Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions.

by : 
Kim Perkins
October 1, 2012

Question: My wife had what we both thought was a great idea—purchasing T-shirts for our employees to wear like a uniform. That way they save on clothing expense, and it makes them easily identifiable as sales staff. So, we bought the shirts (which were not cheap!) and now our employees (two full-time and three part-timers) do not want to wear them. Can I make a rule that they have to? Otherwise, what a waste of time and money!

Answer: When we have what we think is a grand idea that will involve the consensus of others to succeed, it’s best to get their input first. Employees (and people in general) like to be asked their opinion and feel part of a shift, rather than have a change dictated to them. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment and see if you also might feel some resistance.

In answer to your question, yes, you can make a rule that all employees have to wear the T-shirts; but, at this point, do you want to? Forcing the issue will only create ill will. The goal is to create a win-win from this set of circumstances.

My suggestion is to call a meeting and begin by apologizing. Explain that your intentions were good and it never occurred to you they would not love the ideAnswer: Tell them you would like to listen to their input now, and then do so. Hear them out so you know where they stand. Maybe they don’t like the style or they don’t want to wear the same thing every day. Whatever their reasons, thank them for telling you. Then ask them for their assistance and ideas: You have these shirts that were a considerable expense—can they help you figure out what to do with them? Maybe if you request they wear the shirts every Friday and let them decide whether they want to wear them other days, too, they will warm to the idea and you will achieve at least part of your goal.

Kim Perkins is co-owner of Elysian Fields Books & Gifts for Conscious Living (, an award-winning store in Sarasota, Fla. Send your retail questions to