Professionalism is a perplexing concept, particularly because it's so difficult to define. The modern workforce has evolved so that a large number of companies have become far more liberal in establishing company rules.
Unfortunately, just as many organizations maintain a conservative stance when it comes to creating office policies.
While it makes sense to preserve certain practices, even when they originated decades ago, it's time for all companies to embrace a more progressive shift when it comes to dress codes.
Personally, it's always baffled me that managers deem it reasonable to determine an individual's professional worth based on his or her appearance.
You've heard it before. It's impossible to find a job with that many visible tattoos. You should really take your nose ring out before going on that interview. And don't you ever wear jeans to work - unless it's Friday. It's acceptable on Friday.
Most of us nod and accept these statements as gospel. But when you really give these sentiments some thought, it seems obvious that they're ridiculous.
If you excel at every project you're handed, why should it matter what sort of pants you're wearing? How does your decision to have art on your body affect your workflow?
The honest answer is that it doesn't.
As a society, we've crafted a model of what an ideal employee should look like. We claim that this profile is a step to being successful, but there's no reason that any of these things should equate success in our careers.
In reality, someone put these policies in place because it was what they preferred.
And bosses continue to perpetuate them because they benefit them. Dress codes encourage obedience and conformity, two valuable qualities from a management perspective.
From the employee perspective, however, they just seem like a pointless nuisance. Most of them can't even identify one positive aspect of having strict dress codes.
In fact, a OnePoll survey of 2,000 adults from the UK shows that many employees are willing to quit their jobs over inflexible dress policies. They prefer more "relaxed" standards when it comes to office guidelines, and they certainly don't appreciate being told what to do with the hair on their heads or faces.
Similarly, a Los Angeles Times survey reveals that 58 percent of individuals questioned prefer a casual dress code to a formal one.
With results like these, it seems clear that employees desire the freedom to look the way they want at work — without inviting harsh criticism from management.
And if we're honest, companies absolutely should grant their workers that freedom.
It goes against every old-school management strategy in the book but allowing employee-driven policies in the workplace benefits companies in the end.
After all, increasing numbers of surveys and studies report that happier employees tend to be more productive, more dedicated to their work and more likely to stay with an organization for an extended period of time.
I mean, studies or no, this is really just basic human nature. If you value your staff for what they bring to the table, instead of what they look like, they're bound to show you gratitude and respect. And believe it or not, those things will get managers far better results than conformity and obedience.
So let's do away with the medieval dress policies. We'll all be happier (and comfier) for it.