We need to have a deeper conversation around “professional” dress codes, diversity and how the culture of work has changed for independent contractors. Dressing for success has been an ongoing debate since success was an occasion to dress for. The discussion of how people who work for you are dressed is a longer conversation.
According to a recent article, those who work for you represent your company with the first impression they convey. And since that first impression has always been based on how you look as opposed to your personality, your skills and your talent, your appearance should be controlled, organized and not too “loud.”
This determination to control every aspect of the brokerage brand is, in fact, very limiting. If you are so focused on creating a group of people who act alike, dress alike and think alike, how will you ever grow to your full potential? Your team will be an echo chamber, not a vibrant, growing company.
Branding your brokerage? Or your name and personal views?
Independent contractors working in the housing industry are smart, savvy and fully capable of building their own table to sit at, style it with flowers they bought themselves, and run their businesses wearing what they please.
When we talk about marketing strategy and building a brokerage, the one thing that always stands out for me is when you decide to name your business after yourself. That always leaves the door open for contractors who are not you to leave because they don’t want your name on their business.
No matter how happy your team is, there is something a little strange when all of your sales, and your awards, make mention of someone else’s personal signature.
Why are we so focused on going backward?
You are allowed to change. You can have a passionate opinion about something, and then six months later, after you have learned something new, you can let the impact of that lesson help your passion evolve into a completely different perspective.
I know some of you reading this will be upset and dismiss this as another “woke,” misguided essay, but let’s dig deeper. Why are you so personally uncomfortable with how other people wear clothes? Why do you need to control that and have an opinion on it?
It frustrates me to no end to see headlines that focus on such trivial things as trying to control what a woman wears in a “professional” setting so that her peers are not distracted. Especially when we stayed at home for two years in our PJs and Zoomed and still managed to close transactions and keep the industry moving forward — even while wearing masks.
“Yep, the caucus that lost their minds over the suggestion that they should wear masks during a pandemic to respect the safety of others is now spending its time focusing on the fine details of what women have to wear (specifically how to cover their arms) to show respect here,” tweeted Democratic Rep. Peter Merideth in regard to the Missouri House of Representatives decision to update women’s dress codes for the floor in January 2023.
Women have been told since the beginning of time that our bodies are a problem and that it’s safer for everyone else if we keep it covered when we are doing anything but bedroom activities. Just existing is something that is a topic of discussion that everyone has a very loud opinion on — especially people who don’t have to live your life in your body.
Trusting today’s consumers
Isn’t the most important question how are we taking good care of our customers?
How about we finally trust consumers to choose who they are comfortable working with, instead of continuing to push this narrative that clients should be uncomfortable working with someone in a tracksuit?
How about we just let people express their personal style and comfort without judging them as long as it isn’t violating any exposure laws or representing any symbols of hate against anyone else? There is a difference between tradition, nostalgia and recognizing that just because something was “right” at the time doesn’t mean that it should be forever.
Longing for the “good old days” isn’t sweet or wholesome. It can be downright dangerous if you don’t fit the general mold of what’s “good.”
Create an inclusive dress code policy
The reality is people no longer fit in a gendered box of stockings and heels for women and “red power ties” for men.
My hope is that you take a hard look at the dress code that you are trying to enforce and decide if it is, in fact, discriminatory because you do not understand how people of other cultures dress and style their hair or you have no idea how to navigate dress codes for LGBTQIA+ individuals.
The bottom line is that these dress codes that we have been told to follow were created by people long ago who no longer work in today’s world. Why are we still trying to fit ourselves into boxes that no longer serve our consumers?
There has been so much discussion about whether you cannot or shouldn’t sell homes dressed for a nightclub, but my goodness, it appears that you can.
Blazing past blazers
So the bigger question is: As a broker, can you handle working with someone who can sell a house wearing sequins in a sleeveless top? Or will you continue to point that out as a limiting factor for their sales? Why as a broker, team leader or mentor in 2023, are you trying to lead today’s agents with more restrictions instead of embracing all the new possibilities on the horizon?
The conversation is no longer if someone can sell a home wearing what they are comfortable with, but can you support and encourage someone to build their full, authentic brand and be proud to be their broker? Brokers and team leaders, I encourage you to create a dress code that is inclusive of all cultures and body types and the entire gender spectrum.
Focus on excellent training and steller customer service and less on someone’s personal fashion choices. Remember that independent contractors choose to work for you, and they are not employees. If it’s important to you to wear a suit and hustle 24-7 and grind yourself into the ground with perfect control, that is fantastic. Good for you. Rock on with that.
But it’s time to recognize that the business of selling homes doesn’t require a blazer. What it does require is personality and skill, and that is not one-size-fits-all.
Rachael Hite is a former agent, a business development specialist, fair housing advocate, copy editor, and is currently perfecting her long game selling homes in a retirement community in Northern Virginia. You can connect with her about life, marketing, and business on Instagram and Twitter.