You probably saw this last week when the internet got all hot and bothered over a 17 year old girl who worked at JC Penny got sent home for a dress code violation. She tweeted out a picture of herself dressed in JC Penny bought ‘career’ apparel that she was wearing at the time (see pic above). The only place where I see this being dressed appropriate for work is probably Hooters, but you know me, I’m super ultra conservative right winged nut job, so what the hell do I know…
Many wanted were angry over what they saw as a double standard, although I’m not sure what that double standard is. I would have been more upset over a 17 year old boy wearing this outfit to work than the girl! I would have sent both home, so there goes your double standard.
The real issue here is that JC Penny labeled this outfit ‘career apparel” to the customers, but didn’t find it career appropriate for their own associate. If JC Penny is labeling this outfit on their shelves appropriate work wear, why is it inappropriate work wear for their own employees?
Well, I have some reasons:
1. It’s tight and revealing for the average customer of JC Penny. The average age of a JC Penny shopper is 103 years of age. The last thing an old person wants to see is a fourth of July wannabe stripper. That’s knowing your customer base. I’m sure if she was working at Hot Topic, she wouldn’t have been sent home.
2. There a difference between marketing and operations. Just because marketing is calling something ‘career appropriate’, doesn’t mean your HR and Operations folks will feel the same way. Welcome to the reality of working in a corporation. People aren’t always on the same page, and that is a bad thing.
3. 17 year olds have no ability to understand the broader picture of the corporate politics at play here. It’s too bad someone couldn’t have better coached this young lady on how to handle this situation to have a better impact for herself and fellow employees. Going nuclear wasn’t the best option for her.
4. HR never wins when it comes to dress code, because of these kinds of issues.
HR should give up the dress code policy whenever it’s an option and let your operations team own it. They know their customer base. They know their work environment. They know their employees. Let them build a dress code that works for them, and trust they’ll do what’s right for the organization. I’ve done this three times in my career, and all three times it worked out wonderfully, and I didn’t ever have to deal with dress code ever again!