The approach of summer and summer office attire can make even the most seasoned HR person weary. No one wants to tell an employee that her belly button isn’t for public viewing or to leave the flip flops at home.
Like any behavior you want to generate, it’s much easier to set clear expectations of what is and isn’t acceptable summer office attire before the season begins. So this spring, do some prevention before you have to give an employee feedback for wearing something that fits better at the beach than at work.
Most organizations have a written dress code. I recommend making it visual. Like the image here, post pictures of summer office attire do’s and don’ts in visual form. A picture makes a lasting impression employees are likely to remember; bullet points are easy to forget. If employees are wearing flip flops, tank tops, sheer blouses, spaghetti straps, wrinkled capris, etc., simply post photos of those articles in the no category. Don’t make employees guess if something is appropriate, make it visually clear.
I also recommend hosting a fashion show. Order food, have employees model summer office attire do’s and don’ts. Make it fun. Watching your peers walk ‘the runway’ in both appropriate and inappropriate summer office attire will make a much bigger impact than any ‘memo’ will.
But let’s say you already have a summer dress code violater and you know you need to say something to the person. Addressing inappropriate office attire is just like any other feedback conversation. Make it short. Tell the person why you’re speaking – because you care about him and want to help him manage his reputation – and be direct.
Here are a few examples of how to tell someone she is violating the summer dress code:
Preface each example below with something like, “I care about you and I care about your career. I’ve got some input about your summer office attire. Please take my feedback in the spirit it’s intended, which is to be helpful to you.” This language is appropriate for any type of relationship – peer, manager, and direct reports.
- Summer casual dress code scenario one: “Those are super cute shoes, but they violate our company dress code of no open toed shoes. Please don’t wear them again at work.”
- Summer casual dress code scenario two: “I can see your bra straps under that shirt. Please wear an additional layer under the shirt, the next time you wear it.” Women should have this conversation, men should not. If a man manages a female who needs to alter her summer attire, ask another female she has a good relationship with to have that conversation for you.
- Summer casual dress code scenario three: “Those pants are too tight for work. Please wear looser fitting clothing.”
Effective feedback is short and clear. You can do it. Unless you hire and manage life guards, simply tell the people you work with the truth about the impression their clothing makes and why that’s important. But it’s always easier to set clear expectations before challenges occur, so start there.