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The Dreaded Dress Code

On28/ 08 /15

How To Stop Your Team Wearing Sandals


Dress codes can be a challenge to get right. In the workplace there is often a fine-line between fashion and professionalism. What’s more, dress codes are often top of employee’s grievance lists.

In an ideal world, all staff would dress in-line with directives, however the reality is that people often choose otherwise. So how can employers effectively manage their dress code?


Why enforce a dress code?

We’ve all seen it, the employee who pushes the concept of ‘work-wear’ that little bit too far. Whether it’s shorts, sandals or dog-eared trainers, dress codes are often ignored or challenged.

Clearly, it’s important that your staff feel comfortable and can work productively in the permitted attire. However, every staff member contributes to the overall company image. In today’s competitive corporate world, every positive counts. Look sloppy or unprofessional, and you may be inadvertently gifting your competitors business.

Suitable dress will depend largely on the industry, and may also vary by role, however scruffiness can suggests a lack of care or disorganisation. It’s important to make your clients feel like they matter and in many ways dress is a simple way to do this.

When dress codes don’t work

Dress code is normally outlined in initial contracts or discussed at interview, however it is common for employees to gradually stray away from them.

Reasons for doing this will vary. Perhaps they consider the rule to be trivial? For example, they may have come from a company with a more relaxed dress code. Perhaps they are taking the lead from other staff? On occasion, bouts of competitive dressing can even be seen in the workplace! Or maybe they simply don’t agree with the policy.

When dress codes seem unfair, they are often flouted or challenged. Take the example of compulsory jackets in the office on a hot summer’s day; this tends to produce a reaction of ‘Why should I?’

Shaping your dress code

Consulting your employees before making any changes to the company dress code will help you evaluate whether the policy is likely to work for your organisation. It will also make your staff feel like they are involved in the decision rather than simply being told what to do.

The more investment employees have in the process, the more likely they are to adhere to the policy and encourage others to do the same.

The most common reason for a dress code failing is due to its rigidity or a lack of explanation. Yes, people can be naturally rebellious, however if you clarify the reasons behind your policy, this will often help to get staff on side.

It’s also important to lead by example. If you expect your employees to ‘toe the line’ when it comes to dress, don’t arrive in jeans and trainers, just because you’re the boss!

It goes without saying that discrimination is simply not acceptable. Always take into consideration, the religious or cultural beliefs and needs of staff when shaping your dress policy. What’s more, if you do have to pull up people for breaching the dress code, you should never make an example of them. Sensitivity and fairness is key.

A middle way

Establishing a dress code that works for your organisation is all about balancing the needs of the company with that of its staff. Your policy will need to be both fair and practical to work effectively, so ensure your employers are fully involved in the process.

Once established, the policy should be fully communicated to all staff and a firm but fair approach taken to enforce it. Resistance will inevitably occur from time to time. When it does, ensure you speak to staff to establish why; opening up a dialogue is normally the fastest way to reach a positive resolution.
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