DEAR HARRIETTE: I hired a young woman to work for me earlier this year. We mainly work via Zoom. We had an in-person meeting recently, which is when I discovered that she doesn’t understand professional dress. She came to a business dinner wearing a camisole (that looked like underwear) as her shirt. She was not wearing a bra, and her breasts were exposed. I have seen young people dress like that when they are going to the club, but it was inappropriate for a work event. I didn’t say anything because she was already there.
The next day, she did a similar thing during the day, again wearing something extremely low-cut for a breakfast meeting. I see young people dressing like this sometimes and get that it is a form of self-expression, but the workplace calls for more modesty. I feel like this is not being taught or reinforced these days, perhaps because quarantine meant that for two years people were not in-person at all. How do I address this without coming off as a prude or as one who is not inclusive of others’ styles? -- Professional Dress
DEAR PROFESSIONAL DRESS: Schedule a time to talk to your assistant. Let her know that after your in-person meetings, you realized that you had not previously talked about what you consider to be professional dress. You may want to do some research to prepare. Show her photos of what is traditionally considered professional attire at work -- and what is not. These images are easy to find on the internet. Point out that plunging necklines, exposed cleavage, short skirts and sheer clothes are inappropriate. Similarly, in many work environments, jeans and sneakers don’t work, but that’s really dependent on the culture of the organization.
Define your office culture for virtual engagements and in-person activities so that your employee is clear about your expectations.