One of the most cliché statements throughout the ages in the business world has been Dress for Success. Although it still remains a very appropriate statement when one is interviewing for a new job, does the statement remain applicable in today’s more casual society?
It could be argued that many of the fastest growing companies over the last couple of decades contradict this statement. In fact, Apple initiated an entire marketing campaign based on this contradiction – where Apple was portrayed as a hip casual young man and PC was a non-flexible older man wearing a suit. It was a very creative, entertaining and effective marketing strategy.
However, what market was the company targeting? Those individuals portrayed in the depiction of the Apple character. Outside the technology industry (or those industries focused on creativity versus business), does productivity levels increase or decrease in a casual environment?
Personally, I love casual Fridays – especially in the extreme heat of the summer or the extreme cold of the winter. The ability to wear jeans and a sweater during a cold day beats wearing a tie any day of the week. When I get up on Fridays, it takes less time to get ready for work and as I put on my jeans my mindset is already moving towards the weekend. And, this is the mindset of the manager.
Casual attire in a true business environment can be a tightrope. Casual attire can be an effective motivational tool, but there is always the risk that casual attire will turn into casual productivity. Then, the definition of casual often appears to change if not consistently reinforced. Previously, I have used the terms Business Casual or Natty Casual which somehow (with certain employees) still seemed to deteriorate into beach attire. I may be using the term incorrectly, but I actually was forced to send one employee home for what I believe to be known as Booty Shorts. How can anyone expect to be productive when your eyes are drawn to a woman’s butt like a tractor beam?
Is success solely based on the dress? Obviously, not. However, success is usually based on the leadership knowing their environment and managing to their environment effectively. Casual dress can be a huge motivator in certain environments if leveraged correctly. But, one cannot let the attire dictate the environment. If a manager themselves is less productive or works more casually based on their casual dress, it is to reason that their staff will act in a similar fashion.
Success is often the result of strong leadership. The key is to lead by example. It is not a matter of dressing for success. It is a matter of avoiding the pitfalls and effectively creating/managing/motivating a positive and productive work environment.
Husband, father, coffee connoisseur and lover of all things hockey. At 51 I sometimes wonder have I done enough. I have been married to my best friend for 30 years. She knows all my faults and loves me anyway, As a father of “almost always” perfect boys, I am always surprised at what life has to offer. It is messy, scary, thrilling, and always fun.