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How do you deal with dress code non-compliance?

Matt Treat's Profile

dress code


Topic Expert
Keith Perry
Title: Director of Global Accounting
Company: Agrinos, Inc.
(Director of Global Accounting, Agrinos, Inc.) |

This comes up more often than you would think. I've known junior and senior people in small and f100 companies get dismissed over this. The code, if it is documented as an expectation (like showing up at 8am, etc), then it should be enforced. Not enforcing documented rules undermines the other documented rules. Enforcement should follow the same methods that any HR issue follow. My quick list:
1) Alert employee to the problem, and ask for compliance (or find out if there is an issue, like cannot wear button-down shirts due to carpal tunnel syndrome).
2) If, after a pre-determined time (in this case measurable in days or weeks), this remains an issue, inform employee formally (two people in room on management side) that they are being reprimanded and they need to comply or be dismissed.
3) If, after further time, this remains a problem, thank employee for their time and dismiss them (formally, similar to item 2 above).

Sarah Jackson
Title: Associate Editor
Company: Proformative
(Associate Editor, Proformative) |

Matt, you might be interested in this free pdf here on Proformative:

Dress & Grooming Policy


Best.. Sarah

Sara Voight
Title: Controller
Company: Critical Signal Technologies, Inc
(Controller, Critical Signal Technologies, Inc) |

While I agree completely with Keith, there can be an issue if this not being enforced across the company. I have found that compliance issues sometimes come from people pushing boundaries against managers who don't want to confront something so sensitive. If that is happening, HR needs to make the rounds of all the departments to discuss the attire issue and make sure people know that it will be enforced.

Where I work there are two acceptable dress codes: business attire, or logoed tops with black, navy, or tan khaki's. Our manual makes clear that jeans or even coulottes are not allowed. This addresses people who aren't comfortable dressed up, but doesn't allow them to be free form at the office.

Since the policy is clear and in plain English, it is easy to enforce by any manager and as a result everyone takes it seriously. I haven't seen anyone 'break the rules.'

Topic Expert
Patrick Dunne
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: Milk Source
(Chief Financial Officer, Milk Source) |

I have had this a few times. On the day it occurs, have a quick conversation. If extremely distracting, I send them home or limit their movement in the office. I have had to do this a few times (too much leather, cleavage, leg). If not distracting, I tell them they need to meet code. If it continues, simply state that you will send them home and charge vacation days or no pay. Establish a good policy and stick to it.

Sheila Saffold
Title: Manager of Accounting
Company: Hospital
(Manager of Accounting, Hospital) |

A good, clear policy makes a big difference. If the standards are ambiguous, you are in for a compliance/management headache. Something like "only one earring per ear", and "the earring can be no larger than the size of a quarter" can be objectively decided.

(n/a) |

I think that the most important thing to be is QUICK (like first 30 minutes of the day). In many cases, the employee walked in the door knowing that he/she was testing limits. Address it while it is on his mind and before his buddies have validated the behavior, and I think that you'll have an easier time.

Linda Ellison
Title: CFO & CMO
Company: AMT Supplies
(CFO & CMO, AMT Supplies) |

Codified dress codes can have deleterious effect on culture, replacing professional judgment with rule following, and dampening creativity. Usually dress code "outliers" know what they're doing, so asking the person (privately) "What do you think about your dress today?" provides the opportunity for free exchange of ideas and cooperative problem-solving, encouraging an open dialog and reinforcing mutual respect.

Nat Baker
Title: Management Consultant
Company: Dextrys
(Management Consultant, Dextrys) |

These suggestions are overwhelming about mandating rules and enforcing strict compliance. These are not indicative of leadership but of a legalistic approach. Leadership requires inspiration and motivation to behave a certain way, not enforcing rule compliance. The latter should be the last option when all else fails.

I would suggest bringing in an image consultant to educate the employees about the dress code, what is appropriate, its place in the corporate culture, its importance in professional development and performance reviews, proper attire around customers, etc.

A company that approaches human behavior just by rules will quickly become known for such and very likely not attract talented employees or even lose those they have. Repeated egregious violation may require stronger action, even that of dismissal, but that should be the last option.

A second point: if employees have such weak-egos that they feel some inner need to assert themselves by pushing boundaries for something as trivial as a dress code then the hiring and selection methods of HR need to reviewed immediately.

(Agent, JKS Solutions, Inc.) |

Nat's suggestion of bringing in a consultant is great. There are so many around now that you can find one easily and their presentations are fun.

Topic Expert
Regis Quirin
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP) |

I don't believe you need a Consultant to tell you what you should have learned High school. "The school, as a center of learning, shall provide for the development of habits and attitudes conducive to acceptable wearing apparel, and good grooming. The general dress code policy requirements are outlined in the Osceola District Code of Student Conduct which will be provided to the student during the first week of school. The Principal or the Principal’s designee has the final authority for interpreting whether a student’s apparel conforms to the dress code. When it is determined that a student’s clothing does not comply with the dress code, a parent/guardian may be asked to bring an appropriate change of clothes to school. If the violation of dress code cannot be rectified the student will be sent to in-school-suspension. The student may also receive a disciplinary consequence for violating the school’s dress code policy." Osceola High School Dress Policy

Topic Expert
Malak Kazan
Title: VP, Special Projects
Company: ERI Economic Research Institute
(VP, Special Projects, ERI Economic Research Institute) |

Concur with addressing the issue first thing in the a.m. Depending on how the policy is "worded" and communicated will trigger this type of behavior. Dress / fashion by different generations take on a greater significance. A well developed policy with allow self-expression while still supporting the organization culture objectives. Non-compliance typically will occur in the summer months and most organizations will remind employees to re-read the policy immediately prior (early May'ish).

Hardy Lawrence
Title: Health Consutant
Company: fle
(Health Consutant, fle) |

No,I think everyone should follow their company rules and wear the dress code told to them without any issue.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, |

What I find many times is an inconsistency in rules related to job functions, compensation and dress standards.

Public facing employees and non-public facing employees in my humble opinion can have different dress codes. Those required to "dress up" which would normally involve spending extra money to do so should be compensated accordingly (part of the compensation formula, not necessarily a separate payment).

On the other hand, I have chided employees who looked like they just rolled out of a dumpster, because there is just no excuse (unless you work in and around a dumpster); this was in a extremely trendy, youth based, fashion-based company (there are always limits).

Chris Holtzer
Title: Senior Manager - Strategic Analysis
Company: Sargento
(Senior Manager - Strategic Analysis, Sargento) |

I agree with Wayne here. The issue is typically a long standing, out dated, blanket policy, that may not be a value added policy. In my experience male dress codes are extremely specific and female are general. There are many reasons for this, but it does make the female dress code more difficult to police, understand, and enforce (especially for us fashion ignorant male managers).

Ask why the rule is in place, and why it should be enforced. If there is good reason, explain those reasons to the violator, address the issue, and move on. If there isn't a good reason, other than its tenure, discuss changes with other managers. Dress code changes can be an easy moral booster, especially when the rules are decades out of date.

If you are anywhere near disciplinary action, or dismissal, there is another larger issue besides wardrobe to address.


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