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.