I have just received an email from my employer, a financial services
company, on its new “outcome-based” dress code: “As part of our drive to be a
Winning Organisation . . . this means informality, openness and a lack of
hierarchy in our business attire. In keeping with a solutions organisation, it
is outcome-based.” Can I continue to work somewhere that sends me such cretinous
nonsense? And if so, what should I wear?
Investment director, male, 35
Your second question — what should you wear? — is of no interest to me and
ought not to be to you.
You know perfectly well what to wear. You have had well over a decade’s
practice of getting dressed for the office. You can see what clients and
colleagues are wearing, you know what you are comfortable in, and so there is no
need to ponder the matter any further.
Your first question is of much greater interest. It is profound and touches
all of us who work in large corporations. The question is whether one should
work for a company that spouts cretinous drivel. And the answer is, it
All organisations, from time to time, spout drivel. To be on the receiving
end is depressing and vaguely demeaning.
But whether you should consider leaving depends on four things: the
frequency of the drivel; your proximity to it; how seriously it is taken by
others and, most crucially, whether you have to pretend to take it seriously
The most usual sort of drivel is intermittent, comes from someone distant,
usually in HR, and is routinely ignored by all. This sort is not only easy to
live with, it is vaguely bonding as it enables you to have a cynical laugh with
At the opposite extreme, there is a cascade of drivel that starts with the
CEO and flows down through everyone in the organisation. Everyone has to listen
and follow, and those that refuse to do so get shunted to the side.
Does your organisation actually believe its “values”? Is it really trying
to “live and breathe” them? I have a nasty feeling that this might be the case.
It sounds as if everyone has been told they will be judged according to how
seriously they take the “Winning Organisation” claptrap — with the result that
some bright spark has had the genius idea of applying it to the dress code. This
is bad, but still liveable with if no action was expected from you and you could
just laugh about it.
The thing that makes me worried is that you sent the problem to me. This
suggests you had to go to an outsider to complain. But worst of all, the fact
that you are even considering — even if only ironically — complying with
something so brainless as an “outcome-based” dress code makes me fear it might
be time for you to go somewhere that takes drivel less seriously.