Thursday, January 23, 2014

How can professionalism at work be demonstrated through dress code?

Normally I am very ‘neutral’ about this topic but a recent communication and importantly the ‘tone’ in the communique made me put up my thoughts on this subject. 

Define Professionalism.

Oxford Dictionary defines it as “the competence or skill expected of a professional”.
Now what are the characteristics that define a true professional and how to show professionalism at workplace? Some of the key traits that I have seen, researched on net and read about are:
·         Someone who puts customer satisfaction first
·         Someone who makes expertise his/her specialty
·         Treats everyone with respect
·         Display competence
·         Takes a leadership role wherever possible
·         Do more than expected
·         Communicate effectively
·         Do what he says and says what he can do
·         Adheres to high values & principles
·         Praises your peers and not yourself
·         Shares knowledge
·         Says thank you
·         Keeps a smile on the face and right attitude in heart

So when you read this, the question that comes up is how a strict dress code norm can ensure professionalism to become an integral part of our work culture.

The reason given by IT companies who enforce strict dress code is that the dress code “professionalism” can be “experienced” by partners and customers when they visit office/workplace and “interact” with the employees.

What to customers/partners look for from their offshoring vendors? Not necessarily in same order but some key points:
·         Someone who understands their problem areas
·         Have sound understanding of your domain, can demonstrate expertise/capabilities
·         Can demonstrate innovation & cost benefits
·         Have sound technology arm/development infrastructure
·         Sound financial stability
·         Proven track record/references available
·         Logical business plan/roadmap
·         Are on the same wavelength

Now when these partners/customers come visiting offices, be it during evaluation stage or probably in routine visits, do you think the top of mind thoughts for them would be to see:
·         Are the employees who are visiting me wearing ties?
·         Are the employees of the organization wearing a round neck Tee or collar one?
·         Are they wearing floaters or sports shoes?
·         Are they wearing business formals or business casuals?
·         Have they brushed in the morning, shaved, cleaned up their noses?

Ok the last one was thrown in by me. But the point is when customers do come visiting; their intent is not to rank the staff on what they wear but more importantly professionalism is experienced by them though some of the key points that I mentioned earlier in the post. As a spoken/unspoken rule already employees do turn up proper formals when a customer is visiting any particular account. Usually in many client visits, managers and key people interacting with the customer/prospect also turn up in blazers/ties. That more than suffices the dress code.  

On any specific day of the week, if an employee come wearing a tie, how is it helping in improving the productivity, efficiency or making him more brainy at work? How is it making him  more professional when he sits to do his work? Or if he comes wearing a round neck tee instead of collar one, how is it diminishing the brand name of the organization? IT services companies are not like banking industry where staffs have to deal with customers on a daily basis hence they are asked to be always in formals or wear ties.

In many of my client visits, I have seen our customers/prospects turn up in casuals/cargo shorts in meetings – while people like me and from other practices have waltzed before them in suits/ties. Going by that logic are our customers unprofessional?

 It’s a proven thing that work happens best when a person is comfortable in his environment. Comfort means productivity and can lead to increase in efficiency. It can lead to generation of new ideas, innovation and boost motivation.  Human Resources might disagree but for me flexible dress code is also part of being comfortable at work. Have you ever heard of any product company putting up strict dress code? When any customers visit their premises, do you think people there would be turning up in best of the formals? There are many IT service companies too who are not too rigid on dress code. Yesterday I bumped into an acquaintance who works as a Business Analyst with Tieto. She was accompanying her clients on a mall visit. She was dressed in crisp casuals and I have seen her going to work mostly dressed in casuals.  

Instead of nitpicking on why employees are not turning up in ties on any specific day, why are they not wearing proper shoes, why are they wearing round neck tee, like a school administrator checking them physically at gates, reprimanding them, asking them to go home, making them apologize on emails, marking mails to their managers – all this leading to creation of water cooler moments or jokes being cracked on whatsapp/cafeteria groups ; organizations should focus more on other aspects of resource development that can lead them to contribute more towards the organization, in an environment that is comfortable to work in.      


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Afifa Ahmad said...

good effort...

Afifa Ahmad said...




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