I have a colleague that isn't liked by the boss because of her dressing and look, and she faces many of our customers.

My colleague told me, once the boss said she need to change how she dresses, she usually wears a pants and long-sleeved shirt, like guy usually wears. Just recently, the boss said she is under-performed, while in my opinion is contrary.

Then, boss said would like to see further until certain period (almost near of her contract end date) whether she can improve her performance or not. I believe this is the way how the boss wants to make her quit

Is it common in workplace?


I think I mis-emphasize my story. Aside of the dressing, seems the boss also does not like her face, since she is not pretty (this is what she told me).

  • 1
    Where are you from? What is your colleague dressed like? Is there a dress code she is not following?
    – New-To-IT
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 15:36
  • I have edited my post :) There is no certain dress code actually in my company..
    – Lewis
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 15:38
  • Sorry to say that this is relevant, and if someone really wants to look it up there are studies on why this is relevant, but is the boss a man or a woman?
    – pay
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 15:40
  • Could you please share what is that study called? The boss is a man, that's why he escalated this.
    – Lewis
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 15:41
  • 1
    I have a feeling a lot of it has to do with the particular culture where you are working. For the most part, where I am, it isn't really acceptable for a manger to say something like that to an employee, unless they are violating dress code. If she is wearing regular pants and long sleeve shirts like you say, I cannot imagine that being outside of policy. I am getting the sense that he wants her to dress "more lady like", which is certainly a bit sexist.. Whether or not potentially sexist actions are an issue in your workplace is a different matter.
    – pay
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 15:56

3 Answers 3


There are two questions here. The one you asked and the one that remains unasked.

Is it common? I don't know if it's common as such, but it's certainly not unheard of. It happens and I've known several occasions where it has happened.

The unasked question is "what would motivate a person to do this?" and the answer can help explain why it's not unheard of.

Assuming you're not leaving anything out, it appears to me that the boss is very concerned about sexual harassment complaints but also wants to maintain a certain "image" to the customers. Without a dress code or a uniform, he knows he can't mandate women wear dresses. That is at a minimum sexist and specifically saying that she should wear a skirt or dress would invite a sexual harassment complaint, especially since he's already indicated that he feels she looks like a man.

The reason why he would want her to quit is because he can't fire her without inviting that complaint. Firing someone is kind of like accusing them of something. That person can then defend themselves as to whether they were terminated for cause (at least for purposes of unemployment compensation, possibly more depending on the circumstances). When a person is charged with a crime, they get to plead not guilty and the state has to prove that they did deserve to be arrested and jailed. Quitting is like pleading guilty (in most cases). When you plead guilty, you forfeit your rights, including the right to appeal. When you quit (except in cases of a hostile workplace), you're usually losing any chance at unemployment compensation, etc.

I would bet that this boss would just fire your coworker if he could and just say "wearing a dress is the image we want to present because we want our women to look feminine and not masculine." But he can't. Instead, he has to hope that she quits.

The complaints about her work which seem inaccurate is also very common. It's called "building a book" where you establish ahead of time a supposed history of problems so if they're ever questions about it they can say "here's where I said she was screwing up, months ago". The problem for your coworker is that you really can't dispute it unless it immediately follows glowing reviews.

Here's the bottom line. Nobody wants to work where they're not wanted. Your friend probably should just start looking right now anyway. Additionally, I wouldn't quit either until I had something. But I'd definitely make certain I found something The writing is on the wall.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

EDIT: Regarding the dress or her looks, my answer still remains. The guy apparently wants her to quit because letting her go has ramifications for him. And it's still sexist as hell.

TL:DR: It happens, but "common" isn't the word I would use. He wants her to quit to save trouble for himself since firing her would be sexist and possibly actionable. She should look for another job.

  • And exactly this is how sexist culture is perpetuated in the workplace. Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 17:05
  • @AmyBlankenship pretty much
    – Chris E
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 17:13
  • 1
    It certainly is one way sexist culture can be perpuated. Unfortunately, it's also a way for people who are actually underperforming to claim discrimination. That's why it can be difficult to navigate. In countries with appropriate laws, keeping a diary or log of every time the boss is being inappropriate can help support claims of sexism and discrimination. Commented Sep 3, 2016 at 1:59
  • Most of this answer is irrelevant; US labor laws are irrelevant - this is tagged asia, so possibly China, HK, TW, SG.
    – smci
    Commented Nov 7, 2016 at 11:00

If your boss tells you he doesn't like the way you dress, then (assuming you want your job) you change the way you dress. It's that simple.

Many places don't have it written that you need to wash once in a while, but if you go to work and start growing mould they will find a way to get rid of you.

A written dress code makes it easier to enforce, but most places expect people especially client facing to be 'presentable' and their definition of presentable, not the employee's, again there is always a way to get rid of a recalcitrant employee.

  • I don't agree, anyway I'm not down-vote either. This is why I'm not agree. Work contract is not written by an idiot. If you came without washing it then it's a matter of workplace condition. Because legally you don't have a right to violate workplace condition for others. For a sales engineer or a sales executive there should be dress code written in his/her work contact. It need to be fair business. Even with your employee you are doing a business/trade. And there are terms. Commented Sep 3, 2016 at 3:39
  • A business place/workplace which don't know how to do their business with their employees correctly means they never can do a fair business with the outside world. That's a main reason why businesses not grow and fuzzing in the same place. Commented Sep 3, 2016 at 3:43
  • I absolutely agree instead. Especially since the OP said that she deals with customers. Remember that "the luxury in the boss' office is for the client, not for him"? Well the same can be applicable to someone's dress. I'd expect someone to show courtesy like that. I do the same (I'm not pretty, I wear metal bands t-shirts when I am at my desk, but when I have to meet other people I dress with suit and tie). Commented Sep 5, 2016 at 14:09

if you working for them and you are signed for a dress code, you have to wear it. Otherwise you don't need to.

Legacy dress codes like business would make people sick by time. That's why most companies have move into smart casuals. Dex shoes and denims are oky in our office, and most of days I'm go to office without a belt, but never let them know that I don't have a belt because it's covered by my long shirt. The days that I don't wear long shirt I do used to wear a belt.

Dress codes and those legacy things are just customs in modern workplaces. For a example google, there are no dress codes. Those customs are exist to break. But if that cost your carrier then that don't worth it. So break the custom little by little without getting noticed. For a example, I'm in a highly traditional office environment but no dress code on working contract. So I do it little by little, cos I'm also new there. I come with dex shoes and no belt many days. Now many are following me, and you know what I DID THAT. yeah!

  • PriceWaterhouseCooper in London got themselves into major, major trouble by insisting that a temp had to wear high heeled shoes to work and sent her home when she refused. All over the news, all over the newspapers, and it did a lot of damage to their reputation.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 16:32
  • 3
    While that may be acceptable in the office, this person deals with customers and it's perfectly reasonable for employer to expect someone in that role to dress nicer as they are representing the company
    – cdkMoose
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 16:36
  • Slavery is a little harsh of a term here. OP has not provided details on the contract, so for all we know it is covered. Just pointing out that it is reasonable for an employer to have different expectations of dress code for in-office vs customer facing.
    – cdkMoose
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 17:55
  • Not sure this answer really addresses the OP's question. Commented Sep 3, 2016 at 1:52

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .