Image Consultant Articles | Fashion Articles>Business Attire For Women | Business Wear, Business Casual, and Office Dress Codes Defined>Business Casual: The Ins and Outs
I was new to the department and still "learning the ropes." The atmosphere was very casual; while I'd come to accept that dressing professionally wasn't a high priority here, I refused to abandon all sense of propriety.
Casual Friday or not, the shorts, flip-flops, and tank top had to go. I tried to think of the best way to tell this woman to go home and change. I was heading straight for her cubicle when I was stopped by one of the most senior department accountants, who was dressed pretty much the same way as the clerk. Since this person outranked me, I knew that my protest would be in vain. Regardless of my feelings on the matter, the company dress code norm had been set.
So...just how confusing is business casual? With more than 70% of all American companies adopting some sort of casual dress policy, you'd think there'd be some clear-cut rules. But there really aren't. The relaxed attitude that began invading corporate America in the early 1990's has seen a decade of bewildered business people trying to follow the trend, yet still maintain their professional credibility. What's more, with current trends favoring a return to traditional business wear, it's easy to see why so many people get confused.
One of the biggest reasons why there's so much uncertainty is that few companies have established dress code policies. While the office fuddy-duddy may think business casual means losing the tie, someone else may assume it means a T-shirt and jeans. Without a written policy, employees tend to "push the envelope" to see how much they can get away with. That was certainly the case with the accounting clerk.
If you're in a position to influence the dress code-or have the ear of somebody who is--there are a few things you should consider about the pros and cons of business casual.
Many creative types--like those in computer jobs and dot com companies--prefer to wear casual clothes and put the dress code right up there with salary and benefits as a reason to accept or decline an offer. A business casual code may mean the very difference between hiring talent and losing them to the competition.
According to Dr. Jeffrey Magee, a consulting research psychologist who, in 1997 and 1998, surveyed 500 firms ranging from small businesses (100+ employees) to Fortune 500 companies, businesses that adopted business casual dress codes reported:
Countless studies have shown that there's a direct correlation between how one dresses and how one thinks, feels, and acts or behaves, and how others react or respond. These results certainly attest to that fact, and are the biggest reason why many companies are returning to a more formal dress code.
Still, casual clothing CAN work in the workplace, but only if the environment is structured with appropriate limits, including a written dress code policy.
Remember: it's easier to set policy from the beginning rather than to try and change things after the fact.
Here are some business casual guidelines to consider:
Whatever you do, get it in writing so everyone knows what to expect. Otherwise, your employees may be undermining your corporate image by dressing how THEY deem appropriate...which may have nothing to do with the business casual image that you want to portray.
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