By Elizabeth Berg, Trüpp.

Let’s face it, having a conversation regarding appropriate dress and grooming habits with an employee can be very uncomfortable for anyone in a leadership position. However, following a few best practice guidelines can make the conversation go much more smoothly and minimize the impact on your team. Here are 5 steps to help managers navigate the situation.

  1. Address the employee in private. This is an embarrassing conversation for anyone. To minimize discomfort and public humiliation, pull the employee aside to a location where you can have a private conversation. Keep in mind, as a leader, you set the tone for your team. Avoid discussing the matter with other employees to prevent the situation from getting bigger than necessary.
  2. Know your audience and adjust your approach accordingly. Some employees have tough skin and can handle a direct approach. For others, you may want to preface the conversation by letting the employee know, “This may be hard to hear, but something has been brought to my attention…”.
  3. Be specific and act quickly. Be precise and immediate about what has been observed. While talking around the concern may seem more compassionate, providing specific examples and their impact gives the employee clear direction. When possible, address the problem at the time the unprofessional dress or grooming has been brought to your attention, or as soon as it is practical to do so.
  4. Explain why. Help the employee understand why their dressing or grooming isn’t appropriate, such as how it impacts their representation of the company, how others perceive them as a professional, or even others’ personal comfort.
  5. Set expectations and monitor. Provide the employee with a clear understanding of expectations going forward and monitor to ensure they are maintained. While the conversation may be difficult initially, most employees will respond favorably to clear guidelines with encouragement and continued positive reinforcement.