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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

The supervisor might not see this as a problem, so maybe several co-workers can meet with the “boss” and politely offer to help.

GUEST'S ANSWER: Devonne Carter, licensed clinical social worker who has taught etiquette classes at Oklahoma Christian University: I don't know of any classes offered to help educate adults with hygiene or to help her be more aware of how she looks. If a young person can learn to be insightful enough to see how others see her, this will go a long way to help them in her career.

This situation could be handled in a variety of ways. The most important piece of any way it is handled is with kindness.

The best source of this information to a worker is from her supervisor. Co-workers may be helpful and make suggestions, but unless the information comes from someone that has authority over the employee, there is no way to enforce the changes that need to be made. A direct and kind conversation with this co-worker will make the most impact.

Callie Gordon is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email For more 20-40-60 etiquette, go to

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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