Is it any wonder that Millennials entering the workforce in droves this fall will often choose to wear clothing so inappropriate as to be sent home to change? Look at their role models: super-geek gazillionaire internet start-up kings who often look as though they just rolled out of bed for the New York Times photo op. “If Mark Zuckerberg (CEO of Facebook) can wear baggy jeans and Addidas sandals, all the way to the bank, why not me?” think many a young professional.
This problem is so pervasive, I entitled my seminar series on managing the Millennial generation "From Flip-Flops to Fully Functional." People instantly get the visual – young, enthusiastic, bright people who undermine themselves by wearing beachwear to the office. My advice to managers is, don’t tolerate it, and to twenty-somethings, don’t even think about it.
Here are seven reasons why companies should reconsider their business casual policy:
- Just as individuals are able to set themselves apart by dressing up a notch, so too is the company that decides it will return to a more traditional look. Don’t think for a moment that clients won’t notice when the rumpled Lands’ End shirts and khakis or jeans are traded in for, ok, maybe not an Armani suit every day, but a dress shirt, tie, trousers, socks and real shoes for gentlemen. Ladies have a bit more latitude, but please, I beg of you, no more exposed tummies, bare arms, cleavage or visible underclothes.
- YOU are your brand – everything from your posture, your handshake, how you speak, and how you dress tells the world who you are. Like it or not, first impressions are made with lightening speed, well before the first word is spoken.
- Each member of an organization, from the receptionist to senior management, in turn represents the corporate brand. It’s absurd for an organization to spend $1 million on an ad campaign touting their professionalism, while at the same time allow associates to dress like bicycle messengers.
- “I always dress appropriately when I meet with clients,” say the worst offenders. Here’s the thing: you never know who is around the corner, on the airplane or in the elevator.
- When you are “dressed the part,” you automatically act more professionally. This is why actors wear costumes – it sets the tone and defines the role.
- The dot-com era is over, and so is the attitude, thank goodness. Bring your organization into the 21st century with a bit more formality and style.
- When you look good, you feel good, and that is the basis of confidence, the cornerstone of a successful professional (with Zuckerberg and a few others notable exceptions).
Gretchen Neels is President of Neels & Company, Strategic Business Communication, a Boston-based firm that helps inprove individual and organizational performance through consulting and soft-skills training.