How do I tell my employee to stop wearing thongs (and other ridiculous attire) to work?

How do I tell my employee to stop wearing thongs (and other ridiculous attire) to work?

Dear Aunty B,

I have a young employee who insists on dressing like a costume character. Some mornings when I come into work I don’t know where to look.

She either favours clothes that have holes in them or hang so there is very little fabric covering her body at any one time, or she dresses in some theme like military and looks faintly ridiculous.

I pointed out to her the other day that her jeans had a hole in them and she said that they were very expensive jeans that cost her $225! I pointed out that they were not suitable for work and she says she dresses for her market (she works on youth publications).

So OK, I lived with all that until the other day she turned up in thongs. I asked her if her feet hurt as I thought she might have bunions from the ridiculous high heels she usually wears and she explained to me that it was part of the day’s look based on “declutter, decycle”. I kid you not.

I have tried to find this amusing but thongs are the last straw.

But my problem is what do I tell her? I would have no idea what to say. I have made a number of comments and she just explains to me like I am an idiot why she is dressing that way. When I raise this with any of her managers they give me a pitying look and tell me she is fine. In fact, someone told me she spends a lot of money to look like that and it was a “clever, cultivated look” that landed her in some fashion magazine recently which was all good “brand building”.

Confused B


Dear Confused B,

Do you know what? I come to work every day to escape just this type of teenage stuff at home. That’s right. I get in my car and drive across town to leave all that stuff behind me for 10 (or on a good day nine) hours.

And today I come to work and find this!

Here is what I would do. Don’t make lame jokes. Don’t comment on what she wears. Don’t think about what she wears. But draw the line at thongs. Thongs are an affront to… well… I am not sure what. Comfort for one. I can’t bear that little rubber thing between my toes. Tell the manager to tell her not to wear thongs and explain that while you may be operating in the youth market, you are still a business and thongs belong at the beach. Preferably in a rubbish bin.

Be smart,
Your Aunty B

This article first appeared on February 28, 2011. Aunty B is on holidays sailing the South Pacific and sipping piña coladas, but she will be back soon with fresh advice for your business.


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