Personal style is a matter of taste. But sometimes that taste can result in questionable attire in the workplace. Does your business casual dress code have some employees starting to look like they are getting ready to board a Disney cruise ship? What do you do when you have an employee who is stretching the limits of what is appropriate to wear in a professional work environment?
Workplace Dress Codes
You need to have a conversation with an employee about their clothing choices if they are showing up to work in outfits that are not suitable for your workplace. (For example, it may not be appropriate to wear gym shorts to work… unless you work at a gym). But before that conversation happens, you need to make sure that you have an established Dress Code in order to guide the conversation with the employee who is making the questionable clothing choices.
“Dress appropriately.” As much as we would like to believe that those two words are understood and interpreted the same way amongst all people, there is always a small percentage that may not see fashion through the same lens as the rest of the crowd.
What Should a Dress Code Policy Include?
An established Dress Code does not mean requiring employees to wear suits to work every day. A good dress code policy should include points such as:
- General expectations of professional attire and for employees to be well-groomed.
- Prohibited clothing in the workplace.
- Health and safety requirements. For example, steel-toed shoes or non-slip shoes may be required in some workplaces. Open-toed shoes or jewelry that can get caught in machinery may also be considered a health and safety violation in other workplaces.
- Clothing that expresses any racial, sexist, or discriminatory statements are never appropriate to wear to work.
- Uniforms if required for some positions.
- If your company is scent-free or scent sensitive, a Dress Code would be an appropriate place to put that in writing.
Ensure that your Dress Code is not inadvertently discriminatory. Dress Codes must not infringe employees’ human rights by discriminating against protected grounds such as gender, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnic origin. For example, a Dress Code that places more stringent expectations surrounding the appearance of women than the appearance of men would be considered discriminatory towards women.
Provide a copy of your Dress Code to all of your new hires as part of your employee handbook. In fact, send them the dress code basics in their pre-orientation email! By doing so, you will help your new hires reduce the mental effort and fatigue of deciphering what is the dress culture of your workplace and wondering if their “First Day” work attire is the right look!
How Do You Talk to An Employee About Their Clothing Choices?
You have an established Dress Code but your employee is still showing up to work wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs Jersey in mid-July. Not only is that an impractical ensemble, but it also may not be appropriate in a work environment. Sending a passive-aggressive companywide e-mail reminding everyone of the Dress Code in hopes that the employee will magically start wearing a dress shirt and chinos to work will not work. The individual already thinks their chosen attire is appropriate and your email will go unnoticed.
It’s time to shine up your difficult conversation skills! Have a quick conversation with the employee. This does not need to be a long meeting with the Human Resources Department. Discreetly pull the employee aside in private and let them know that their clothing choices have not been aligned with the Dress Code and that you need them to make some changes. During the conversation, stick to the facts and be sensitive. Personal style is an expression of the individual so it can be a sensitive topic of conversation. Remind the employee of what is or is not acceptable under the Dress Code. If the employee deals with the public or clients, let them know that they are the face of the company so they need to dress professionally in accordance with the Dress Code. Check out the article about Body Odour for more tips on how to have a difficult conversation with an employee about a sensitive topic.
Above all, approach the conversation with tact and sensitivity. Consider how you would like to be spoken to if the roles were reversed.
Let us Help you
If defining a Dress Code Policy is not on your list of fun things you want to do in a day, let Essential HR do it for you! We can consult with you to understand your workplace and establish a Dress Code that makes sense for your business. Our Monthly Partnership Retainers start at 5 hour a month and can also help you navigate those difficult conversations when they are required!