I met a friend for lunch recently and he says to me, “I’d have to send you home because of your shoes if you worked at my company”. I looked at my feet to see (lovely) black, patent leather, high-heel sandals. ”Why on earth would these shoes cause me to be sent home” I ask. “Well, they aren’t considered sensible shoes because the heel is too high” he says with a chuckle.
Now, those of you who know me know I love shoes. I don’t look at “work” shoes unless the heel is at least 3 inches. Why on earth would anyone wear flats with a suit?!! I also live in Houston, where high-heeled, open toed shoes are very common in (most) workplaces because it’s so freak’in hot here.
His comment led to the inevitable discussion about the dress code at his company. After lunch he sent it to me. Once I got over that it was THREE pages long, I started to really read it. The majority of it was a laundry list of what was considered inappropriate business casual attire – and evidently ANY type of women’s shoes 3 inches or higher were inappropriate, as were bright colored or patterned print shoes and absolutely no heels made of cork! I can’t even begin to describe the level of specificity outlined in this policy.
He also shared how this dress code tended to drive certain behaviors. For example, the policy states:
If an employee is of the opinion that someone else’s dress is inappropriate, he or she should bring it to the attention of their manager, who should then bring the matter to the attention of the manager of the person who is believed to be out of compliance with the dress code. Thoughts or opinions about someone else’s attire should not be discussed with co-workers.
Guess what happens? Sally thinks Jane’s dress is too short. Sally tells her manager, who then races to Jane’s manager, who then tells Jane that Sally is hating on her and she should hang in her cube the rest of the day. A week later, Jane finds Sally’s shoes are out of compliance because they are red…..and the whole dance starts over.
How productive do you think these folks are? Can you imagine the culture this is creating? Instead of thinking about clients, how to drive revenue or how to collaborate with each other – you now have a bunch of ADULTS running around tattling on each other or walking around measuring women’s heels! Really.
This is why I despise dress codes. A dress code says to me:
-Our company doesn’t trust managers to ”manage” their employees
-Our company would rather have its leaders spend hours discussing our dress code vs. making money
-Our company has no clue what demotivates a workforce
To my great relief, it wasn’t HR driving this policy. However, HR was also not shouting from the rooftop how insane its leadership was to put something like this together – as certainly there would be employee relation, morale and retention issues as a result of this ridiculous dress code.
Bottom line – treat people like adults, model the behavior you’d like emulated in your org and for pete’s sake – CELEBRATE the women in your office who love wearing heels!