PROACTIVE PRACTICE MANAGEMENT
"I've had several applicants arrive for interviews whose resumes were impressive but they had tattooed arms, facial piercings and wild hair-dos, so I didn't hire them. Should I have a written policy on professional appearances and if so, what should it contain?"
is a two-part question because it deals with potential hires and current
staff. Unfortunately, you may have let some excellent candidates with
“impressive resumes” slip away because there was no office policy
regarding personal appearance expectations in place.
there been a Personnel Manual listing office policies stating what is
expected of employees, the dentist could have hired the interviewee,
provided he/she is made aware of the dress code during the hiring
process and agrees to follow the standards to which all employees are
expected to adhere. I’ll start with pertinent information regarding a
Personnel Manual’s worth, and then get into the specifics of office
policy dealing with employees’ appearances.
dental offices acknowledge the value of having a Personnel Manual with
specific policies that clearly define and set forth expectations of
employers. Unfortunately, few small businesses actually have such a
document in place. Similarly, dentists in private practice often do not
have a Personnel Manual because they are unfamiliar with the process of
publishing such a book, unique to their practice and beliefs.
personnel manual is as much a declaration of philosophy and behavioral
expectations as it is a written document that provides every employee
with the same information about the rules of the workplace. Employees
will know what is expected of them, and what they can expect from the
employer. The handbook also serves as legal protection if an employee
later claims wrongful dismissal. Keeping the handbook current is
important as laws change over time.
an office manual that is already written and requires limited
modification is one way to integrate this important management tool into
the practice’s operations; putting one together without a pre-formed
template is another way, albeit more difficult. Whether a practice
purchases and modifies a pre-written manual, or creates one from
scratch, make sure the handbook entails basic fundamental elements, and
that it speaks for the uniqueness of the office’s philosophy and
practice of dentistry.
by describing the practice’s philosophy of both dentistry and
employment protocols. Upholding a fair and safe work environment along
with providing equal opportunity for employment are cornerstones of
proper employee management. Also, describe the principles that are the
foundation of the practice’s philosophy. This may take the form of a
mission or vision statement, or even a simple paragraph relating the
practice’s philosophy. It
is important to make clear that the personnel manual is the property of
the practice. A copy is kept
in an designated place in the office for easy reference, and it must not
be removed from the premises.
is prudent and sensible for any business, whether large or small, to
have guidelines that help employees understand what the appropriate
dress and grooming practices are for the workplace. There are several
reasons for implementing these standards; such as to present a uniform
and professional appearance
for patients, to limit distractions caused by offensive, inappropriate,
or provocative dressing, and to ensure safety while working. Remember,
that employees are representatives of the practice. An employee’s
personal appearance, which includes dress, grooming, personal hygiene,
make-up, tattoos and piercings affect both the patients’ impression of
the office and internal morale among staff.
Ultimately having an enforced, nondiscriminatory, dress policy
helps to promote a professional and positive working environment for
next step, this is where the employer can be specific as to personal
appearances, is to define office and employment policies. This section
must express the expectations of the employer, such as assigning and
supervising personnel, supporting positive contributions with praise,
reprimanding when necessary, and changing office policies as a result of
internal circumstances, competitive forces, economic conditions, or to
comply with state and federal regulations. The mainstays for this
section can include having a strong work ethic, being friendly and
courteous to others, adhering to office policies, and working toward
solutions of any grievances justly and fairly.
detailing office and employment policies, the segment covering what is
expected in regard to personal appearance standards should remain
specific. Here, expectations regarding personal appearance are laid out
for the employee to understand. For example, “Employees are expected
to maintain a professional appearance, which includes proper grooming
and dress. Visible tattoos, and facial piercings, excluding earlobes,
are prohibited. Hair needs to be pulled back. Dangling or large pieces
of jewelry cannot be worn as they may compromise job performance.
Fingernails are to be kept short, and acrylic nails are not allowed.
Make-up should be kept to a minimum. If an employee has a question in
regard to the dress/appearance policy, the office manager or dentist
needs to be contacted so that approval as to the dress code is given
prior to the working day.”
elements to consider containing in the General Office and Employment
Policies section are how the office handles absenteeism and tardiness,
personal time off, smoking, gum chewing, substance abuse, initial
training & orientation, performance reviews, resolution protocols,
sexual harassment, and serious diseases. Infection Control standards are
a lengthy subject, and are usually part of another separate manual with
policies and protocols centered on ensuring an aseptic work environment.
Simply reference this in the employee manual and direct all issues
relating to Infection Control to the separate book.
the manual is complete, it is wise to contact a person in the immediate
area with legal experience in personnel law to help with specific
questions and issues relating to this project. After formal editing and
final publishing, circulate the handbook among the employees, and
require them to sign a form that acknowledges they have read and agree
to the policies set forth. These signed forms should be kept in the
individual personnel files of each employee and updated periodically
whenever a change in the manual is set forth.
In conclusion, create a dress code and appearance policy specific for your practice that promotes your style of practicing dentistry and represents your business as you see fit. If that includes not allowing body piercing and unsightly tattoos, then so be it.