Welcome to the one-more-week-until-a-half-day edition of “I’m an accountant and I need you to fix my problem.” In today’s edition, a senior manager has a new associate who is bouncing between firm-approved and firm-unapproved skirts. The extra skin has gotten some attention and the SM has already given the associate a vague warning. What’s next?
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All right then, enough skirting the issue:
I am a Senior Audit Manger. “Danica” is a newly hired audit staff. I am not “Danica’s” mentor. Technically “Danica” is about average. Unfortunately, “Danica” wears skirts six to seven inches above the knee. The firm dress code is three inches above the knee.
When she interviewed and for her first two weeks her presentation was excellent, nicely tailored three inches above the knee or a pants suit, nice hair and make-up. I know this a not lack of knowledge or a lack of funds to purchase a work wardrobe. In week three, when the short skirts first appeared, I called her into my office explained that accounting was a conservative profession and regardless of what our clients wore they expected us to be dressed professionally. I also explained that it was just as important she dress conservatively in the office as she could be sent to a client at anytime and the partners form an opinion of her when she is in the office. I did not explicitly mention the length or her skirts. The following two weeks she dressed correctly again and I patted myself on the back for effectively counseling a nice young staff member.
Two weeks later the short skirts were back again. Since that time one client made a negative comment as “Danica” walked past the conference room. Two other staff have asked me if new staff received copies of the dress code.
We spent a lot of money putting her through training. I would like to salvage “Danica’s” career if I can. I personally like her. I don’t think it is too late. In a few months people would chalk it up to poor judgment by a new staff member; not much worse than posting drunken photos on their facebook page. If she corrected her dress between now and the end of Decmber, then I could staff her on my jobs during busy season. However, I don’t want to open the firm up to a discrimination lawsuit if she takes this the wrong way.
What if anything do I do next?
Dear Fashion Police,
Being a proponent of fantastic gams, this particular issue may cause our thoughts to drift but we understand that you have a problem and we’ll do our best to stay objective here.
Judging by the timing (short skirts are appearing every two weeks) it’s possible that the young lady’s wardrobe is of the size that the shorter hems are simply appearing in their usual spot of the attire rotation. Your sit-down in week three sounds a little ambiguous and it appears the associate’s did not get the point of your little chat.
The fact that others have noticed is cause for concern (unless the associate is campaigning) and it may be time for another chat. This time reference your firm’s dress code rather than explain that accountants are expected to “dress professionally.” Ask the associate if has questions and allow them to communicate their feelings on the situation. You need to avoid any confusion on situation, otherwise you’re just compounding the problem.
The risk of a discrimination lawsuit is minimal** based on the fact that you have an explicit policy that all employees must follow. Danica is a new associate and this is a blip on her career so nip this issue in the bud and everyone will move on quickly.
**DISCLAIMER: I’m not a lawyer but, come on. There’s a policy!