Strict Policy

17 Mar

Dear LetterBalm: I’m in the training department of a mid-sized manufacturing company. Many new hires come through my department as they acclimate themselves. I see dress code violations, especially women who wear inappropriate or revealing clothing, even after they’ve received the company handbook outlining what is and isn’t proper apparel. (Some of the rules are for safety reasons because our products are made on complex machines.) I’m a man, and I’m uncomfortable talking to female employees about this, but there’s no one else to do it. How should I handle this?

–The Enforcer

Ms. L.B. can see why it is uncomfortable for you to discuss low necklines, jangly jewelry and too-short skirts, and she wants to know why your company doesn’t require safety jumpsuits on the factory floor. If the new employee has received a handbook that clearly states the rules, you should remain neutral and cite those rules. Remain calm, emphasize the safety aspect and don’t become judgmental. Depending on what HR advises, you can inform the employee that this infraction will be entered into his or her personnel file. This is a prime example of why it is advisable that companies – even those with few employees – have clear, written directives. Then management can cite policy when employees try to stretch the limits of acceptable workplace behavior. Why don’t you use this as an opportunity to review current policies and see if additions and revisions are in order? Approach your boss with a solid plan of action that involves other managers at the company:

Errol, lately I’ve had to counsel new female employees about inappropriate apparel on the factory floor. This is counterproductive, as you can imagine. Even though it will involve extra expense like laundry, we might consider requiring safety jumpsuits for all on the factory floor, including supervisors. I’d like to take a run at our policy manual because it could use some revisions, clarifications and additions. If you give me the go-ahead, I’ll ask my counterparts from other departments for input, and I’ll involve HR and our labor attorney to make sure the new handbook is legally compliant. I’ll run everything by everyone involved, and I’ll keep you posted on our progress. I’ll try to have something for your consideration in the next couple of months. Does this sound like something you can agree to?


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s