What To Do When Employees Resist a New Uniform Program

 
January 10, 2020,

Human beings are naturally resistant to change. When a company announces a brand-new uniform program, it’s bound to make some employees a bit apprehensive. Others might even resist the new uniforms to some degree.

What’s an employer to do when they encounter such resistance? Overcoming it can be tricky. Management must be cognizant of employee opinion while making a case for the new program. They have to walk that fine line between encouraging compliance with the new rule and making employees feel like their reservations are acknowledged.

Explain the Reasoning

It has been our experience that explaining the reasoning behind a new uniform program is a great place to start. Explanations should be as detailed as necessary to help employees understand the change. Management should never patronize employees with simplistic explanations that do not define underlying reasons.

For example, consider a company whose new uniforms are being designed in accordance with OSHA standards for protective clothing. This helps to explain why older uniforms have to be replaced. Perhaps those old uniforms don’t meet standards. Maybe they do, but new the uniforms offer more protection and better quality. Taking time to explain the reasoning behind the change and to listen to employee’s concerns shows a measure of respect between management and employees and invites honesty and collaboration.

Ask for Employee Input

It is problematic if a new uniform program is announced after all the decisions have been made. Neither is it ideal to announce the program but leave final decisions until every employee has had a chance to offer his or her input. We recommend asking for employee input at the earliest possible stage.

Employees are the ones who ultimately must wear the uniforms management decides on. They are the ones still bound by the dress code if uniforms are uncomfortable or unsuitable to their tasks. More importantly, the employees are the ones who have insight on what a functional uniform might be for them. Management is likely to make better decisions about the uniforms if they solicit feedback from their employees about the change.

Leave Room for Accommodations

Resistance to new uniforms is sometimes based on specific, individual needs. For example, one employee may have an objection to a certain kind of uniform due to religious practice. Another might be allergic to certain kinds fabrics. A disabled employee may find a particular style of uniform difficult to work in.

It is important that management leave room for accommodations. Uniform options do not have to be so rigid that reasonable accommodations cannot be made. If a company is willing to make accommodations, some resistance to new uniforms will likely subside.

Talk About Strategy

We also recommend discussing the company’s uniform strategy. Employees may not realize it, but uniform programs are often tied to a company’s brand image. As such, uniform programs are frequently designed to reflect and enhance branding. This all plays into a company’s long-term vision.

It is okay to talk about workwear in terms of employee professionalism. It is okay to remind employees that looking good is an integral part of creating the positive image that wins customers over. Take time to explain how the new uniform program enhances the company’s growth strategies and branding goals.

When employees feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves, they often get excited about it. Frame the new uniform program as part of a larger strategy that will make a great company even greater and you are more likely to receive employee support for the program.

New uniforms mean change. Human beings are naturally resistant to change. However, with the right attitude and a willingness to approach things openly, management can implement a new uniform program while keeping employee resistance at a minimum.

Alsco would love to be part of your new uniform program for 2020. Contact us to learn how we can help.