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HR is tasked with designing systems for managing people. These systems may involve establishing company policies. Line or operations managers are, generally speaking, responsible for managing the people, right? Most managers have no problem calling an employee in to give praise for a job well done or to correct any operational issue that might undermine his or her ability to meet required numbers. Why does this same manager quake at the thought of dealing with blatant dress code violations, particularly those that deal with employees coming to work partially, if not, completely unclothed during the warmer months of the year?

You, Ms. Manager, decided it’s not that important. The cute guy on your team, Jon, is half-dressed today but you have to work on the efficiency assessment due by the end of the week. Five of the women on your team and one of the guys have just spent the last 45 minutes discussing, emailing, gawking, conducting pass-by’s (Is that a word?) of Jon’s cubicle. Will it end there? Of course not, they are going to lunch with employees from other departments and will be discussing just how “hot” Jon looked today. They will be arranging for departmental “work-related” visits from their buddies later in the day and hoping for a long extremely hot summer. The remainder of your team will be discussing how you have let things like this slide and how “management” arbitrarily enforce certain policies but not others. Suddenly, you’ve just lost a good chunk of  work hours and some small amount of respect over an issue that was “not that important”.

I’ve been told that avoidance on this issue mostly comes from not knowing exactly what to say. Try this, “I know it’s warm outside but I promise we will keep the temperature inside the office comfortably cool. Can you please keep your clothes on, dress professionally, and adhere to our company’s dress code? It’s in place to maintain not only a productive work environment but to also impart the right image to our customers who make our paychecks possible. Thank you!”

Questions: What’s the worse dress code offense you’ve witnessed? Do you think the offender was aware of the violation? What’s your opinion on office dress codes?  Do you like or dislike casual dress?

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