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Dressing Down, Moving Up: How Your Employees Can Successfully Do Both

Since its inception in the early ‘90s, the business-casual dress code has become a norm in the modern workplace. It has its perks: Employees say a relaxed dress code has the power to motivate them, boost morale and act as a powerful recruiting tool.

However, it also has the power to create problems, especially when it’s poorly defined. Vague terms, like “appropriate” and “professional” have the power to render a business-casual dress code largely subjective. And employees’ interpretations of the rules could manifest themselves in a number of ways: plunging necklines, inappropriate T-shirts and the misconception that “sloppy” is synonymous with “casual.”

All of which can impede their chances for promotion.

Advancement and appearance

Earlier this year, CareerBuilder surveyed more than 2,000 hiring and human resource managers and found that certain aspects of an employee’s appearance can cause him or her to be passed over for a promotion.

While provocative dress, wrinkled clothes and a generally shabby appearance were the top turn-offs for hiring and HR managers, unconventional piercings, visible tattoos, ostentatious facial hair and heavy makeup also made the list. The findings are clear: Even in today’s era of the T-shirt clad Silicon Valley CEO, a professional appearance can be essential to an employee’s success.

Creating a killer code

Specificity is the key to creating a business-casual dress code that employees love and is conducive to their advancement. Below is a sample business-casual dress code from the Society for Human Resource Management that employs a high level of confusion-eliminating detail:

  • Casual shirts: All shirts with collars, business casual crewneck or V-neck shirts, blouses, golf and polo shirts. Examples of inappropriate shirts include T-shirts, shirts with inappropriate slogans, tank tops, muscle shirts, camouflage and crop tops.
  • Pants: Casual slacks and trousers and jeans without holes, frays, etc. Examples of inappropriate pants include shorts (except for walking-length shorts), camouflage and pants worn below the waist or hip line.
  • Footwear:Casual slip-on or tie shoes, dress sandals with heel straps and athletic shoes if approved by the department. Examples of inappropriate footwear include floppy sandals, flip-flops and construction or hunting boots.

Getting rid of guesswork

A clearly defined, business-casual dress code that is easily accessible to employees has the power to make employees happy and position them for success. It can cut down on the burden HR experiences from trying to enforce unwritten or underdefined rules and ensures disciplinary action is applied equally.

It’s beneficial for the employee and the organization. And that kind of “win” will never go out of style.