Q: I manage a team of about 20 employees. One of the women who works for me is really talented and does a great job but consistently dresses too provocatively for the office. She’s in her 40s, yet she keeps wearing plunging necklines and short skirts. How do I tell her she needs to tone it down without being too harsh?
A: Mia: I think I would try to stress that she’s a valuable employee and just gently note that there are office standards for professional attire. It’s probably going to upset her, however you say it. Tell her she’s very stylish, but sometimes her outfits can be a distraction.
Steve: Make it as positive as you can, couched as career advice, praising her work and potential, etc. This is one of those tricky personal things that requires diplomacy.
Q: Here’s a strange problem I’ve never run across: About three months ago, I started work in a small office where we’re all crowded together and things are usually quite busy. One older guy always seems to be bumping into or brushing against me. At first I thought nothing of it, but after about the third time, I got suspicious. I get along with everyone and don’t want to mess up a good work environment, so I’m reluctant to tell him to stop it. But I don’t think all these brushes are accidental and I want it to stop. Any suggestions?
A: Steve: It sounds to me like you are a victim of frottage, an unhealthy compulsion to rub up against another person, usually in a crowded place like a store or bus. I’d inquire of some of the other women you work with whether they’ve had similar experiences with this guy. If so, take it to the boss.
Mia: How crowded are you that this guy can’t give you some space? Do you work in a clown car? I would just point it out in a joking way, calling him clumsy or something. Maybe he’ll take the hint.
Q: I’m in my mid-30s and recently divorced. I’m ready to begin dating but am a bit appalled by the slutty attire I see worn by many younger women. I’d like to think I’m still attractive to men, but I don’t want to feel foolish. I also don’t want to appear dowdy and out of style. Any suggestions?
A: Steve: Let’s go to an expert. In this case, Sophia Loren, who once observed: “Sex appeal is 50 percent what you’ve got and 50 percent what people think you’ve got.” I always thought the sexiest women were the ones who had a bit of mystery about them, not the ones who let it all hang out.
Mia: Most men will take simple elegance over slutty any day. Just ask them. They usually prefer women in jeans and T-shirts and just a little makeup, not really dolled up. Anyway, you should just wear what you’re comfortable in. It’s not a competition.