We were all entertained by the story of a 12 year old boy who wore a skirt to school in protest at not being allowed to wear shorts. It turns out that the school’s dress code policy had a loophole which meant that the boy could wear a skirt without contravening the school rules.
The story was picked up in the Cambridge Evening News initially but has now spread to Twitter and beyond, with people like Phillip Schofield tweeting their support for the protest. With the interest the story has generated, the school had to promise a review of their dress code policy for the following term.
Many businesses also have dress code policies and although they aren’t usually quite so controversial, this story tells us two things. The first is that some flexibility isn’t a bad thing (what harm does it do if the boys wear shorts in the summer months, as long as they’re not scruffy/denim/baggy/etc?). It’s usually during the summer too that office-based employees complain about stringent dress code policies because they can be considered restrictive given the temperature in the office.
Businesses need to remember that while a dress code policy has its place, the primary purpose is to ensure that employees are perceived in the right way by their customers and/or the public. It should not be written with the intention of restricting employee comfort, nor should it be policed in an over-zealous way. Do male employees really need to wear a tie in the summer months, especially if they’re going to be in the office all day? Isn’t a smart open-necked shirt more appropriate in those circumstances?
The second lesson is that issues raised should be dealt with as swiftly as possible. This story shows us that an organisation can quickly become a laughing stock. In this particular case, the school’s dress code policy was designed to uphold their standards. Unfortunately, this situation then backfired in quite a spectacular fashion and it’s fair to say that the school’s reputation took a hit as a result. The question is, would the boy have protested in this way if his concerns had been addressed earlier?
With news becoming more instantly available across the world, everything a business does is under the microscope and every policy can have an adverse effect if not managed properly from the start.
Trouble with your dress code? Not sure if you can influence what people wear to work? Give us a call on 01487 815720.