Friday, April 29, 2016

Dress Code Policy: Searching for Answers

Q: Dear Workplace Wonda,

I am a new employee and reviewed our handbook very closely to make sure I am following all the rules and policies. I have noticed that even though the dress code policy is very clear, a lot of people in other departments and divisions do not follow the guidelines. For example, last week on Friday, I noticed several employees wearing tank tops and thong type sandals. I asked my supervisor if I could wear these comfy options and was told “No” because they violate the dress code policy. Is there really a dress code? Or does it come down to who you know?

Signed, Searching for Answers

Dear Searching for Answers,

A: It’s obvious if employees are wearing tank tops and flip flops (or thong sandals) to work, even on casual Friday, the dress code policy has failed! That is, unless you work for Wild Water Adventure Park.

This is a dilemma that many employers face each year around this time. As soon as there is an inkling of temperatures hitting the 80’s, clothes start shrinking and falling off. It is as if the blazers and sweaters that we’ve lovingly wrapped our bodies in during winter suddenly tighten their itchy grasp, threatening to cut off our life support. So low on oxygen, damage occurs to the frontal lobe of the brain which affects one’s ability to think and make choices. Thus, the decision to wear tank tops and flip flops to work seems like a logical decision to some. To those of us not strangled by our winter wardrobe, the idea of wearing beach wear to work does not compute with our fully functioning brain.

Most employers have some type of dress code policy. The problem is, employees often have their own interpretation of what is appropriate in the workplace. If employees are not reminded of what is considered professional and appropriate, then skies the limit. Casual Fridays will end up becoming Freaky Friday as employees arrive to work in house shoes and Tweety Bird lounge pants!

Sure, employers could open a Workplace Fashion Police Department with staff solely responsible for carrying around a measuring tape to ensure skirts are no shorter than 2” above the knee. Or, they could shame all dress code violators by posting their photos on the Intranet and have a panel discuss their workplace fashion faux pas. But, most employers don’t have it in their budgets to support such an effort. Instead, employers trust their management staff to address violations of the dress code as they occur.

In fact, your question is the perfect example of what happens when managers don’t address (or participate in) dress code violations. It becomes a “why do I have to follow the rules if they don’t have to?” This is my advice to you. Continue to follow the dress code policy. You will be looked upon more favorably as a professional. I commend your supervisor for explaining to you that tank tops and thong type sandals are not appropriate for the workplace. It’s obvious that your supervisor has your best interest and the interest of his/her department or division in mind.

To you tank top sporting, thong sandal flopping employees out there, please take notice; new employees are looking at you for the standard of what is appropriate in the workplace. If you are unsure of what is appropriate to wear to work, ask your supervisor or contact Human Resources. Remember, you have only seven seconds to make a first impression. What kind of impression do you want to make at your company?

Signed, Workplace Wonda

Friday, April 22, 2016

Workplace or War Zone- Bullying in the Workplace

Dear Workplace Wonda, I was reading your blog and came across the entry titled, “Bullied to the Bone-Workplace Bullying” and it is pretty sad to know that in situations like these there’s nothing we can do as employees when it comes to being bullied by our boss.  

I am constantly talked down to by my boss who feels the need to copy their boss every time I make a mistake.  I hesitate to ask questions or explain myself because communicating with my boss feels like a confrontation, instead of a conversation.  

I don’t believe this is a healthy environment working under these circumstances.  You can feel the tension.   In fact, several employees have already quit or transferred because of this bullying boss.  Any advice will be greatly appreciated. 

Signed, Workplace or War Zone?

Dear Workplace or War Zone, first may I say, my heart breaks that you are feeling less than encouraged and engaged in your workplace.  When you think about it, we spend 1/3 of our day at work.  We certainly want that time to be positive and productive.  Spending 1/3 of your day feeling discouraged and belittled affects the remaining percentage of your day.

When we think of bullies, we often think of the school yard bully.  Many movies have been made about bullies, including:  Carrie, Mean Girls, Heathers, and Revenge of the Nerds, just to name a few.   One of my favorite movies, “Back to the Future,” had an iconic bully, Biff!   Biff was the classic wedgie-serving loudmouth that famously targeted the shy and timid George McFly.   His best known lines are “Hello?  Hello?  Anybody home?  Think, McFly!  and “Hey, butthead!”  Interestingly, there have been several recent headlines stating, “A real-life Biff is running for president!”  I’ll let you use your imagination to determine who the articles might be referencing.

Whether it is in the school yard or in the workplace, bullies have similar goals:  to intimidate and humiliate.  According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, workplace bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators.   

In my previous blog, I explained that many employers ignore “bullying” behavior because in itself it’s not considered illegal, unless; it can be specifically attributed to a protected class, as defined by state and federal law.  In layman’s terms, at this time, it is not illegal to be an ***hole!  But, is it okay?  Absolutely not! 

California lawmakers are even taking notice.  In 2015, California passed Law360 that requires supervisors to complete anti-bullying training every two years in conjunction with the AB1825 which requires supervisors to attend sexual harassment prevention training every two years.   Although a baby step, it is a step in the right direction.  Still, employers hold the ultimate power in stopping workplace bullying.  It defies logic that basic rules of civility would not apply to bosses.  Frankly, the command-and-control leadership style still allowed by many employers is outdated and ineffective in 2016. 

Blah, blah, blah, none of these “excuses” of why bullying and incivility is occurring in workplaces everywhere helps you.  And if I’m to be honest, I’m stalling because I know you won’t like my answer.

Unfortunately, the options haven’t changed since my previous blog entry.  In a nutshell, you can stay, you can quit, or you can report the behavior.  Sadly, until your employer enforces a corporate culture free from bullying and incivility, little will change.

That was my politically correct answer.  What would Workplace Wonda do?  I’d go all “Norma Rae”  and march through the office singing, “We’re not going to take it, no we’re not going to take it, we’re not going to take it anymore….”  Okay, that probably wouldn’t be effective now that I think of it.  Unless you were a child of the 1980’s!  Twisted Sisters, anyone?  A better idea would be to give my employer the opportunity to address it. 

Please keep in mind, change occurs slowly and your employer might need time to assess the situation.  I can’t guarantee this will be a fix, but if no one says anything, it is a guarantee that nothing will be fixed.

Signed Workplace Wonda



Fa La La Funk- Dealing With the Holiday Blues

  Dear Workplace Wonda,  Each winter, when the holiday season rushes upon me like a crowd at a Bad Bunny concert, instead of feeling excitem...