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20-40-60 Etiquette: Be gentle if addressing co-worker's appearance

Hygiene and how we present ourselves matter to our careers, but be gentle when approaching a co-worker about his or her hygiene or appearance. 20-40-60 Etiquette addresses this with Devonne Carter as the guest.
by Helen Ford Wallace and Lillie-Beth Brinkman Published: March 22, 2013

QUESTION: We have had a young part-time worker in our office and she was just hired full-time to begin her job in the summer. She needs help with her personal hygiene, her appearance and her clothing choices. I cannot believe she was hired with these issues, but she was. Should I jump in and offer to help her? Is there a class out there that she could take to learn to be more aware of how she looks?

CALLIE'S ANSWER: I am not sure about classes she can take; you might want to Google to find out more. How close you are to her is something you need to take into account if you “jump in and help.”

If this is something that bothers you, I would bring it to someone's attention that will not jeopardize your working relationship with her. For example: HR. If you are not satisfied with the end result, my motto is, “not your problem.”

LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: Before you approach her or enlist anyone else to do it, like a supervisor, make sure you want to get involved out of genuine concern and care for her well-being and career (in addition to the office's benefit) and not to point out her flaws for other people to notice. You are right in that hygiene and how we present ourselves matter to our careers, but it is still a delicate situation. As you consider options, keep in mind that she may be defensive or embarrassed because she had no idea, so tread gently on her feelings. Can you enlist an older supervisor to talk to her privately? She might listen more readily to an authority figure who can directly point her in the right direction.

HELEN'S ANSWER: It seems to me that her supervisor is the one who needs to be seeing about the worker in question and when he/she meets with the young woman, appearance issues should be addressed. That is part of education about the job and if dress codes are important, then the supervisor can offer suggestions and let her know that people are available to help her. It sounds like the young woman needs to be told right away.

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by Helen Ford Wallace
Society Editor
Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for...
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by Lillie-Beth Brinkman
Lillie-Beth Brinkman is a Content Marketing Manager for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. She was previously an assistant editor of The Oklahoman
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