Mary Teresa Barra is the Chairman and CEO of General Motors, making her the first female CEO of a major global automaker. Bravo, Mary. Her management style is said to be direct and brief, which mirrors GM’s workplace dress code: Dress appropriately. Are you sure about that, Mary? In an age where the Leave It To Beaver lifestyle is practically out the window, I find it difficult to believe that leaving this to chance does not cause managers all kinds of issues.
Although I tend to dislike excessive amounts of policies and procedures, in some instances I think they are necessary. We now live in a world that is incredibly “loose.” If I asked 10 people to dress appropriately in 1950, the majority of them would look alike and dress appropriately. My guess is that if I asked 10 people to dress appropriately in 2018, the vast majority of them would not look alike and several would dress inappropriately.
Case in point, a recent experience I had in Denver where I live. Apparently, some people think it’s appropriate to wear plastic flip-flops in a five-star steakhouse because I have seen this in both The Palm and The Capital Grille. One might argue that it’s OK because it’s Denver, which is a laid-back town, but where do we draw the line? What has happened to people “dressing for the occasion” and understanding that certain situations require a certain decorum, both in terms of how one acts and how one dresses?
Clearly, times have changed, and the words “dress appropriately” mean radically different things to different people, unlike 60 years ago. The issue with this, in my opinion, is the undue stress it puts on managers. Leaders of people already have enough to deal with, as managing others means you are a part-time psychologist. Do we really need to create more issues for them by instituting a policy that is this broad? I think not.
WHAT CAN I DO? Although I think this dress code will put undue stress on managers, I also know that Millennials want a flexible workplace, which means options and choices. Conduct focus groups and ask employees what they consider to be appropriate. Then take this feedback into consideration before determining your dress code, in an effort to let people know they have a voice and their voice is being heard.
Jill Christensen is an employee engagement expert, best-selling author, and international keynote speaker. She is a Top 100 Global Employee Engagement Influencer, authored the best-selling book, If Not You, Who?, and works with the best and brightest global leaders to improve productivity and retention, customer satisfaction, and revenue growth. Jill can be reached at +1.303.999.9224 or firstname.lastname@example.org.