I just followed a recent call center manager group discussion thread on LinkedIn.com, where the dress code in call centers was discussed. Members ‘weighed in’ on both sides, some advocating for business casual, some for casual dress, the latter, stating that that they can point to raised employee engagement scores when casual dress is allowed. Others defended the use of casual dress due to their locations throughout the southern US, where warm temperatures abound year round. We never seem to be able to reach a satisfactory conclusion on this perennial hot topic.
Looking at the dress code topic more broadly, we should also include piercings and tattoos. Today, many organizations view these as extensions of employee diversity and inclusion. The bottom line being, that if an employee is otherwise professionally dressed, we should welcome this as a form of diversity, and be ‘inclusive’, embracing the wearing of piercings and tattoos.
Herein lies the rub. Others have argued that (in their eyes) specificallybecause of the wearing of piercings and tattoos, the employee is not professionally dressed for the workplace.
Again, we haven’t reached a satisfactory conclusion on this ever-present topic. Do you think we ever will?
One of the interesting phenomenons I have observed (and have confirmed with colleagues in other industries) is how many employees today resign from their positions, providing their employers with little to no notice. It wasn’t that long ago, that resigning your position without providing the customary two-weeks’ notice would have been unconscionable – even if you worked part-time or were ‘summer help’. Nowadays, leaving without any notice is most definitely in fashion. When one takes a step back and looks at some of the demographics, it appears that more often than not, it’s a Millennial. Per dictionary.com:“Millennial
( usually initial capital letter ) Informal . a person born in the 1980s or 1990s, especially in the U.S.; a member of Generation Y: Millennials are facing a deep economic crisis”.
Though one should not paint all Millennials with the same brush, any employee (regardless of generation) who resigns without notice (unless there is a good reason) appears not to care that they are not leaving their employer in good standing. Either they don’t know, don’t inquire, or don’t care (or some combination thereof) that their lack of notice is being documented in their re-hire status.
In addition, they are leaving their employer short-handed, often during the most inopportune time for the business. Fellow workers need to pitch-in and pick up the slack from the exiting employee – and sometimes, permanently, due to the current economy.
Another point to consider is that the world is a lot smaller now, thanks to social media and the internet. It’s not uncommon for the word to travel that you have left your employer with no notice. One might well expect that if you did that to your current employer, you are likely to repeat that action again with a future employer.
Then again, maybe this phenomenon is becoming the ‘new normal’, and I and my fellow Baby Boomers need to just ‘get over it’.
a person born during a baby boom, especially one born in the U.S. between 1946 and 1965″.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is a law that was enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1990. It was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush, and later amended with changes effective January 1, 2009.
The ADA is a wide-ranging civil rights law that prohibits, under certain circumstances, discrimination based on disability. It affords similar protections against discrimination to Americans with disabilities as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, and other characteristics illegal. Disability is defined by the ADA as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.” The determination of whether any particular condition is considered a disability is made on a case by case basis. Certain specific conditions are excluded as disabilities, such as current substance abuse and visual impairment which is correctable by prescription lenses.
The “original intent” of the law, as co-conceived by Lex Frieden and Mitchell J. Rappaport, was to create civil rights law protections for people with disabilities that would be permanent, would not be able to be reversed or weakened, and would prohibit all discrimination. It was also intended so that Americans with disabilities would be kept in the mainstream in terms of scientific and medical research and developments, especially opening future opportunities in Space exploration to them, as well as public policy changes, healthcare law and policy changes, and civil rights protections and public law changes for Americans with physical, mental and cognitive disabilities. It was intended to be a flexible set of laws that could only be strengthened, not weakened, by future case-law.
On September 25, 2008, President George W. Bush signed into law the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA). This was intended to give broader protections for disabled workers and “turn back the clock” on court rulings which Congress deemed too restrictive. The ADAAA includes a list of “major life activities.”
In 2008, effective January 1, 2009, the ADAAA broadened the interpretations and added to the ADA examples of “major life activities” including, but not limited to, “caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working” as well as the operation of several specified “major bodily functions.” The Act overturns a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court case which held that an employee was not disabled if the impairment could be corrected by mitigating measures; it specifically provides that such impairment must be determined without considering such ameliorative measures. Another court restriction overturned is the interpretation that an impairment that substantially limits one major life activity must also limit others to be considered a disability.
The ADA has been a frequent target of criticism. For example, a common claim is that individuals who are diagnosed with one of the so-called “lesser disabilities” are being “accommodated” when they should not be. As one law review article pointed out, the perception that the ADA primarily helps freeloaders was harshly satirized by The Onion in 1998 in the form of an article about the “Americans With No Abilities Act.” The fictional Act would have provided “benefits and protection for more than 135 million talentless Americans.”
On the other hand, court decisions have made necessary “an individualized assessment to prove that an impairment is protected under the ADA. Therefore, the plaintiff must offer evidence that the extent of the limitation caused by the impairment is substantial in terms of his or her own experience;” a medical diagnosis or physician’s declaration of disability is no longer enough. Even those who support the intent of the law worry that it might have unintended consequences. Among other arguments, supporters hypothesize that the Act creates additional legal risks for employers who then quietly avoid hiring people with disabilities to avoid this risk. And such researchers claim to have documented a sharp drop in employment among individuals with a disability after passage of the Act. Others believe that the law has been ineffectual.
The HRmeister: When an employee has a medical issue, regardless of his/her length of service, consult with an occupational health nurse and someone in your employee relations and/or general counsel. The ADAAA has broadened the definition of an impairment, such that you may need to accommodate it. Accommodation (depending on the impairment) may include time off (similar to FMLA, i.e., without any absenteeism consequences), more frequent work breaks, etc.
ADA accommodations oftentimes present challenges to line managers and HR business partners, who may otherwise be short-staffed, and struggling to maintain satisfactory service levels to their customers. The employees, themselves, particularly those who may be new to the organization, are challenged to ‘keep up’ when they may need to miss valuable classroom or on-the-job training.
The ADA also sometimes dovetails with FMLA, making it even more incumbent upon us to consult with the professionals, whom I’ve listed (above), to ensure that you are complying with these laws, protecting the rights of your employees, and mitigating risk for yourself and your organization. These can be difficult waters to both understand and navigate. Education and taking the appropriate actions are key.
25. Gina M. Cook, “Article: When The Duty To Provide A Reasonable Accommodation Seems Unreasonable: Accommodating And Managing Employees With Episodic Impairments Or Impairments In Remission Under The ADA Amendments Act Of 2008,” 32 N.C. Cent. L. Rev. 1 (2009).
26. Scott Dikkers and Robert Siegel, The Onion’s Finest News Reporting, Vol. 1 (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2000), 155.
Ben wrote: “My position at my company has been eliminated. I am in my 50’s, and am having a difficult time finding a job. When I do apply to jobs, I’m finding it difficult to get an interview. Any suggestions”?
The HRmeister: “Ben, this economy is particularly challenging for Baby Boomers. Many have not had to look for a job in a very long time, and the market and job search techniques used totally are totally different. I am assuming that you know what type of work you are interested in pursuing. If not, I recommend that you read Richard Bolles’ ‘What Color is Your Parachute‘, as you will want to narrow down and focus on the type of work you are interested in.
First, I recommend that you research resume writing (Google, library), as you will want to create a well constructed resume. Look for opportunities to quantify $ you have made for your previous company (like sales) or $ or time you have saved your company. Then, if you aren’t already on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com), you will want to create a profile, and start networking with people who you know. LinkedIn supplements (and is not a substitute for) face-to-face networking that you will need to do, reaching out to your contacts, re-acquainting yourself with them first, before informing them that you are in ‘transition’, and seeing if they know of any opportunities. A large percentage of organizations’ positions are filled through networking efforts.
If you are fortunate to get an interview, you will want to research the company, finding out as much about it as you can (Google, library, contacts). Anticipate the types of targeted behavioral interviewing questions you will be asked, e.g., tell me about your opportunity areas (a.k.a weaknesses), and what you’re doing about them, etc. Look for an opportunity to inject some information you have learned about the company into your interview answers, as this will ‘set you apart’ from the other applicants, which is your goal. In addition, since ‘first impressions’ still count a great deal, be sure you are no more than 10 minutes early to the interview, and even though the organization may offer business casual dress, come to the interview well-groomed in professional business attire (neat, clean and, well fitting…and shined shoes). Good eye contact, posture, and body language will also be needed.
Since the goal of the interviewer is to find out as much about you as possible in the time allotted (past behavior is predictive of future behavior) be prepared to do more than 50% of the talking. Before the actual interview, practice interviewing with someone who will give you an honest assessment of how you have done, offering suggestions on areas you might improve.
After the interview (within 24 hours), send a thank-you note (an e-mail is fine) to your interviewer. Think of the company’s ‘needs’ in this position, and address how you will meet those needs. Also remember to inject anything you may have forgotten to tell the interviewer or wish to stress about your experience and background.
While I have only attempted to hit the high points on this topic in this blog, this will give you an idea of what’s entailed as you work on securing your next opportunity.
Sue, an operations manager, wrote: “I have an employee (direct report) who is on a final written warning for performance, and she’s not cutting it. I meet with her weekly to coach her to succeed, and her performance is still not meeting standards. I’m troubled by the fact that I have known her for a long time, and am practically her friend (frankly, I am her friend). Any suggestions on how I should move forward”?
The HRmeister: “Sue, your situation is not all that uncommon. If you have been clear with her as to what’s expected performance-wise, fairly and consistently used your company’s disciplinary procedures, given her sufficient time to improve, and met with her regularly (particularly while she is on her final written warning), coaching her to succeed, then it appears you have done all that you can do – the rest is up to her.
My experience with these cases is interesting. Sometimes, when the situation calls for you to move to termination, the employee may actually surprise you, and instead of asking how you could do this to her, will thank you for doing what they themselves believe needs to be done (be terminated). There could by many reasons why the employee is not performing satisfactorily. The bright side of a termination is that it may give the employee the ‘push’ they need to find another position more suitable to their skills and interests, or simply some much-needed time off to take care of a pressing personal issue.
Even if it does not turn out this way with your employee, at the end of the day, you can take comfort in knowing that you have done the ‘right thing’ for you, your employee, and your organization.
John, a reader, wrote: “I am a leader in my organization (a call center). I continue to be amazed by how casually more and more of our employees are dressed. We have a business casual dress policy, but it’s clearly not enforced. Any suggestions on how I can best address this issue, as it concerns me?”
The HRmeister: “John, I’m not surprised by your question. I suspect that your call center employees may believe that since they do not typically come into physical contact with your company’s customers, they have more latitude with regard to their casual dress. I have a three-point answer for you (all three points are equally important). First, I suggest that you check to see if you have a dress code HR Policy. If not, I suggest that you contact your HR rep and inquire about creating one (you might even consider volunteering to help draft it).
You will be in a stronger position to effect some change if you have a policy which supports the business casual dress policy. Second, you will need to rally your fellow leaders to your cause. Finally, then you and your fellow leaders need to agree to enforce the policy. A good policy should outline the consequences for not complying. For example, if a leader informs her employee that he is not dressed according to the dress code, she could send him home to change. In some organizations, doing this also triggers a ‘tardy’ or an ‘absence’ which may be a ‘chargeable’ occurrence (a double whammy), which serves as a deterrent.
Again, the ‘consequence(s)’ need to be spelled out in the HR Policy, and communicated to all employees in advance.
One final thought to consider is that there may be some ‘generational’ implications/perceptions at play here. I also am not familiar with your company’s culture. Some organizations stress more ‘inclusiveness’ than others, and, as such, more casual dress may be viewed by some as a way to express their individuality, thereby providing the organization with an opportunity to exercise more inclusiveness.
I hope to be able to share many of the practical ‘all things HR’ pearls of wisdom I have picked up, as well as some of the foibles I’ve made, over my 32 years in this profession.
First, a little bit about me…
I’ve spent the vast majority of my HR career in the property & casualty insurance industry. Starting as a recruiter, I then transitioned into college relations, diversity internships, generalist, and finally, HR business partner work with several different insurers. As you might expect, I learned about mergers and acquisitions, talent management, learning and performance, and just enough about benefits, compensation, and HR analytics to be dangerous.
In 1998, I received my Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certification, and have re-certified every three years since. During this time, I had the privilege of serving on both the Central Indiana and Central Iowa Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) chapters in certification, membership, president, and past president roles.
I look forward to hearing what’s on your mind. What HR questions might you appreciate receiving some advice on? The field has and will continue to change dramatically, so let’s use this blog as a forum to better equip ourselves to meet these changing and challenging times!