There’s an internal debate raging at Some on my leadership team are uncomfortable with our employees coming to work in shorts and sandals—they think this kind of casual attire leads to less than professional work.

Frankly, we’re not sure what we should do.

We talked about whether or not we should modify our employee handbook, have meetings to discuss it, get HR involved, or ask employees their opinions and then make some decision about a proper dress code. But we were uncomfortable asking people to change their wardrobes when they do such a good job dressed the way do.

It’s a question that has come up again and again for years, but especially in recent times: Are dress codes appropriate for today’s workplace? And, if so, what should they be?

Most people seem to agree that “revealing” clothing is not appropriate for the workplace. But what is “revealing”? Is it like pornography: impossible to define, but “I know it when I see it”?

To me, it seems like overreaching to tell women employees, for example, how long their skirts must be or how high their blouses must be cut.

At our company, we’re not big on rules. Our employee manual begins like so: “We wish we didn’t need a manual at all because, in the end, we just want you to do what you think is in the long-term best interest of the company.”

Most people are smart enough to figure out how to dress appropriately for work. They pay attention to safety and wouldn’t wear flip-flops in a factory or ignore the need for a safety helmet.

But reasonable people can disagree about the merits of casual wear vs. traditional dress-for-success clothing.

These are some of the questions we’re pondering:

  • Do nicer clothes contribute to better performance?
  • Or does casual clothing make for a more comfortable and collaborative environment, and actually yield better performance?
  • Since our customers never see us, does it matter at all?
  • How does the cost of work clothing factor into this equation?
  • Are our employees happier feeling comfortable, even if some people are uncomfortable with how they appear?

One of our core values and an inherent part of our culture is to encourage people to express themselves... but should we draw the line at tiger costumes?

What do you think? And how are you dealing with these questions in your workplace?