Question: One of my employees frequently wears clothing that is too small and too tight. Although we have a written dress code, "Rachel" has apparently decided to ignore it. Both customers and co-workers have commented on the amount of skin and cleavage she displays.
I asked Rachel if she would like some assistance in selecting suitable outfits for the office, but she said no. Now I can't decide whether I should make the dress code more specific, send her home to change or just write her up. What would you suggest?
Answer: As Rachel's boss, you have every right to clearly define appropriate office attire and see that she complies. But this particular option seems to be missing from your list of possible actions. Somewhere between "asking if she would like assistance" and "writing her up" is a more logical strategy: Firmly describe your expectations, then follow up with ongoing feedback.
For example: "Rachel, we need to talk about appropriate dress for the office. Any outfit that exposes a lot of skin between your shoulders and knees is not acceptable because it looks unprofessional. For instance, the shirt you are wearing today is too low cut for work, but the dress you wore yesterday was fine. To be sure these expectations are clear, let's discuss some other examples."
From then on, if Rachel dresses inappropriately, immediately send her home to change. But when she makes correct clothing choices, acknowledge her good judgment. When attempting to change an employee's behavior, managers need to not only correct missteps, but also praise progress.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach. Send in questions and get free coaching tips at www.yourofficecoach.com.