I'm 58 years-old and have been in the IT work place a long time (34 years). My thought about a dress code in an office environment is very simple.....You get only one chance to make a first impression. That doesn't always mean you need to wear a coat, tie, etc. But you must always present a neat, clean appearance. That does mean a collared shirt. It does mean a nice pair of trousers (for men). Those can be wash 'n wear or dress pants. It means well-kept shoes. You bath daily (i.e., you don't smell). You keep your teeth brushed. And, you keep your hair brushed/combed.
It does not include t-shirts...ever. It does not include shirts of any kind that have any sort of ironed-on prints (specifically, the stuff they press on t-shirts that have words on the front/back and make some statement). It does not include tennis shoes ever. I don't particularly like jeans in the workplace but my company does it on Fridays. Some do it on "pay day Fridays". I have done this twice and don't like it.
I don't know when visitors will be coming to visit others. I may have to leave the office to visit with customers...or potential customers. If I go to eat lunch out, I'm sure to run into someone I know...and it may be a customer or potential customer. Those are my "first impression" moments. If I dress down too far, that's the impression I'm leaving with my customer or potential customer. That's not the level of professionalism I want to leave them with.
For current customers, I'm an extension of them. If I'm with them in social or work events, I want them to be proud of what and who I represent...not ashamed or squeamish. When I answer a help desk or trouble call, I find my appearance is an extension of the technical expertise I bring to the table. I find it also factors in to the level of confidence that customer has in me.
For new or potential customers, that first impression may be an actual meeting to discuss business or it may be they see me in a social setting.
In 1983, I took over a small team of field engineers supporting a mainframe at a customer data center. Not only had the previous team had a bad track record for the maintenance of the systems they did not present a good appearance and they were some times argumentative with the customer/operators of the systems. My team and I set out to change the reputation of our company and our team. We dressed nicely, met weekly with the customer management and operators to build better two-way communications, and were thorough in our maintenance program (remedial and preventive). Within 3 months, the perception of our company and us as individuals had improved drastically and the customer showed his appreciated with letters to our company. In that letter, which I still have to this day, he stated how well things improved and noted, especially, the professional appearance we presented represented ourselves and our company very well. Since that time, I have been diligent in presenting a good appearance...whether wearing a suit, a dress shirt/tie combination, or a polo shirt/slacks. I've been successful with that approach and I (softly) demand the same of my employees.
Those are my thoughts about dress code. It is simple. What do you want others to think of you as a person and what do you want them to think of your business/company/organization?
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