Posted by: pberry | June 17, 2009

Let them wear pants (and why trust beats rules)

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I’ve had a number of friends who have worked with Focus on the Family. They all had one thing in common: they hated the dress code. Men wore ties, women wore dresses or skirts. No casual Friday. That changed this week as Focus said goodbye to the ties and said yes to pants for all employees, regardless of gender.

This is a good step forward for Focus. Jim Daly is quoted as saying he thing it will make the employees more positive. No doubt. I’m thrilled for the employees, especially the women who don’t have to wear hose anymore.

But if they are hoping the new dress code will “help Focus attract talented, young Internet technology workers who otherwise would have been put off by having to dress formally every day,”  they are mistaken. No young “internet technology” worker is wearing a tie right now and most aren’t wearing slacks and a collared shirt. If they’re wearing a jacket, it’s with jeans and a t-shirt.

Here’s the lesson: treat people like adults. This is especially true in the case of dress codes. People can dress really well in denim. They can also dress really poorly in slacks. I once worked with a woman who wore pants that had purses embroidered on them. Hideous! But they fit in the dress code.

Don’t make a policy to solve a person. People will always try to get around rules. If you trust them to do your work, trust them to dress in a way that honors your organization. It’ll be better for everyone People may break your trust, but they generally want to earn it back. On top of that, you’ll get their respect and loyalty as well.

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Responses

  1. Well said Paul. As one who loathes having my feet in anything other then sandals I I agree. I have very nice, clean, shoes. Worn with a pair of socks you would have to really study my feet to see that I am in sandals. Luckily my employment is not to finniky about it.

    I am one of those who worked for Focus, ever so briefly, and join with my brothers and sisters there in a “hurrah!”


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