It’s high time companies abolished one well-entrenched but outdated practice: the employee dress code.
No, we’re not talking about those companies that set appearance standards for employees who come face-to-face with the public. That flavor of dress code makes sense.
And of course employers need to establish rules when worker safety’s at stake.
But in today’s workplace, about the last thing managers need is to take on the role of fashion police.
More trouble than it’s worth
The nuts-and-bolts argument against dress codes? It’s just one more thing that can get you in legal trouble. Employees can claim too-strict appearance standards discriminate against minorities, either gender or members of religious groups.
Other reasons to jettison these outdated rules:
- Managers have to spend their time disciplining employees for what they’re wearing, deflecting attention from what’s really important — how they’re performing.
- This isn’t the 1950s, when conformity was the byword. The 21st Century workplace is a lot more diverse than ever before. There’s a far wider age range of employees than there’s ever been. And let’s face it — the standards of acceptable appearance in today’s society are a whole lot looser than they were 10 or 15 years ago.
Finally, allowing employees to wear whatever they’re comfortable working in has become a proven morale booster.
We can hear the skeptics’ objections already: What about the employee with multiple piercings who joins a department full of buttoned-down Baby Boomers? What about the women who wear too-provocative outfits to the office?
Our response: We’re all adults here, right? So what matters is performance. If somebody’s appearance is so outrageous that it affects employee performance — either their own or their co-workers’ — managers have a bona fide issue to deal with.
If things come down to a dispute born out of personal taste, it’s time to revert to the old kindergarten standard: Employees are expected to play well with others. No matter what they look like.