We were watching a rerun of "Split Ends”, a reality show where two stylists switch salons for a week. This episode featured a stylist from
Then there was the brouhaha not too long ago about a dress code required that female employees wear panty-hose when wearing a skirt or dress. Female news reporters were incensed, but the women on the street had mixed feelings: some felt hose gave them a more professional look, while others had never even owned a pair. The debate became so heated that the Association of Corporate Counsel offered guidance in the form of a free phone message entitled: Flip-Flops at Work? Not for Everyone. Here’s a script of the telephone message:
“Our policy is that all employees' dress, grooming and personal hygiene should be appropriate to their work situation. You should portray an image of professionalism, exercising good taste in appearance regardless of your work area. Thus, you should avoid clothing that is too revealing, see-through, scruffy or tight-fitting. Clothes that you might wear to the gym, the beach, or to clean the garage, should not be worn to work. We expect you to use your own good judgment and err on the side of caution. If you have questions about our policy or how it applies to you or others, please contact your supervisor.”
We think that’s a pretty good policy to follow, especially when you consider the less than wonderful fashion choices that have haunted us for the past few years. We’re so over male store associates whose pants barely cover their derriere, and we’re tired of female associates who flash their undergarments every time they bend over. The focus should be on the store and what it sells, not what the sales associate is – or is not – wearing.
Here's the thing: customers view your associates as living, breathing beings who represent your store. Do they represent it well?
Every business, large and small, needs a formal dress code that’s in writing and reinforced. Here’s a good place to start:
* Perception is reality: Customers make value judgments about your staff within the first 10 seconds of contact. Based on dress alone, what’s the customers’ perception of your staff right now? More importantly, what do you want your new dress code to say about your brand and about your business?
* Using the Association of Corporate Counsel’s Flip-Flops at Work? Not for Everyone as a guideline, write a dress code for your business that leaves no room for imagination. If you decide jeans are okay for work then insist that jeans be clean, pressed, and high enough to cover all the body parts they’re supposed to cover.
* Be firm. It’s much easier to relax your dress code than it will be to tighten it up later on. If you have outside sales people, teachers, demonstrators, etc., then you’ll want to make sure they also receive a written copy of your dress code. Even if they are not directly employed by you, they still represent your business.* You are the official “Keeper of the Dress Code”. You must be the shining example that all will follow. If you don’t abide by your own rules, why should your associates?* Take into consideration feedback that you hear. Remember the panty-hose debate?Because of employee feedback, the rule that required female employees wear panty-hose was eliminated from the dress code.
*Once your dress code is in place, be prepared to send an occasional associate home to change if he or she reports to work dressed inappropriately. If you don’t reinforce your dress code, no one in the store will respect it.
In all cases, your appearance should not be the focus of your contact with customers. Know going in that not everyone will be thrilled with your new dress code, but you need to make sure that it’s followed. It’s your store, your investment, and your reputation that’s at stake. When it comes down to how customers think, the first impression is really the only impression that counts.
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