October 22, 2021

Desk Solver

Business The Problem Solver

Will the Pandemic’s Casual Wardrobe Be Welcomed in the Office?

SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, is answering HR questions as part of a series for USA Today.

Do you have an HR or work-related question you’d like him to answer? Submit it here.
 


My office is reopening, and I’m excited for human interaction after months of isolation. However, I’ve been wearing casual clothing for the past year. What are the odds my office’s dress code will relax when we return? —Carleton

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: It is good to hear that your office is reopening. The likelihood that your office will relax their dress code will depend in part on your industry and company culture.

The last year has opened the door for businesses to listen more to the workforce and consider the value of long-held policies. As a result, many employers have transitioned to more casual dress policies with employees working from home or a hybrid of home and the worksite. I expect the trend to continue as more employees offer feedback. Certainly, there will be exceptions. For instance, settings where businesses are establishing and maintaining relationships with clients warrant a more formal approach. Overall, requirements to wear more formal clothing like suits and ties are declining. While business casual is appropriate for many businesses, I don’t expect yoga pants and T-shirts to become widely acceptable.

Keep in mind, your employer is not required to relax your dress code. Be sure to check with your manager or HR for further clarification before your return to the office. If you cannot get a clear answer, the best choice would be to abide by current policy as you return to work. You can always adjust to more casual wear as you gauge dress norms in person. The last thing you would want is to show up for work and be sent home and disciplined for failing to adhere to the dress code. So use good judgement as you return to the office. I hope you can enjoy some much-needed human interaction. Good luck.

 

I’ve been working at my company for a little over two years. I very much want to be a manager. How can I convey this to my supervisor? —Christine

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: I admire your interest in becoming a manager. Business needs good managers. However, the best workers don’t always make the best managers. Managers are more than just productive workers focused on tasks. They empower people to perform at a high level. That is why I refer to them as “people managers.” Good people managers are key to keeping workers engaged and focused on an organization’s mission. If you believe you have the potential, then it is important you explore your options.

A good forum for sharing your interest in management opportunities with your supervisor is your performance review or individual development plan (IDP), if you have them. In these settings you may inquire about any future training or career interests. However, if your performance review or IDP is too far off, then you will want to create a more immediate opportunity. Schedule a career discussion with your supervisor, so you can avoid distractions and focus on your goals.

Start the conversation by affirming that you truly value your current role. Here, you may want to highlight one or two meaningful elements about the role. From there, express that you are ready to grow your career and accept more responsibility. Share your desire to develop into a manager, and highlight some leadership qualities you exhibit. Inquire about available development opportunities. Suggest to your supervisor that you would be willing to lead a small team on a future project to demonstrate your capacity.  

Discuss previous experiences that have prepared you for management and showcased your leadership potential. Instances where you have worked through challenges can exhibit your ability to achieve objectives. You will want to bring up at least one example where you helped solve an employee conflict along with the specific steps taken to resolve it. If you have previous management experience, it is important to emphasize that as well. Stress how your leadership experience would be relevant in a management position at your current company.

It is important that this not be a one-sided conversation. Ask questions to gauge their initial reaction. Get as much constructive feedback as you can. If your supervisor indicates you have potential to be a manager, inquire about the skills you should acquire and available development opportunities. Seek details on the requirements necessary for advancement along the management track. Find out how you can add to your experience profile to demonstrate the skills relevant to a management position.

End the conversation by thanking your supervisor for their time and guidance. Be sure to ask if you can circle back to this discussion later. Even if there aren’t immediate opportunities available to you, the conversation can set the stage for management considerations in the future. It also offers insight on how you can prepare yourself once an opportunity arises. So stay ready as you navigate your career journey!