wwyd with friend situation

(106 Posts)
paynosttentiontothecat Fri 03-Jan-14 10:15:54

My friend is lovely but I am concerned about her. I have known her for five years but recently she started working for my organisation and therefore I am her manager. I didn't anticipate any issues with personal life/friendship because she's good at her job but others have started commenting on her appearance.

She has been wearing strange clothes for the weather, sundresses with no tights, never wears a coat or scarf or gloves. Ballet pumps when it's tipping down with rain, always. Never wears makeup or bothers to do her hair nicely (it's yanked back into a ponytail which isn't flattering to her.) clothes are frequently ripped or torn. Huge monobrow. Bad body odour and hair looks frankly like its been dipped in chip fat.

Yet her nails are always manicured, her hair is always highlighted (just not clean!) , I can't make sense of it.

How on earth do you raise a subject like this? The problem is there isn't a formal dress code as such although smart casual has always been the generally accepted rule. What she wears would be fine in June but is odd in December, and then there's the tearing and clothes are sometimes stained as well. She generally rotates the same 3 outfits.

MetellaEstMater Fri 03-Jan-14 11:53:06

I would take advice from your HR department and possibly use your boss as a sounding board (understand the issue re early seniority but better than a problem later on) before speaking to her as a line manager. There is a very fine line to be walked in instances like this. If she takes it the wrong way there could be repercussions; after all it seems that this is not directly affecting her work and she is not in breech of any code of conduct (unless you are client/customer facing which could be argues to be good grounds for the discussion).

Alternatively, given you describe her as a friend is this something which you could gently address away from work in that capacity?

I agree that a general discussion isn't the way to go. Everyone will know who you are talking about and it will fuel further gossip.

The lavish presents would actually ring alarm bells for me too - it speaks, perhaps, of wanting to be accepted.

paynoattentiontothecat Fri 03-Jan-14 11:59:21

It's so difficult isn't it!

I can't begin to 'get inside her head' but yes, she's single - she does have a very supportive family, though, and lots of friends.

Her lack of regard for her personal appearance isn't normal, though, and I am concerned abut potentially opening a massive a of worms.

I think that, unless her appearance is important to her ability to do the job, then you can't really comment on that.
Body odour, otoh, affects her co-workers and you CAN take her aside to discuss that.

I have worked with 3 people who had BO issues (all men) - 2 in one company, and 1 in another. The first 2 were dealt with by a senior member of staff, actually in the finance dept iirc; but he reminded them that it is part of their contract to be clean and tidily presented (or similar).
The last one, in the second company, no one was willing to address - so I looked up the company Code of Conduct and there was a section on dress code (there isn't actually one) which said hygienic, clean, and neat (or somesuch). So I photocopied it, highlighted the hygienic bit and stuck it into the bloke's coat pocket when he wasn't looking. It was a bit cowardly (but I was junior to him and no one else would do it!) but it did work.

Some reasons for why she might dress like that = depression, poor eyesight and sense of smell, loss of brain function for some reason, total lack of care about what anyone else thinks, total lack of self-awareness, some types of ASD, some medical conditions. You need to be careful as you don't know which reason you're dealing with.

Purplepoodle Fri 03-Jan-14 12:05:26

You need to bring her into your office and sit her down for a chat. As her manager express your concern with her appearance and personal hygiene issue. Tell her your happy with her work, attitude, how she has fitted in ect but your becoming concerned about her as it's been noticed that she is struggling with personal hygiene, 'you don't seem to be washing your hair, unfortunately you seem to have problems with body odour and your clothes are often torn/dirty'. 'Im really concerned, is there anything I can do to help you? Do you need any help from the company'

Find out if there is an issue.

Stricnine Fri 03-Jan-14 12:05:44

it does sound more like a medical issue.. summer clothes in winter would certainly imply that she doesn't feel the cold.. I (for example) have a blood condition which gives me an almost permanent hot flush .. but even worse, when I shower or bath I'm effectively allergic to water and suffer an extreme itch afterwards (aquagenic puritus for those that are interested!).. not conducive to showering frequently! this is fairly rare, but it could be something similar and she's struggling to cope?...

wowfudge Fri 03-Jan-14 12:06:17

Metella's advice is sound as this is a tricky situation. You must speak to her on her own though.

Have things gone so far that you need to be formal about this? Or could you go down the route of, say, on a day when she does have her hair washed or wears something nice, comment on how lovely it looks or some such. Compliment the good things if possible. As for things like a rip in something/dirty mark, mention it in passing, e.g. in the ladies' when you're washing your hands or in the kitchen making a brew - 'did you know your pocket is ripped? - I've just noticed it'. We've all gone into work not looking 'perfect' at some point and a friendly comment so you can sort it out is appreciated.

Purplepoodle Fri 03-Jan-14 12:07:54

If there is a problem, them you can go straight to your line manager or even give them the heads up your going to have this conversation with X. If it is a can of worms that's what your superiors are there to help you with.

ginnybag Fri 03-Jan-14 12:10:01

I agree that I would approach your line manager first. Say something like - 'I will handle this with the employee, of course, but because it's potentially going to open the company up to issues, would you mind telling me if there's a particular approach you'd like me to take.

I'd also ask if you can have someone from HR come over and be a witness. Protecting the company, again, (and yourself!) if this woman takes offense and lodges a complaint.

Is she due any 'three month review' or some such? You could talk about job performance, then move on. Tackle it as 'I'm a little concerned, is everything alright at home - only you seem to be struggling with your clothes/hair/hygiene.

You can't say anything about eyebrows/makeup/hairstyle, because that is potentially discriminatory - that level of grooming is customary for women but is personal choice and you wouldn't even consider commenting on a male employee's eyebrows, etc - but you can (and should) comment on poor personal hygiene and torn/dirty clothing.

And perhaps consider introducing a dress code during contract review. No bare legs, smart business wear only is fairly standard stuff and shouldn't cause too many ructions!

WipsGlitter Fri 03-Jan-14 12:12:27

Why did she buy people "lavish" Christmas presents? Is that normal for your workplace?

paynoattentiontothecat Fri 03-Jan-14 12:16:11

Wips no, it isn't normal for us.

Unfortunately the dress code isn't down to me, although I probably do need to speak to a couple of other members of staff who are clean, tidy and well groomed but wear very short skirts and dresses. They do wear tights, though.

I'm just going to have to mention the body odour. But none of it makes any sense.

SaucyJack Fri 03-Jan-14 12:17:06

What's her current level of alcohol consumption?

I know I've gone out in some dreadful states when I've been in a drinking "phase".

I'd be leaning towards it being indicative that she possibly has a medical condition, tbh.
This might give you a few ideas, in the second part on Psychological factors but again, you are a bit hamstrung in regards to what you can say to her.

SapphireMoon Fri 03-Jan-14 12:21:14

The fact that dress code needs to be addressed for other people [short skirts] may give you an 'in' for general email on dress code. Hygiene issue still difficult though....

fromparistoberlin Fri 03-Jan-14 12:22:07

just tell her she needs to dress and groom herself more appropriately for work

you are doing her a favour, like it or not she will be prejudiced against if she smells/looks funny

when I was younger I was told (not that I had BO I hasten to add!!!), I resented it hugely at the time but now I do get why they had to say it

but write a script, count to ten, and be brave and do it!

poor you

WipsGlitter Fri 03-Jan-14 12:22:20

The Christmas present thing would concern me as well. I can't articulate why but it would have made me uncomfortable.

And I should say that you can NOT assume that she DOES have any kind of medical condition of course.

Do have the chat first with your line manager, but then I'd try and talk to her as a friend first, to see if you can find out what, if anything, is wrong - only after that might you need to talk about it in a professional capacity.

I agree with you Wips - and I think it is also an indicator for possible medical issues.

paynoattentiontothecat Fri 03-Jan-14 12:26:30

I know exactly what you mean Wips

She does drink a LOT, someone mentioned above. She never seems unfit for work in a hangover sense, though, ever. I don't know if I mentioned but she's very overweight too.

Flossyfloof Fri 03-Jan-14 12:27:11

Get a dress policy in place first. Then you can use it as part of the review. I am addicted to hoarding programmes and if she is, indeed, a hoarder, she won't have anywhere to wash as it will all be full of shit
As far as broaching it with her it is part of the job. Not an easy part but it is part of what you are being paid to do. If she really is a hoarder it is a pretty terrible condition and she will, at some stage, need help. No reason why you should not approach HR to ask for advice as to how to deal with it.

paynoattentiontothecat Fri 03-Jan-14 12:31:37

Flossy I'm not in a position to introduce a dress policy I am afraid.

I suppose I could, technically, just step back altogether but I'm genuinely concerned about her as a friend and anxious about how quickly it's escalating.

Hoarding is a possibility: it has also crossed my mind that she can't fit into the shower or bath any more. But then if I stick my size 9s in it it's going to be mortifying for her. sad

SolomanDaisy Fri 03-Jan-14 12:34:12

Straight up, one to one conversation as soon as possible, bringing up the whole of her personal presentation. It's the only way to deal with it. You can come at it from the angle of both concern for her and the impact her personal presentation will eventually have on her career.

I'd also look into finding a mentor you can discuss difficult issues with.

fairimum Fri 03-Jan-14 12:37:03

can you send out a memo to all reminding of appropriate dress code for the business and need to be presentable?

wannaBe Fri 03-Jan-14 12:39:06

if there are dress code issues which need to be addressed with other members of staff then this is a good starting point because it doesn't single out one individual. So I would, as a manager, write a formal-ish email along the lines of that you as a company aspire to a smart-casual dress code and that as such there is an expectation that certain standards need to be met e.g. clothes to be clean/presentable with attention to personal hygiene as this impacts on everyone in the environment.

ViviPru Fri 03-Jan-14 12:39:52

I just had a thought. You said she has manicures and freshly coloured hair, indicating she has a level of interest in her appearance. But these are things that she can pay others to do, it's as though she is unable to maintain other aspects of her appearance herself. She probably doesn't realise how noticeable it has become, or is hoping it hasn't.

Poor girl. She is lucky that you are being so sensitive.

helenthemadex Fri 03-Jan-14 12:41:34

I would discuss it with your manager, Im sure they will understand that it is an issue that you have not dealt with before and it is sensible to seek advice about handling something so sensitive.

It is not a conversation I would want to be having, I wish you luck!

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