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Can you imagine any boss in this day and age giving or receiving that advice?!  Yikes.

This article from the CIPD caught my eye recently which reported that, citing a survey commissioned by UK law firm Slater & Gordon, a staggering 28% of women had been told exactly that.

While at first I found the statistic balk-worthy, I have to admit on reflection I wondered if it was as damning as it first appears.  Is there a connection between how you dress and career success?  I think few would deny it.  Consultants make a living from it.  Is that a discussion you should avoid having with female employees?  With male employees?

I say, no.  If a boss feels that someone is being held back by the way they dress (or anything else) it probably warrants a discussion, for the employee’s benefit as much as the employer’s.  It should obviously be handled with tact and diplomacy and it certainly not be framed as “looking prettier” (and more than male employees would be told to look “more handsome”!).  I can’t help suspecting that some of the comments women found offensive were probably well-meaning but ham-fisted to varying degrees in their delivery.

I for one wouldn’t know where to start giving my employees fashion advice!  However it was framed it could well fall foul of the quoted lawyer’s standard, representing “disparaging remarks about a woman’s appearance”.  If you advise an employee to dress more professionally, are you “disparaging their appearance”?

The most likely outcome of an article like this is to inspire bosses to not even broach the subject!  Who is that helping?



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