Q: One of my female employees has been wearing short skirts and revealing vest tops to work during the summer months. I get that it's hot but her attire is inappropriate for the office and I don't know how on earth to address the issue without coming across as sexist. What would you do?
Jeremy Bullmore says: Every office has a Hilda. Hilda may be a man or a woman but is usually a woman. Hildas are never appointed and their official job description bears little relationship to where their value actually lies. They are the utterly trusted recipients of problems, anxieties, neuroses and confessions and have acquired such status quite slowly, over time, while never being formally acknowledged. Hildas do a lot of what good HR people should do but are able to do it so successfully in part because they're not HR. So have a word with your Hilda and ask her, 'Does anyone else think that Wendy's dress code is a bit off for the office or is it only me?' Be prepared to be told that it's only you. (Your use of that weaselly management word 'inappropriate' suggests that you may be a bit of an old fart.)
If Hilda says that it's only you, then forget it. If Hilda tells you that Wendy's outfits are making others a bit uneasy, too, ask her if she'd kindly have a gentle word in Wendy's ear. She'll know exactly how to do it.
Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Email him your problems at firstname.lastname@example.org. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.