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Monday, July 21, 2014

DRESS FOR SUCCESS OR FAILURE?

BRYCE ON SOCIETY

- What would happen if we instituted a dress code in school...for the teachers?

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I recently had the opportunity to visit a local elementary school where I attended their assembly for a presentation. I've known the school and principal for a long time. The school is modern in design and impressive to visit. Students there should be proud of it.

As the children filed into the assembly hall, the standard dress appeared to be t-shirts, shorts, socks and gym shoes. The teachers lined the outside perimeter to keep an eye on their respective classes. One of the first things I noticed was how poorly the teachers dressed. I counted only three teachers, out of dozens, who dressed professionally. The remainder looked rather slovenly and didn't seem to care. I saw at least two teachers wearing faded Superman t-shirts and shorts which didn't look particularly clean. Some wore jeans, and there were lots of t-shirts. Aside from the three teachers, the rest looked unprofessional. Frankly, I was surprised how badly they looked. I was expecting, at least, a "business casual" dress with collared shirts and slacks on the men, and something clean and feminine for the ladies. Instead, I got the uneasy feeling nobody really cared how they looked, and it showed. It is pretty bad when the students look better than the teachers.

It has been my experience that teachers are an important role model for our youth. If they say or do something, the kids are likely to follow suit. This caused me to wonder what messages the teachers were sending by their dress. Is it, "To succeed in life, you must look like a slob?"

The school was located in a middle-class neighborhood, certainly not a ghetto. The students represent a cultural diversity consisting of whites, blacks, Latinos, with a few Asians also in the mix. Although some may require food assistance, there didn't appear to be any below the poverty line. The kids seemed to respect the faculty and, as such, the students likely respond to the image the teachers project.

We've been talking about dress codes for several years, only to be rebuffed by parents who believe it stifles the creativity of their children. Instead, maybe the dress code should be devised for the teachers who represent authority figures to the students.

Shortly after visiting the elementary school, I had an occasion to drop a friend off at an auto collision shop. His car had been in an accident and he was taking it in for service. While my friend was inside processing paperwork, I waited outside and observed some of the company's estimators working with customers. This was a standard procedure whereby they prepare estimates for approval by the customers. As the face of the company, and wanting to project a professional image, the estimators were dressed better than the other employees, but not much better. The service technicians worked in clean jumpsuit uniforms. One estimator wore a collared shirt and slacks. However, I noticed the shirt was faded, and the trousers looked like they had been balled up as opposed to hung-up. They certainly were not pressed and cleaned. The other estimator was a woman who wore a rather tight skirt which wasn't exactly flattering. In their mind, they looked presentable; in mine, they looked like bums.

This may come as a news flash to some, but customers want to have confidence in the vendors they are doing business with. It is in the vendor's best interests to project a professional image in order to attain and keep the customer's loyalty. It is just plain good business.

As the one estimator looked to be in his late twenties, I started to consider why he thought he was presentable. Three influences came to mind: his boss, his parents, and his teachers. You could also blame the media, but I was looking at the authority figures in the person's life. Maybe his boss thought the estimator was presentable. If so, this doesn't speak well for the company. Maybe his parents dressed him when he was younger. If so, this doesn't speak well for the parents. Or maybe it was the teachers that influenced his taste in clothes. Hmm...quite possibly.

From what I saw at the school's assembly, a whole generation of poorly clothed workers are in the offing. It could all change if the school's management insisted the teachers clean up their act and display some pride in their appearance, which would then influence the students, and the rest of us.

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim's columns, see:   timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2014 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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