Relaxed, yet professional

We at Nimbus are ‘relaxed, yet professional’ and that hasn’t really changed since being acquired by TIBCO. That’s what our staff tell us. That’s what our clients tell us. That’s the exact wording in our company values statement . In the office, from the CEO down we wear jeans, polo shirts and sneakers. Or whatever people want to wear.  But when we go to clients we wear what the client wears – suit and tie at Nestlé, smart shirt and chinos at Microsoft.

Smart Casual – how to avoid getting frocked up

But it is tricky when an invite to an event for a company that you don’t really understand their culture says Smart Casual. How smart? How casual? Maybe this video has a clue so you aren’t “frocking up” unnecessarily.

Does dress code drive culture, or culture drive dress code?

So our culture has driven our dress code. In fact our dress code has relaxed over the last 10 years. But we have a strong company culture. In a recent staff survey it was identified as one of the reasons people enjoy working for Nimbus.  It is one of the things that people will fight to protect. So it is one our 3 key priorities as we grow around the world – “Maintain our company culture”.

In our case at Nimbus, our culture has driven our dress code. But is the reverse true? Does a suit and tie dress code breed a stuffy, over-important culture or a very professional attitude.  By contrast is a t-shirt and jeans dress code, or even no dress code, symptomatic of a chaotic and slovenly business? I remember when I was IT Director at a major UK Government Department we had very large teams who were under-performing and came to work looking a mess.  But those same people would put on a smart shirt and tailored trousers as it was the entry requirement for the local nightclub.  So we imposed that as the minimum dress code.  Did it change the culture?  Slightly, but only slightly.

My view: Culture sets the dress code. Senior role models demonstrate both the culture and dress code. Dress code reinforces the culture, particularly for those new to the organisation.

What’s your experience?


3 thoughts on “Smart Casual – how to avoid getting frocked up #culture #funny #dresscode

  1. Ian, I agree that the culture sets the dress code. And, regardless of the official dress code, the floor often represents the mix of various interpretations as well as various levels of respects for the same. The places that look most consistent in dress code seem to be the one without a written dress code, at least to me. Or, a Wall Street, where the culture of the company is superceded by the century old traditions of Suiting-up.

    However, policy makers within the companies don’t have the direct levers to set the culture, nor do they seem to have leeway of waiting few years before the “culture” emerges out. Dress Code seems to be one such lever for the HR to enforce the “behavior” representative of the culture they think they need. This is especially true when a company suddenly realizes the need for certain changes – such as “from A high energy, dynamic & sometimes chaotic environment TO a structured, professional and disciplined environment”. Where would they start? They’d start from attendance systems, time sheets, appraisal process, Work Plans Tracking, and Dress Code. Is it a lever for a change then? Possibly so. Effective? Not sure.

    1. The problem is that it has got more difficult. Before it was “school uniform” – put on suit and tie. Now you have to try and judge it, esp with a new client and that is when it matters most – “first impressions”

      1. Yes, agreed again. But, I guess for a new place one can never be overdressed with a jacket and a bit formal dressing. I normally drop the tie, but keep one in the bag just in case. And, if everyone else is without a jacket, one can always take it off. It’s easier to get rid of extra than to look underdressed. Personal comfort can most times wait. I’m talking of a scenario when one has no clue whatsoever of the client’s culture.

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