We’ve all been there. You see an email from your boss or HR and the subject line is ‘Please read: Reminder of our Dress Code Policy’.

You roll your eyes. Because you KNOW exactly what’s going on. Someone came in dressed like a clown and their boss was too chicken shit to actually have a conversation with them directly. So out comes this generic email.

Or even worse you start getting a case of the paranoia’s and think ‘oh god was that outfit I wore to the team lunch too casual? Or that presentation I gave on dress down Friday… maybe I shouldn’t have dressed down…’

This is NOT the way to address a performance issue. Ever.

There is pretty much NO reason to ever send out a ‘Reminder of the Policy’ email, or at least not in the first instance. (Ok granted you might find after doing some digging that people genuinely don’t understand the policy, and even then I would argue there’s something else going on that your team don’t know the expectations of them.)

Here’s what I would ALWAYS suggest to deploy when there’s a funky behaviour that needs to be addressed.

A One to One Grown Up Conversation.

It goes something like this

  1. You sit down with the person who is the ‘offender’ of the behaviour that is against your culture, values or boundaries.

  2. The goal of this conversation is not (necessarily) to change their behaviour but to discuss

    1. Their behaviour, how you learned of their behaviour and what the expectations are

    2. Whether they are aware this is even going on and it’s an issue (awareness? clarity of policy?)

    3. Whether they have the ability to do something different (training, mentoring needed?)

    4. If they DO know what’s expected and are ABLE to do what’s expected… then why they are choosing not to do what’s needed - and stay open minded to the possibility that YOU may be a root cause issue here (motivation?)

  3. Walk out of that conversation with FULL awareness on both sides of what you will BOTH be doing differently going forward, and how you’ll hold each other accountable

  4. Disclaimer: This is hard. I am in no way suggesting ‘easy peasy and you’re done!’, it takes courage and kindness to do this and do it well. However, it’s also going to save you HOURS of frustration, headache and poor behaviour by dealing with it this way rather than trying to come in the side door and hint at the behaviour that is expected. Trust me!

During this grown up conversation you might find out some things that make you uncomfortable. Maybe this is something the rest of the team does but are just better at hiding it from you. Maybe you are actually contributing to this behaviour. Maybe they had no clue in the first place that it was wrong and you’re not communicating nearly as well as you thought.

That’s ok. Take a breath, step back and look at it as useful information to improve the way the team works in the future.

And yes, there is a slight chance there might need to be an update to a policy and a note sent out saying it’s been changed. That’s more like a tidy up action like ‘oh by the way I know we’ve already talked about this ad nauseum so just a quick round up email’.

Come on boss, get real and get brave and really deal with what’s going on. It’s hard but worth it.