back to article HP slaps dress code on R&D geeks: Bin that T-shirt, put on this tie

Troubled HP has hit upon what it thinks is a terrific idea to revive its fortunes: tell techies to leave their T-shirts and shorts at home and obey the corporate "smart casual" dress code instead. Some R&D teams within HP Enterprise Services were sent a confidential memo this week reminding them to follow the IT giant's rules …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Now that will upset people

    Having spent 15 years in HP R&D even a number of the senior managers were very relaxed in their dress code - visitors (only exceptional ones) aside. What next - removal of free coffee?

    Ahh well, I moved on, but as HP is one of our customers, I guess I'll hear more about it as I have a show n tell there next week.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Now that will upset people

      You will find that HP Labs in Palo Alto nothing has changed. The article specifically mentions HPES, aka the old EDS group. Two totally different approaches to the customers as well as internal teams. I work in ES, and the majority of the people dress casual, many with jeans and polo's, some wear dress pants with button up shirts.

      Just arrived back to the east coast from a week at HP Labs, and can confirm all wore jeans, t-shirts, shorts, flip-flops, etc.. Except the customer facing lab people, they wore jeans with polo or button up and some with a sport coat over top. But they tended to be Director level people.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Now that will upset people

      I currently work in what will be the green rectangle half of HP. In R&D, as a software engineer. I've never seen any such memo, policy, or request. As another poster pointed out, maybe that's limited to the Enterprise Services group (former EDS). I'm not associated with that group, so I can't say if they got such a memo.

    3. Jim 59

      Re: Now that will upset people

      How dare they encrust the creativity of engineers with some petty dress code. Dress codes are for those menials who-

      ...should avoid turning up to the office in ...shorts, baseball caps ...sandals and other open shoes

      Oh ...er, yeah on second thoughts, ban it. Ban it all. Ugh, sandals.

  2. Harry the Bastard

    impotent management always resort to dress codes, another favourite is 'tidy' desks

    it gives them a feeling of accomplishment every time they see people complying

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Used to be called 'clean desk'

      Place I worked, the boss tried to enforce it.

      Bit of a waste of time really, tech supports desks weren't too far away, and their desks looked like a installation artwork on bowel surgery recreated in various types of cables.

      We just ended up looking like a 'soviet grocery store' when viewed in comparison.

      1. TotoLeHeros

        Re: Used to be called 'clean desk'

        Don't lie to us. There weren't any grocery store during the soviet era.

        1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

          Re: Used to be called 'clean desk'

          "Don't lie to us. There weren't any grocery store during the soviet era."

          It's not a lie. Grocery stores did exist, but they were cunningly disguised as furniture stores - having long rows of empty shelves. But they wouldn't sell them if asked. Furniture stores disguised themselves by not having any furniture on display, not even shelves.

    2. keithpeter
      Windows

      Tidy Desk

      Got told off about papers on desk at a previous employer.

      So I binned the lot, and then continued to bin any paper that landed on my desk. I pointed out that I 1) had no filing cabinet space 2) had to comply with 'tidy desk' policy 3) had seen a purchase requisition for a document feed scanner and document management software refused.

      They gave in after about a month...

      1. Roq D. Kasba

        Re: Tidy Desk

        I actually have a lot of respect for people who can keep a tidy desk, from decades of experience, I'm not one of them. Even if I do occasionally get things in order, it's mere hours before they degenerate, despite me trying and spending real effort. I would love to come in to an empty desk some days.

        My theory is this - my Mrs won't allow things out of place at home, not a big deal, and as the definition of 'the right place' for things shifts per her whim, she handles it pretty well. My mind, especially when I'm trying to map two abstract data architectures or manage a project is set out like a big 3D worksurface with bits here and there, with temporary buffers for fleetingly important information, and a lot of redundant space in which I can coalesce things as they step up to be mapped/dealt with. My desk has to balance this abnormality.

        Force the desk to become tidy, the mind will go to shit. And if you're smart, you're paying me for my mind, not my pencil-aligning ability.

        1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

          Re: Tidy Desk

          "Even if I do occasionally get things in order, it's mere hours before they degenerate, despite me trying and spending real effort."

          This stems from the second law of thermodynamics.

          Chaos in the universe is ever-increasing. By spending a good deal of effort it is possible to tidy up a very limited area for a very limited time, but this effort will invariably increase the overall entropy.

          I've decided to be responsible and gave up trying.

        2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

          Re: Tidy Desk

          I believe in Contextual Indexing. I know where something is because I can remember what I last used it for.

          Maybe that should be "I would know where something is if I could remember what I last used it for".

          1. TMe

            Re: Tidy Desk

            So do I, however I always manage to put something like a paper or so on top of it so I still can't find it even if it is in front of me until I have digged through the piles of papers.

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Tidy Desk

            " I know where something is because I can remember what I last used it for."

            Except that someone has decided she doesn't like it there and put it in a cupboard full of other stuff she doesn't understand.

            I've taken to the policy that if I can't find what I need when I need it, I'll buy a new one. It's less trouble than trying to find where the last one got hidden.

            1. Vic

              Re: Tidy Desk

              Except that someone has decided she doesn't like it there and put it in a cupboard full of other stuff she doesn't understand.

              Think yourself lucky. Mine puts half of it in one cupboard, ...

              I've taken to the policy that if I can't find what I need when I need it, I'll buy a new one.

              Me too. I have about 5 multimeters these days. I even know where one of them is...

              Vic.

        3. CanaDave

          Re: Tidy Desk

          I had a similar problem 20 years ago where prior to the tidy desk policy I was told and had it written in my assessments that I did the work of three people. When the tidy desk policy came in I ignored it and kept working the way 'I' work. After months of arguing and threats from my boss I finally gave in and did it their way. Within two months I was in his office having to answer questions about why my productivity had dropped. And the answer was and is simple. No two people process information the same. Force me or somebody else to do it another way and the talent that you hired often times disappears. We never had visitors to our little cubicles anyway so what did it really matter?

        4. Mpeler
          Holmes

          Re: Tidy Desk

          As the saying goes,

          Cluttered desk, cluttered mind;

          Empty desk, ............. (empty mind).

          Had a colleague once who was obsessive-compulsive (obsessive-repulsive?).

          Seems that his cell cubicle mates reversed his cube end-to-end.

          I wasn't there, but I heard it was a major incident. Have to be careful which

          uber-organized folks ye tweak.....

          (Sherlock ALWAYS knows where his pipe is - now about that tobacco.....)

      2. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Tidy Desk

        Desk tidy policy, move crap to a desk you want to steal. (Or in my case guard)

        After a month claim it as your departments.

        1. Triggerfish

          Re: Tidy Desk

          Tidy desks liked by people who aren't to busy.

          1. Triggerfish

            Re: Tidy Desk

            Although I have to say one way to deal with it is to finish work 15 min earlier so you can tidy up then sit around on your arse waiting for the clock to reach hometime. Never tidy your desk in your own time after work.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Tidy Desk

            No, tidy desks are liked by people who like tidy desks.

            My desk spends most of its time messy. My colleague has a desk that's (literally) clean and tidy. He's more organized than I am and more obsessive about being tidy. I could argue that I deal with creating documents where the format _really_ matters so I end up with more pieces of paper around. But that'd just be an excuse for me not being tidy, especially since I have a scanner by me on my desk. I could argue that I tend to be juggling multiple tasks, while he tends to be working on one thing. But that'd just be an excuse for me not being organized.

            Irony is that I absolutely hate printed matter. Notepads are fine for scribbling ideas, but everything else is just a copy of some information held in electronic form.

            I think first thing Monday I'm going to shred some old documents I really don't need any more and organize some piles. Then I can do some organizing of electronic documents and clear out some old stuff. Sorry, brain dump, I'll stop now.

      3. Down not across

        Re: Tidy Desk

        There are two kinds of desks. Tidy and ones where work is being done at.

        1. perlcat

          Re: Tidy Desk

          Fix your nomenclature. It isn't an 'untidy desk'; your desk is a 'Horizontal Filing System', and the issues you are dealing with are fragmentation and indexing. Just remember, some FS's are better than others at coping with it. You may or may not need a wetware update, but if retrieval is acceptable, the correct resolution to the issue is to ignore it as in all probability, you have other issues that demand more attention, which may include getting a higher score in nethack.

          This from a tech who told a manager "I'll be happy to give your issue all the attention it deserves". I hung up the phone, and we were both happy -- for different reasons, of course.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. TheOtherHobbes

            Re: Tidy Desk

            >your desk is a 'Horizontal Filing System'

            You mean "Horizontal Business Logic Synergy Incubator", surely?

      4. Fungus Bob Silver badge

        Re: Tidy Desk

        If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, I'd hate to think what an empty desk is a sign of.....

        1. Efros

          Re: Tidy Desk

          An old boss of mine warned me to be very careful of people with tidy desks they were usually sociopathic.

      5. calumg

        Re: Tidy Desk

        “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

        ― Albert Einstein

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    " ... dressing well improves the holistic ambiance of a brain struggling with ... coding"

    No. Physical comfort and a total absence of management and their drones are what are needed. Total bollocks, HP

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: JustaCLOT Re: " ... dressing well improves the holistic ambiance of a brain....."

      ".....Physical comfort and a total absence of management and their drones are what are needed....." Wow, did you even read the article? It's talking about customer-facing staff, not everyone. Just like every other company, HP wants to project an image, and they want their desired image to be professional seeing as that is what their customers expect. When I represent a company I dress as they want dependent on the level of employee/customer I am meeting - when it is decision-makers and management I dress smartly, and when it is techies I may choose jeans and a polo-shirt. I don't wear a suit and tie when crawling through a datacenter but I sure do when I'm in the boardroom.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: JustaCLOT " ... dressing well improves the holistic ambiance of a brain....."

        You know Matt, I think I agree with your attitude to dress code - I would never consider dressing down when meeting customers or visiting their sites.

        But I read the article and the thing I took from it was that dress rules were being applied to people doing their development jobs, not customer-facing as such. And in that situation I have no doubt, from my experience, that dress rules are just counter-productive.

        You'll have to work on your insults, though. The "KOS" part is self-depracating and I consider "CLOT" to be a step up.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: JustaCLOT " ... dressing well improves the holistic ambiance of a brain....."

          Hey Kos.. please note that the article specifically mentioned HPES, which is typically customer facing. Not the R&D teams in HP Labs. ES is the old EDS teams, where I work. The ES R&D people work on customer solutions most of the time, so it may be that is the issue. The dress code is pretty middle of the road across ES and I am sure was aimed at few groups who were starting to push the limits. As everyone mainly knows the rules, when customers are in the building or your in front of them, dress above them, never below them.

          And I just stepped off a plane from a week in Palo Alto, the true R&D labs, and saw plenty of people in jeans, t-shirts, shorts, flip-flops, etc.. So I don't think it would be addressed to that R&D team.

      2. PBNV

        Re: JustaCLOT " ... dressing well improves the holistic ambiance of a brain....."

        " Wow, did you even read the article? It's talking about customer-facing staff, not everyone..."

        You don't happen to be a manager, do you? Because the article is not talking about customer-facing staff but quite explicitly about everyone who *might* on some occasion be visible to a visitor. So developers who are trying to think about difficult things that don't involve interacting with customers, are forced to wear clothes they don't want to, and will therefore be that little bit less able to concentrate. And we lose productivity just in case some customer might be stupid enough not know how developers tend to dress. Some of the best developers I know would quit if you tried that on them, and rightly so.

        Years ago I was invited to visit HP by the head of a department there. I was interested in possibly selling a company to them, so on the appointed day I hopped up the coast for a look. The man had forgotten, and was out of town - I was shown round by an embarrassed group of his managers, said a polite thank-you, and left.

        I had parked facing outwards, as I usually do so I can see what's there when I leave. When I got back to my car there was a little sign on the windscreen saying "At HP we park facing inwards."

        That day, I learned everything I needed to know about HP, and soon after sold my company to one of their competitors (who fell about laughing when I told them this story.) The HP department in question was in due course closed, HP itself has lurched from one managerial disaster to the next, and here's one more buffoon with an MBA, putting one more nail into the coffin.

        1. Danny 14 Silver badge

          Re: JustaCLOT " ... dressing well improves the holistic ambiance of a brain....."

          all my shirts and ties are covered in toner, grease, misc "stuff" from various printers etc. Apart from the wedding suit, the wife wont let me wear that one. we do have a dress policy here (its a school) but it is a sensible one, black tshirt with logo (provided), black coat (provided) and black cargo trousers (provided). There are shorts too but only the site team wear those.

        2. MJI Silver badge

          HP Parking

          Now I would have let rip as I cannot for the life of me safely reverse OUT of a spot, reverse in yes, but out no.

          I have reversed into spots since I passed my car test.

          Last time I had to reverse out I nearly crushed a little car someone had parked behind me!

          1. Polyphonic
            Facepalm

            Re: HP Parking

            Reverse parking into a slot is not only sensible but safer. A couple firms I know have a reverse park policy purely on safety grounds, you are more likely to reverse into someone leaving a slot than entering.

            As you say commonsense, but at one company I worked at, it might been an anagram of SDE, the manager didn't want you reversing as your exhaust might mark the building!

            1. MJI Silver badge

              Re: HP Parking

              Well just have to crush a few noddy cars!

            2. Dr_N Silver badge

              Re: HP Parking

              Reverse parking is usually a site safety policy associated with places that use hazardous chemicals and need to be evacuated quickly. Such as chip fabs.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @PBNV ... Re: JustaCLOT " ... dressing well improves the holistic ambiance of a brain....."

          Most of the readers aren't old enough to remember when you had to wear a suit and a tie to the office. Customer facing or not.

          Then it became casual Friday where you could wear slacks but must wear a button down shirt.

          At that time, only the guys who were masters at the art of coding could wear what they want. Of course they worked in the bowels of the company and also didn't keep regular hours. You have to be one of the boy geniuses to rate that privilege. Being able to dress down was a sign of rank. (As in consulting, its your bill rate.)

          But soon everyone started to dress down...

          Depending on where you work, you dress differently.

          You work in a corporate office in NY's Financial district, you tend to dress up.

          Somewhere in a small town in the Midwest... you tend to dress down.

          And believe it or not... its not because of the company's dress code, but for the mating rituals that occur after work... ;-)

      3. ckm5

        Re: JustaCLOT " ... dressing well improves the holistic ambiance of a brain....."

        I'd much rather have a bunch of sloppy dressing highly creative people who are good at solving difficult problems than a bunch of uniform dressing people incapable of actually solving anything (the 'Soviet grocery store' look as someone upthread says).

        Attitudes like yours are exactly why companies like HP are falling behind in the market place - customers are smart enough to know that 'good dresser != effective' and they don't want to pay for your suit. The most creative, successful tech people never, ever conform to how society or your narrow minded-ness thinks they should behave/dress/live. Accommodating those eccentric people is a competitive edge for a lot of businesses (like banks, startups & fast growing tech companies, even the government).

        If you don't believe me, just go look up 'Head Bubba', who was the CTO of Credit Suisse for a long time.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: JustaCLOT " ... dressing well improves the holistic ambiance of a brain....."

          Way back in the day when IBM dress code (suit, white shirt, conservative tie) was the rule in IT (women's dress code? What are women?) There was a brilliant developer (at a nearby competitor) who walked around looking shabbier than the homeless outside the building. Management paid him about 10% additional on the days they wanted him to at least wear matching socks. He complied, and all was happiness.

      4. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge
        Stop

        @ Matt Bryant

        "I don't wear a suit and tie when crawling through a datacenter but I sure do when I'm in the boardroom."

        You missed the point of the article entirely. It is about developers who are not in a customer facing role being asked to dress as if they were.

        If I were a visitor being shown around a company, seeing a development office full of suits would give me the impression that they are subject to a regime of office politics which will constantly interfere with their productivity.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @ Matt Bryant

          > seeing a development office full of suits

          You're exaggerating. They're not requiring suits, just a collared shirt (polo or button-up), and long pants (even jeans, so long as they're not thrashed). Basically, wanting employees to dress like adults.

          1. MacGyver

            Re: @ Matt Bryant

            I guess it's a good thing that long ago the suit was decided upon as the "adult" clothing choice and not a full body leotard. There is no reason to wear a suit, none. A lab coat, overalls, tracksuit, and any other article can serve a purpose, but a suit serves no purpose other than to let higher paid personnel out buy lower paid personnel.

            If you believe it is anything other then a man-sized peacock outfit please state your case.

        2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: Whineslydale Re: @ Matt Bryant

          "....You missed the point of the article entirely. It is about developers who are not in a customer facing role being asked to dress as if they were...." So you didn't read the article then. The whole point is to dress appropriately, and for customer-facing staff that means smart clothes. And it specifically mentions customer-facing staff.

          One of the greatest examples of this I can give you is how a company I was working with won a major contract from an international customer we actually thought we didn't have a chance at. Just to be clear, there was virtually nothing technically or pricing-wise between the bids, and the customer had a long history of using SUN kit. But the customer asked for a tour of the support centers from the two vendors (yes, a customer with a clue!!!) that were being proposed, hp and SUN. The customer's CIO and senior techies came back from the SUN visit muttering about "wierdos" with (I kid you not) "sci-fi contact lens and BO". After an hour talking to the (carefully screened) hp staff they said they were much happier with the idea of trusting their business to hp. Now, that's not to say the SUN engineers were any less capable than the hp ones, it's just hp were a lot smarter about how they presented themselves. SUN, for all their honesty, stuffed their partner and blew the deal by not thinking about how their staff would be perceived.

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: " ... dressing well improves the holistic ambiance of a brain struggling with ... coding"

      If you've got a massive belly with a hectare of belt over-hang, then don't wear a shirt and tie FFS. Don't wear a white shirt tucked into tightly belted dress trousers. Don't wear a buttoned up shirt collar so your flabby chin and jowls make you look as if your head is holding in a massive pressure and about to explode. You look like you are being squeezed out of a tube. Yep, you; the SAN / Storage sales people who visited last week. Join a gym, get a bike, do some swimming and stay out of Greggs, really, it will save your life.

      Seriously, the shirt and tie look really does only work for a standard sort of shape of person.

      Having said that, at the very least a gentleman should wear a tailed jacket, a top hat, white spats and carry a silver-topped cane unless you are writing code, then you may choose emo or goth.

  4. cmannett85

    I've taken to just walking around the office in bare feet recently. No ones even noticed. I'm slightly disappointed.

    1. Paul Shirley

      The only problem is if it encourages someone with smelly feet to join you. Rather than take that risk I kept a pair of slippers in the office ;)

    2. Just Enough
      Childcatcher

      A line needs to be drawn somewhere. No one wants to see/smell your feet.

      1. Putters

        Not just the smelly feet, nobody else walking barefoot wants to share your verruca.

        Maybe we can get one of those little footpools they have in swimming pools installed ?

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