The Awkward Dreaded Talk About Dress Code




Q:  Last week, you closed your column about the summer dress code by saying: “Management is very uncomfortable enforcing dress code rules and often will send out “reminder memos” about the policy when someone is dressing inappropriately.”  That perfectly describes my situation!  I manage a small business and have a new employee (who dressed very modestly-  for two interviews) who’s been coming to work with tops that are too revealing for the office. 

We already tried the “reminder memo” about our dress code policy but she didn’t get the hint.  Suggestions? 

A:  Well.  It sounds like you ‘re going to have to have the dreaded talk directly with the employee.

This topic ranks high on the awkward scale, it’s pretty close to the BO talk. But as her supervisor, it’s part of your responsibility.

I think the best approach is not to sound like the clothes police: “We have a dress code, and the way you are dressing goes against it”; but instead couch it as something that could undermine her credibility.  So here are my tips:

Choose the right time.

Have the talk at the end of the day. She might be embarrassed afterwards and it would be inconsiderate to have her stick around  the rest of the day.  Ideally, if she dresses appropriately on some days, have the conversation on one of those.  It will be less awkward and you can point out an example of what is appropriate.

Couch it constructively.

Try saying something like:  “I know you want to do well here, and I want to help you with that.  But the way you dress some days is distracting from your work and undermining your credibility.”

Follow up.

Let her know that you’ll check in with her in a couple of weeks.  If all is well, give her kudos and drop it.  If improvement is still needed but she’s on the right track, let her know.  If, on the other hand, she appears to be clueless or has not taken the talk seriously, then she might be a poor cultural fit and you should consider letting her go.

If you do, ensure it’s within those first 90 days.


Originally posted on HR Box blog



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