I had an employee wear a sweat suit to work recently and when I confronted her about it she immediately became defensive stating that I hadn’t said anything to others who wore similar attire and she attempted to justify the outfit as “business casual.” She also pointed out that nowhere in the Employee Manual does it say you cannot wear sweats. She even took issue to the fact that I called the outfit a sweat suit, stating that it’s actually a sports suit and she was not sweating.
How do I address this even though it’s not spelled out in our dress code?
Myra’s answer to dress code issues.
Sometimes, a rule is ignored or maybe even forgotten until it becomes a problem. A company may assume a dress code and not mention it, until an employee’s “wardrobe malfunction” demands a reaction.
The first thing I would do here is ask 2 questions:
1. Does the outfit break the rules?
2. Are the rules being followed in general?
If the rules are being followed in general but this person’s appearance is not in accordance with the rules, then meet with the person and say, “We don’t always talk about it, because we all just know it, but we have a dress code. Do you know about it? If not, then I’ve made a mistake – I should have made sure you knew.”
After you hear the response, describe the specific item – present or past- that doesn’t meet the dress code and ask the person to change it.
If the rules are not being followed g generally then your situation is more difficult. Why is what other people doing okay, but this one case is not? Ask that question before the employee does. Then you are ready to say, “I’ve looked at the dress code and I’ve discovered that we pay less attention to it than we should. But your (sweat suit) creates a particular problem for the office.” Talk about the business reason the change is needed.