Brave New Workplace

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

Has the world really changed that much, or is it just me?

I grew up in a world where most people worked 9 to 5 (unless they were on the night shift) and always knew who the boss was. The men wore ties and jackets, and the women dresses or skirts (with stockings).

No, kids, that wasn’t during World War I, but it might as well have been. The workplace has changed.

Take the change in clothing styles, which was apparent during the recent NCDM conference.

Granted, there was 110-degree heat in Las Vegas, but I saw very few suits and ties (except for the ones DIRECT staffers were wearing). The standard costume for both sexes seemed to be jeans or khakis, and open shirts.

Hell, we dress the same way back at the office since our firm has a casual dress code (not that anybody acted differently when we didn’t have one). And I happen to like it because I’ve never been very good at getting the knot right in a tie. But I’m often confused about the new rules.

For example, should a man wear a suit and tie when he visits another company? I wore them to visit J. Crew (to name only one example), and felt out of place when I was surrounded by people wearing J. Crew khakis.

Some people don’t even wear a suit to job interviews anymore, nor to funerals or weddings. And of course, we’re fortunate that some dot-com billionaires wear clothing at all.

Then there’s the question of corporate hierarchy. How many bosses do you have? Most people at my place have several. In six years on the job, I’ve had six bosses, including one based in Denver. There are also numerous people I report to via the dotted line. No offense, guys, but it hasn’t mattered much who the boss was, because most of us are left alone much of the time.

Anyway, as Drucker, Sealey and several other pundits have said, we’re moving away from the old Prussian line-officer model (in which the general gives a command to the colonel, the colonel passes to the lieutenant colonel, the lieutenant colonel to the lieutenant, and so on right down to the private). Instead, we’re following the “orchestra model,” in which one leader gives direction to everyone, moving from the woodwinds to the brass as needed.

Finally, there’s the issue of working hours. Do you watch the door to see who’s coming in after 9? We sure don’t. Some people start at 10:30 and work well into the evening. Throughout the company, we have at least some who work at home either all or part of the time.

Do all these changes erode the work ethic? Would well-dressed and well-groomed people have more self-esteem, and thus be more dedicated to the job?

Hard to say. We’ll have to ask a few when they have some time free from their massive workloads.

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