Showing a bit too much skin?

Dear Ken Keller,

Attempting to accommodate my employees I decided to allow for casual dress from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Two months in, I have concerns.

Some female employees are wearing outfits displaying considerably more skin than I feel appropriate. I overheard one male employee say, “I wonder what so and so will wear tomorrow!” I also have some male employees dressing like they are at the lake.

I don’t want to be the bad guy but this is spiraling out of control. Not every employee has dressed inappropriately but I need to get the genie back in the bottle.

John H.

Dear John,

You made a mistake by not being crystal clear what appropriate summer dress is your employees. Employees are loving you because you essentially said anything goes! Your silence is being interpreted as total permission. Only it isn’t.

Here are three things you need to do.

First, you need to find some courage; being popular is not your role. When you see someone you believe is inappropriately dressed, you need to call them into your office immediately and have a brief talk that their dress that day is not appropriate for your company. If necessary, send them home to change, or provide them with something that addresses your concern (a white lab coat or company shirt). If you do this just once or twice, people will get the message.

Second, you need to define what appropriate casual dress is for all employees and for each season. Ask some trusted employees to quickly gather pictures to visually display appropriate and inappropriate dress. These pictures will help employees to understand what is acceptable and what is not. Some employees simply do not understand that what they have on is not appropriate in a professional work setting.

Third, bring in a Human Resources advisor to help you create the right policies for inclusion into your employee handbook. Use that same professional to conduct a post- Labor Day meeting with all your employees about how the 2015 summer dress code experiment worked and what needs to change assuming you do it again in the summer of 2016.


Dear Ken Keller,

We have a busy operation and employees here are productive. At any given time, it looks like a tornado has wiped out the office: it is a mess. I’m afraid to bring clients or suppliers to visit I am so embarrassed how it looks. How can I bring this chaos under control?

Clint O.

Dear Clint,

Years ago I went to work for a company and was told on the first day that a clean desk policy existed and was enforced. Not knowing what that meant, I asked for clarification.

The owner of the company insisted that at the end of the day, every desk was free of paper, folders, stacks, magazines and so forth. Any assignments and open projects were to be put into desk drawers or credenzas and retrieved the next business day.

It wasn’t that he hated clutter and he wasn’t a control freak; he knew everyone was working hard and had a lot going on. What he wanted was a presentation ready facility where everyone was proud to work.

I recommend that you establish the same kind of policy. While you may get some initial resistance, it won’t take long for people to understand and accept your goal. Morale will improve too.