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With company cultures becoming more laid back and casual Fridays creeping into even the most polished offices, dress code policies have become more relaxed in many workplaces. Due to the shift in policies and perceptions of professionalism, some employees may have differing views regarding acceptable dress. The following tips may be helpful when it comes to preventing and addressing dress code violations.
Acceptable dress should be detailed in an employee handbook and discussed even before hire so that new employees can prepare to comply. The more thorough the explanation of acceptable dress, the easier it will be for employees to follow and for employers to correct if discrepancies crop up.
If an employer enforces the dress code with some employees and not others, it may be perceived as discrimination. Being consistent with the policy can help to avoid problems with employee relations and even potential lawsuits. Employees will often feel more comfortable knowing that everyone must abide by the same rules, as well.
In most cases, dress codes aren’t arbitrary; they’re established because of specific needs within the business. When working with machinery or dangerous equipment, for example, employees are often forbidden from wearing dangly jewelry or loose fitting clothing that may present safety issues. Understand exactly why every aspect of the dress code policies are in place so that you can educate employees if they ask for the reasons behind the dress code.
If the company decides that certain aspects of the dress code policy are no longer necessary or institutes new policies, it’s important to make sure that those updates are sent out to existing employees and that policies in the handbook are changed to reflect the updates. Employees should also be given adequate time to comply with changes.
If changes aren’t made to policy, but an employee or several employees begin to violate existing dress code policies, it may be tactful to send out dress code policy reminders. This can be an effective and appropriate tactic as long as the violations don’t jeopardize health or safety. In many cases, employees will realize their errors and correct their dress.
If an employee continuously violates the dress code in spite of subtle reminders or wears clothing that’s highly inappropriate to the place of employment, meeting with the employee privately may help to resolve the problem. Managers or employers should make sure that a witness is present to recount the events of the meeting if needed.
During the meeting, it’s important to make the employee feel comfortable, address the specific dress code violations, and offer solutions. An employee may not understand generalizations and may feel embarrassed if told they look “messy” or “inappropriate.” Employers or managers should tell employees how to correct the violations and reinforce the reasons behind the dress code.
It’s important to prevent dress code violations as quickly as possible, but it’s equally as important to be tactful and compassionate. Some employees may inadvertently violate policies and may be open to correcting problems, but not understand how. Use a friendly and helpful approach before moving on to discipline.