Unit 04: Changing Times: A Dress Code Dilemma

I jumped on a plane a few months back for a work trip, blue jeans, comfy zip up sweatshirt and running shoes. Walking past business class, you get a mixed bag: button ups and dress pants to full on sweat pant jumpsuits. The times of Mad Men exhibiting full suits, ties, polished shoes, tweed jackets and below the knee dresses has passed. Even the most old fashioned individuals are attempting to fit into a more business casual look than business professional to assimilate with their clients.

In an organization for whom I’ve worked, the previous general manager instituted a ‘relaxed’ dress code. Nice top, nice jeans and sneakers, okay. The moral in the office went through the roof! In a business where all interactions are via phone and you sit in front of a computer all day, being comfortable is a welcome luxury.

Fast forward a year and a new general manager was put in place with more of a Mad Men mentality. The concept of reverting the dress code to something more professional for the office would be widely unpopular so the ‘relaxed’ code stays in place. That’s not to say that the general manager doesn’t drop heavy handed hints that we should ‘dress for the job we want’ or ‘make sure, if we get called last minute into the field to meet with a client, we’re dressed appropriately’. Fact of the matter is most of our clients are more casual than us in our jeans and a blazer. Boots, leggings, CROCS, I’ve seen in client meetings. Does what we wear really matter in modern business? And why is it such a hot topic?

Based on Sally Hogshead’s 49 Personality Archetypes, this leader is undoubtedly The Blue Chip. “The Blue Chip’s reputation stretches far and wide. They earn respect for their impeccable presentation, outstanding results and composed response to challenges” (2018). This leaders personality type is classic, established and best in class. Their intelligence or, “effectiveness in activities directed by thought” (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2015, p. 175) is never questioned. There is a reason this leader was put into this role. Their motivation ripples throughout the office through their constant communication and belief in the companies “vision or target for achievement (goal-setting)” (PSY 533, 2018).

This leader is open to experience and always looking to learn and better themselves. They are undoubtedly extroverted as a sales leader in a #15 market. They are quite conscientious in the fact that they are “thoughtful, organized and dependable” (Northouse, 2015) but do not display any signs of neuroticism. They are quite confident in themselves. A questionable trait that comes from the Big Five Model is agreeableness. While this leader is trusting of others, I would question if they are fully accepting of others or if they’re prepared to conform to social norms.

This brings me back to the dress code dilemma. While a strong, driven, classic, best in class leader with many strong traits, they’re a little old fashioned when it comes to something as simple as a dress code. It’s clear it bothers them immensely when individuals have a nice sweatshirt or sneakers on (even though it’s allowed per the current dress code) but yet they make not so subtle hints that we need to keep the business classier. Is this an ethical dilemma?

One could argue this leader lacks ethical integrity (APA, 1992). They fail to demonstrate that they are “honest, fair, and respectful of others” (APA, 1992) and their individual differences. Even when comparing side by side business casual wardrobes, the individual dressed more traditionally vs. edgy rock-n-roll style get two different glance overs of judgment from the general manager. This plays into an ethical question of their respect for people’s rights and dignity (APA, 1992). This leader needs to pay close attention to “cultural, individual, and role differences, including those due to age, gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language and socioeconomic status” (APA, 1992). These biases can play into or “condone unfair discriminatory practices” (APA, 1992). Altogether, there is a big ethical question needing to be addressed for this leaders conflicting suggestions and opinions on the office dress code.

What I have not told you yet are their individual differences in biodata. Have you conjured up an image of who this leader may be? Is it at all surprising that this leader is a 50 some year old white female?



American Psychological Association. (1992, December 1). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/ethics/code/code-1992.aspx

Hogshead, S. (2018). How to fascinate. Retrieved from https://www.howtofascinate.com/about-the-personality-test/personality-archetypes

Hughes, R. L., Ginnett, R. C., & Curphy, G. J. (2015). Leadership: Enhancing the lessons of experience. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Northouse, P. G. (2015). Leadership: Theory and practice (7th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

PSY 533. (2018).  L08 Individual Differences.  Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1896721/modules



  1. Tara Schlomka March 25, 2018 at 5:52 PM #

    Thank you for reading, Annjahla! There is a VERY small number of women execs on the sales side of that organization so I often wondered if she was trying to keep pace with the men just to stay relevant in some of her actions. I know I highlighted some not so glamorous aspects of their individual but I did respect and admire their leadership all the same. She forged her way to the top and made a difference.

  2. Annjahla Servello March 24, 2018 at 12:40 PM #


    I actually was surprised to hear about the identity of the leader. I would have thought it was a gentleman. I had a leader where I work that looked like he walked out of a GQ magazine everyday. He was in the military prior to coming to his current role. He was not happy that we were able to wear jeans and comfy clothes. We did have to wear business casual when we went to customer sites so I think this was a way for all of us to show respect for one another and compromise. This also displays a nice representation to the customers that seen us. I really enjoyed reading your blog and was really shocked at the ending.

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