Dressed for Success

In a move that typifies a significant shift in the way many companies are viewing employee relations and brand image, Bear Stearns Cos., one of the largest U.S. securities firms, is mandating formal business attire for employees. The change comes just two years after the company switched to a casual dress code. Financial companies in particular are headed back to a buttoned-up look that speaks to employees and other stakeholders alike about a more serious image (perhaps in reaction to the loosening of certain ethical standards at other financial organizations). Lehman Brothers and Deutsche Bank also ordered employees out of their khakis and back into suits and ties earlier this year following the burst of the dotcom bubble. The challenge for most companies that have decided to "suit up" employees is how to effectively communicate with staffers about the change without sending morale plummeting at a time when corporate spirit already is low due to the economic situation. For Bear Stearns, that problem may have been solved in some measure by Brooks Brothers, whose store directly across the street from the Bear Stearns Manhattan headquarters, offered a wine and cheese party, along with significant discounts especially for Bear Stearns employees. (Bear Stearns: 212/272-2000)

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