This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

April 18, 2001

More Than Just Clothing

The formality of the corporate world cracked when companies began to institute policies of "casual Fridays," allowing office workers to dress a little more informally. The idea became popular and soon employers discovered that Friday productivity was up. The emerging concept of "corporate casual" dress became the standard for most employers.

Informality of the dress code led to less formality in hierarchical relationships in the corporate environment. A status barrier had been removed. Employees began calling their bosses by first name, approaching them more comfortably in the hall, in meetings, and in their offices. Bosses became more communicative with their subordinates, having lunch with them, chatting, exploring ideas, solving problems. A new sense of collaboration helped build performance, productivity, and profits.

Some say the corporate world has become too informal, too casual. Can workers really be serious about their tasks if they are not formal and professional in their approach? Are appearance and relationship standards too lax? Have we gone too far?

While some employers consider dress-up days, most concentrate on increasing informality-and communication-in the workplace. Office designs now include conversation areas where people can congregate for informal meetings. Furnishings include couches, soft chairs, and coffee tables. In some companies, conversation areas have no furniture, just big throw pillows and carpeted walls.

Relationships among workers-at all levels of the organization-have become much more open and friendly. When all workers are dressed informally, their interactions are less inhibited. More information is shared. More ideas are developed. More progress is made.

The walls of separation--including cubicle walls--are coming down. In some companies, cubicle walls are being replaced by picket fences, shrubbery, and open latticework. In other environments, bosses are moving their desks to the middle of the floor, letting their team members occupy the offices.

Where will this trend go in the future? We believe the informality trend will continue, eliminating the artificial barriers that separate work groups and types of workers. Soon manufacturing workers will work more closely and openly with sales and administrative types, building understandings and efficiencies that will drive profits to higher levels.

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