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9 tips on how to tell an employee their clothes are inappropriate

Is there someone in your office who comes to work in revealing clothing? Or is there a colleague who just looks scruffy all the time? Employees who wear inappropriate clothing can make everyone feel uncomfortable or give the wrong impression to clients. But how can you explain this to them if they’re completely unaware there’s anything wrong?

Here are 9 tips on how to do it while keeping embarrassment to a minimum.

1. Have a clear dress code
It helps to have a clear dress code that’s outlined to new employees when they start. That way you’ll have written evidence to refer to if someone starts wearing anything considered inappropriate.

BE 10 Nov 2014 a

2. Define dress-down Friday
If most of the week everyone’s wearing suits, but are allowed to come to the office in casual clothes on Fridays, make sure people know what’s appropriate. For example, jeans may still be a no-no – and you probably don’t want anyone parading around the office in a crop top and shorts.

3. Talk to them
Inappropriate clothing is not something than you should send an email about. Always talk to the employee in person and explain exactly what the issue is. Don’t be vague as they may end up feeling confused.

4. Always speak in private
Don’t make the mistake of criticising anyone for their inappropriate clothing in front of the whole office. Instead ask to speak to the person privately – you don’t want to embarrass them. If necessary make sure a colleague is in the office with you as a witness. This prevents potential for the situation escalating into a sexual harassment accusation.

5. Be clear on what the problem is
You may feel embarrassed by telling an employee that their outfit is too revealing, especially if dealing with the opposite sex. But some people may genuinely not be aware that what they’re wearing is inappropriate. Make sure you identify what the problem is, e.g. the skirt is too short, and explain why this is a problem.

6. Be positive
You don’t want your employee to feel like you’re picking on them, so be sure to emphasise all their good points. Try explaining that you don’t want their clothing to detract from their otherwise excellent performance in front of colleagues and clients.

7. Act quickly
Always address the problem sooner rather than later. If a female employee has been wearing a transparent blouse for months, or a male employee has been shuffling around with ridiculously low-slung trousers since his first day – it’s no good suddenly announcing that this isn’t correct attire for the office. They could feel victimised unless you make this clear from the start.

8. Don’t get personal
Make sure that you only discuss clothing, not whether an outfit makes someone look fat or unattractive. This is a sure-fire way to end up with a complaint against you. Talk about office standards and the image your company is trying to project.

9. Discuss solutions
If someone turns up to an important meeting wearing an inappropriate outfit, you’ll have to ask them to rectify the problem immediately. This could mean they have to go home and change, or they may have something else to hand that they can wear. The solution could be simple, for example wearing a belt to keep trousers up, or adding a camisole under a low-cut dress.

Does someone in your office dress inappropriately? Share your stories of the more ridiculous outfits you’ve come across.