Monday, June 19, 2000

Workplace issues

Job uniforms? Ask for input

        I'll make this brief: My husband and I have a professional office. I manage it. I have trouble getting the girls to wear their company shirts every day and their name badges.

        I want a professional look at the front desk and want clients to feel familiar with the girls and know their names. What can I do to enforce this, short of docking them 50 cents each time or something like that? Hope you can help!

— M.P. in Butler County

Rick Pescovitz, owner of Professional Image, a uniform company in Blue Ash, said initial employee resistance to a requirement to wear a shirt or uniform is common.

        It is also easily overcome.

        “The key is they need to be part of the selection process,” said Mr. Pescovitz, a member ofthe Enquirer Workplace Panel.

        When R&L Carriers of Wilmington decided last year that drivers needed a uniform, the company created a committee to review possible colors and styles for the 2,700 drivers.

        By creating a process and committee, people probably will be more likely to accept whatever uniform is chosen and recognize that the company is going to some expense to provide consistent workplace apparel.

        “When you have a lot smaller company, you can have fewer people choosing,

        and then once the uniform is chosen, really, there is no excuse not to wear it,” Mr. Pescovitz said.

        He suggested that a committee be created, but only after managers meet with workers to talk about the benefits of a company shirt.

        “You have to sit down ... and find out why — why they are not wearing the uniform and name tags,” Mr. Pescovitz said. “Maybe the shirts are cheap and they're not comfortable.”

        He said most firms pitch shirts to workers as a benefit.

        “A lot of companies we deal with put in their job description that one benefit is a free uniform,” he said, “that workers are getting something for free and don't have to spend money on their own clothes for work.”

        Still, even with a selection process, not everybody will be happy with the shirt or uniform. That you can count on, Mr. Pescovitz said.

        A fine is not likely to get at the root of the problem, either, he said, because not wearing a uniform and name badge may be symptoms of deeper animosity.

        Refusing to wear name badges and company clothing are clearly performance issues, said Bob Parsanko, founder of Executive Insights, a Cincinnati-based firm that provides coaching and advice to CEOs and management teams around the world.

        Rather than examining attitudes as a first step, that should be the last step, he said. Instead, managers should first take the time to guarantee that employees know the rules.

        “It's amazing how often managers and companies and organizations assume everybody knows policy issues. You first have to ask the question: Does the person know what is expected of them?” he said.

        Then, managers need to look at attitudes on why the policy is not being followed

        “The vast majority of the time, a performance issue is about understanding what needs to be done and making it clear what is to be done,” Mr. Parsanko said.

        “I think managers usually start the wrong way,” he said. “They look at the why and how and maybe somehow get into the what, but usually the employee is fired by that time or is disgruntled and leaves.

        “If the problem is universal, that everybody on staff is violating the rule then what you have is probably a management issue and somebody is not creating passion among the people to do the job well.”

        If one or two employees continue to violate the rule, then those individuals probably don't have the right attitudes, and they will need to be removed from the job, he said.


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