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I work in a small software company of around 10 people. We are all very "informal" with each other and there is no dress code or anything. It's a very laid back company at the moment and I'm fine with that.

The co-worker in question is an older male in his mid-thirties, who is a bit on the heavy side. He dresses in a way that avoids belts, which means that I often see plumber's crack when I look his direction, even when he's just standing or walking.

He's overall a very nice person to work with, which is what makes it more difficult for me to tell him that it really bothers me. There have been a couple particularly revealing incidents where I almost stopped him to talk in private, but I never did it.

He seems completely oblivious to his constant half-mooning, making me wonder if anyone has ever said anything to him about it, which is why I hesitated. It seems like he's not aware of it at all, though I don't understand how one could not be. I'm overweight myself, but I wear a belt and I usually notice if my crack is showing and avoid it.

I have no idea how to tell him about this in the nicest and least offending way possible and I'm afraid I'll taint myself in his eyes forever if I told him about something so embarrassing.

So, how should I tell him that he's exposing himself, and that it really bothers me?

  • 3
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Snow Jan 29 at 14:16
  • Can you move position in the office? not a "real" solution... – Solar Mike Jan 29 at 15:18
  • get one of those throwaway emails and email him anonymously – Nino Škopac Feb 4 at 14:45

15 Answers 15

75

These things are super delicate.

If you wish to do something about it, you have to make sure to not call them out in front of other people. But you knew that already. So ideally you have a one on one. It helps, actually, that you have the same body type. That might make the advice easier to deliver. I’m a chunky fellow myself. If it were me I would be phrase it as such.

Hey John, I have something a little delicate to talk about with you. We’re big guys and sometimes our clothes don’t fit us the way we think they should. [Demonstrate empathy here, pause and be thoughtful about the follow-up.] I would like to strongly suggest wearing a belt. Your pants aren’t covering up as well as they should and your bum is showing. I don’t know if anyone has told you, but I would want someone to tell me.

This is the direction I would go, personally. It empathizes, it puts you in same position as them and you also frames it as a modesty issue. Not a “you’re fat” or “you’re gross” but more along the line of “Hey, do you know you’re exposing yourself a bit there and I’m trying to protect your dignity.”. The best first approach, in my view, is one where the advice is about protecting them. Because it leans on their self-interest to look dignified.

Now if nothing changes and they continue, then you can be a little less diplomatic. I would then be like.

Look I know you’re ok with this, but I’m not. Please wear a belt. Be a professional.

That’s a whole lot less diplomatic, but in my view… it’s the necessary way to approach it if they refuse to change.

  • 115
    Your way feels a bit too convoluted and condescending. The first time I'd address the subject with him simply and say "Sometimes your bum is showing" should be enough. Explaining to him how he could avoid it (wearing belt, wearing bigger pants or shirt...) is very patronizing and midly insulting and should be done only if he doesn't do anything after the first "warning". – Echox Jan 29 at 16:06
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    I do like the second response, but without the third sentence. Just, "yo, yer but is always showing and it's not cool." et al – Mikey Jan 29 at 16:32
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    -1 for injecting weight into the answer. Yes, plumber's butt tends to be a bigger issue with bigger people, but it doesn't have to be, and you don't have to call your coworker fat to tell them they have plumber's butt. – Ertai87 Jan 29 at 21:53
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    I agree with Echox, in these situations the best solutions is often the simplest. It reminds me of an episod of 'Friends', where Phoebe dates an athletic guy who doesn't realize he has a "wardrobe malfunction". At the end Gunther is the only one who solves the problem in an efficient way. – Geert Immerzeel Jan 30 at 9:15
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    This is a really awful answer. OP shouldn't talk in such a patronizing way to any colleague ever. I'm a manager but I would never talk like this to someone in my team. – BigMadAndy Jan 30 at 21:08
39

I've been in this situation (both on the seeing end, as well as the unfortunate oblivious one) on a couple of occasions but with regards to a front zipper, rather than the back.

In all instances it was as simple as asking for a quiet word, walking into a corridor or empty room etc, and saying quietly:

Hey mate, you might want to adjust your zipper!

So my advice would be to treat the discussion as light-hearted as you can, but keep it private. Something like:

  1. You: John, can I have a minute?
  2. [Lead him somewhere private]
  3. You: Hey man, you might want to adjust your pants at the back, they're riding a bit low!
  4. John: How embarrasing! [or something like that]
  5. You: Haha, think nothing of it! Although if you have a belt it might help, that's the only thing keeping mine that way.

If he is as nice as you say, he won't take offense to this gentle nudge. Although you may have to remind him more than once, especially if he is 'not a belt person' as you say. I wouldn't escalate your tone, but I'd make the conversations shorter each time: "John, pants!" or "Hey John... [look down and make a pull up motion on your own pants]". The reminders will drill into his head that your conversation was not an isolated incident, and it's something he needs to be mindful of at all times, especially if he continues to not wear belts.

  • 1
    Suspenders are a great alternative if he is "not a belt person". – Roland Jan 30 at 9:00
  • A zipper and an obese coworker are two very different things though. The former is something that can happen to everybody and is not linked to a social stigma like obesity. – BigMadAndy Jan 30 at 20:51
  • @BigMadAndy - I disagree, pants riding low and exposing the butt can happen to anybody, it's not purely a problem of the obese. I don't see why OP should bring weight into it at all – Robotnik Jan 30 at 21:19
28

I've had a similar problem of a guy with a bad case of builders crack sitting in front of me in an open plan office. I found the best solution was to make little paper aeroplanes out of post-it notes, and use the crack as target practice. He soon got the hint.

  • 8
    This seems horribly unprofessional, I'm appalled that it has so many upvotes. I mean if you were good friends with the coworker it probably wouldn't be such a big deal, but I would personally be livid if someone did this to me even if I liked that person. Use your words, don't act like a child... – Chris Cirefice Jan 31 at 9:40
  • @Chris +1 additionally it could be viewed as bullying. I would be quite upset if someone did this to me, especially because this is not private but out in the public and could lead to a new “office sport“. – Lehue Jan 31 at 21:18
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    Bullying is the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate or aggressively dominate others. To say this is bullying is more than just a stretch. – Mom344 Jan 31 at 22:57
  • @Mom344 you might be taking the definition a bit too literally there. If someone repeatedly did such a thing, it would definitely be seen as bullying/harassment, and should be taken up with HR. – Chris Cirefice Feb 2 at 8:54
  • this is everything! – Nino Škopac Feb 4 at 14:44
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I agree with most answers here but I think you should leave the weight part out of it. You're possibly adding double insults: you're calling him fat, and his crack is showing. Doesn't matter if you're fat yourself in such a situation. So if you do mention anything to him, simply stick to the topic at hand that his pants is showing his crack. I think it should be done as it is happening and not as a after conversation unless you two are friends outside of work.

  • 2
    As a person with some weight on him, if a coworker made a comment about my weight and Plummer Crack, I would be the one talking to my supervisor about the insensitive coworker. – Ramhound Jan 30 at 0:53
  • Answers should generally stand on their own, and they can vary greatly. You should summarize the answers whose advice you're referring to, and potentially link to them if you intend to reference a particular answer. – V2Blast Jan 31 at 5:42
7

I'd just mention it to him in private. Don't single him out, don't be like "hey, can I talk to you for a second?" unless he's the type of person who is just always busy and you can't get a moment away with him. But like, if you're chatting in the hall or something, just kindly mention to him, quietly, "hey, I noticed your crack is showing a bit". Make sure nobody else can hear, whisper if you have to.

2

I would not – at first – let him know that this has been an ongoing thing. Just wait until it happens when only the two of you are present & make a joke about it.

Perhaps add, “good job XXXX” didn’t see that, with a big grin. Or, as you say that you are overweight yourself, make a humo(u)rous remark at your own expense.

The idea is to make him aware of it, and that others are aware of it, but to avoid embarrassing him; certainly at first.

If he doesn’t take the hint after that, then look to the other answers.

  • 5
    If the relations are friendly, I would too go with a light "Hey, I see your ass !". – Echox Jan 29 at 16:02
  • 'I can see what you had for breakfast!' might be a step too far however :D – Lamar Latrell Jan 30 at 0:45
  • Please don’t make weight jokes. – Ramhound Jan 30 at 0:55
1

One point that I haven't seen made yet: you're always seeing his crack, but he doesn't need to know that. I'm sure he'll be a little humiliated/embarrassed if he finds out that you've seen his crack once. It will be much worse if he finds out you've been seeing it all the time.

I would just point it out once (using some of the phrasing advice from the other answers) without much emphasis, like it's the first time it has happened. My guess would be that he's going to re-examine things and fix it after that. If it happens again, mention it again.

If you bring it up like, "Hey, I and everyone else in the office have been seeing your crack on a daily basis" that would be a much harsher blow without any additional benefit.

1

You shouldn't mention to him that it bothers you. The same applies if a female colleague wears a too short skirt or someone's shirt results transparent. You don't comment on coworkers' clothing choices.

If you noticed it, so did your coworkers. Your coworker's boss/ superiors know and don't care. Then you shouldn't either.

I understand a thing like that can bother you. But then, in every office you will experience many things that bother you. It's just not your job to complain about someone's clothes. Complaining is reserved for things that make your work difficult/ impossible. If someone is listening to loud music or hiding your laptop, you can legitimately complain. But in this case, you can choose not to look at the coworker.

An exception would be

  1. if the coworker shows more than is legally allowed. But then you should turn to your boss, not try to convince them to wear more clothes.
  2. if the coworker were a good friend of yours and you wanted to do him a favor by pointing to certain things.
  3. if you were this guy's boss - obviously.

But in your situation, none of the above seems to apply.

0

When someone I know is unintentionally flashing me their backside, I'll sometimes say

"hey ____, you're cracking me up"

There's never any offense taken: I'm not implying that they're fat or that they don't know what a belt is; I'm not overstating the seriousness of the situation. I'm just letting them know the facts in as non-judgmental a way as possible with a bit of a joke to take the edge off.

Without fail, when I do this they'll hoist their trousers/shorts/sequined hot pants.

Do that a few times and I think he'll get the message. No need to humiliate the poor fella.

0

If you're a girl, ask another male colleague to tell him, preferably one he gets along with. Guys tends to be at ease with that kind of things. If a girl tell him, he might feel a bit humiliated.

-1

I think it's wrong to assume he doesn't realise his butt is out, he's an adult, he knows but doesn't care, or even thinks it's funny.

Either ignore it or tell him directly that it's not sexy in any way and is making you lose your appetite. Don't worry about potentially embarrassing him, he's got his butt in your face every day.

It's as simple as saying, 'Pull your pants up mate, I don't want to see that.'

  • 20
    Not all of us are aware of what we can't see in the mirror. – David Thornley Jan 29 at 16:04
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    @DavidThornley you're an adult I assume? You'd know if just one person told you straight up though. I see no point in beating around the bush hinting if someone offends me. In my forestry days someone would have taken aim at the offending butt and given it a kick and we'd all have had a laugh. In my labouring days the chaps who did this were well aware that their ass was out, they thought it was funny. In an office scenario where appearance is more important it's just rude. – Kilisi Jan 29 at 21:32
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    Why the downvotes you can't please everyone. And if you don't complain then you are probably ok with it. – amar Jan 30 at 8:35
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    +1. Directness is often much less problematic as people think. – Stian Yttervik Jan 30 at 9:45
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    The core problem is to gauge what the social context in OP's case is. And I find many answers - also the ones with the more polite approaches - fail to make clear what their target social context is/what they assume about the office culture. A craftsman with a direct/jovial culture might laugh about some of the more defensive approaches and consider OP a strange "political correctness" geek. – Frank Hopkins Jan 30 at 14:38
-1

This is the job of HR. I know that this is a smaller company, and HR is probably just the owner at this point, but that's who should be having this conversation. I'd just advise HR that it's not anything you want anyone to get in trouble over, but that you feel that it isn't work appropriate and should be addressed. You know management better than we do, so you should know how hard they'd drop the hammer on Mr. No-Belt for this. If they're just gonna pull him aside and ask him to please address his personal grooming issues, great. If you think they'll fire him, you might want to take someone else's advice and tell him in private.

  • Sorry, but unless the company is about to get sued, HR won't care. – UKMonkey Jan 30 at 23:30
  • @UKMonkey This isn't true. It's fair that HR's main purpose is to prevent the company from being sued, but most HR departments handle a broad set of issues... really, anything related to working with employees, especially for delicate matters. Dress codes (formal or informal) and personal grooming standards are 100% HR's issue - this has been true in literally every company I've worked at, and also makes sense when you consider the duties that HR typically fulfills. – Adonalsium Jan 31 at 13:39
  • @UKMonkey Additionally, you could argue it is a legal issue for HR - mishandling by OP can lead to a sexual harassment suit. – Adonalsium Jan 31 at 13:42
  • "most HR departments" are in companies of more than 10 people; and in any case, the manager will be far better positioned than HR to deal with the issue, because it is the manager that needs to decide if the rules can be bent or broken for this person (HR will have no idea if it's someone they really need to keep happy or if they're more expendable). HR will be called in if they then ignore the manager. – UKMonkey Jan 31 at 13:49
-1

You say it's a software company where everybody is young and informal...
I'd just send this article to the company's "funny" email list (or whatever you share the funny things). If he has some self respect, then he will get the idea.

-2

That it bothers you is your problem, not his. If you tell him, it should be as a courtesy to him, in case he is not aware. Avoid mentioning that he's fat, and don't force the issue.

-12

Wait for a gift exchange occasion, like an office Secret Santa or White Elephant (although those examples would necessitate a long wait until the end of the year), then get him a belt as a gift.

Or just get him a cheap belt and leave it on his desk when he's not there. He will have no idea who got it.

If I were in your shoes, I'd probably follow one of the other answers here but this is another suggestion.

protected by Monica Cellio Jan 31 at 3:09

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