Are You Wearing That to Work?

Q: The weather is getting warmer and I’m already dreading the poor dressing choices my employees will start wearing soon. Last year we had several issues come up, so I know we need to have a dress code policy this year, but I have no idea where to start. Suggestions?

A: For starters, it may feel less daunting to write a dress code policy if you start with a Summer Dress Policy. Something that applies let’s say between Memorial day and Labor day. Then worry about the rest later.

What do you need? There are many dress code policies out there to choose from. Do you interact with the public? Do customers visit your workplace? Or are you secluded and producing all your work online? Are you in a creative field? Find one that fits your needs.

Avoid getting in the weeds. It’s okay to include a list of what’s acceptable (t-shirt without graphics, dressy sandals) and what’s not (flip-flops, sweat pants) but don’t get too specific or try to anticipate every possible inappropriate attire.  Leave room for using your “management’s discretion” powers. 

Get buy-in.  Another way of deciding what’s acceptable –and to get employee buy-in, is to ask them to come up with their own examples. Ask “what kind of  clothing would you prefer not to see your coworkers wear to work?” You might find that sometimes it’s not the clothes themselves that are the problem, it’s how they fit (too tight) or how transparent they are. So address it in the policy.

Enforce.  Having a policy is only good if you actually enforce it. Be thoughtful and tactful but avoid the temptation to ignore the problem. Note: when talking to a female employee about attire that’s revealing or immodest, it’s best if a female manager has the conversation. And focus on the clothes, never comment about the employee’s body. For example saying “someone with your figure shouldn’t wear low-cut blouses” would not be a good idea.

Lastly, you might want to share with employees that –even though that may or may not be the case in their current position- studies do show dressing too casually might hurt their chances at a promotion. I suppose the old adage that says “you should not dress for your current job, but for the job you aspire to have” still applies.


Originally posted on HR Box.



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