Q. The leading candidate for our executive secretary position wore an extremely low-cut top with overflowing cleavage to her second interview. Although she seems well-qualified, I am concerned about her choice of clothing. This is a reputable law firm with many conservative business clients, so revealing attire is not appropriate. How should I handle this?
A. Wearing a suggestive outfit to a job interview could signify poor judgment, so your concerns are certainly valid. Even if this woman has outstanding clerical skills, her ability to assess social situations might be questionable. Before bringing her on board, therefore, you should carefully evaluate that aspect of her employment history.
If you determine that her lack of common sense is limited to fashion issues, then you can address this topic after she is hired. But do not drop subtle hints or offer vague suggestions. To nip this problem in the bud, you will have to provide very clear direction.
For example: “Mary, before you start work, we need to talk about appropriate attire. Presenting a professional image is very important in a law firm, so low-cut tops and extremely short skirts are not suitable. For example, the shirt that you wore to your second interview would be too revealing. If you have questions about this, feel free to ask, and if I have any concerns, I promise to let you know.”
Should you be tempted to put off this uncomfortable discussion, remember that if your new secretary comes in dressed inappropriately again, that conversation will be much worse.
Q. One of my co-workers refuses to open up with me. “Ginger” doesn’t share any personal information, so our discussions are always about work. Although she will answer my questions, she never initiates any small talk. When I pass Ginger in the hall, she often walks by without even exchanging a greeting.
Since I haven’t done anything bad to her, I don’t understand why Ginger refuses to get close to me. I have actually started avoiding her because she makes me feel as though I don’t exist. How can I work with someone who doesn’t want to know anything about me?
A. You are obviously a nice person who enjoys feeling close to your colleagues and sharing your life with them. However, the problem is that Ginger is not like you. At work, she apparently has little interest developing friendships or having personal conversations. She simply wants to focus on her tasks.
From your perspective, Ginger is coldly rejecting your friendly overtures. But to her, your attempts to “get close” may seem pushy and intrusive. And you might be surprised to learn that Ginger is not alone. There are actually many people who prefer not to socialize at work.
Fortunately, this problem has a simple solution. Just accept Ginger as she is, and stop trying to change her. Continue to be pleasant and helpful, but focus your conversation on work issues. And when you feel like chatting, seek out some gregarious colleagues who are more like yourself.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.”