Want to get Productivity Up? Then, dress down

Don Baker : Fully Dressed!

I recently went to a concert in Vicar Street to see a Garth Brooks tribute band. Linda got the tickets from her niece. Not a particular Garth Brooks fan, I went along for the sake of promoting World Peace! The concert was, unexpectedly, good. Mid way through the set, Don Baker came on stage and delivered a short but pounding performance – with exquisite harmonica playing and delivery. It was both unexpected and brilliant.

Dress Code: Don played the first couple of numbers in his vest (I kid you not). As he is more beer-belly than 6-pack, this was not a pretty sight. During a second stage incursion, he was wearing an open shirt (not open neck) and his full (recently tanned?) figure was there for all to admire. The guy sitting beside me remarked: “It took a lot of money to put that there!”

Talent Trumps: In the business arena we’ve become used to casual dress codes in some industries. In Intel, when you see someone with a tie they are either going to a funeral or an interview. Michael O’ Leary has long since dismissed dressing to impress – and even Dail Eireann is feeling the winds of sartorial change a la Ming Flanagan and Mick Wallace. Truth = there is zero connection between dress code and performance. Admittedly, you probably don’t want your customer facing staff wearing cut-off jeans or hi-visibility G-Strings; the workplace is not Copacabana Beach. But for too long we’ve focused on external appearances rather than what’s actually delivered. And the concept of dress down days or ‘casual Fridays’ underscores the point that dress up days don’t make any sense at all.

Call Centre: A couple of years ago, I got a consulting job in a call centre in central Dublin. Employee relations had soured and we were sent in to find the cure. There was a formal dress code in place. Dresses and skirts for the women; shirts and ties for the guys. Most of the staff were aged circa 21 i.e. they had to go out and buy a tie or get one from their uncle. In an organization where the only contact with customers was over the phone, the technical term for this dress code was nuts. The lads started to rebel, with an informal competition for who would be gutsy enough to wear the most outlandish tie. Nude women and Santa ties worn in the summer months were top of the hit parade. Along with a couple of other changes to re-connect with staff, the dress code was abandoned and peace was declared across the land!

Personal Choice: Individuals will always want to dress smartly. Spending money on high-end fashion or pinstripe suits is a question of personal taste. It can definitely affect confidence and some people make a call to invest in this area. And, we all like to look our best at times. But as an organizational leader, you don’t need to impose 19th century dress standards on everyone, all of the time. Just like watching Don Baker, sit back, listen to the fantastic music or whatever else is being produced and chill out on the dress code. Measure outputs, not inputs. And watch the productivity soar.

Now, I’m just on my way to meet a new client in the IFSC. Where did I leave that string vest?

Paul Mooney


About Tandem Consulting

Paul Mooney holds a Ph.D. and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Sociology from Trinity College, along with a National Diploma in Industrial Relations (NCI). He has a post-Graduate Diploma and a Masters in Coaching from UCD. Paul, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, is widely recognised as an expert on organisation and individual change. He began his working life as a butcher in Dublin before moving into production management. He subsequently held a number of human resource positions in Ireland and Asia - with General Electric and Sterling Drug. Between 2007 and 2010, Paul held the position of President, National College of Ireland. Paul is currently Managing Partner of Tandem Consulting, a team of senior OD and change specialists. He has run consulting assignments in 20+ countries and is the author of 12 books. Areas of expertise include: • Organisational Development/Change & conflict resolution • Leadership Development/Executive Coaching • Human Resource Management/employee engagement
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