Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about breast showing:
How does one tell a female employee that when she gets cold, her nipples show thru her clothes?
Signed, Delicately Wondering
Dear Delicately Wondering:
The easy part will be telling the employee. The more difficult part is what to do if the employee doesn’t care! Keep in mind that it isn’t appropriate to have the outline of nipples or other body parts on women or men showing, just as it isn’t appropriate to expose excessive amount of breasts, stomachs or backsides. It is offensive to some people, distracting to everyone, and can lead to sexual harassment charges if someone of the opposite gender comments on it. If customers see it, it is particularly a problem.
How you discuss it depends upon your gender and your role in relation to the employee: If you are a male, whether a coworker or supervisor, you should ask for assistance from a female in a supervisory or managerial role or someone in HR, to discuss the matter with the employee. If you are a female and the employee’s supervisor, or a coworker with a good relationship with the employee, you can more easily tell her yourself.
I find that using a confidential tone, as though it is a private matter, is useful. Call her aside or to an office and say, as though telling her something you know she would want kept confidential: “Cheryl, I don’t want to embarrass you but I know you’d want to be told. Today your blouse or undergarments are apparently so sheer that when you get chilled it’s visible to anyone who looks at you, if you know what I mean.”That isn’t as direct as I would normally want to be, but unless she says she doesn’t understand what you mean, it will probably work OK. If you are a supervisor and she protests that she doesn’t think it’s a problem or that all her clothes are that way or whatever, tell her kindly but firmly that it isn’t OK and that she will need to wear something different or wear a sweater that conceals her front. If you aren’t a supervisor you will need to talk to one at that point. It’s helpful to identify something she has worn that is appropriate, so she has an idea which fabrics work best.I hope these ideas are helpful. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens!
Tina Lewis Rowe