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Dress Codes?

Dress Codes?

It’s summer! The weather outside is hot, the air conditioning is finicky, the attitude is more relaxed. On top of all this, clothing styles are more revealing (and more acceptable) than ever.  This is the time of year where we in HR get lots of questions about what is appropriate to wear
to work. No, there isn’t an institutional dress code. But managers and supervisors have the right, maybe even the obligation, to ensure employees dress appropriately. As you can guess, “appropriate” is up for interpretation.

Summer is a state of mind.No!

Employees in 2016 have more power to affect their own work experience. Microsoft is an industry leader in this regard.  From their website [1]:

Flexibility. Whether you are an early bird or a late riser, flexible work hours allow you to work when you are at your best. Our dress code is simple: you have your own style; we expect you to bring it.

At the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH), a small nonprofit based in Chicago, the dress code is two words: “No nudity.”

Many people argue that authenticity and individual expression are hallmarks of being productive and successful at work. Allowing employees to determine what to wear to work each day, without it being dictated from the top, increases employee engagement. [2]  Especially in a world that has 18-22 year old students as the customer, establishing approachability and rapport from a “what to wear” perspective can be seen a good thing.


Think Mad Men! There was a time when business suits, button-down shirts, polished shiny shoes ruled the day and the workplace for both men and women. There are still reasons that professional dress is important:

  • It establishes the brand for the organization.  It creates an image of professionalism.
  • Some believe it has an influence on job performance. Researchers from California State University and Columbia [3] found that “formal business attire enhances how employees are “seen by others and the way workers view themselves…”
  • Formal dress codes can create stronger work culture. Everyone in the work group operates on the same level.
  • Some employees really like dress codes and the stability that knowing the rules provides.
- Staci  Sleigh-Layman

2 HR Magazine, SHRM, June 2016, page 28.
3 HR Magazine, SHRM, June 2016, page 29.


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