List of do's and don'ts indicates proper clothes for work

Here are some recent questions-and quick tips- from my mail bag:

Dear Joan:
I am a business owner. I am tired of trying to explain what business dress is and getting very tired of fighting it. While I don't have jeans and bare midriffs walking into my office, I do have stretch pants and casual shoes (not sneakers), and they don't look appropriate either. I am a tour operator marketing to senior citizens primarily, who are in very casual dress themselves. How can I create a more professional environment? I realize this isn't the most important business issue at hand but it does reflect on our business negatively if people don't look professional.


Business casual is becoming common in many work places. And, although it does tend to make the atmosphere friendly and relaxed, it can go too far in that direction. Business dress is easy to define: a suit, ties, blazers, skirts, heels. Business casual is a fuzzier concept. If you want your employees to understand what you mean, you will need to take some steps to define your perception and expectations upfront and then write some guidelines.


One suggestion is to make it a subject of a staff meeting. First, discuss why it's important. Tell employees what kind of image you want the business to have. Talk about how you want to distinguish yourselves from your competitors.

Then give examples of what the customers use to judge professionalism.


Finally, list the do's and don'ts. For example, on the Don't List: jeans, sneakers, tee shirts, etc. On the Do List: blazers, dresses, pant suits, sport coats (or whatever is appropriate). Encourage your employees to contribute examples to the list, however, don't name specific employees or call attention to what they are wearing at the meeting or in the past. It's likely to embarrass them and it will backfire. Once employees have contributed to defining the expectations, they will be more likely to understand and follow them.


Dear Joan:
I work for a company that provides business services. My salary is minimal: I keep feeling that if I just try harder I will get better reviews, but I keep hearing that my output is not as high as it should be. Even though I've asked several times what the formula is for determining my output, I've never been able to get an answer. Recently, I saw an ad for a similar job with a much better salary, so I called for information. When the person asked whom I presently worked for, I answered honestly. She then informed me that her company as well as mine were both under the same "conglomerate" umbrella manager, and they couldn't "take me away" from my present employer! Is this legal? Should I be kept from trying for and/or getting a job at Company B because it is owned by the same corporation as Company A? Do I have any recourse here?


There are two problems here. The first one is your output. Unless you can get a straight answer and some coaching from your manager about how to increase your production, you are not likely to be able to move to a different job within your company. Most companies even put this requirement on internal postings for jobs. For instance, a posting may state: "Applicant must have average performance or better." Think through some ideas you could try to improve your output and schedule a meeting with your manager to discuss them. If it's appropriate, ask if there is any training you should attend or if there is something else you could do.


On the second issue, I suppose the two companies might have an agreement about not "stealing" employees from one another. However, it seems unlikely. Most companies are only too happy to have employees move between them. They want to keep the talent rather than see it leave the corporation entirely. I'd call the corporate Human Resources Department to get clarification on this. I suspect your performance is the real issue here. While you're at it, ask HR why the job you applied for pays significantly more than your job does.


Dear Joan:
I have answered a number of employer ads, both blind and where the employer is announced. So far, I have yet to receive one response from an employer acknowledging receipt of my resume. I believe that this is a violation of common professional courtesy, especially when the employer has used a blind ad where it is not possible to inquire by phone. I can understand a lack of response to cold contacts, but not when the employer is soliciting responses.


A lot of job hunters wonder about this one. In the past, employers with large staffs sometimes sent out a post card or a letter acknowledging receipt of a resume. This practice has gradually vanished in recent years. Most simply don't have the time or the staff to do it. In the case of a blind ad, the whole purpose is to remain anonymous to applicants, their competitors, or to their own employees. They only want to contact those candidates who qualify for interviews. While it may not seem very user-friendly, employers everywhere are trying to do more with less, and these are the nice-to-do's that have now become the used-to-do's. 


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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