To Come or Not to Come As You Are?

February 1, 2023

Many years ago, the CEO of one of the largest listed Brazilian companies asked me a puzzling question: how to convince that great group’s male employees and leaders they could really retire their neckties (but keeping their jackets on, of course).

The answer only required a mirror: the CEO himself still sported his impeccable suit with his silk tie, despite the countless internal communications promoting the new dress code.

Far before the slippers and pajamas pants that stood out in day-before-yesterday’s pandemic times, the deconstruction of the uniform on behalf of the organic had been an item in the human capital management agenda in nearly all companies.

Even if at first with certain delineations and boundaries, the “Come As You Are” movement gained traction, excited and established itself. Following the retirement of the tie, there followed the ditching of linen suits and trousers in men’s closets. More recently, even dress shoes have made way for sportier footwear. Today, men and women alike are freer, lighter and looser in their T-shirts, casual pants (some even in Bermuda shorts...) and comfy shoes.

The adoption of flexible workspaces has only intensified something already accelerated: wardrobes no longer have exclusive drawers and doors to "workplace attire" – it’s all jumbled together, often even wrinkled.

Going back to the primordial question raised by the CEO that met me at the start of the third millennium, maybe the difficulty retiring the necktie was not limited to the vintage accessory but, mostly, to the difficulty revealing individualities in a very conservative and cohesive collective context.

"Coming As You Are" is not just about, obviously, clothing. But it opens inroads to the submission of individualities to the group’s scrutiny – something uncomfortable and liberating, at the same time. The movement inserts itself in the context of the new social ethics of pleasure that has replaced the former order revolving around the social ethics of duty. Trinomial loyalty-stability-respect is getting dislodged for the new trinomial connection-experience-expression.

In this new corporate setting, the multiplicities that exist in civil society permeate more porous and malleable organizations far more successfully. Diversity manifests itself not only in the humanistic agenda of inclusion, but also in the proficuous interaction with different mindsets, values and behaviors.

It has become harder to harmonize and gain traction: fact!

It has become easier to question and dislodge: fact!

But it’s not all roses. "Come As You Are" is far from its completeness. Being authentic requires a lot of courage and a lot of sensitivity. Courage to expose the individual element; sensitivity to perceive the group element.

To what extent does authenticity depend on the individual or the group? In other words, what is the degree of individual responsibility to accept one’s own risks with courage and sensitivity, and what is the degree of collective commitment in enabling environments conducive to different individual expressions?

Before concluding, a final thought... "Come As You Are" assumes integrated lights and shadows. Recognizing individual health as integrated is a major evolutionary step in the effort to humanize organizations. No-one is truly capable of leaving their private emotions out of work routines – mostly when the work evolves within the domestic nest full of personal issues.

To Come or Not to Come as You Are?... What is the question again, dear CEOs?


Daniel Augusto Motta é Managing Partner e CEO da BMI Blue Management Institute. Doutor em Economia pela USP, Mestre em Economia pela FGV-EAESP e Bacharel em Economia pela USP. É Alumni OPM Harvard Business School. Atua também como Managing Partner da corporate venture capital WhiteFox sediada em San Francisco (EUA), como Senior Tupinambá Maverick na content tech Bossa.etc e com Membro do Conselho de Administração da Afferolab. Também atua como Diretor de Planejamento Estratégico da UNIBES e Membro do Conselho Deliberativo do MASP. Foi Membro-Fundador da Sociedade Brasileira de Finanças. Foi Professor nos MBAs da Fundação Dom Cabral, Insper, FGV, ESPM e PUC-SP. É autor de diversos artigos publicados por Valor Econômico, EXAME, VocêSA e Folha de São Paulo, e também tem três artigos publicados pela Harvard Business Review Brasil. É autor dos livros best-sellers A Liderança Essencial, Anthesis e Data Insights.