Thursday, 15 January 2009

Dressed to Kill

I am not allowed to talk about work going arounds, so instead I will tell you of a fictitious top manager at a fictitious organization who might have recently complained (had he/she existed in the first place) about workers not showing up to work in proper business attire. Some of these fictitious employees dared coming to work wearing jeans, heaven forbid, during the week between Xmess and New Year.
So I thought I will talk about business attire once again and say what I think of it.

I will start by looking at another organization type that insists on a strict dress code: the military.
Now there are some perfectly logical reasons for the military to want to have specific items of clothing, such as the need for camouflage or the need to support its troops while performing some physically demanding tasks. The reality of it, though, is that today’s armies have about ten non combat troops for each fighting soldier, and those ten do not really need any particularly army-ish items of clothing to perform their job. Yet the army insists on them wearing uniforms, too. Why is that?
The reality is, as history indicates, that uniforms do not have much to do with the practicalities of fighting. One only needs to check World War I records to see French troops were still proudly wearing red clothing at its early stages, still unaware of the need for camouflage. The reality is that armies need their uniforms in order to imprint a sense of obedience on their troops and in order to prevent them from asking questions. Armies do not want their soldiers to ask “why” when they are told to go and kill, and armies definitely do not want their soldiers to say “no” when they are told to go and get killed.
I’ll leave it for you to determine whether attributes such as those sought by armies are to be welcomed in a modern day organization.

There is, however, something unique to business clothing. Most notably the suits that managers and would be managers like to wear all the time.
All suits flatter their wearer, and they do so by performing several acts of deception, most notable of which is the broadening of the shoulder line. The effect of a broad shoulder line on us humans is well known: a person with a broad shoulder line is deemed strong and powerful. A business suit is thus a tool for making one an alpha in the eyes of others.
That would explain why most fictitious managers in their fictitious organizations like to wear their suits all the time, rain or shine, during the week or during casual Fridays. As far as they are concerned, they acquire at least a portion of their perceived supremacy as managers through the suit; take the suit away from them and they become mere mortals, no different to the rest of us. Take the suit away from them and they will automatically lose some of their confidence.
I’ll leave it for you to determine if managers that require a suit on in order to manage are worthy of their titles.

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