Monday, May 29, 2006

Angry at Shallowness

Going through the regular workday morning ritual of ironing my business shirt for the day (sometimes I get it together enough to iron all my shirts at once - but not often) I had a bit of a domino effect happen with my angriness. First I was angry at having to iron a shirt - it's a sucky job. Then I was angry at having to wear a shirt an tie to work. Then I flashed back to how the crappy washing machine had put oil stains on some of my clothes, including a few business shirts. These were the only ones that really pissed me off. With the casual clothes, unusual stains could be written off as "character" but I can't go to work with a stained shirt. Then I realised what I was really pissed off about.


Specifically, I was thinking about the belief that how you look in the workplace is of vital importance to your work. Admittedly, I don't want to go into a bank and be served by someone wearing stained sweatpants and a torn t-shirt. To be frank, I'd rather not go into banks at all but that's a different issue. When you have a "customer facing" role that's one thing. But when you work in an office where nobody else sees you, what the fuck is the point of wearing a business suit? I've had it put to me before that business dress promotes as professional environment and casual clothes promote a casual (or lazy) environment. Uptight bosses don't want slack staff so they enforce a strict dress code.

Let me offer you this wisdom in return: bollocks! Quality work is the product of a complex range of factors: the quality of workers, the quality of management, the extent to which people want to do their work (as opposed to simply picking up a paycheck), the level of support and security workers feel, the quality of tools available and the clarity of communication regarding what is/should be going on. Nice clothes won't get you anywhere if you don't address the core issues. So why is the dress code so often the focus of a company's management?

My opinion? Doing things right is hard. Telling someone what to wear is easy. Challenging pre-conceived ideas is hard. Supporting the status quo is easy. So much of what it takes to be successful is open to interpretation and/or needs to be adjusted to suit individual situations and people. A business suit is the same in any environment. Measuring the quality of someone's work accurately requires engagement and focus from management, they have to care about what's happening. Telling someone what to wear simply involves looking and pointing.

This shallow obsession with appearance obviously goes far beyond what you wear to work. But like most other manifestations of shallowness, this one revolves around being lazy and passing judgement rather than actually seeing a person as an individual. And it's the one I have to deal with four days a week (casual Friday, woohoo!) so today it's what's making me angry.


allmylovins said...

Oh, how I wish we had a professioal dress-code. I grew-up in a banking atmosphere where the dress code was strict - no open-toed shoes, no tank tops, and wearing pantyhose with your dresses was maditory (Guess you wouldn't have to worry there). Now where I work, people wear flip-flops, tank tops, no pantyhose and their work matches their attire. During the summer, shorts are acceptable. We work in accounting office not on a play ground. People need to dress for the job they do. (I enjoy the a.m.'s therapeutic). Looking forward to a banking blog!

Mr Angry said...

allmylovins: good points. I have a deep suspicion that the people you mention would be just as slack in a business suit. My biggest problem is with managers who think the dress code is the be-all and end-all rather than a small part of the complete picture.

I've never ranted about banking have I? There's some rich territory.

mooncrazy said...

I so agree with aml, we had a dress code and still we had women coming to work in outfits that would make a business girl blush. Most of the male supervisors didn't have enough in the balls department to send them home. That or they had really ugly wives and this was their only entertainment.

In California management is afraid to inforce anything really important because they are afraid of getting sued for sexual harasment. Yikes!

Mr Angry said...

Ah yes, the inappropriately dressed female staff member... how does a male respond without seeming like a perv? The real pervs don't want them to stop wearing the revealing outfits and the other men don't want to get involved.