Hi everyone, Nicole from Employed Panache here to talk about how to handle employees who violate the office dress code. As New Professional reader Martha mentioned here, this can be a very touchy subject, leading to difficult conversations. Depending on the extent of the violation and tenure of the employee, you can take several approaches. Just keep in mind that more often than not, you should be engaging in a conversation with the employee versus telling him/her what to do. I have found that most people do not respond well to commands and want a chance to discuss their side of the story.
If your company has a dress code policy in print, use this to your advantage. The first approach might be to have a quick conversation educating the employee on the details within this policy. Depending on the scenario, the unprofessional attire could be simply due to ignorance of the policy because the employee is new to the company or new to the workforce in general. Most employees want to comply with company policies, so in this case, the changes should happen quickly.
If the employee has a longer tenure with your company, or if the violations continue, the next approach is to discuss specifics on how this behavior is hurting the employee’s career. If there are no events that you can point out (like when a peer was chosen to present to a client over them), then solicit anonymous feedback from colleagues, clients, managers, etc. Hearing the same opinion from multiple people and not just their manager may be the support needed to change what the employee wears to work.
The final approach, which should be last resort, is documenting the violations and submitting to Human Resources. It is my personal opinion that the employee should first be given the benefit of the doubt because you just never know why s/he is choosing to wear unprofessional clothing. As mentioned above, the employee may not understand what attire is acceptable. However, if there are repeat offenses and/or incidents where the outfit is lowering productivity or damaging the business, the employee must understand that there will be consequences for his/her behavior. Also, feel free to loop in your Human Resources rep from the start as HR will understand your company’s policy best and what actions are typically taken in these scenarios.
Nicole Martin is a Senior Human Resources Specialist who blends corporate fashion and personal branding on her blog, Employed Panache.