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I'm slightly confused on why - How to tell a colleague to take care of how he looks - is on hold and I'm wondering if it's salvageable for re-opening if we could clear anything up. The question seems clear to me, so could someone help elaborate the reasoning?

The most feedback I have read is that people seem to think this question is a better fit for Workplace, but I still would disagree. The question, as stated, is the OP asking how to approach this on their own and talk to Bob successfully. However, the answers tend to recommend light IPS approaches, with more emphasis on approaches that could be more broadly elaborated on via Workplace scope and explanations.

Again though, the question is phrased as though looking for IPS solutions - not workplace advice, and doesn't seem like it should be closed (from my POV). I'd be interested to hear the opinions of others.

  • The only potential thing I could find in the comments was this: "I'm having a difficult time separating your personal complaints with Bob from your objective ones". All other questions in the comments have been answered at this point.. – Em C Jan 25 '18 at 22:31
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    @EmC To be fair, that's a big deal. "How do I tell someone about my personal objections to their appearance?" is a rather different question from "How do I tell someone about objective issues their appearance is causing for our workplace?" – Cascabel Jan 26 '18 at 1:16
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To me, what's unclear how much this is a work issue (interfering with his job performance) and how much it's just an "I personally don't like it" thing. The question and comments from the OP sort of say some things about this:

... I am ashamed of the image we produce as a company when he looks like that.

My boss agrees that the guy looks bad, and that it would be better if something was done about it.

But since we are consultants, we have values. As to signals from clients - no, and I don't think we will get any since it's not very common in Germany to express that sort of things.

It's clear that the OP believes that this is bad for work, but the bulk of the specifics are tied to people's personal opinions of whether he looks good.

So it seems very difficult to tell whether a work-related approach (e.g. telling him it may be affecting his work, possibly going through boss or HR) is a great idea or a horrible idea, and I would be reluctant to try to answer or judge the merits of the answers that have been posted.

Bottom line, I think that this question could be either "how do I tell someone that I don't like their appearance?" or "how do I tell someone that their appearance is interfering with their work?" and those two have fairly different answers.

There's a fair bit of evidence that this is an issue:

Very directly in a comment from one of the close voters:

[...] I'm having a difficult time separating your personal complaints with Bob from your objective ones, and am voting to close until you clean this up.

Some question about the "personally ashamed" versus "issue with clients" in another:

Does your company have an official dress-code? And does I am ashamed of the image we produce as a company when he looks like that imply it's just you, or are you getting signals from the clients as well? Who hired Bob, and how did he look at that time?

and finally, several answers which address the possibility of the personal issue variant, as well as several non-close-voting commenters picking up on it.

  • It seems like OP clarified this point though? She said her coworkers, and her boss, and she all think someone ought to say something, they just don't know how, because there's no specific business-related complaint to point to. – Em C Jan 26 '18 at 2:03
  • @EmC except the question still implies there is a business issue, and it mentions concerns that aren't coworkers' business, like "interest in sport". – Cascabel Jan 26 '18 at 2:52
  • I guess in my reading that is something I would address in an answer: "talk to him about business-related things this way, but do not mention sports because it's not your business", or something like that. Are you saying OP needs to decide which topics to address first? – Em C Jan 26 '18 at 3:09
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    While it may be unclear how much of this is work vs personal, the question of how to approach the coworker about their presentation is going to be similar, since they aren't a manager they have no authority over their coworker. The question could definitely benefit from some heavy editing, but to me it was always very clear what the question was. – sphennings Jan 26 '18 at 3:56
  • @sphennings It does affect things - if it's actually affecting work then that's part of the way the OP should approach it, while if it's personal they should be very careful, especially because some of the mentioned concerns may not be a coworker's business. – Cascabel Jan 26 '18 at 4:28
  • @Jefromi Since they're coworkers it's none of their business anyway. – sphennings Jan 26 '18 at 4:29
  • @sphennings The answers already on the question are a pretty good demonstration that people see there being different approaches depending on whether this is an actual work issue or not. – Cascabel Jan 26 '18 at 5:47
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    @EmC I guess I'm saying that while it's possible to answer two questions at once, it's a lot easier to answer one at a time, and the fact that the OP is currently conflating the two to some extent makes it worse. There are statements like "we have values" and "ashamed of the image we produce as a company" tied by the question to concerns like "quite a nerd" and "not interested in sport." – Cascabel Jan 26 '18 at 5:52
  • "Not interested in sport" seems quite a serious social or organizational defect in some countries @Jefromi! Maybe worse than unkempt appearance in the workplace? – English Student Jan 26 '18 at 12:54
  • @Jefromi I believe that our differing opinions on the question stem from the background information provided. I feel that the background doesn't affect the answer and can be safely be ignored (and that the question would be improved by it's removal) while it seems like you feel that the background information is an important yet ambiguous part of the question that needs to be clarified. – sphennings Jan 26 '18 at 14:36
  • @sphennings I agree that that seems to be a difference in our perspectives, and that the question would be better off without some of its current contents. I'd keep in mind that my answer is about the current form of the question; it doesn't necessarily mean I think there'd be an issue if it were drastically altered. I don't think that current readers/answerers can overlook the "background", so I do see it as an issue with the current form. And "I think this makes him worse as an employee" isn't exactly background, so I'm not sure if removing problematic bits is entirely simple. – Cascabel Jan 26 '18 at 14:56
  • @Jefromi I've added a section to my answer that attempts to explain our two differing approaches to reviewing this question. Please edit it if you feel that I haven't accurately represented your position or if you feel that more explanation is needed. – sphennings Jan 26 '18 at 16:40
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The question looks ok to me.

It is very long and rambly, and poorly written, for what is a very simple question, "How to I tactfully suggest that my coworker dresses better?". Perhaps that is what lead to it being closed, the extraneous details were quite distracting.

In general it's a good idea to provide an explanation in the comments for why a question is being closed so that the OP knows specifically what concerns need to be addressed to get the question reopened.


After talking with Jefromi about their answer , it seems like we disagree about what information is essential to answer the question.

They feel that whether the OP was addressing a personal concern or a workplace concern would affect how best to approach the situation. This the lack of clarity about whether the OP had a personal problem or a professional one makes the question unanswerable without clarification. Obviously questions that are unanswerable without clarification should be put on hold.

I feel that regardless of the motivation the approach to addressing a coworker would remain essentially the same. Since I felt that background wasn't needed to answer the question it wasn't heavily scrutinized when reviewed.

  • Agree on the rambly bit, however that isn't supposed to be a close reason (from anything I've ever seen / that's why we have the edit button + priveleges) so maybe that needs discussed as well? Thanks for your feedback. – Jess K. Jan 25 '18 at 22:14
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    @JessK. There could be ambiguities that I'm glossing over. I'd like to hear from the people who voted to close it what their concerns are. – sphennings Jan 25 '18 at 22:16
  • To be clear I wasn't a close voter, just stating my views along with some summary of what many people said in response on the actual question. As for whether it affects answers: clearly it does. doctordonna's answer: "I still stand behind the fact that your boss or HR take care of this." DJClayworth's answer: "First, if you are concerned because of impact on the company, ... Your boss should take care of it,..." Chris K's answer: "The best course of action in a professional setting ... is for the manager or team leader to issue a new policy." – Cascabel Jan 26 '18 at 16:41
  • @Jefromi We've established that we disagree on that point. The OP of this meta question is asking what is unclear. While I personally don't find the question unclear, I do want to accurately represent views that aren't my own. – sphennings Jan 26 '18 at 16:47
  • @sphennings I think we're talking past each other a bit. I'm not really trying to get into whether the best answer depends on whether or not there is a work issue. I'm saying that, in practice, people's answers do depend on that and thus it is a rather important distinction to iron out. – Cascabel Jan 26 '18 at 16:48
  • @Jefromi In your opinion does it feel that the text is biased towards one reading or another, in the bottom half of my answer? I tried to keep my tone as neutral and unbiased as possible but since I am biased I would greatly appreciate your feedback on whether you feel that I am favoring one interpretation over another. – sphennings Jan 26 '18 at 16:52
  • I think your description of my position is pretty much fine (main caveat is that "unclear" often leads to "varying answers, unclear which ones really address the situation" rather than "unanswerable"); I was more pointing out why I believe that your position ("regardless of the motivation the approach...would remain essentially the same") doesn't seem to be borne out by the existing answers on the question. – Cascabel Jan 26 '18 at 16:55
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    @Jefromi If you feel your position can be more accurately represented please edit it. To me "Get HR, or your manager to do it" is the correct answer but it doesn't answer the core question of "How do I talk to them about x?" If the question was "How do with a poorly dressed coworker?", "go to HR" would be the correct answer but the question should then be migrated to The Workplace. – sphennings Jan 26 '18 at 17:00

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