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Uniforms For the Help Desk? 837

An anonymous reader writes "I am an IT worker in a mid sized company with approximately 500 employees. There are 30 people on the IT staff, 6 of whom are on the help desk. Our help desk does have significant visibility in the company, and most people know us by face (some by name). Recently the idea has been floated up the management chain to have these help desk workers wear IT department branded shirts. The idea is to promote visibility and unity. Wearing of these shirts would be mandatory Monday through Thursday. The shirts would not be identical (there would be several styles offered). We would be the only department with specific garments outside of the normal business casual dress code. Is management out of line with the industry in promoting this sort of policy change? Is the singling out of 6 employees as 'the IT guys' a step in the right direction, or does it detract from the professionalism that we are trying to display as a department?"
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Uniforms For the Help Desk?

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  • Professionalism (Score:5, Interesting)

    by numbsafari ( 139135 ) <swilson.bsd4us@org> on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @05:54PM (#30587096)

    Does the company have an existing dress code? Do the IT guys follow that dress code well?

    Let's be honest: IT guys have a reputation for being a bit sloppy. If that's the case here, perhaps the right approach would be for the team to do a better job of looking professional.

    But if the team is already meeting the same expectations as the other employees, this just sounds like a giant waste of time. Money, energy and resources wasted on this would probably be better spent on something worthwhile that would actually have an impact on the team's ability to provide quality service.

  • Kind of stupid (Score:2, Interesting)

    by linuxgurugamer ( 917289 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @05:58PM (#30587178) Homepage

    Hopefully the IT helpdesk are professionals. Who else in the company provides support for anything? Are they going to have uniforms as well?

    Who is going to pay for these uniforms? The company?

    Now lets do a little analysis. There are 6 employees who this will affect. There will be several styles. The word "several" is defined as: "being more than two but fewer than many in number or kind:" (dictionary.com).
    So lets assume that there will be 4 different styles. This means that there will not be a "common" uniform, which is the only thing that would "unify" the department and promote it's visibility.

    This is different from technicians who go out and support customers in the field. This sounds like a really stupid idea.

  • by WCMI92 ( 592436 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @06:03PM (#30587272) Homepage

    What are most of you DOING? I work for a company with over 800 employees, approximately 600 or so who directly use computers, that has 16 locations in the Eastern USA and we make do with TWO.

  • by BobMcD ( 601576 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @06:06PM (#30587308)

    Recently the idea has been floated up the management chain to have these help desk workers wear IT department branded shirts. The idea is to promote visibility and unity.


    Is the singling out of 6 employees as 'the IT guys' a step in the right direction, or does it detract from the professionalism that we are trying to display as a department?

    Better question: Is your Help Desk projecting an image of service or are they too focused as being seen as "professionals"?

    It seems to me that your management wants to label your Help Desk staff so that people will be more comfortable in approaching them with issues. This, if it were true, is a HUGE RED FLAG to everyone in your department. If your Help Desk isn't helpful, its just a desk, and it is likely way, way, way too expensive in that light. If the shirts thing doesn't work, expect workforce changes.

    Someone needs to recon what your management thinks of the team as a whole, without focusing too much on the dress code issue, before you decide to respond in any particular way. Changes need to be made. Preferably changes to your liking rather than the more heavy-handed flavor.

  • Silly management (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DrLov3 ( 1025033 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @06:10PM (#30587406)
    This is what happens as the company grows
    It goes Dilbert on itself.
    This is what happens when people too stupid to do any real work and who've been replaced by a bash script gets promoted to middle management because you can't get rid of them due to union rules and stuff.
    You know how they got the management position? A: The parkinson law : Upper management doesn't want their job threatened by a younger, smarter, more active, more educated middle manager, so they promote somebody dumber then themselves and the guy under hires some1 dumber then himself and so on .....

    Uniforms is lack a respect for you tech support guys, uniform is a school's tool to reduce violence and bullying by unifying every1 thus eliminating gangs and groups. It's not for a job place, it's a joke to think about it, if they had respect, they would ask you to wear a suit and a tie, but then you would be in par with ur middle management guy, he is not gonna put you on that level, he is also prolly afraid that you'll write another bash script to replace the middle management positions.

    Hey while I think of it, a script that creates and assigns random useless task and complains a lot could replace my boss.
  • Lab coats instead? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @06:12PM (#30587444)

    See if you can get management to go for lab coats with a logo or some sort of jacket. That way, you could take it off easily for that lunch break they are probably timing to the second.

  • by Atrox666 ( 957601 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @06:19PM (#30587560)

    Interesting how the symbol of management is also handy if you happen to be a drooling idiot who wants to keep their shirt clean.

  • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @06:22PM (#30587608)

    One of the companies i worked at had a standard,
    Tan pants and
    dress shirt or company logo'd shirt.

    But it applied to everyone, even the president.

    I'd find it a bit demeaning if it was limited to the help desk only.

  • Re:lovely (Score:3, Interesting)

    by value_added ( 719364 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @06:28PM (#30587696)

    Delivery drivers, pest control people, UPS, the people who go out in the field wear the uniform. They're also the lowest paid of the bunch. McDonalds lets the managers wear a dress shirt and tie. Dealerships have the mechanics wearing uniforms but not the sales people and office staff. Pretty much anyone in uniform is on the lower end of the totem pole. IT is supposed to be a co-equal department, right?

    That pretty much sums up the inconsistencies, doesn't it?

    Uniforms can be perfectly fine, but their use is typically reserved for workers who don't work in the office (read "you don't belong here").

    The only example I can think of where someone would be uniformed and allowed free access in an office environment is the case where internal services have been outsourced to a company that provides on-site employees. This is a fairly common setup in larger companies that have huge volumes of internal mail delivery, or require messengering and/or print/duplication work be done in-house.

    If I was the office manager and had a need to uniform certain employees, I'd segregate them to their own area, possibly giving each their own red stapler to ease the transition.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @06:29PM (#30587718)

    The problem with this thinking is that a good tech should NEVER outgrow help desk. A good tech constantly updates his skills and should be paid and respected for that expertise, not made to wear uniforms and perform ridiculous dances on command.

    Your type of thinking is why good techs don't stay in help desk and is, furthermore, one of the many reasons help desk can't help you 75% of the time. All the good techs have "advanced" (IE: run the hell out).

    The idea of "help desk" as "entry level" employment is really stupid. Relying on your worst paid and most-stressed employees to keep the company running is a fantastic example of horrible management.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @06:36PM (#30587844)

    In my opinion, uniforms should primarily be used to identify those who have 'special' authority. For example, I work at a nuclear plant and the Operations department personnel wear uniforms. This allows people to contact an Operator quickly if there is a question or a problem and to know if that person has operational authority.

    IT has no special authority in any business. They are a support role.

  • Re:lovely (Score:2, Interesting)

    by istigmata ( 194920 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @06:57PM (#30588142)

    IT is supposed to be a co-equal department, right?

    No. In IT the closer you are to the user the lower your status. Helpdesk is naturally at the bottom and the guy who fiddles with DNS entries and router tables is at the top. From the helpdesk you can graduate to desktop support, then to servers and eventually networks - each step having refreshingly less user interaction. I say this with only a bit of tongue in cheek.

  • by teslafreak ( 684543 ) <teslafreak@hotmail.com> on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @07:47PM (#30588700) Homepage Journal

    It will work like this, you leave your desk to assist one person and on the way there and on the way back other people will pester you to solve all kinds of trivial junk because you are handy and, then everyone will complain that you are never at your desk. After that comes a mobile connection so no matter where you are in the office, toilet, lunch, working under a desk with cables, you are expected to answer the phone to solve problems. Uniforms equals computer janitors.

    Holy crap! That is exactly where my place of work is. Where at the part where they are talking about giving us all company owned cell phones. Whoa!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @08:08PM (#30588910)

    I agree with the comment that this may be in response to poor IT employee work attire.
    First look at what the IT help desk employees wear. Is it inappropriate? I'm thinking about gimme T-shirts advertising something, or a memento of a trip. Can the help desk people squat to get to equipment on the floor without showing butt-gap between pants and shirt? Is the problem just one employee? (Possibly a woman with big-uns and low cut/tight blouses? )
    If it is any of those things, you can go to mgt and say "Let me see if I can alleviate this issue internally wi/o going the uniform route" (This is the leadership solution)
    Then tell all the employees in a group meeting what's coming. Say 'We have to clean up our act or mgt will do it for us.' Get suggestions--possibly everyone wears a pullover shirt -- or some other agreed upon solution where there's individuality, but an agreed upon standard.
    I would have a meeting with each employee of my gender (and have a counterpart of opposite gender do the others). Be tactful , but say 'that shirt won't make mgt happy', and (here's the hard part) tell them if their butt shows when they're on the floor getting equipment.
    You get the idea. Make everyone see it's mgt's fault, and it's fix it themselves or have a solution dumped on them.

  • Why so negative (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @08:13PM (#30588974)

    hey all,

    We did something similar to this at my work this was done as a team effort and an slogan and logo was designed by the IT team now the whole IT department wears these shirts and this seems to help foster a good team spirt and make IT more visable to the business as a whole. no bad thing in my opinion :P



  • Out of ideas... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @08:24PM (#30589062)

    Getting hall-jacked is never fun and uniforms only make it worse. With all best business practices pointing all IT service requests to a central authority for routing and accounting it actually flies in the face of sensibility.

    Just because someone manages to tackle you in the hall with their iTunes problem doesn't mean they are the highest priority IT issue your group has to deal with.

    In fact they are very likely derailing you from issues that have been properly submitted and documented.

    If the IT folks in uniform can only answer "I can't help you until you call the help desk and put in a ticket." the new shirts certainly won't improve your "image" with the non-IT herd.

    If your ability to get IT support at your job is governed by your prowess at playing hide and seek your organization is fatally flawed - work on your resume.

    It's a bad idea. If it's the best idea your managers can come up with to improve your contribution to the organization then they are out of ideas. Now might be a great time to bring some real IT-related ideas to the table to really cut costs and save energy in your organization. Pick up a copy of CIO magazine or whatever, drop a couple buzz words you find there around your bosses-bosses and who knows - in a couple years maybe you'll be the one sitting around coming up with half-assed ideas for twice the pay.

  • by ottothecow ( 600101 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @08:32PM (#30589128) Homepage
    Will they clean and press your uniforms for you? Including pants? Made out of non-polyester fabrics?

    While I would much prefer to wear my own clothes, it might be ok if my work uniform was comfortable fabric, not overly baggy, paid for by the company, and saved me from having to do extra laundry and ironing.

    I spent a summer working at a car dealership and you got a weeks worth of uniforms or so slipped into your locker...toss them in the laundry bin when you are done and they will show up clean and pressed a few days later. Only had to pay for anything if they went missing...repairs were taken care of by attaching a little card to it when you threw it in the laundry bin.

    If I had to pay for the uniform parts AND take care of them...then I would feel like I was working fast food

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @10:29PM (#30589896)

    Interestingly enough, the company I work for has recently banned such department specific shirts. According to management "They promote elitism".

  • Re:Well... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wisty ( 1335733 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @12:33AM (#30590590)

    Funny, but my company did just mandate blaze orange shirts for all front line IT staff. I can't for the life of me figure out who thought that was a good idea.

    Mine comes in Monday.

    We can also wear Navy. I think I'm going to get an equal number of pairs of blaze orange and navy pants and alternate them daily.

    Personally, I find it extremely condescending. I'm required to design and maintain hundreds of databases, several servers, write apps, troubleshoot network problems, manage million dollar projects, AND do desktop support for 2000 devices with 3 other IT people for $40K/year. And now this. No wonder I've thrown my hands up today and am now posting on slashdot.

    Yes, I'm looking for a way out.

    http://jobs.stackoverflow.com/ [stackoverflow.com]

    http://jobs.serverfault.com/ [serverfault.com]

    Your resume should look like this:

    Designed and maintained over 200 databases, including:
    * Customer whatsit thinghy, with 8,000 records, 30 fields, and 30 current users
    * three
    * other
    * highlights

    Designed, set-up and maintained 7 servers, including:
    * Main NAS with 1.5T of data (including back-up to, network connections, ...)
    * more
    * highlights

    Produced a number of web applications, including
    * Some
    * highlights

    Managed projects worth in excess of $2 million, including
    * Rollover to Windows 7
    * Server upgrade program.
    * whatever

    Supported over 2000 devices in a small team of 4 staff.

    *Don't* go out of your way to mention your salary (unless asked), and if you do mention it, make sure they know that you consider your current salary inadequate.

  • by Cederic ( 9623 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @04:23AM (#30591362) Journal

    The management over there clearly sees IT as a bunch of over paid blue collar workers that only do what they do since they could not get an MBA from an Ivy League school. I may be over reacting here, but I see it as flat out disrespect.

    At a helpdesk level, IT staff are just a bunch of replaceable skilled technicians. Why do you think helpdesk is one of the first things outsourced by non-IT companies? Helpdesk staff are an off-the-shelf commodity in employment terms.

    That's not disrespect, that's simple reality.

    Server admin, network specialists, storage gurus, developers all have a stronger argument that they're doing a professional job that needs in-depth expertise and has a career path, but helpdesk? No.

    Not sure that justifies uniforms though...

  • by Phydaux ( 1135819 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @10:01AM (#30592730)


    Try wearing a suit some time when you don't have to. Just try it. Not a crappy fitting suit that looks like it's 20 years old, but one that fits well, and looks good. Just try it. My experience doing that suggests that you will get more respect, be taken more seriously, and your professional life will be a lot easier.

    Indeed! When I wanted to start living somewhere nice (not student accommodation) I went to look at a house to rent. I was dressed in baggy trousers and a Korn t-shirt I could tell before I'd even got out of my car, as soon as the landlord had seen us he'd decided that he wasn't going to rent to us. Ever since then I wear a suit to important things, even stuff like buying a new bed or TV. Having salesmen falling over themselves trying to help, offering things like food and drinks (including alcohol) even if I say I'm just browsing is much better, and much more fun, than having the security guard follow you around the shop.

    I have a big goatee beard and face piercings, when I'm dressed in a suit people know I want to be taken seriously, so they treat me the way I'm dressed.

    Everyone knows that different people are different. Wearing a suit says so much about your attitude. Taking the effort to look good and look smart tends to command a certain level of respect (in the correct situations).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @10:31AM (#30593070)

    Wear it like a badge of honor. A similar thing happen in our company, but with engineers. Although wearing the uniformed shirts is a on a volunteer basis in our department, there was a negative reaction at first, but when we all started to wear the shirts we all sensed a greater feeling of belonging to a team – at least I felt it myself. The shirts issued to engineers were of various styles and colors, all with a company logo. These shirts were not like those of the service department, or of the utility type worn by shop personnel, but of dress quality. Every winter we now get great looking jackets and long sleeved shirts, and at the beginning of summer we get sporty net shirts. I say welcome the shirts, but have your department take the active role in choosing the styles and accessories.

  • Uniforms (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ATLHivemind ( 1218016 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @11:03AM (#30593526)
    I work at a MSP, so we're a help desk for 30+ companies. The uniform for technical folks is a logo'ed button-down shirt (dark green, either short or long-sleeved) and slacks (technically kakhi, navy or black, but the predominant color is kakhi) and 'dress' shoes (anything not sport shoes is fair game). Even for those stuck in the office all day and not in the field interacting with customers the policy applies (the logic being that if you have to run out to a site you're already dressed). We have a strict "no help without a trouble ticket" policy and most of our customers are now smart enough to not harass the local greenshirt directly... mostly. If we're talking about a megacorp helpdesk, it only makes sense if the rest of the company has required uniforms or anything beyond "business casual". In an office without uniforms the breakdown seems to be this: Boss + boss's cronies/assistants: Business formal or high-end business casual (suit and tie) Non-customer-facing folks: business casual customer-facing: business casual with a tighter dress code or a uniform. If IT must have a uniform, make sure it is comfortable. Full-cotton is great, and darker color don't show dirt and sweat (though the usual gray computer-dust sticks out a bit). Also find a dry cleaner that will do pickup/delivery. Professionally cleaned and pressed uniforms do wonders for the image (bonus: the IT grunts only have to keep track of where the dirty bag and pile of clean shirts are, not the mechanics of washing.). If you do have a mandate for uniforms, make sure to keep a stash of cleaned and pressed uniform shirts in a closet or cabinet somewhere at the office, someone WILL need it someday.
  • by ender1598 ( 266355 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @01:42PM (#30596564)

    I work at helpdesk for a smallish technical college. We have about 15-20 total in the IT office and our CIO buys us these nice dress shirts with the college logo and "Information Technology" above the pocket. His dress code for us is no jeans and look professional. We can choose to wear a tie or even our own shirts. But we also regularly get comments from other people about how nice our shirts look and how professional it makes our office look when we show up to a meeting in similar styled dress shirts. On days when there's a lot of dirty work involved we can come in with what's appropriate but overall I think the shirts add to the job instead of being an annoyance.

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