I had drafted this post yesterday and lo and behold I was having a conversation with someone who asked me this very thing, so I had to post on it.
Everyone is unique and entitled to express their individuality. Right?
Well you would be mistaken, especially when it comes to work. I often get asked from exasperated employers what to do about an employee who is coming in showing their rather colourful, dis/tasteful tattoos, body piercings/maimings, (there appears to be a rise in people willingly putting giant holes in their ear lobes), looking dirty, scruffy, unkempt, too much cleavage, legs etc and the employee refusing to do anything about it on the grounds of their rights and their right to express their individuality.
Its an easy one to answer really, not to put too fine a point on it, if you are an employer and employing someone to do a job, you are entitled to insist employees are clean, hide or remove all visible piercings, body art, cover up and come to work in clothes that show respect for themselves and their colleagues and reflect the culture of the organisation. Usually an embarrassing conversation about smartening or covering up and a gentle reminder that the workplace is not the set of TOWIE, a night club or a body art convention suffices. Tell them to cover up, clean up and dress appropriately end of.
I came across an organisation recently who expressly told their prospective candidates NOT to wear a suit to the interview. Thats fine, now everyone knows you can show up there dressed casually and no-one will bat an eyelid. If you don’t mind tattoos and jeans, then thats fine too, no point in turning up there in a suit.
Conversely I’ve come across an individual who worked in a corporate environment, suits and smart dress all around, who insisted on wearing scruffy t-shirts and jeans, and refusing to wear shoes, preferring instead to walk around in their socks. It took some persuading and then threats to get them to raise their sartorial game, but the end result is that individual literally torched their own long term career prospects full stop.
Bottom line is – your organisation – your rules and if an individual wishes to express their individualism and you would prefer they not do it in work time, then they do so outside of work hours or outside of your organisation. Work, unless you want to create that environment is not the place to experiment with an alternative look.
Make the rules and your dress standards clear from the beginning, at the interview stage even. If you want a rule followed then set the rules in advance. A good code of conduct always helps, a mention of dress codes in the contract and staff handbook and a brief paragraph in any Induction manual usually does the trick. No need to have the 80 page dress code manual some organisations have where even the denier of tights is insisted upon. Then if all else fails……………………..