How Do I Ask Someone To Change Clothing Choices?

Question:

How do I ask a co-worker to change their appearance? They are distracting the rest of the employees by their clothing choices.

Signed,

Distracted


Answer:

Dear Distracted:

First you need to talk to a supervisor about this matter. If employees are distracted by someone’s apparel or any other aspect of their appearance or behavior, it is up to a supervisor to talk to them about it, rather than a co-worker. The one exception would be if you are close friends with the employee and you think you can subtly and effectively communicate with the co-worker about a workplace problem.

Even if the supervisor leaves it up to co-workers, the supervisor should be asked about it. Otherwise you and your co-workers could be viewed as being more of a problem than the other employee. In addition, you may find that your supervisor not only doesn’t see a problem with the employee’s attire, but has given approval for it.

So, my first advice is to go to a supervisor and tell that person your concerns. Be able to say what the co-worker wore and when, and why it was distracting. You will likely need to show that any reasonable person would be distracted by the clothing–or lack of it, which may be the situation to which you’re referring. If there is a dress code of some kind, the supervisor may easily be able to deal with the situation. But if there isn’t–which is probably the case–the supervisor will have to decide how to justify telling the employee that her clothing is not appropriate. That’s why your logical reasons for being distracted will be important. I would think you would have to show a rather serious problem to make your case! You could talk personally to the employee if you think she will listen to you. But you’ll have to remember that you can’t make her do anything differently. So, your remarks will have to be very courteous and focused on being helpful for the employee, rather than critical.

If people have talked to her, or hinted to her, but nothing has changed, that is a sure sign than it’s time to talk to a supervisor instead.

If you have the time and wish to do so, it would be helpful for us to know how this is handled and how it turns out.

Best wishes.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.