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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


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