September 24, 2007
Don’t Ruin Jeans
Day! My Sucker Employees Were Falling For It!
I can remember when
Jeans Day was one of the greatest CEO con games of all time. It was the
equivalent of Tom Sawyer getting the other kids to whitewash the fence
by pretending it was fun.
You want your
employees to do something they wouldn’t otherwise be willing to do? Tell
them you’ll give them a jeans day.
Jeans Day! Oh boy!
You’d have thought I
told them they could take a month off.
Why do I say it was
a con? Because, in truth, I couldn’t care less what you wear to work.
Wear a suit. Wear jeans. Wear a kilt and play a bagpipe. I don’t care.
As long as you do your job, you could come to work dressed like the
Village People and it wouldn’t bother me. As long as you’re not a fat
guy who traumatizes me by making me look at your bouncing belly, it’s
all garments. One is just like any other.
Ah, but you think
wearing jeans to work means you’re getting away with something. I need
to make use of that belief. If you think it’s more fun to come to work
in jeans than to show up in Dockers, I’m not going to let you wear jeans
unless you give me something first.
CEOs do this all the
time. Some of them use it to get you to give to the United Way. Since I
don’t want my employees buying a private plane for William Arimony’s
successors, I’d prefer to manipulate them – er, I mean, incentivize them
– to avoid errors, reduce absenteeism, you know, stuff that makes me
Then I can buy a private plane, and if Arimony wants to hitch a ride . .
. actually, I’d tell him to stick it. Anyhoo . . .
Like all good ideas,
Jeans Day is slowly being destroyed by corporate America, which is doing
to Jeans Day what it does to everything. It is overthinking it.
I have a client – a
much larger company than mine – that uses Jeans Day as an incentive to
encourage the usual things companies want. It started out pretty simple.
Enough of you do this, you’ll get to wear jeans on Friday.
departmental competition took hold. If Department A does more of this
than Departments B, C and D, Department A will get to wear jeans every
Friday for a month!
Inevitably, the ante
is upped. Next thing you know, departments who do this get to
wear jeans every Friday forever.
Then the HR
committee steps in.
that Jeans Day is beginning to run askance of corporate attire policy,”
says the worried HR committee chairwoman. “We need to meet on this.”
The HR committee
raises many profound questions at its meeting:
college or sports team jerseys part of the deal?
low-slung jeans, the kind where you can see the person’s underwear, OK?
(My answer: Depends on the person and the underwear.)
we limit it to made-in-America jeans?
know what comes between me and my Calvins?
Then Legal is called
in. The corporate attorney raises a salient point. Well, a point:
“Is the employee
handbook clear on what constitutes casual dress? Is ‘Jeans Day’ a
definable concept? How would an employee know if he or she was in
violation? Does every employee have an equal opportunity to earn the
right to participate in ‘Jeans Day’? In the case of Spinkelvink vs.
Gleebleghoul, the Supreme Court held that . . .”
“I know!” says the
purchasing department’s representative. “Why not just let everyone in
the company wear jeans everyday?”
members of the HR committee – the ones whose heads didn’t explode after
that last idea – spend the next six hours drafting a corporatewide memo
explaining that Jeans Days are suspended indefinitely until corporate
standards can be agreed upon.
Another great idea
ruined. Time to go whitewash a fence and pretend it’s fun. Employees are
© 2007 North Star
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