|by Kadephi Majola|
Dress code refers to the required work attire. A company may enforce a dress code for its employees. In most places like financial institutions (banks), government departments (hospitals, SAPS, post office), municipal departments (metro police & waste departments), hospitality (restaurants & hotels), production companies (car dealers) and supermarkets to name a few, all have uniforms / a dress code to identify their employees. The corporate sector usually has a certain expectation of the way in which their employees represent the company. This becomes part of developing the culture of the organization.
Generally, the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s dress code is restricted to Campus Management Services (CMS), which includes Risk Management Services and cleaning departments. Most other departments including the Library do not have a stipulated dress code, and there is no binding policy that regulates the way we project the ‘company’ as part of its cultural identity. Some departments have branded golf shirts to identify themselves.
The UKZN libraries provides services to the larger university community and external users of the libraries, which includes other libraries, alumni students, the academic community in the country and international users.
In the different libraries we have security and cleaning staff who are easily identifiable by their particular attire. Identifying the library staff which includes the day staff and night staff (student assistants) as the library operates 24/7, is usually a problem for new users of the library because they are not familiar with library staff. It is problematic to identify staff members if they are not in their workstations. This makes it seem as if we are not user friendly because there is no proper identification of staff members. The provision of a dress code may enhance the identity of library staff and potentially projecting the department in a professional and positive manner.
Challenges encountered by library staff
Library staff are faced with common problems just like any other employees of the institution of higher learning. A tough challenge is when staff have to patrol around the library checking on user behavior. There are limited ways for users to identify staff members when approached by them to remind library users of their behavior e.g. eating, chatting with friends, having loud telephonic conversations and sitting in an inappropriate manner, to mention just a few. Name badges may not be enough.
Some staff members are only a few years older than some of our users, and as a result, users do not respect the staff member and they do not take staff members seriously. In most cases users do not know our names, they do physical features descriptions when trying to identify a staff member, which is not always appropriate. In most instances, the users refuse to obey the library rules and they are arrogant and rebellious.
In order for staff members to provide excellent service, they need to work in a conducive environment where their human rights are recognized. As we are a diverse nation, we cannot ignore different cultures and religions among the employees. We have to respect the different cultures that we have in the workplace, which might prevent some employees from complying with a certain dress code. Nametags or similar identification for employees may get round this issue but it may not be enough to avoid any confusion with regards to who is and is not a staff member. A dress code as opposed to a uniform may help library staff be more easily identifiable to users and help portray a good image and self-confidence.