Does Casual Friday Mean Time for Self-Expression?

Meany Organization has designated Friday as the day professionals can dress in business casual attire. This means employees may wear polo shirts, nice jeans, casual slacks, capri pants. Choosing the appropriate Casual Friday attire is part of good business etiquette. The objective is to present a professional image that embodies the organization image because you are representing yourself and the organization you are employed with.

The Introduction of Casual Friday

In the 1990s, Levi-Strauss, manufacturer of blue jeans and other casual wear, joined with the United Cerebral Palsy Association (UCPA) to launch a nationwide fundraising event. “Casual Day,” as it was called, would allow employees to buy the privilege of dressing more informally for the day by making a charitable contribution to UCPA. Many businesses joined in the project, and it was very successful, leading not only to more fundraising casual days, but also too many businesses establishing a regular casual day, usually on Fridays. Casual Fridays steadily increased in popularity. By 1996, a Levi-Strauss study found that 90 percent of American office workers were allowed to dress casually on Fridays, as opposed to 47 percent in 1993. Many business owners and managers found that allowing their employees one day of informality did increase their productivity and gave the office a more welcoming, relaxed atmosphere. Some noted that fewer workers were absent on Fridays than before the introduction of the casual day. Many banks expanded the policy, introducing casual summers. Some clothing manufacturers introduced new lines of clothing just for casual work dress (Fashionencyclopedia.com).

What has Casual Friday become?

Casual Friday has become the day of self-expression. Within the business environment, too often individuals wear jeans with holes, flip-flops, favorite sports team shirts and the T-shirt with that funny commentary on life. It has also become the time to show off that tattoo. They say you never get another chance to make a first impression, so when Casual Friday comes around what impression are you leaving with your employer?

I love my old pair of jeans and my T-shirt promoting golf, but the work environment is not the place for it. On Casual Friday, I have my pressed jeans, a polo shirt, a jacket and dress shoes. And if I do not wear that, I have dress pants with a colored shirt. I have been asked why I dress with jeans and a jacket on Friday when it is dress-down day. My response is I dress for the position I have and want to have. I do not want my employer to view me in a different manner but professional. They see me in suits all week, but I must keep up that professional appearance on Friday because I am representing the organization and myself. Management must view me as someone who can operate in any environment/setting and still be professional. People perceptions are their reality, and when it comes time for promotion, what light does your employer view you in? Is it the professional person they hire or on Friday do you morph into the stereotypical person they see on television?

According to talentinnovation.org, “Performance, hard work, and sponsors get top talent recognized and promoted. But ‘leadership potential’ isn’t enough to lever men and women into the executive suite. Leadership roles are given to those who also look and act the part. Center for Talent Innovation research reveals that the top jobs often elude women and professionals of color because they lack ‘executive presence’ (EP), or underestimate its importance.”

“While only 5 percent of leaders consider appearance to be a key factor in EP, all of them recognize its potential for curtailing or derailing talented up-and-comers. Notable appearance blunders, not surprisingly, are unkempt attire (83 percent say it detracts from a woman’s executive presence, 76 percent say it detracts from a man’s) and, for women, too-tight or provocative clothing (73 percent say it detracts from a woman’s executive presence)”

Conclusion

Therefore, the next time Casual Friday comes around, ask yourself when you are about to leave the house: Do I have executive presence? Am I dressing for the position I want? What statement is my outfit saying? Is it saying I am here making a statement? Am I representing the organization culture and their definition of professional leader?

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