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Red Tie Thursdays

July 1, 2014

It’s stupid.


Because no one even notices.

Yeah, but we notice.

Our company had a dress code (Your Company Has A Uniform Even If It Doesn’t Have A Dress Code.) White shirts and ties. Yes, like IBM from the 1950’s.

Lots of people hated it. (Marine Covers and Church Ties) But, for me it wasn’t a big deal. I knew when I applied that there was a dress code and I was fine with it. I was definitely in the minority. I’m not sure if people objected to the actual white shirt, or if it was being told what they had to wear.

In fact, it was so controversial, or simply so hated, that when the head of the company came to speak to the IT department about our move to a new building several miles from headquarters someone asked him about it.

So, when we move to the new building are we going to change the dress code?

Actually, I think we are planning to change the dress code.


We’re planning to make you dress up a little more.

(Wild Applause)

They actually did change the dress code in the new building to business casual.

But, I want to talk about an experiment I tried with my messaging team before we moved. There’s not much originality possible with a white shirt, but a tie is changeable. It gives the wearer an opportunity for self expression.

I have an idea for the team.

Yeah Rodney? What is it.

I think we should all wear red ties on Thursdays.


As a sort of “This is the Messaging Team” statement.

Are we going to tell anyone?


So, it’s a silent statement?


What I was trying to do was to turn the white shirts and ties from a point of scorn to a point of pride. Funny thing, all my engineers started wearing red ties on Thursdays. One even went out and bought a new tie because he didn’t have a red one. Maybe they were doing it because I asked them to, but our relationship was such that they could tell me no without any fear of reprisals.

By picking our own uniform, we were actually choosing individuality in the midst of conformity. I didn’t want them to tell anyone else in the department partly because I didn’t want the entire floor wearing red on Thursdays, and also because sharing a secret, even if it’s a benign secret helps to pull a team together.

Eventually people figured it out. It’s not like we were hiding it, but we just didn’t volunteer the information.

Within your team, look for the opportunity to give them a common identity. Not everyone responds to being part of a team, but many employees do. Even those who refuse to wear the red tie on Thursday are still going to have the benefit of sharing a secret with the rest of the team.

In the mean time, watch for the red ties on Thursdays. Those guys are part of the club.

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

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From → Team Building

  1. The more I read your management tips and stories, the more I realize that management is almost entirely about the little things. You have to do the big things, sure, but truly bringing together your team involves lots and lots of little things.

  2. Thanks, Joe. If you think about when you were dating a girl, you spend a lot of time thinking about what would make her happy. It’s not much different with a team. (Well, okay. parts are WAY different.)

    Last month I wrote “Tell them it’s all about you, make it all about them” and that’s a lot of the same idea. If you make your team look good, you end up looking good by extension.

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