Re: dress codes, again

Subject: Re: dress codes, again
From: "Bruce B. Harper" <BHARPER -at- VTVM1 -dot- CC -dot- VT -dot- EDU>
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 1993 08:57:00 EDT

I'll have to go dig into a box or two of books to find the exact title,
but I have a neat book from my newspaper days about the "dress code mentality"
that thrives in many companies. In the foreward to _Newsthinking_ (or
_Creative Newsthinking_ or something like that), the author writes about
the golfing gorilla.
Basically--A man shows up to play golf with his friend, who is standing
at the first tee with a gorilla. "He plays golf," the man explains as he
puts a driver in the gorilla's hands. The ape hits a perfect drive straight
down the 250-yard fairway and onto the green. When the players get to the
green, the man gives the gorilla a putter. The ape then hits the ball for
another 250 yards.
The point of this as applied to newswriting was that one could not do the
same thing every time. The example given was the reporter who just came
back from a heart-wrenching interview with a family of a dying child. The
reporter, who should turn out an equally heart-wrenching story, instead
stiffles the urge and writes a mundane piece because management yelled at
him the week before for writing a story too long.
The author said that every newsroom should adopt a set of rules to
govern these situations, with Rule #1 being "There are no rules." His
point was that a group of talented and creative individuals could not be
forced into molds or made to follow formulas because that is what the
latest readership survey said had to be done.
As far as the big picture, this whole scenario could apply to many
managers, who seem to think that employees should be treated the same
way as supplies and equipment. This may work somewhat for the folks out
in the factory ("you must wear this safety equipment and you must stand
in this location to complete this task") but it can't work with the
engineers and writers and designers that fit between the factory floor and
the sales offices out front. We are creative people, artists, who don't
operate the same way as the secretary in the front office or the third-line
bolt tightener in the factory. One can't just turn on creativity at 8 a.m.,
pause at 10 a.m. for the required 10-minute break, then go to lunch exactly
at noon. If I get caught up in a project, I want to take a break when I
am ready, not when management says I must.
I have been working here at Virginia Tech for 7-1/2 years now and have
had a good bit of flexibility (the land of acadamia seems to have more
tolerance for doing things outside the norm--although my supervisor does
occasionally get bent out of shape when I walk in the door at 8:15 a.m.
[but she doesn't say anything if I work past 5 p.m.--is this the way it
works at your company, too?]). But I have been in places where the
managers where a bunch of tight-asses who didn't understand how to deal
with creative people--the most recent place solved the problem by using
cutbacks and layoffs to get rid of the "undesireables" who didn't toe
the line.
Sorry to ramble so, but this has always been a sore spot with me--I am
a boarderline non-conformist in the corporate world (which is why I got
laid-off in 1985). I was lucky enough to be hired by someone who
recognized as the project went on just how I best worked--tell me what
you want, give me a target completion time, and let me go. There aren't
too many managers like that out there, and that seems to be the root
of the dress code discussion--MBA education says "DO IT THIS WAY" and
the "suits" can't understand why their engineers and writers are so
The three choices are to find a company that is a good match with your
style, work inside where you are not to effect a change, or suffer with
the situation and hope option one shows up real soon.

Administrative Display System Bruce B. Harper, Manager
130 Smyth Hall, Institutional Research
Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia 24061-0433
BHARPER -at- VTVM1 (BITNET) or BHARPER -at- VTVM1 -dot- CC -dot- VT -dot- EDU (Internet)

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