Will the dress code relax when we go back to the office? Ask HR

Johnny C. Taylor Jr., a human resources professional, answers your questions as part of a series for USA TODAY. Taylor is President and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, the world’s largest HR specialist society.

Questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor’s answers below have been edited for length and clarity.

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Question: My office is reopening and I look forward to human interaction after months of isolation. However, I’ve been wearing casual clothes for a year. What is the likelihood that my office’s dress code will be relaxed when we return? – Carleton

Johnny C. Taylor Jr .: It’s good to hear that your office has reopened. The likelihood of your office loosening the dress code depends in part on your industry and corporate culture.

The past year has opened the door for companies to listen more to the workforce and to consider the value of long-term policies. As a result, many employers have moved to a more casual dressing policy where employees work from home or are a mixture of home and work.

I assume that the trend will continue as more and more employees give feedback. Certainly there will be exceptions. For example, environments where companies develop and maintain relationships with customers warrant a more formal approach. Overall, the requirements for more formal clothing such as suits and ties are decreasing.

While business casual is suitable for many jobs, I don’t expect yoga pants and t-shirts to be widely accepted.

Remember that your employer has no obligation to loosen your dress code. Check with your manager or Human Resources for further clarification before returning to the office. If you don’t get a straight answer, your best bet is to follow the guidelines in force when you get back to work. You can always adapt to more casual clothing if you personally assess the dress norms. The last thing you want is to show up to work and be sent home and disciplined for not following the dress code. So go back to the office with good judgment. Hope you can enjoy much-needed human interaction. Much luck.

Managers are more than just productive employees who focus on tasks.  They enable people to perform at their best.

I’ve been with my company for a little over two years. I would very much like to become a manager. How can I tell my manager? – Christine

Johnny C. Taylor Jr .: I admire your interest in becoming a manager. Companies need good managers. However, the best employees are not always the best managers. Managers are more than just productive employees who focus on tasks. They enable people to perform at their best. That’s why I call them “People Manager”. Good HR managers are key to keeping employees engaged and focused on a company’s mission. If you believe you have the potential, it is important that you explore your options.

A good forum for sharing your interest in leadership opportunities with your manager is your performance appraisal or Personal Development Plan (IDP) – if you have one. In these settings, you can inquire about future training or professional interests. However, when your performance appraisal or IDP is too distant, you want to create a more immediate opportunity. Schedule a career interview with your manager so you can avoid distractions and focus on your goals.

Start the conversation by confirming that you really appreciate your current role. Here you might want to highlight a meaningful element or two about the role. From there, express that you are ready to advance your career and take on more responsibility. Share your desire to develop into a manager and highlight some leadership skills that you display. Inquire about available development opportunities. Suggest to your manager that you would be willing to lead a small team on a future project to demonstrate your skills.

Discuss previous experiences that have prepared you for management and highlighted your leadership potential. Cases where you have overcome challenges can show your ability to achieve goals. You should include at least one example in which you helped resolve an employee conflict, along with the specific steps that were taken to resolve it. If you already have leadership experience, it is important to highlight this as well. Emphasize how relevant your leadership experience would be in a leadership position in your current company.

It is important that this is not a one-way conversation. Ask questions to gauge your boss’s initial reaction. Get as much constructive feedback as you can. If your manager says you have the potential to become a leader, inquire about the skills you should develop and the development opportunities available. Understand the requirements required to advance up the management path. Learn how to complement your experience profile to demonstrate skills relevant to a leadership position.

End the conversation by thanking your manager for their time and guidance. Be sure to ask if you can return to this discussion later. Even if there are no immediate options available to you, the conversation can form the basis for future management considerations. It also provides insight into how to prepare when an opportunity arises. So stay ready on your career path!