Everyone knows you only get one chance to make a first impression. What you communicate from the curb carries over into the office environment and beyond. Paying attention to professional office attire is important year round, but especially during the warmer summer months.
When the weather is hot and everyone is trying to keep cool and comfortable, some employees may be presenting more than just their apartments! This can be a distraction to co-workers and residents and disrupt the sales process. Here is a topic of concern based on the question below:
Q: The staffs at some our communities tend to “dress down,” especially at our smaller buildings where they have responsibilities in and outside the office. I have noticed this sometimes carries over into their personal grooming as they transition from working outside and then come back into the office to assist clients. However, during the warmer summer months when many of my managers have more responsibilities outside, I have noticed an increase in inappropriate/unprofessional attire and a decrease in attention to personal grooming. I am concerned about the impression my managers are making on our residents, as well as prospective renters. Other than instituting a “uniform and personal grooming policy” or mandating a strict dress code, what can we do?
These are some very valid concerns and this issue needs to be addressed. However, it’s an extremely sensitive subject because how people dress and present themselves is very personal. Also, there is the financial aspect, as not everyone can afford to make a high end fashion statement.
When you throw “gender” into the mix, this issue becomes even more complex, as it’s tough for a male supervisor to approach a female employee on this issue and vice versa. Typically, when a confrontation does occur, someone is embarrassed, offended or both. Then you end up right back where you started and nothing is resolved.
For those companies who have been able to implement a “uniform” policy and standard of dress – congratulations! You do not have any of the above headaches any more. Probably the only issue you have to deal with now on this subject is getting your employees to actually WEAR their uniforms!
For everyone else, the answer is “education”. If you have a written “dress code,” regarding attire and personal grooming for all employees, no matter what community they work at, then everyone will know what the expectations are.
When a new employee is hired, they can be given this information up front as part of their new hire package. That way, they will understand how they are expected to present themselves. For existing employees who are not in compliance because there was no written dress code at the time they were hired, you can institute a “new company policy” and create a standard for all employees to follow.
Of course you must remember a very important principle – Everything in life has a “trickle down” effect. Your efforts to get your employees to comply with a dress code will only work to the degree in which YOU comply with the same standard yourself. A leasing consultant does not have much motivation to dress up a notch if the assistant or resident manager is “dressing down.” On the other hand, an on-site manager will not be inspired to comply with a dress code if the property supervisor or owner visits wearing casual clothing.
When employees working together dress inconsistently, this sends a mixed message to the residents and prospects that visit their office. Until people really get to know you, all they have to go on is “appearances.” The employees who are dressed in business attire will “appear” to be professional, organized and prepared to serve their clients. Those dressed otherwise will not. As in every area of life, perception is reality.
While you can’t judge a book by its cover, the next person who walks through your door could make a rental decision based upon what’s covering (or not covering) you! Having a standard of dress for all employees, no matter what community they work at, will consistently communicate a sense of pride and professionalism.
Joyce (Kirby) Bica is the former owner of Shoptalk Service Evaluations. For more information, email [email protected]. Reprinted with permission.