Q: My company is small and a bit disorganized. We are in start-up mode. I had worked in a much more formal company before. I am getting used to working in a more chaotic, but still fun environment. I like this new company a lot. I supervise a few entry-level people. All are great performers. I am a bit uneasy about how some of the employees dress in the spring and summer time. At my former company, HR would issue an email in April to provide guidance on this issue. And it was addressed in our employee handbook. How should I address it?
A: When the temperature climbs, I often receive inquiries regarding dress in the workplace. Warm weather often brings challenges in terms of professional dress, even in the most casual environments.
Let’s start by first finding out if there is a company dress code or guidelines in place. There may be a policy or established guidelines that you may not be aware of. Ask another supervisor or the person who handles some of the Human Resources (HR) tasks.
If no policy exists, talk to your manager about establishing some guidelines. If you are struggling with the issue, it is probably reasonable to assume that other supervisors might also be facing this challenge.
I talked to an 11-year old dress code expert, my daughter. In some cases, our schools do a better job of articulating guidelines than companies do. According to Haley Sinacole, a soon-to-be seventh grader, the guidelines that have been established at her school are based on the "Six Bs". What are the Six Bs? The Six Bs is an abbreviation for saying no to the following: bellies, butts, breasts, bras, boxers and backs. Some companies have adopted the Six Bs because it sends a message of flexibility but also some limits.
Some companies publish an even stronger dress code, including more specific requirements of what is acceptable and also what is not. Additionally some companies have guidelines for dress specifically targeting client-facing meetings or client-facing roles.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
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