What you need to know:
- Do you have a dress code policy at work? What does it emphasise? Does anyone else in the organisation wear bathroom slippers to work?
- If a dress code exists, does it only refer to the importance of employees’ appearance to clients and not in general within the organisation?
- Did the employee in question attend his interviews in slippers?
I am a Senior HR Officer for a reputable organisation. A line manager has reported a team member who sometimes wears bathroom slippers to the office, saying in IT he is not client facing and therefore it is not an issue. How do I handle this?
Workplace environments differ. In some you will find generous latitude that accommodates colleagues who choose to report to work barefooted while in other environments bare feet would be disdained or prohibited. The location, nature and purpose of an organisation may, alongside other factors, inform its culture. Footwear can therefore be a pertinent issue in some environments and not in others. However, it is unusual to find bathroom slippers being worn to formal office environments, especially within urban and peri-urban areas.
Do you have a dress code policy at work? What does it emphasise? Does anyone else in the organisation wear bathroom slippers to work? If a dress code exists, does it only refer to the importance of employees’ appearance to clients and not in general within the organisation? Did the employee in question attend his interviews in slippers? What was said to the employee the first day he wore slippers to work? Was it explained or excused as part of workplace diversity?
Has the line manager merely dumped the matter at your feet at first sight or has the matter been raised with you after previous unsuccessful attempts to handle it with the said employee? It may be useful to have a conversation with the employee concerning the issue to understand the background to his choice. You may then be able to determine whether the colleague is perpetrating mischief or frivolously testing how far he can push boundaries. There might also be an underlying mental issue that may require attention beyond a change of footwear.
An employer can indeed require reasonable standards to be upheld in an office environment through a dress code in the interest of professionalism and decency. If wearing slippers to work emanates from sheer impudence on the part of the said colleague, consider taking appropriate disciplinary action against him. In the meantime, advise him that, even in IT, bathroom slippers are neither suitable for the marathon of one’s career, nor attempts to ascend a professional ladder.