Monday, January 10, 2011

Dress codes, dress to impress, dress for success and so on...

The following articles appeared in the news late last year. I felt compelled to write about the dress code that inspired them.

Dress to impress UBS tells staff - The Wall Street Journal
UBS dress code:  no thongs or stubble - Sox First
UBS dress to impress Swiss retail clients - Reuters
UBS dress code scrutinizes staff's underwear - BBC News

A major bank that has suffered financial setbacks is trying to regain the confidence of its customers. So it issues a 52 page dress code to its front line employees. Apparently this significant initiative was sanctioned at the highest levels.
This looks like window dressing and that the organization would be better to focus their efforts on ethics, stability and regulations. And they probably are, but this dress code, in my opinion, is just wrong.
It is unlikely that any of these front line employees did anything to cause the bank its financial crisis or reputation loss.
I have yet to hear a news story about front line employee hygiene or dress causing financial crisis or reputation loss.
It must be insulting to these people to be told, down to the length of their nails and colour of their underwear, what to do.
It would appear that the management would like to assure the employees of the benefits of following the code:
“Light makeup consisting of foundation, mascara and discreet lipstick … will enhance your personality,” the code says, while advising women not to wear black nail polish and nail art.
The hair-care section notes studies have shown that properly cared-for hair and a stylish haircut “increase an individual’s popularity.”
I mean, who doesn’t want to improve their personality and popularity? Especially with management.
The code goes on to give advice on colour, fit and washability of underwear. "Your underwear should be functional, and shouldn't be visible through your clothes, nor should anyone be able to guess what's under them."  As if we wouldn’t know?
You've likely heard Pierre Trudeau's famous quote: "The state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation.” So I'm wondering why a bank thinks it has any business in the underwear drawers of their employees?
Nobody is suggesting that good hygiene and grooming aren’t important. But to make everyone into a corporate drone goes too far. Some of the best (worst) white collar crime was created by well-dressed people in expensive suits. They used “the corporate uniform” to dupe people into parting with their savings, take unwarranted risks or trust them with their investments. This dress code has no place in the 21st century. People should be able to dress in a way that expresses their personality as appropriate to their work environment. I’m confident that the majority of employees can figure it out for themselves.

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