Monday, August 23, 2021

Deciphering what "business casual" really means in your office

Over my 30 years in the full-time workforce, I have worked in enough places for enough companies with enough people to know that the single most difficult thing for many employees is figuring out exactly what the "business casual" dress code means.

It seems simple enough, but there's a whole lot of room for interpretation under the business casual umbrella. As with many things in life, it's probably even tougher for women, but I can only speak from the male perspective here.

Look up "business casual men" online and you'll see everything from sport coats with button-up shirts on one end of the spectrum to nice t-shirts with jeans on the other. And of course a whole bunch in between.

In my first real job at The News-Herald, we in the sports department always went with the "extreme casual" look, which meant shorts in the summer and jeans with sweatshirts in the winter. The news side reporters wore shirts and ties, whereas we all looked like we had just come from a frat party.

Later, when I entered the 9-to-5 world, I also went the shirt-and-tie route most days, and even the everyday-suit look when I was at the Cleveland Clinic.

But for most of the past 20 years, business casual has been the rule with my employers. And I've always taken my cues from both company leaders and my immediate peers. Whatever they wear, that's what I'll generally wear.

Granted, if I err, it's almost always on the side of dressing a bit more professionally, which could be a generational thing and/or having learned to dress for work from my dad. He was a data processing/computer guy who always went with a shirt and tie.

I recently took one of my every-three-year shopping trips to Kohl's to stock up on work clothes, and the load of stuff I brought home was heavy on button-up shirts and different-colored dress pants. I'm already well-stocked with khakis and have enough different kinds of shoes and belts to create nearly endless color and style combinations.

But again, the way I dress is largely dictated by what I see around me at Goodyear. And what I see around me are a whole lot of engineers and tech types who, it must be said, subscribe heavily to the stereotype of how you think engineers and techies dress. So maybe the bar isn't set as high as it might otherwise be, particularly in an older, traditionally more conservative company like Goodyear.

I will say that our CEO often wears jeans, and that sets a pretty relaxed tone.

So it you're confused about business casual, pay close attention to your co-workers, particularly those of the same gender (obviously) and job level as you. You'll figure it out quickly enough.

I would leave the Led Zeppelin shirt at home, though. Even if the CEO is a big fan.

No comments:

Post a Comment