Developing Your Talent

Develop Your Talent

Four Tips for Maintaining a Professional Tone in a Casual Workplace

By Lee Hecht Harrison on June 29, 2015

The new generation of workers is drawn to a workplace that reflects their own culture and values. As a result, a more casual, transparent workplace is becoming commonplace, requiring companies to loosen their ties and rethink the traditional corporate environment. This has resulted in some fairly significant changes, like a more casual dress code, open office designs, less emphasis on titles, flexible work schedules and embracing the idea that work can be done anywhere.

Sometimes, however, a casual environment can derail performance—with employees losing a sense of professionalism that can damage reputations and impede opportunities for growth and advancement. Here are four tips for managing employees in a casual environment that will help you walk the fine line between stodgy and unprofessional.

  1. Curb off-color language. Managers must be careful not to let casual profanity seep into the workplace. Not only is it unprofessional, but it can easily spill into conversations with clients and can even create a hostile work environment with legal repercussions.
  2. Define casual dress. Even in the most informal settings where employees wear shorts and flip-flops, protocols for attire should be set. Be specific in stating what’s appropriate and safe. Because casual doesn’t have to mean sloppy, be clear about standards.
  3. Look out for inappropriate behavior. Left unchecked, an overly casual environment can lead to a decline of professional behavior. This can present landmines if there is an increased incidence of unwanted behavior. As a result, informal environments still require training and close management oversight to ensure appropriate boundaries are maintained.
  4. Set expectations for social media. Your employees are ambassadors for your organization and as such should be mindful as to what they post on their personal social media accounts. Any discussions about the company should be positive—or nonexistent.  It’s recommended that employees separate work accounts from their personal accounts.

While a casual work environment can attract younger workers and spur creativity and innovation, it must also be kept in balance with professional behavior so employees are not only happy and productive, but also respected and safe. For more information on workplace trends, download LHH’s free 2015 Job Market Perspectives.

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