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How to Handle Dress Issues at Work

It really hasn’t been your week when it comes to staff dressing the part.  The systems architect you spent so long headhunting came to work in trainers without socks.  And your newly employed researcher decided to wear hot pants.  “What next?” you wonder.  “Will somebody go to a business lunch in a cocktail dress?” You want to put your head on the desk and weep.  Yet you don’t know what to say.  You don’t want to make anybody feel uncomfortable, and personal dress can be a sensitive issue. 

Workwear is important because it communicates a message.  When staff dresses appropriately, they are really saying "I am committed to my job, and I am serious." Workwear is not meant to say "I'd rather be at a braai.” Or “I’d rather be clubbing on a Friday night.” When staff dress badly your clients may believe staff hearts are not in their jobs.  They will start to feel uneasy.  They may even perceive your staff to be incompetent.  So what should you do?


Create a company policy

Understand that staff who wear inappropriate clothing may lack self-awareness.  They may not be aware of how to dress appropriately in all situations.  Some staff may believe only their work counts and give no thought to their outfits.  A clear policy will help provide an understanding of what you value and expect.  


Start a larger discussion

Style feels personal, and some people do confuse self-expression with social context.  Other people simply don't know what to wear, what suits them or how to look polished and professional.  Before you confront individual staff members, bring in a style consultant.  S/he will be able to work within your policies, guiding all staff on quality, fit and accessorising.  


Focus on specific staff members

Once you've started a larger discussion, it is time to focus on employees who still struggle.  Let your consultant know who struggles with appropriate workplace dress.  She can always tactfully use those people as models, sharing solutions for professional business wear.  Your stylist would also be able to enter into a private discussion on any personal struggles staff have with clothes.  The result should be a handful of styles which are individually flattering and personally satisfying.  A stylist will help your team feel confident – no matter what their age, body shape of social- economic background.


Validate your staff

Once you’ve offered assistance to staff members who struggle with appropriate attire, validate staff efforts.  If problems persist, it is often helpful to share when and where staff have achieved great personal style in the past and encourage a person to draw on past successes. 

Clothing should be noticeable only for the compliments it brings.  It is not the clothes which make the employee. Instead, stylish employees make their clothes work to communicate personal credibility and an image the company can be proud of.


Contact me to find out how I can support your company dress code goals.


Janine Carley- James 



Cell: 0828949420