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Management Rules That Make No Sense #11: Your Company Has A Uniform Even If It Doesn’t Have A Dress Code

May 9, 2014


Does your dad even own a flannel shirt?

Yeah, he owns several.

I just can’t picture Rodney in anything except a pressed shirt and slacks.

My daughter was working for Andy Nienas, owner of Echo Canyon Rafting in Colorado. Andy was a customer for our RESMARK software. I’d been to see him multiple times at his location on the Arkansas River. Every time I showed up I wore slacks, a pressed shirt and a sport coat. Why? Why did I insist on wearing business dress to visit a rafting company?

Because I didn’t want Andy to see me as a rafting customer, I needed him to see me as a businessman. He gave me a pile of money for software that wasn’t written yet. The uniform was very deliberate.

My brother is a CPA. He owns a CPA firm and has for years. He used to drive a Chevy Silverado. He loved having a truck. Once he bought the CPA firm he sold the truck and bought a BMW.

You might be saying, “What a couple of phonies! The clothes. . or the car doesn’t make you a businessman or a respected CPA.”

Ask yourself, if you went to see your mechanic and he was dressed in a tuxedo, would you let him work on your car? Suppose he was wearing Bermuda shorts and a flowered shirt?

You MIGHT have him work on your car, but you’d be concerned. If you went to church and the preacher or minister or rabbi was wearing a baseball uniform you’d think it was odd.

The point is that what we wear influences how others think of us.

I know developers and programmers who laugh at this rule.

Dude! I wear whatever I want. I don’t follow some arbitrary dress code!

And we all know exactly what they were wearing when they said it. . .shorts, sandals with socks and a free t-shirt they got at a trade show.

Here’s the key for you. Knowing that every job has a uniform, you get to pick the uniform you want and people will assign you the job you’ve picked. I’ve seen this written as, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” I don’t disagree, but if you want to be the CEO and you work in the mailroom, don’t show up in a three piece suit. But, if you want to be the manager of the mailroom, it might not be a bad idea to skip the t-shirt and wear a shirt with a collar.

Especially if you are new in business or new to a company, look around at the people you work with. Notice the ones that you want to emulate, the influencers. Take your dressing cues from them.

And it doesn’t always have to be dressing up. If you want to be a programmer, by all means invest in some logo’d t-shirts and white ankle socks.

Every position has a uniform. . .even if it has no dress code.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

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