offenses include jeans with holes or rips, flip-flops, athletic wear and
clothes that are too tight or revealing, or with undergarments clearly visible.
Acceptable dress varies widely by corporate culture and by industry. When
dress codes are too lax, it becomes a distraction that affects both the employer
and the employee.
Employees wearing yoga pants and a hoodie generally will not inspire confidence in a company’s clients unless they work in a gym. The top priority
shouldn’t be the employees’ comfort, but how comfortable customers will be
working with them. That is the driving force behind any dress code.
There’s a reason that many important jobs require uniforms. It sets a level
of expectation for the entire company. The clothing one wears communicates
judgment, attention to detail and values. If your appearance says you prize personal comfort above all else, you’re imposing your personal priority.
Sloppy dress codes also negatively affect employees. In addition, clothing
can actually have an impact on performance at work. One study, “The Cognitive
Consequences of Formal Clothing,” published in the journal Social
Psychological and Personality Science, compared subjects dressed casually
with those dressed more formally. Those in conventional business attire performed better on cognitive tests, a result attributed to the feelings of power
that professional clothing inspired.
For employers and employees, dressing for success is a worthwhile goal. C
I’VE WORKED IN offices where I was expected to wear a business suit, stockings and closed-toe shoes with heels every day (and spent way too much of my
earnings to purchase and dry-clean said items), as well as in environments
where less-formal apparel is the norm. I definitely prefer the latter.
I am not the only one. More and more employers seem to be evolving toward
less-formal expectations for office apparel. In a June 2016 study conducted by
Office Team (a staffing firm), 50 percent of senior-level managers reported that
employee attire is now less formal than it was five years ago. Office workers seem
to like this change, with 31 percent of respondents preferring a business-casual
dress code and 27 percent favoring a casual dress code (or none at all).
The reality is that there is no association between clothing and competence. An employee in a $500-plus suit isn’t necessarily more competent than
one wearing khakis and a button-front top. Your customers know that, and so
do your employees.
The key to a successful dress code lies in considering the needs of your
business and work environment. A manufacturing client once told me not to
wear a business suit when teaching workshops at his company. He said, “The
last person our employees saw wearing a suit like you have on now was an IRS
auditor. Dress so they can relate to you.” I’ve worked with a call center client
that let employees wear shorts and T-shirts to work. This may not work in
every office, but in the modern business world, locations where office workers
really need to stick with a traditional formal business dress code are few and
Each business needs to set common-sense limits, carefully balancing factors like company image or brand with customer expectations and employee
preferences. This is preferable to losing or demotivating top talent because
you’re pushing people to comply with outdated and expensive formal office
apparel requirements just because that’s how things have always been done. C
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Has office attire become
Should financial institutions use biometrics to
Percentage reflects votes received
by December 15, 2016.
Results may reflect Debate being
picked up by blogs.
COMMENT ON AN
Your opinion may appear in a
future issue of The Connection.
Like us on
Click here to email
See Member Comments
for more Debate responses