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On one of the client visit, a company asks all its employees to wear formals (no jeans, t-shirts), leather shoes (no flip-flops, sports shoes etc) for the time the client is visiting.

Personally, I find it silly because the client should be more concerned with the work you do than whether you are "professional" looking. Let me add that I think people are matured enough on the topic of clothing, whether on client visit or otherwise.

It will be interesting to know the answers from both sides, companies providing outsourcing services (specifically those in Asia) and the clients (companies in US, EU, Japan etc).

Your thoughts please?

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    When down-voting, it will be great if you cared to explain the reason. Thank you. Dec 6 '13 at 12:59
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    In the absence of a specific comment, you might find it useful to assume that a downvote means the downvoter thought that "This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful", since that's what the downvote button offers as a tooltip.
    – AakashM
    Dec 6 '13 at 13:14
  • what do you actually mean by "meaningfull" in this context? Dec 6 '13 at 18:11
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    Hi @shahkalpesh, as it stands, you're attempting to start a debate in the answers between those who support formal attire and those who don't. That's not really what Workplace SE is about. Instead, edit your post and be objective. Present the problem you're facing, and then ask for a solution. Alternatively, you could alter your post to focus more on understanding why companies do this. Hope this helps, and good luck!
    – jmort253
    Dec 7 '13 at 2:51
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    This topic of asking employees to wear formal clothing would make a great discussion topic in our Water Cooler chat room
    – jmort253
    Dec 7 '13 at 19:25
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Is asking employees to wear formal clothing on client visit, meaningful?

Yes

When a client visits with an expectation of professionally dressed staff, then that is part of your work and you do need to be concerned with that.

You don't have to agree with the client's expectations. You have to meet them.

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  • How would one know that client expects a professionally dressed staff? Dec 6 '13 at 12:23
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    It doesn't matter, as far as your concerned you are being visited by VIPs. If Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth II and Vladimer Putin were coming, you'd get dressed up, you wouldn't wonder whether they'd say flip flops were OK, so there's one rule for VIPs whoever they are. Dec 6 '13 at 13:38
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    @shahkalpesh since the company asks for the employees to dress more professionally it should be assumed that the company either knows or believes that this customer expects more professional attire. Dec 6 '13 at 13:38
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    @shahkalpesh - if you expect to be able to sell to clients, you better know a lot about them especially what they think is professional behavior, attire, speach, knowledge, etc.
    – user8365
    Dec 6 '13 at 14:13
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Yes it is, whatever part of the project the client is visiting under is part of your companies sales function. You will find if you look at whoever deals with the client and got you this business dresses a bit more formally, probably in a suit, for these activities, and this visit is an extension of this.

This is similar to how you would normally dress up for an interview (yes the company may be casual, but the rule-of-thumb is one level up from what they are wearing).

The client's people who deal with day-to-day items may not care if you work in your Batman onesy normally, but visits like this usually involve VIPs, who tend to like a bit of deference to their position, especially if it means giving your company money.

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    "Batman onesy" completely captures my feelings about the immaturity of the OP. "Oh I have to dress up one day every six months or so, how horrible." Just be grateful you don't have to do it every day like we all did in the 1970s and 80s.
    – HLGEM
    Dec 6 '13 at 14:27
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    Funnily I'm starting to miss it. I work in the now usual "business casual" environment, but I tend to keep specific chinos/shirts/v necks for work. The thing about it is that the casual thing is supposed to make you feel more relaxed, but I actually like coming home, changing into jeans and t-shirt etc, part of me switching off, and I don't feel as much of an urge to just quickly check for that awaited email etc. Casual dress has had as much negative effect on work/life balance as blackberries in my book. Dec 6 '13 at 14:34
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    Also means when I call in to my mother's for some reason I wouldn't have to explain that "no I wasn't off today, I've just come from work, no we don't wear ties these days..." Dec 6 '13 at 14:37
  • Mark I actually feel the same way. I'm delighted not to wear a suit and tie any more but I don't want to wear jeans and a t-shirt to work because then I miss the feeling of getting home and changing from my work clothes to my casual clothes. Anyway getting a bit off topic here. :-) Dec 7 '13 at 2:08
  • @HLGEM: I havent worked in 1970/80 to be grateful about it. In a big organization, client is visiting a team (which isnt connected to say your team). I am sure people are matured enough not to wear "Batman onesy" clothing to office. To think that the question is immature, is immature IMHO. Dec 7 '13 at 14:47
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If your employer ask you to, it is because they think the client thinks it is important and they think the client is important.

What you need to understand is that this client is essentially your superior boss (as they pay your wage) and if they decide they like your employer but not you, what do you think will happen? My guess is that you would probably be fired simply to keep the client.

If you don't want to then take the day off or work from home or sit in a closet.

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Companies ask their staff to do many things that the staff, especially the less experienced ones who don't know all the factors involved, may find silly. It is a trope that a particular generation of employees ("the millenials") often refuse direct requests from their employer unless the employee thinks the request makes sense. Your question appears to fit this pattern. You have been told quite clearly and simply what to wear when a client is visiting. What are the chances that you can, in an "emperor's clothes" moment, point out the rule is silly and you do your best work in flip-flops, and see the policy changed before your eyes? I suggest to you that the chances are nil.

You have three choices:

  • trust the people who made the policy, and follow it. When you reach the point where you can set these policies, in this company or in another, you may laugh to remember you once disagreed with it. Or you may set a "wear what you want" policy. But for now, follow it.
  • wear what you want, risk offending the client and your management, risk being fired or just having a slower rise through your career, but stand up for what you think really matters. I would do this for some issues, but not for dress code
  • start looking for a new job and ask about dress codes in the interview, until you find one that offers all that this one does plus the freedom to dress as you wish

The option you don't have, that you seem to want, is to immediately change the policy where you work now. You could tell someone that you're less productive in closed-toe shoes; I doubt this would be an "aha" moment that transformed the company and its policies though. You could even wage a campaign to have it changed, but it will take a long time and there will be plenty of client visits during that time. For those visits you will have to decide what to wear and take the consequences.

I started my own company almost 30 years ago in part so I could control all the aspects of my working life including what I wear. And yet, when I visit clients or they visit me, I wear "meeting clothes" including "meeting shoes" as my children used to call them. I have asked my staff to adjust what they wear when a client visits the office. There are reasons for it, and for some clients it will make the difference between landing the work (and you getting a paycheque) and not.

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    One of my father's friends did exactly #2, wearing overalls to work at a firm whose primary customer was the US military... but he only started doing it once he hit 65 and no longer cared whether he got fired. Amusingly, in a department photo, somebody went in and digitally altered hit outfit (copying the suit from another man), rather than simply asking him to not participate.
    – Brian S
    Dec 6 '13 at 16:03
  • @Kate: Its not about clothing. I suppose you are the boss of your company & hence I can understand the idea of a "corporate" look. What I have asked is say you are part of development team and you visit client location where developers are in jeans/t-shirts etc. Reverse the situation, you are asked to be "professionally" dressed. Simply put, is being "professional" about clothing? Is your client not "professional" when you visit them? I am not expecting a right answer. I am exploring what people on both sides think. Thank you. Dec 7 '13 at 15:03
  • you are still trying to prove whether the policy makes sense or not. My point is it doesn't need to. It already makes sense to the people who implemented it. You need to decide whether to accept that or not. Dec 7 '13 at 15:29
  • @Kate: I am not trying to prove a thing. Thanks for the answer though. Dec 7 '13 at 18:41
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Someone else commented that First Impressions Matter and I wholeheartedly agree.

I recently read a blog post about someone who's done 1200 hours on oDesk and some notes on his time spent.

The part I'd like to point out is his blurb about changing his icon. Not his profile, just his icon. He thought he looked too young, so he photo-shopped a beard and got a 23% increase in replies (and presumably, business)

‘A fake beard on my oDesk photo profile gave me a 23% of replies’ (Tweet it)

Improving the number of replies for an application was really important for me, cause > that means that you are in the radar of your potentital employer, and the fact that you have more opportunities to interact directly about his job post.

At the end of the day, it is skill that gets the job done. But at the start of the day it's the marketing and salesmenship that gets the job in the first place.

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Is asking employees to wear formal clothing on client visit, meaningful?

Meaningful to whom?

Clearly it isn't meaningful to you, but is meaningful to whoever in your company requested it.

In my company, we have a "dress code" for most days. In certain periods, the dress code is relaxed. For example, we are currently in a "Casual December". Those of us who have donated money to charity get to wear jeans and sneakers for the month.

But the understanding is that if an important client, or someone important from the home office arrives, we must go back to our normal business casual dress.

Talking to the Sales folks here, they believe it is very important to convey a certain impression to clients and prospective clients. Since more than anything, I want them to bring in a lot of sales so that we can all make a lot of money, I happily go along with it. I help them out in this way, and any other way I can, when revenue is involved.

The part that I don't care for is the dress code for all the non-client-visit days in the year. I see no value in dressing up during the times when clients don't visit. I expect employees to act professionally, and would prefer that we trust them in their dress.

But it's not my company, and I don't make the rules. If it were a huge deal for me, I suppose I would leave. But it's not that important to me, so I just go along with it.

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