Here’s the scene of one of the strangest work moments of my career: I was in the back of a black Suburban SUV talking to a fellow PwC partner shortly after PwC had acquired my company, Ant’s Eye View. This partner and I were chatting about the PwC culture and his decades long experiences with it, business travel, and client engagements. Pretty standard stuff. And then… some of the strangest words ever uttered by another human were brought forth into the world:
“Yeah, it feels weird to be out of a suit and tie when I’m home on the weekends. I genuinely like dressing in suits more than I like being in casual clothes, if I’m honest”.
I’m a pretty casual person by nature. You’ll find me in jeans, tshirt, and sneakers most of the time. I hate being called “Mister”, not because it sounds like I’m old, but because it’s too separating between me and you.
I also chaff at hierarchy and believe strongly in inclusive teams and conversations. I’m an idea guy and ideas come from brainstorming, collaboration, engagement with your team. I’ve found that rarely does the way you dress improve or hinder those things. Some of the best work of my career happened in the early days of the internet where we came to work every day and literally invented new ways to do things nobody had every figured out how to do …and did so while wearing flip flops. If we had shoes on at all.
But I’m also a consultant, so I dress how my clients dress when I’m on site (or virtually on site, in the case of video calls). And you’d be surprised how many companies have extremely strict dress codes, often specifically stated about what their employees can wear into the office.
Not surprisingly, some of the most difficult companies to see innovation happen in are the ones with some of the most restrictive dress codes.
But let’s fast forward… this little thing called the Global COVID-19 Pandemic hits…
Button down in-office culture has taken a serious hit. And it’s been wonderful. I feel like we’ve all gotten a better glimpse into who our coworkers/colleagues/clients actually are. There’s been a “reveal”, or sorts as the khakis have been replaced with pullovers and t-shirts. The cubicles with kitchen tables. The business casual uniform has started to fade away and I think we’re all better for it.
Don’t get me wrong… I’m not opposed to having some basic standard of dress code. Back in those early internet days, I still had to have more than my fair share of discussions with people I managed about what was appropriate to wear to work… slogans on shirts, cleanliness of garments, holes in inappropriate places, etc. And depending on how your company/team interacts with the public/customers, you may need to represent yourself to those audiences in a certain professional fashion.
But beyond those basic levels, the Community Guy in me is excited to see the casual comfort seeping out of so many of the folks I engage with on a daily basis lately. We are starting to see each other’s true, honest, authentic selves.
Community is about connection. And I can’t make connection without knowing who you truly are. I love seeing your hilarious novelty t-shirt. I love seeing your daughter’s bedroom on the Zoom meeting with the Blackhawks hockey wall decal. I love seeing the massive bookcase of books in your home office. If I understand you, colleague/client/co-worker, it’s much easier to understand why you communicate the way you do, why you get excited about certain things, or even what to talk to you about to help form a better connection with you.
And seriously, if we can connect, what can’t we achieve?
Amusingly, it took a while for me to achieve my own T-Shirt Barrier Achievement Badge…. but it happened this week. And it happened with one of my favorite t-shirts: “Dad Jokes? I think you mean Rad Jokes!”
I jumped on a Zoom call with a client without thinking about doing the “client Zoom call button up shirt change” process and immediately realized my hilarious shirt was about to make its debut appearance. Sadly, unlike the Confessions Strip, there was no “Huzzah!” from my client. I’ll have to raise this issue with him…
If you want your own Rad Jokes t-shirt, you can find it here!