Most people are smart enough to know how to dress for work. They pay attention to the office environment, choosing to dress and groom at least somewhat similar to the rest of the staff. But then there’s always someone who seems to push the envelope on good taste, or just doesn’t care as much about her appearance as her colleagues. When issues surrounding dress and grooming develop, it’s important to meet them head on with tact and a little diplomacy.
Ask yourself if the employee’s hair is affecting her performance or safety, as well as the performance and safety of those around her. Workers must be able to express themselves in the workplace, and hair is part of that self-expression. If a co-worker is in front of clients and her hair doesn’t convey the right professional image, a discussion may be in order.
Discuss your concerns about an employee’s hair or appearance with someone from human resources. Better yet, consult an employment attorney. Talking to your co-worker about her appearance at work could create issues of privacy and discrimination, and you don’t want to infringe on anyone’s legal rights.
Put in place a dress and grooming code if there isn’t one already. This gives context to the situation and avoids singling out any employee for her appearance. Work with your human resources department to include this type of provision in the employee handbook.
Talk to the employee in private, as it can be embarrassing to be called out for your appearance. Get to the point and be specific. Beating around the bush can confuse the issue and make the situation even more uncomfortable. Try to tie the conversation back to the employee’s performance and how she appears to clients; otherwise, it can appear to be just your opinion.
Give the employee a chance to respond to your concerns about her hair. Issues with appearance can cause an emotional reaction, and she’ll need time to soak in your comments before you can expect a response. If she defends her appearance, work together to come to a solution.
- Be compassionate during your discussion as the employee may have no idea that her hair is an issue.
Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.