Monday, October 31, 2005

IBM Casual Day

In 1994 I began working with IBM in Northern Virginia. In that geographic area, it is customary to wear a dress shirt and tie to work every day. At IBM, it was the same – along with a preference for white shirts and red ties. For many IBM people (technical, not sales) they also chose to wear suits to work on a typical day. After working with them for several days, they mentioned that I would be at their campus on Friday, which was “dress down day”. They were all allowed to choose to dress more casually on Friday. Being from a small company about 5 miles from their campus, I thought this was overly stringent. At our facility, each of use chose what to wear and there was great variety among the staff. But, it was one small consolation that they could relax on Friday.

I showed up at their campus on Friday – casual day. Sure enough, everyone was dressed down. Our main contact was wearing a nice polo shirt, a pair of docker pants, and slip-on loafers. As we walked around the offices, I noticed other people dressed similarly. In fact they were dressed identically to our host. Everyone was wearing the polo-docker-loafer combination. Even on dress down day they all had to wear the same uniform of casual clothes.

I joked with our host about this and he did not find it funny at all. He felt that it would not do at all for people to wear just anything on dress down day. He thought standardized dress down was the best idea.

No one was wearing a t-shirt, blue jeans, sneakers, flannel shirt, boots, or any other variation. The conformance of middle and high school had carried into the office and held its iron standards there as well.


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