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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited
A strangled Cry
Forgive me but my question for this issue is aimed at the male readers - and, indeed, at that sub-set of the male readership that wears western dress. However, the rest of you should not turn the page just yet ... bear with me (at least for a paragraph or two) for the point of this piece applies to you all.
The question is ... "how many ties (or neckties if you prefer) do you have?"
I have 32 - though I rarely wear about half of those. I am sure this is not an exceptionally large number. Yet, what is the purpose of the tie? (What was ever its purpose?). It serves as part of a uniform, to convey mutual status. It has no actual use - though it can be made useful in an emergency.
Is this application of an old technology sufficient to maintain the tie in the wardrobe of the average male? There is some evidence of its declining status. I was born in an era (not that long ago - history, yes, but not ancient history) when men went to watch football in "collar and tie". Casual clothing had not been invented - it followed from the "invention" of "leisure".
Now, most men rarely wear a tie when out of the office. Additionally, the introduction of "dress-down Fridays" and the deliberate shunning of formal business wear by the Silicon Valley generation is leading to a general acceptance of the demise of the tie as the only acceptable form of businesswear.
The point of all this (I could sense you were getting fidgety) is that it demonstrates the inherent conservatism of the business world (and probably the human being). It is not surprising that we find it difficult to promote creativity and innovation if we find it difficult to discard a fundamentally useless and outdated article of clothing.
The real point (its OK to make a point like the one above, but it's useful if the writer goes on to suggest that there is something to learn from the point made) is that when we plan change in a work environment, we have to recognize that this essential human conservatism will be at work, undermining the change. If we anticipate resistance to change, we have a chance to do something about it.
It is no use simply decreeing the end of the tie. Those currently wearing it have to see loosening of the collar as a welcome experience - to their advantage. They must see that their peer group does not value tie-wearing; that the society in which they operate has collectively taken the decision to abolish the tie. They may choose to go on wearing their extended wardrobe of ties - much like the few people who today wear bow ties - as eccentrics, but they will know and accept that the world is now different.
The challenge now is to find ways of persuading our team, our colleagues, our staff that their world is different - and will be different again tomorrow? Then, they may loosen their metaphorical ties?
So, next time you are planning a change programme ... remember the necktie.