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Dress codes should be unnecessary

But they aren’t.

We revised our dress code at work and I was reminded about how much I hate enforcing, creating and working with employee dress code issues. And even though we moved in a net positive direction (we decided to allow jeans for all employees), any sort of change always brings handfuls of questions to go along with it. How good do the jeans have to look? Do they have to be blue? What happens if I just have one rip, is that okay?

My automatic response to all dress code questions is just to say no. This takes care of most of the questions. I believe if you have to ask the question, the answer is probably no.

No, there is no scientific reason or study behind it. Just a bit of experience.

Now people that decry dress codes are typically people that have never worked for a company that doesn’t have a dress code. And in my experience, that is scary.

I worked for a place that did telephone surveys. Mainly we did surveys for governments, educational institutions and broad consumer products. There was no dress code. You could wear whatever you wanted. And it showed.

And it was awesome. At least for me personally. I showed up to work in my pajamas, bathrobe, slippers, stocking cap and gloves (it was snowing and cold). That’s convenience (no changing clothes).

What wasn’t awesome was what other people wore. Including the middle aged lady that wore short shirts with jelly rolls around her stomach. Or the guy that came to work every day after the gym in his sweaty outfit stinking the place up for the entire shift. Or the guy that has so many holes in his t-shirt (the same one he wears every day, stains and all), you thought they were made on purpose for the copious amount of hair he had all over his torso. Last but not least, the 16 year old that dresses like a dancer (and I don’t mean no ballerina).

So yes, workplace policies, like the laws of our country, are made because of bad people in the world. Regardless of legality, I am doubting that most people would steal or murder people. There still needs to be a law about it. About 90% of the people at the survey place dressed appropriately but the 10% were just so awful, it deserved a policy.

Luckily, I am in a place where that is a reality.

By Lance Haun

Strategy for The Starr Conspiracy. Former HR pro. Portland guy (Go Blazers!) and WSU alum (Go Cougs!). I get to write about what I want here.

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