Monday, 20 December 2010


The question is not me being gratuitously salacious …it’s what UBS, the Swiss bank that was recently bailed out to the tune of $60 billion, have included in their new internal dress code.

And, apparently, the right colour is flesh toned. So presumably this allows licence for whether you are Afro Caribbean, Indian, pale skinned, suntanned , feeling off colour (greenish), working too hard (grey) or with acne (spotted).

Knickers, of course, is what hit the headlines but management feeling they have to tell people to change their socks (black) daily and to use nourishing skin cream fills me with a powerful sense of foreboding. Not since the Third Reich or school have I encountered such paranoia about uniforms.

Big companies often seem to need this sense of control over their staff – what they look like, what they wear, what they do, what they think and even what they feel. They talk of being a “family” which, given the dysfunctionality of most families, is a bit worrying.

In Japan they have early morning company songs….now we only need to add things like detention and gating people to make the senior management happy. Yet why is it what their employees wear worries them so much – isn’t it how good they are, how customer attentive, how effective – “yes but however good if he had a flowery tie or – shudder – no tie at all?”

UBS has clearly scored an own goal and deserves to be teased were it not for the fact they are supposed to be grown ups, not anally retentive juveniles.

Life is not about making everything into equally sized black and white bricks. We live in a world of diversity, complexity, ambiguity and constant change. Rules are there to be broken. “A little rebellion now and then is a good thing” as Thomas Jefferson said.

What place creativity has in a world where all that management can think about is knickers heaven alone knows.

Although now I come to think of it knicker-elastic is a whole lot more creative than quantitative easing.

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