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In search of the perfect dress code

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in The Savvy Office Manager

Looking to institute a dress code?

Here are two to choose from:

1. No shorts…no sandals…no flip-flops…no sneakers (except on casual Fridays)…no halter tops… no sleeveless blouses…no T-shirts (unless worn as an undergarment)…dress jeans are OK on casual Fridays only, but should not have holes, tears or frays…skirts should not be above the knees, excessively tight or slit more than two inches…no sweatpants…no yoga pants…no beach dresses…no baseball caps…no muscle shirts…no bib overalls…no flannel shirts…golf shirts are OK on casual Fridays but must be tucked in….well, you get the idea.

2. Employees are expected to dress professionally.

If you go with No. 2, there’s plenty of room for interpretation. George may think his neatly pressed Dockers shorts are professional, especially on a sweltering Friday. And Tina’s Daisy Dukes…? You may want to reconsider option No. 1.

If you select No. 1, you’ve got detailed standards. Employees know what’s acceptable, what isn’t, and the code is a literal laundry list of rules easy to spot when violated. But somehow, employees may feel they’re being treated like children.

In a case that’s still simmering, a board of education in a West Virginia school district proposed an option No. 1 dress code for its teachers in its 66-school jurisdiction.

The teachers union quickly stepped in and called such a dress policy insulting.

“The only statement that needs to be made is that employees need to dress and behave in a professional manner,” Fred Albert, the American Federation of Teachers’ local president and middle school math teacher, told the Charleston Daily Mail. “We don’t need a prescriptive and strict policy.” Fred’s an advocate of option No. 2.

Fred said the teachers at his middle school already dress professionally and don’t need a set of rules telling them what to wear and what not to wear. The teachers believe they know what professional dress is and want the district to respect their judgment.

Employees want to be treated like adults. Who would have thought?

So, with that in mind, here is a simple dress statement you can use that finds middle ground between option No. 1 and option No. 2:

At XYZ Inc., we believe we hired people with brains and a sense of what attire is appropriate for our workplace. You showed some of that sense when you came to interview for your job. The respect you displayed was noticed.

That respect is now reciprocated: We do not publish a list of fashion do’s and don’ts because we trust your professional judgment.

We consider this dress code coming more from you than us. However, we reserve the right to take a harsher stance when this trust is breached and some individuals choose to abuse it. So, please police yourselves.

Just keep in mind that we use the same criteria when we promote as when we hire.

Now, would you go to work in a tank top after reading this?

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