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Byline: Ken Lloyd On The Job

Q. I am a department manager in an organization that allows the employees to ``dress down'' on Fridays. There is no written policy in this area, and many employees are wearing clothes that are inappropriate for work. Lately some of our customers have made comments. How do I deal with this? H.D.

A. When employees are told that they can ``dress down'' and the guidelines are vague at best, the employees will dress down - in many cases, way down. And further, the attire will continue its descent unless some action is taken.

Programs that allow the employees to dress comfortably for work can be very helpful in improving morale, satisfaction and even productivity. While it is not critical to have a written policy in this area, it is essential to have widely shared agreement as to what is and is not appropriate. The best way to reach this understanding is through direct communication.

The first step is to openly and honestly tell the employees that the current level of attire on Fridays has dipped into the unacceptable range, to the point that customers are commenting about it. Give them specific information regarding the kinds of attire that have generated complaints or other work-related problems, as well as a clearer picture of the kinds of attire that are acceptable. Let the employees know that you view them as adults and expect them to make reasonable individual decisions as to what they should be wearing to work on the free-dress days.

In the event that some employees still do not get the message, the next step is to develop a specific standard. While you could do this on your own, it will be more effective to form a task force of key employees to suggest some guidelines. Employee involvement at this stage of the process will increase the likelihood of having a quality program that is actually followed.

While not a major issue, one change that should be considered is the name of the program. The term ``dress down'' can send a psychological message that attire is expected to sink to greater and greater depths. In fact, it is almost a subtle directive. As a result, it will make more sense to use words like ``casual'' or ``comfortable'' in referring to attire for the special days.

Q. One of my co-workers is a very dominant person who constantly bosses us around. She always has to have her way. If we stand up to her, she keeps pushing until she wears us down. Our supervisor contends that she is a competent employee, so he is not interested in hearing about this. How do we deal with this? C.P.

A. The best way to deal with her is from a distance. This is not a person with whom you can sit down, clear the air and then live happily ever after. She has a strong need to dominate, and this is an enduring part of her personality. Unless you and your fellow employees are submissive, you are not going to have a comfortable match.

If your work does not call for much contact with her, then literally take extra steps to keep your dealings with her to an absolute minimum. If you must have contact with her, keep it cordial, businesslike and brief. You will be far more satisfied focusing your time and attention on the interesting and motivational aspects of your job and on the friendly working relationship with other fellow employees.

While you are not going to change the personality of your dominant co-worker, it is important to recognize that she is going to continue to push for her way as long as she thinks that she can wear you down. In essence, when you give in to her, you are rewarding her domineering actions and encouraging her to engage in the same behavior next time. This means that if her requests are reasonable, go along with them. If they are not, then simply refuse and go about your business. You should not try to stand up to her, as it sounds like she thrives on confrontations. If you need support, you should look to your fellow employees who are in the same boat.

The other problem here is that your supervisor does not recognize the fact that employees can be competent in handling the technical side of their job, but so difficult that they undermine the attitudes, satisfaction and productivity of those around them. It may help to let your supervisor see the specific performance and output problems that are being caused by this co-worker.

MEMO: Ken Lloyd, Ph.D., is a specialist in organizational behavior. Questions can be sent by electronic mail to, or they can be mailed to P.O. Box 260057, Encino, Calif. 91426. Names will be withheld upon request.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:BUSINESS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 8, 1996

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