Business casual vs. beach casual

Q: The weather is getting warmer and the shorts and flip flops have begun. I work in a technology services company and manage a small team. We seem to have a group of employees who think it is ok to wear beach attire on warm days. Business casual is no longer business casual but now beach casual. As the supervisor, I feel like I have lost control. What can I do?

A: Warm weather seems to bring dress code challenges. My question back to you is have you been clear about expectations around appropriate dress? Does your company have a published dress code? Do you have guidelines on what business casual means?

Companies vary quite a bit on what is reasonable and what is not. Some of my clients are ok with employees working in jeans, shorts, t-shirts and flip flops. Other client require true business casual which often means a golf shirt and khakis or a blouse and dress pants. Many of my clients have a definite “do not wear” list which may include very sheer clothing, halter tops or ripped jeans.
Sharing expectations around dress is important. What leaders wear within an organization sets the tone for what really is acceptable. If your Vice President of Engineering arrives in a tank top and shorts, that is sending the message that a tank top and shorts are acceptable. If you have a published dress code, it is a good idea to dust that off and re-send to all employees sometime in April (before the problems begin). Make sure that the published dress code reflects what actually occurs within the organization. Or else this document becomes meaningless.

Finally, if you have clients or VIPs visiting your workplace, think about how you would feel about the attire of your employees. Does it reflect your brand? Would clients notice how your employees are dressed?

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.