Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Putting a saddle on a donkey

does not make it a horse. Likewise, putting a tie on a software developer does not make him a consultant. Yet, this is an approach that is commonly taken by IT companies. Let us first make him look like a consultant.

Many companies here have a dress code in operation. Once or twice a week employees have to come dressed in formals - including a tie and for some unlucky folks, a blazer. You know how great that can be in Indian weather.

The main logic is that at client facing sites, employees are often found sartorially challenged - this should be a good way to get the dress sense into them. The corollary to that logic is that companies start off with a loosely defined dress code and then people slowly start breaching them - a sneaker here, a slipper there and before you realize it, the whole office resembles a beach, make that Indian beach. And further corollaries are, if you dress formally, you will think like a professional. (Whatever that is supposed to mean.)

The point is that there is multiple issues to be tackled. On the one hand issuing a dress code diktat will only take you so far. Even with this diktat, you need to teach employees a thing or two about sartorial elegance - otherwise you will find red socks, parrot green ties and jazzy shiny shirts or a combination of them. I know of a company in Hyderabad which had a "once a month blazer code" in place. Employees bought that blazer wrapped in a poly bag in a bus and just outside the gate, shook it with all their might, wore it and came in. Crumpled blazers were allowed, coming without one invited a fine. So just enforcing a dress code will do only so much. You want employees to follow a dress code and look good, get an etiquette course in place for newcomers and place a premium on looking good - whatever that can achieve for you is debatable. Ultimately thoughts and work matter more than looks and attire.

The other thing about people being casual about their dress code - this is more of an enforcement issue (whether it is needed at all is debatable) - so people taking the dress code less than serious and therefore we need a stricter dress code is about as great an idea as putting speed governors on some vehicles.

And there is no surely no correlation between casual dressing and casual thinking. Some of the newly minted start ups have no dress code and the best ideas never came while dressed in a tie and blazer (remember Archimedes?)

I need to get an idea. Let me wear a tie and see if it has any effect. Sounds corny doesn't it? In the same way, if you want consultants, you got to groom them. That means freeing up knowledge, recruiting some smart guys, paying them well and then some, but thats for another post...


Kavi said...

There are jobs which require a certain dress code owing to the fact that people 'expect' that dress code amongst people in that profession.For instance, financial services folks, bankers etc are attired more 'seriously' and anything otherwise would make you uncomfortable dealing with them. More from a perspective of experience of having dealt with financial services professionals who are always attired in a certain way !

Good read. And oh yes, attire is no prerequisite for ideas !

syde said...

Reading this blog reminded me of something which I now find amusing. I used to work in IT for an American company in Middle East. There our tea boy was also required to wear a tie. He used to knot the tie may be once in 6 months. One can imagine how it appeared. Over a course of time, in my travels to Europe, I collected a lot of ties, suits etc. Once I came to US, in almost all of the offices I worked, the dress code was casual (dockers and a plain shirt). Ties only on business meetings. As Kavi said, attire is no prerequisite for ideas. Although looking good is important, we should not forget that we are in a race for ideas. It is interesting to know that Indra Nooyi (I may have misspelt her name), CEO of Pepsico sometimes wears sari to the office.