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.

NinjaBunny Fri 03-Jan-14 10:18:12

She might have no clothes.


Re: The ballet pumps. I see loads of women/girls out in this weather wearing ballet pumps and no socks. Maybe they don't feel the cold as much?

SapphireMoon Fri 03-Jan-14 10:18:18

Is this usual for her?
Do you remember her being like this when you first met her?

I would ask if she would like an advance on her first months salary to buy appropriate work wear.

RandyRudolf Fri 03-Jan-14 10:19:47

Could you suggest a girlie shopping trip?

paynosttentiontothecat Fri 03-Jan-14 10:20:33

I'm positive it isn't money. She has been working with me since September anyway so she's had 4 months worth of salary and she was working FT before that. Plus, she bought everyone in the office VERY lavish Christmas presents.

ViviPru Fri 03-Jan-14 10:21:10

Is this a recent thing? You've known her for 5 years socially, so in this time has she always worn appropriate clothing in a good state of repair and been well presented with good personal hygiene? Is it just since she's been working at your organisation?

SuburbanRhonda Fri 03-Jan-14 10:21:49

I think it's lovely that you are so concerned about your friend, OP. I can see why this is a difficult situation for you to raise with her.

Will she have a formal performance management review or something where you can bring up the issue in a sensitive way?

Rooners Fri 03-Jan-14 10:22:10

Gosh how tricky. sad

paynosttentiontothecat Fri 03-Jan-14 10:23:10

Vivi, I don't remember her looking scruffy like this, no, although we first met as colleagues when we were both 24/25 and are now 29/30. Since we left our first workplace we've seen each other socially and so obviously dresses and high heels sort of outfits. So I haven't known what she wears on a day to day basis for some 4 years.

SapphireMoon Fri 03-Jan-14 10:24:03

Does she see the dirt/ stains I wonder?
I know people who will walk around quite happily not noticing they have baked beans stains down their front.
However, if this unkemptness is new to her there may be worrying depression type issues.
If just 'part' of her, she may just need careful support in learning how to dress/ wash appropriately for work. Some people do.
On the other hand does it matter in her job? [Knowing some computer people who go to work in winter in shorts and crumpled shirts].

500internalerror Fri 03-Jan-14 10:30:41

Are you in a job where it's essential to wear make up & do your hair posh? Just wondering if its your expectations, or her misunderstanding of the company, rather than anything inherently wrong iyswim? I never wear a coat or scarf or gloves. Or make up. Or do any thing fancy to my hair.

NynaevesSister Fri 03-Jan-14 10:30:58

Does it affect her job? Is it affecting the workplace and colleagues ability to do their job?

I would say that professionally there are only two issues you can address. The body odour, and her interpretation of smart casual.

I would take HR advice or seek advice elsewhere on the best, most tactful way to address this.

As for whether she wears a sundress in Jan or a wool coat in July that's entirely her own business and those who indulge in office gossip about it should be told in no uncertain terms they should stop.

ViviPru Fri 03-Jan-14 10:31:15

In that case, she's either just eccentric OR there are money/stress/homelife issues which are affecting her judgement and or ability to present herself appropriately.

Buying lavish gifts and being on a FT wage don't necessarily equate to a stable financial situation.

As for what to do, I definitely think if others are commenting, you're right, can't just ignore it. And no-one should have to suffer others' BO in the workplace.

The seasonal inappropriateness isn't probably something you can raise, but the clothing that is stained and ripped could well be your 'in'. I think focus on this to begin as it is something objective and easier to bring to her attention that deeply personal/sensitive and more subjective problems such as her personal grooming...

ricericebaby Fri 03-Jan-14 10:38:51

This could be me apart from the dirty hair and body odour. I only have 2 outfits suitable for work and as I'm a volunteer I'm not in a position to buy any more clothes. One of the tops is ripped at the side but I wear a cardigan over it so no one can see it. Its beyond repair sadly!

My Mum and Dad bought me a coat in mid December so I have one of those at last!

I don't know how to approach the friend in this situation but wishing you luck.

paynosttentiontothecat Fri 03-Jan-14 10:49:19

Thank you for your thoughts. I agree it is her business in a sense, what she wears when, I suppose I was attempting to build a full picture.

It isn't essential to wear makeup or look particularly smart, but it does add to the rather 'unkempt' appearance she has about her, if that makes sense.

She is and has always been a lovely smiley, cheery, happy person. Loads of friends, active social life, laughs a lot - I recognise this could be masking depression but nothing in her behaviour suggests she is depressed.

Financially, again, nothing in her behaviour indicates she is struggling. I realise lavish Christmas presents/a full time salary don't equate to stability,but the money spent on the presents would certainly allow itself to two smart pairs of trousers and a coat.

ViviPru Fri 03-Jan-14 11:03:30

Maybe she's just a scruff-bag then, plain and simple. God I'd be crap at dealing with this kind of shit. Good job I'm not a manager.

Is there anyone else she reports to that you could palm this off on under the guise of "being as I know X socially, it might not be as effective coming form me" <chicken>

GlitzAndGiggles Fri 03-Jan-14 11:14:26

I unknowingly had a hole in my leggings at my last job and my manager pointed it out. I'm glad she did. She might not be aware

paynosttentiontothecat Fri 03-Jan-14 11:16:44

I can understand how one hole or stain might go unnoticed but her general appearance is awful and, dare I say, unprofessional.

Pipbin Fri 03-Jan-14 11:20:03

I see your concern. It's not so much a case of you being bothered on a professional level but worried that she is not coping in someway.
Does she have a DP? Is there a way you could go to her house? Maybe she is a hoarder and can't get to her bathroom.
She might be struggling mentally or in her home life and someone taking her to one side and saying 'can I help' might be what she wants.

I wouldn't be led astray by the lavish presents as I know some people will go into debit to keep up appearances.

WhoNickedMyName Fri 03-Jan-14 11:21:51

Sounds like she's just a scruff and only makes an effort if she's going on a night out? Some people just don't or can't bring themselves to spend money on clothes.

I'd palm this off to the HR department and get them to have a word about her personal hygiene and the dirty and ripped clothes, because it's not professional to turn up to work like that, but that's about all you can do.

paynosttentiontothecat Fri 03-Jan-14 11:28:15

Unfortunately we don't have a HR dept as such (it isn't based on site anyway.)

I could hand it over to my line manager except it isn't really her job which might lead to raised eyebrows over my ability to do mine (I'm very young to have my level of responsibility, and have had a hard time because of this) so I'm going to have to bite the bullet, I think.

Would you do it in a general sense at a meeting 'can I remind you all about the need to dress professionally' or is that more horrible?

Someone mentioned her being a hoarder and there might actually be something in that, her car is a state. I have also suspected there may be access issues in her house as she's very overweight.

WhoNickedMyName Fri 03-Jan-14 11:35:26

Ooooh I don't think I'd address it generally in a meeting. If you're going to do it, it needs to be on a 1:1 basis.

Ok if you're going to do it, you need to be factual, professional and straight to the point... "I want to discuss something that’s awkward, and I hope I don’t offend you. You have a noticeable body odour. It might be that there is a need to wash your clothes more often, I've noticed that your clothes are sometimes dirty or ripped. Or it could be a medical problem? It's a difficult subject to raise with anyone but this is the kind of thing that people often don't realise about themselves and it needs to be addressed"... and take it from there based on her response.

paynoattentiontothecat Fri 03-Jan-14 11:41:40

Who thank you. Just corrected the typo in my name smile

Definitely not a meeting then? I just can't imagine saying those things - I know that's the 'right' way to deal with it but am dying at her face already!

WhoNickedMyName Fri 03-Jan-14 11:48:10

I know, you'll be cringing while you do it, but it needs to be done. It's kinder to address it with her personally rather than with a group of others. Everyone will know who you're referring to anyway, but it could go completely over her head.

The body odour might turn out to be a medical problem? If she's overweight, wears sundresses in winter, no tights, etc, she could be really hot and sweating - thyroid problem or something? And I guess after a while you just don't notice your own smell. It's not fair to let her carry on, oblivious.

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!

paynoattentiontothecat Fri 03-Jan-14 12:52:41

Vivi, yes. I think the other side to that is that the manicurist and the hairdresser are friends of hers - buying friendship again? I have just made that link.

I've been looking through her Facebook and pictures from years ago show her looking a lot more 'groomed'.

I'm actually feeling increasingly concerned.

Dollslikeyouandme Fri 03-Jan-14 12:53:44

Personally I wouldn't do/say anything.

She might just be scruffy and have no fashion sense.

I have worked with a few people who wear the same clothes and inappropriate clothes.

I also know people who suffer from body odour, my dp being one of them, and I know for sure that he washes twice a day and uses deodorant, he can't help it.

She may have a bit of a medical problem hence the BO and greasy hair.

I see loads of women at work in ballet pumps in winter, you could just drop into friendly conversation 'aren't your feet cold'? You may find out more.

LadyKooKoo Fri 03-Jan-14 13:01:20

Suggest a drink after work and talk to her then in a more relaxed environment. As you say you used to see her most in the 'going out' environment so you will have a more recent comparison in how she presents herself.

Dollslikeyouandme Fri 03-Jan-14 13:08:11

Sorry but I can't help thinking about if I said something to some of the people at work who dress scruffy/inappropriate. Or if someone said something to my dp who has never irons his clothes or wears a coat because then he sweats and gets BO.

You'd be met with a clear piss off.

Some people just don't place as much emphasis on appearance as others, doesn't mean there's anything wrong with them.

This is the side of mumsnet I hate.

LadyKooKoo Fri 03-Jan-14 13:14:32

Emphasis on appearance and fashionable clothes is one thing. Dirty clothes and bad personal hygiene is another.

Dollslikeyouandme Fri 03-Jan-14 13:15:45

It might not be bad personal hygiene, people can suffer from BO and still be clean.

Topaz25 Fri 03-Jan-14 13:16:17

I think the angle to approach the issue from is asking "is everything OK at home, is there anything I can do to help?" then mentioning the issues with appearance. That's the approach my team leader took with me when my standards had slipped a bit (though not this much) when I was suffering from depression. It was still an embarassing conversation but the fact that it was in private and she was sympathetic to my situation helped. Address the issue with friendly concern but still keep the conversation professional.

Topaz25 Fri 03-Jan-14 13:18:08

Dollslikeyouandme The OP mentions other signs of poor personal hygiene like very greasy hair as well. And yes, I know some people have greasy hair even when they wash it regularly but combined with BO it makes poor hygiene more likely.

Topaz25 Fri 03-Jan-14 13:20:01

The key issues you need to focus on are BO and professional presentation. Style is a personal issue if it's not flounting the workplace dress code but dirty, ripped clothes are unprofessional.

Dollslikeyouandme Fri 03-Jan-14 13:23:52

And what if she can't help it? As many people can't. Then she will be aware that everyone else is aware.

Personally unless she wasn't doing her job properly I'd leave we'll alone re her possible poor hygiene & lack of dress sense.

HollaAtMeBaby Fri 03-Jan-14 13:27:02

Dolls like it or not most people would judge someone who looked dirty and smelt bad, especially in a work environment. It is unprofessional and shows a lack of consideration for others. The OP is right to want to help her colleague, especially as she is also a friend.

Topaz25 Fri 03-Jan-14 13:31:00

She can help washing her clothes though . Professional presentation is part of her job. Ignoring the issue wouldn't be doing her any favours.

"You'd be met with a clear piss off. "

You would be sacked in every job that I have had, if constructive comments were met with abuse.

I have worked mainly in jobs were this wouldn't be overlooked, shops, cafés and professional roles.

You are her manager, other staff members are commenting.

You are in danger of being accused of playing favourites, as soon as a comment was made, you should have taken the person to a private place and addressed it, either with "i will deal with it, or keep any personal remarks out of working hours".

Some of it my DD is guilty of (and she is the manager) she leaves her hair unwashed and ties it back, she always wears ballet pumps and never dresses for the weather. She has her nails done. For work it is very basic clothing unless she has a Professionals meeting.

But body odour, if extreme and dirty clothes regularly, need addressing. As her manager, keep in professional, however you also do need to be aware that it could be a sign if depression/problems and need to ask if any support is needed for any reason. That is your duty if care as her manager.
As her friend you should be asking, but if you ask informally do it outside of work and keep it friendly not repeating what colleagues have said.

You are either going to gave to address this as her Manager, or friend, for your own sake. I would take the manager route, personally.

WhoNickedMyName Fri 03-Jan-14 13:33:59

Body odour in the workplace is unpleasant and impacts on everyone else that has to interact with that person, in person. Have you ever been cooped up in a office for 8 hours a day with someone who smells... whether the smell is BO or strong perfume. It's unprofessional. As are dirty stained clothes in the workplace - unless you work on your own, with no contact in person with the outside world, or somewhere extremely hot and filthy, like a ship's engine or down the mines or something hmm.

Yes, it may be that she can't help it, but it's far more likely that she can and she's not even aware of it.

Tbh if she's wearing dirty stained clothes and has greasy hair then it doesn't take a huge strech to imagine that her personal hygiene isn't really up to scratch for whatever reason.

The OP is approaching this from a position of concern. Not to be vindictive or embarass a friend.

It is only in MN that I have come across the attitude that being dirty and smelling is acceptable, for people who expect to go into the workplace.

"or somewhere extremely hot and filthy, like a ship's engine or down the mines or something "

You would be expected to start your working time bodily clean.

My Dad was in the Merchant Navy in an Officer capacity, a daily shower, at least, but usually two, would be insisted on, the same applies in the Army.

CustardoPaidforIDSsYFronts Fri 03-Jan-14 13:45:21

birdsgottafly summed it up personally, I think you are undermining your own position by not tackling this

confrontation is hard enough at the best of times, but it needs to be tackled head on.

It is also a sign of stress.

Dubjackeen Fri 03-Jan-14 13:50:12

Please don't do the 'general reminder' approach, of saying it at a meeting. This, in my opinion, is guaranteed to annoy others, and will not get your message across. Saw it happen in my own workplace, where, instead of addressing one person's bad timekeeping, a 'general reminder' was given at a staff meeting. It gave us the impression that the manager hadn't the courage/ professionalism, to address the issue with the latecomer, and just annoyed the rest of us, especially as it solved nothing.

paynoattentiontothecat Fri 03-Jan-14 13:56:55

Dolls, if someone told me to piss off for doing my job I would have no option but to escalate matters.

Thank you for the thoughts. Having considered everything I am concerned, not just from a hygienic perspective but for her mental well being. I need to consider carefully how best to approach it.

Speaking honestly to her is one option, but I am worried that she is not bathing out of choice but necessity - if she can't access her shower for whatever reason. Some other behaviour is peculiar too and I may speak to somebody to see if the appropriate person could speak to her about her health/well being generally.

In short I am worried she can't do many aspects of her role because of her size.

ViviPru Fri 03-Jan-14 14:54:56

unless you work on your own, with no contact in person with the outside world

<regards self>

Same old same old post dog walk mud splattered jeans, stained hoody, once-white t-shirt, unwashed hair, spotty face, broken nails

Fine as long as no one comes to the door.

Dollslikeyouandme Fri 03-Jan-14 14:58:21

But all the op has said is that her clothes are unusual for the season, but you go on to say she doesn't wear gloves, tights or scarf, really? Surely that's personal preference? Perhaps if she is very overweight she struggles to find nice clothes to fit? Or she gets very hot and sweaty, could explain the BO too.

Her hair is unflattering, well frankly it's up to her how she styles her hair.

She wears no make up, it isn't the law to wear make up either.

She smells and has greasy hair, BO isn't always down to bad hygiene, fact, I have been educated on this by seeing my poor dp showering 2 and 3 times a day, trying every deodorant on the market, and still having a problem, made worse when he's hot or anxious.

I suffered terribly from greasy hair and acne in my early 20s, I am very clean, it was hormonal, age and the pill have resolved it nicely.

Maybe she is just a dirty mare, but people trying to diagnose depression through a third party online seems a bit much.

I have worked in an office with people who have body odour, seemingly poor hygiene, nasty perfume, stinky of fags, bad breath and all the rest. But to be honest, unless you're 100% sure or it is affecting their ability to do their job, I think that you have to tread very carefully.

Now you're saying that you're concerned that she's not able to fulfil her role because of her weight?

Sorry but this just sounds like a botch about someone who isn't as preened as all the other office girls. Just my opinion.

TwerkingNineToFive Fri 03-Jan-14 15:01:18

If she is bigger than a size 16 it can be hard to buy clothes and I imagine a depressing trip out. Maybe she can get the clothes easily and has lost the interest.

paynoattentiontothecat Fri 03-Jan-14 15:17:48

Dolls, I'm sorry, genuinely, if you have taken my post like that.

But if I had posted and asked for advice on how to address issues with a colleague who smelled, the advice would have been along the lines of 'tell her.' I included the other information, not to bitch but to give a full picture of the situation. I genuinely want to help and I am worried about her as a person and as a colleague.

I think you are reacting strongly to this because of your husbands issues, and I recognise how difficult it must be for you, but please, don't assume things about me that simply are not true.

Dollslikeyouandme Fri 03-Jan-14 15:19:36

grin At my husbands 'issues'.

PowderMum Fri 03-Jan-14 15:30:46

OP, I'm larger than a size 16 and can wear smart clean clothes and fit into a standard size shower, not that this is totally relevant.

I also work in management/HR and agree that it is a difficult situation to address but that it has to be done.

I had to do this to someone who I had known for years and in this instance I hid behind the senior managers, I took the person to one side and explained that it had been brought to my attention that the dress code was slipping in the office and that as a department we needed to improve, it was a very awkward converstation

captainmummy Fri 03-Jan-14 16:28:02

dolls - do you know that there are things you can do, re excessive sweating and greasy hair (due to hormones - which can be regulated by hormone treatments.)?? Your dp should see a doctor - he may be prescribed medication to reduce sweating, or surgery if it is localised.

He shouldn't suffer this. Even the strong antiperspirants these days are very good - like Triplex, or perspirex.

Google 'hyperhidrosis' - excessive sweating.

Pipbin Fri 03-Jan-14 17:34:18

I don't think the op here is say 'you don't wear make up and look pristine therefore you are bad'. It sounds to me like she is saying that this woman's personal standards seem to have dropped and therefore she is concerned.
If someone's standards drop like that then it can be a sign of a problem.
Dolls I think that you are taking this rather personally. Yes I agree that no employer should be telling you how to wear your hair or to put in make up but that is not what the OP is wanting to do. She is worried about her as in individual.

Dollslikeyouandme Fri 03-Jan-14 17:46:23

It's just the way it comes across to me, I'm not taking it personally, I was only giving examples of why people may not be able to help certain things.

I used my dp as an example, but could have used various examples of people I know and work with who may appear quite scruffy, but who are perfectly happy and good at their jobs.

One of my best friends at work is rather eccentric in many ways, she wears the same outfit every day, and the same huge woolly cardigan even through the Summer. She leaves crumbs all over her chair and I have witnessed her wipe yoghurt up with her sleeve. But I don't see it as MY place to question her on these things. And although we all share a little smile about her at work, we knows that that's just the way she is.

It was the way the op then started to question other people in the office for wearing 'short skirts', who made her the fashion police.

It's just the way it comes across to me, but I accept I could be wrong.

Dollslikeyouandme Fri 03-Jan-14 17:50:34

The office I work in is smart/casual no strict dress code, and over the years I have worked with people who take the no dress code to the extreme, or who do lack in the hygiene. But I never ever heard of anyone raising this with the individual, and the one time I did know of someone raising an issue over hand washing, it didn't end well.

wishful75 Fri 03-Jan-14 18:07:31

There are some medical problems that can make you excessively hot, sweat more and give you greasy hair etc... overactive thyroid for example. That would certainly account for the inappropriate dress. It can also cause eyesight problems in some people so she might not be aware of the stains.

paynoattentiontothecat Fri 03-Jan-14 19:15:03

I'm certainly not the fashion police, dolls!

However, I am in a position of responsibility. I doubt very much we work in the same place or even the same field so in the nicest possible sense, your own workplace is largely peripheral at best to the issue here.

My primary concern is that, at the moment, my friends personal appearance and hygiene is not appropriate for the workplace: since I do care about her I want to be sensitive and raise it in a way that makes her feel I care (which I do) rather than judge (which I'm not.)

The fact I have sat on this for four months surely tells you I am not sneering and jeering at her, but concerned.

IamChristmas Fri 03-Jan-14 19:40:54

Leave her eyebrows alone at the very least! Not all of us feel obliged to tidy up our eyebrows, I have never done anything with mine, they're quite bushy but I just don't give a monkeys. I certainly wouldn't expect my work to care what shape my eyebrows are!!

paynoattentiontothecat Fri 03-Jan-14 19:49:12

As I have explained, christmas I was attempting to give as full a picture as possible smile

Her eyebrows are not my business, nor is her choice of hairstyle. However, if I had just asked for advice on the body odour issue, it would have left a number of relevant factors about her general appearance out hence why I included them - not to be in my way unkind.

Dollslikeyouandme Fri 03-Jan-14 19:58:55

Would you mind saying what line of work you are in?

I work for local government btw, so there is an assumption that people should dress reasonably smart and be presentable. But it's open to interpretation isn't it?

You contradict yourself as on one hand you're saying that there isn't a dress code and that you're not in a position to set one, but on the other you're saying that her and other staffs clothing isn't appropriate.

Dollslikeyouandme Fri 03-Jan-14 20:01:27

And I think the fact you're commenting on her eyebrows, hairstyle (not cleanliness), and lack of make up shows that you are judging. I can't say I can even remember any of my work colleagues eyebrows or whether they wear make up.

paynoattentiontothecat Fri 03-Jan-14 20:05:18

I don't wish to say so Dolls; I am concerned about being identified.

I am not judging in the slightest, but clearly you are quite firm in the opinion that I am and despite having explained on more than one occasion why I included this detail, you remain fixated on this view.

I would like any useful advice, but repeatedly stating I am 'judging' is unhelpful.

MamaPingu Fri 03-Jan-14 20:22:42

Paynoattentiontothecat- definitely thinking you're getting some unreasonable comments!

I think you aren't judging you're just giving a full picture of this woman. I think when someone is clean and reasonably well presented if they have a monobrow or don't wear makeup doesn't really occur to you.
But when someone has BO, has greasy unkept hair and wears ripped tatty clothes then things like lack of makeup and monobrows add to the unkept look

sykadelic15 Fri 03-Jan-14 20:34:38

It's such a mine field. I've typed several suggestions just to delete them, imagining someone telling me the same.

Whilst hired as a temp my contact agent called me once, and said "I'm so sorry to have to say this, and I'm so embarrassed but I was asked to tell you that you're showing a bit too much cleavage." My first reaction was to look down at my top but then I told her it wasn't her fault, that I'll be more careful and thanked her. (I wasn't showing too much cleavage - actually showing next to none - but I'm extremely well endowed with a small ribcage so they're often the first thing people notice).

My point is this - maybe you could attempt it in a similar way? Apologise for having to talk to her about it but that it's your job but also that as a friend you're worried about her. Praise her work ethic first, her fabulous personality etc, but then go on to mention that it's been brought to your attention (and you've noticed yourself) that her clothing and hygiene have seemed to drop a bit and that you're concerned about her. Offer to go shopping with her to find other clothes if she isn't sure what to wear.

That's how I'd try anyway...

LadyHarrietdeSpook Fri 03-Jan-14 21:14:48

Would it not be normal for you to call round to hers sometime? you could then see what us going on at home re the hoarding etc? It may be much easier to have a 'what's up?' conversation with her in this context. And she may open up properly if something is wrong. I would be worried about a marked deterioration in her appearance too.

LadyHarrietdeSpook Fri 03-Jan-14 21:16:28

How good friends with her were you before she joined? Did you recruit her?

paynoattentiontothecat Fri 03-Jan-14 21:26:48

I didn't recruit her; the job was advertised externally and she applied and was appointed. She genuinely was the best - we only had two applicants!

Thank you MamaPingu - definitely no judgement here!

I think the problem is she'd see through my placating attempts - I'll have to be direct. She is size 30+ so I do think being unable to find clothing to fit will be an issue so certainly don't want to suggest shopping as that might embarrass her further.

RaspberryRuffle Fri 03-Jan-14 21:29:25

OP, you come across as concerned. You definitely need to talk to her, sooner rather than later. Bite the bullet on Monday. As others have said, praise her work and whatever she does well but say you're concerned she struggles with maintaining a professional appearance with regard to the clothes and the BO. Do NOT chicken out of mentioning the BO, as it is the thing that most bothers the other colleagues who will be looking to you to solve this, and your manager may well be aware and is waiting for you to act.
If you really think she may have trouble fitting in the showers is there a gym near the office where she could shower?
Can you show her some great bargain clothes in the sales?
Can you introduce her to dry shampoo for days when she doesn't wash her hair?

RaspberryRuffle Fri 03-Jan-14 21:31:41

Cross post, just saw size 30 plus - research somewhere that she can shop for clothes in her size, no point embarrassing her by saying there are smart shirts on sale in a shop that won't cater for her size.

AwfulMaureen Fri 03-Jan-14 21:38:23

If she is that large then it is very probable that she is finding it hard to find comfortable clothing and shoes. The feet will hurt....which accounts for the ballet flats, tights in that size are perhaps not the most practical thing to wear when you're dealing with thigh rubbage....the BO is probably due to excessive sweating.

nonetheless she needs to find a better alternative. There are many shops selling good cotton trousers with elastic waistbands and comfortable long sleeved tops which will help with the sweat issue. OP I suggest you dno't mince your words but explain she needs to wear either tights or trousers and deal with her personal hygene.

Lavenderhoney Fri 03-Jan-14 21:46:28

Firstly I would discuss with my line manager as I was raising issues and wanted any advice on it, plus company policy. Follow that up with an email to your boss.

Then sit down with her as suggested below and say that you are happy with her work but it has been noticed that her appearance and personal hygiene does not fit in with the company norm and you have been asked to raise this ( true, as its an issue and you have cleared with your manager)

You can't control her reaction, you can just say that its expected for all staff to dress appropriately for work and be in control of personal hygiene.

I wouldn't get involved in helping her, as then its your problem and you are at work. Plus you may get into a level of detail that might bite you on the bum once she gets home and thinks about it.

Tell her she is free to discuss with your boss if she has any issues she is uncomfortable discussing with you, as you know her socially.

Its very hard, but must be done. Do it at the beginning of the week, before going home time so she can leave. Say its important she knows people like her and enjoy working with her, but it has been noticed and people are concerned. She mustn't feel laughed at or ganged up on and you should say that.

Say its affecting her success in the company as well, if she is ace at her job- it will hold her back, IMO.

If she is a size 30+, are you sure the BO is sweaty?
Just asking because she may have some thrush as well in her skin fold areas, and that can smell too, but it's a different smell.

MsAspreyDiamonds Sat 04-Jan-14 04:25:15

It is odd buying colleagues lavish Christmas gifts. What do you know of her personal life? Could you take her on a shopping trip for yourself & see how she responds to being around clothes? Then decide which approach, if any, that you should take.

Caitlin17 Sat 04-Jan-14 04:44:36

The no tights issue is probably because her size makes tights difficult to put on and wear.

Same with the ballet flats, they will simply be the most comfortable footwear.

horsetowater Sat 04-Jan-14 05:06:07

I agree with other posters that you should address this as a manager, not as a friend. Either way you are doing her a favour. Overeating is a serious health issue and you should help her if you can. Can you offer to pay for counselling?

Chottie Sat 04-Jan-14 05:09:49

I've read through the whole post and my take is that this needs to be addressed as her manager. It needs to be a private meeting, focussing on her hygiene and dress. I have had difficult meetings with staff and always start with a positive statement before addressing other issues.

This sort of conversation is so difficult because it is so personal, there is a fine line between not wrapping it up so much that the message is lost and being tactful. It is also difficult that she is your friend outside work too.

I would also take informal notes during the (stressing this is informal) meeting, writing down what you have both agreed on as the outcome. Go through them with her to make sure you have both agreed with what is written. I would also email them to her after the meeting. I would also put a copy of the notes in her personnel files. This may sound a bit OTT, but I always, always cover my back.

bragmatic Sat 04-Jan-14 05:15:48

I'm genuinely concerned about her as a friend and anxious about how quickly it's escalating.

I think you should start the conversation with the words you used earlier.

NynaevesSister Sat 04-Jan-14 11:54:52

I've thought more about this. You know what? Sod being her boss. Be her friend. Take her out for a drink. Tell her this is nothing to do with work you are there as her friend. It is obvious to you that she is going through something intense right now and if she wants to talk about it great you are there for her and if she doesn't then that's ok too you are still there.

If she asks why you think there is something wrong say that she is just not looking herself lately, that she doesn't seem to be taking care of herself as she used to be. This is like the person you knew and you were worried. If you are wrong then great! She won't mind - I know I would rather friends showed they cared about me.

DoYouLikeMyBaubles Sat 04-Jan-14 12:58:03

I'd just get her in for a formal chat. Ask her how she is, maybe say you're concerned because you've noticed she doesn't look so good, said the right way and with empathy it won't be half as hard.

I had to speak to one of my colleagues and it was uncomfortable. I ended up asking her is everything okay, it's not like you to be like this...She ended up having a cry to me, opened up about what she was feeling and that seemed to help her really.

DoYouLikeMyBaubles Sat 04-Jan-14 12:58:18


LadyHarrietdeSpook Sun 05-Jan-14 18:42:40

Is there actually a dress code you are obliged to enforce? This is what isn't clear to me.

The difficulty with a chat on a friends basis (which I agree is appealing) is that if she doesn't leave the discussion with the idea she needs to do something to address the situation then you need to think about whether you are still on the hook with having to have a formal discussion with her as her manager. If you feel you would be then maybe don't blur the lines or make it clear that it's an off the record heads up to take action so you can avoid anything more formal happening at work. I can imagine feeling a bit betrayed somehow if I worked with a friend who approached a problem at work with me as a friend which later became a 'formal' issue if they hadn't made clear their interest in the issue was really friendship AND professional, if that makes any sense.

Chippednailvarnish Sun 05-Jan-14 18:59:25

If you came into my office with greasy hair, BO wearing dirty ripped clothes you would be sent home to "revise your outfit".
This isn't unusual in my profession and I can think of several law firms who would do the same.

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