At my company we are ‘relaxed, yet professional’. That’s what our staff tell us. That’s what our clients tell us. That’s the exact wording in our company values statement.
In the office, from the CEO down we wear jeans, polo shirts and sneakers. Or whatever people want to wear. But when we go to clients we wear what the client wears – suit and tie at Nestlé, smart shirt and chinos at Microsoft.
So our culture has driven our dress code. In fact our dress code has relaxed over the last 10 years. But we have a strong company culture. In a recent staff survey it was identified as one of the reasons people enjoy working for us. It is one of the things that people will fight to protect. So it is one our 3 key priorities as we grow around the world – “Maintain our company culture”.
In our case our culture has driven our dress code. But is the reverse true? Does a suit and tie dress code breed a stuffy, over-important culture or a very professional attitude. By contrast is a t-shirt and jeans dress code, or even no dress code, symptomatic of a chaotic and slovenly business? I remember when I was IT Director at a major UK Government Department we had very large teams who were under-performing and came to work looking a mess.
But those same people would put on a smart shirt and tailored trousers as it was the entry requirement for the local nightclub. So we imposed that as the minimum dress code. Did it change the culture? Slightly.
My view: Culture sets the dress code. Senior role models demonstrate both the culture and dress code. Dress code reinforces the culture, particularly for those new to the organisation.
What’s your experience?