I remember looking down from a balcony at a rock concert in the late 70’s. The rebellious youth below were all wearing blue jeans except for one poor soul who was wearing an orange pair! In the office too, if your bosses didn’t tell you precisely what was acceptable to wear then your colleagues would certainly make fun of any attempt to show individualism.
Today however, anything goes: Cyclists arrive in the office looking like they’ve come off a Sunday afternoon hike. Top directors wear T shirts while office juniors walk around in three piece suits with matching shirts and ties, it’s become all so liberating yet confusing at the same time.
There’s a chain of clothes stores in Belgium that has banned their female staff from wearing headscarves in case they upset the customers. And yet the irony is that the same stores sell headscarves and many of their customers wear them!
I am lucky enough to live in a multi-cultural society where in some quarters diversity is celebrated. And yet all the while, narrow mindedness and a misguided sense of the need for conformity is trying to water everything back down to the pre-punk days where everyone wearing the same was hip.
The important stand point for me is that we simply must respect our colleagues for who they are. After all they are only a reflection of the culture within which our businesses exist.
Does this mean that I would honestly be happy having a receptionist who came to work dressed in a plastic bag and with a safety pin through their cheek? Probably not. Nor would I choose to wear my garden clothes into the office; they would leave grass stains all over the furniture and deflect the conversation away from the task in hand.
Since Adam and Eve, or whoever it was that came to the sensible conclusion that not being naked was a good idea, we have come to select our clothes for a specific purpose. And yet sometimes I think we as business leaders should invest a little time reflecting on what ‘fit for purpose’ really means. And perhaps, just perhaps we should lay down some gentle guidelines that truly reflect the diversity of the world in which our employees live, without losing sight on why we wear clothes to work in the first place.
Right now it is 06:30 am and a new day is beginning, I need to get dressed and to choose either to wear my white cotton shirt with its buttoned down sleeves or my white cotton shirt with all its buttons hidden? Choices, choices…
Have a good week,