Forgive my crabbiness. I'm in the final throes of my book and short of patience but allowed myself to reply to a discussion list thread (Association for Accounting Marketing) about dress code policies. This subject comes up on the list every year right about sandal season. Why it's on a marketing list, I don't exactly know, but it is always a lively discussion.
So the talk of flip-floppy sandals, fabric type, bare legs and skirt length moves to "what about guys?" and more discussion ensues, now about shirt colors and errant chest hair.
Marketing pal Perry St. Louis, out of Portland, Maine makes me smile when he chimes in about the ridiculousness of banning colored dress shirts and requiring elimination of chest hair.
I started twitching as a rant came on...
Perry always shakes things up! I love that about you, Perry.
I thought the same thing about colored dress shirts. I don't get that one. Chest hair? where do we (literally) draw the line about what is chest, neck, etc. Also, there was no mention of back hair. What about when back hair becomes neck hair and mingles with the collar-line.
What about LONG hair on men. Are we disallowing it? How exactly shall we define it? (David Donnelly, who by the way, always dresses great, will have to resign!)
I really struggle with imposing policies where judgment is what matters. The fun educational part [referring to prior messages about clothing style class offerings] is totally fine...and definitely welcomed (and often needed) because some of us just don't pay attention to attire details and the impressions they give off. And I love the color thing [e.g. Color Me Beautiful]... we all should strive to look our best.
Education can help that. Policy won't.
Policy is just insulting and if the education doesn't work, no policy will fix poor judgment. If the education and a couple quiet conversations haven't resolved the problems with a few offenders--they either don't give a s**t or they have irreparably poor judgment. In either case, you've made a hiring mistake.
Instituting detailed policies around hair, fabric, etc are rife with problems because we are humans and humans are messy, and different--we have unexplainable (subjective) pet peeves, and these often make it into policy. This is just WRONG.
True story, I know a firm that articulated no 100% cotton dress shirts are allowed because they get too wrinkled. And they stated that men could not have their white undershirt showing under their collared shirt neckline because one female partner doesn't want to "see men's underwear." Are you kidding me?
What if the undershirt covers up the chest hair she would otherwise have to look at? My boys go to a stodgy all boys school and the boys are required to let their undershirts show at the neck beneath their collared shirts. Is a little white cotton at the neck really in poor taste?
So which fashion era representative gets to make the rules in our firms? The old one or the new one.
When can we treat our team members like the judgment-applying knowledge workers that we need them to be?
A few people who don't get it shouldn't cause us to be big policy-making meanies to the majority who are okay on their own. Again, the education and classes are fine, but the policies are really getting quite out of hand.
If we treat our people like babies, that's all we'll have left because the smart ones will leave.
Stepping gingerly off my soap-box....