Asking a Subordinate to Improve Her Appearance
There’s no second chance to make a first impression. Even when a business may have a good track record, prospective clients are still greatly influenced by the “what you see is what you get” attitude. A staff that projects a professional appearance can only help build client confidence. A subordinate who doesn’t reinforce a “dressed for success” image can only hurt your chances of securing and maintaining clients.
The goal of this script is to help you bring any sartorially challenged members of your staff to the high standard of appearance required as a norm in the world of business. Errant subordinates will try to make this an issue of personal taste because it’s really the only argument they can muster. If you’re dealing with staff members of the opposite sex, they may even try to lead you into the minefield of gender harassment. That’s why you should consider having a fellow supervisor of the same gender as the offender present in your office when you deal with an opposite gender subordinate. This reinforces the professional tone of your position, safeguards potential future misreporting of events or comments, and serves as a role model for proper dress.
Though not absolutely necessary, refer to any print materials distributed previously to employees regarding dress. Don’t waiver from your responsibility for maintaining the highest professional standards in the workplace. All possible arguments to justify personal dress shatter against this brick wall position.
Attitude: This problem is visually obvious to any and all, so be confident in confronting it. Given this, project an air of disbelief and disappointment: How could anyone not know how to dress for work! Project this attitude in a clear, matter-of-fact presentation of the problem and the solution. This will underline that your concern is professional, not personal.
Preparation: See if your Company has anything in print regarding appearance: an employee handbook, new employee hand-outs, or recent memos. Check with interviewers to see if they discuss appearance when hiring. Also see if you can get information on how your transgressor dressed far interviews. When you assumed supervisory responsibility of the individual, did you say anything about attire? Make note of all the information concerning the obligation for professional dress in the workplace. This supports your point that appearance is not a matter of any one individual’s personal taste but a professional requirement. The proper appearance of fellow workers reinforces this view.
Timing: The instant you see inappropriate dress, move on it. The first time should be the last time. Moving rapidly highlights the importance the problem requires.
Behaviour: The moment you observe inappropriate dress, ask to see the individual. Be straightforward in stating the problem. Emphasize that the professional appearance of the staff influences client attitudes and actions. Your concern is, therefore, not a personal one but a professional one that could touch any staff member who does not realize this. You must stick to this and wave your banner throughout: professional not personal!
Be familiar with any information given to staff regarding appropriate attire.
State clearly that the concern involves professional decorum and not personal taste. Maintain this throughout.
When dealing with a subordinate of the opposite gender, consider having a fellow supervisor of that gender present in your office when you confront the problem.
Use the individual’s interview dress as the key example of what you are after.
Be specific as to what action you will take if you observe the problem again.