We would all say we want to be honest and deal with issues that come up in our businesses, issues that stop us from progressing and growing as we perhaps might. However, the reality is it is difficult to face and tackle tricky issues, whether they are individual and personal or external and something we have to deal with regarding others at work.
Why it’s hard
I am sure you can imagine in my area of expertise – image and impact, this is even more the case, especially with managers and other senior people facing issues with the individuals in their team. This is for 3 main reasons:

  1. They question whether they have the right to comment on personal issues especially when they relate to personal appearance and personal behaviours that aren’t directly related to delivering work. At the extreme, they fear legal action. Isn’t it subjective after all?
  2. It’s embarrassing, who really wants to tell a lady that she is inappropriately dressed, got too much on show and looks like she’s going out on a Saturday night? A male line manager finds this difficult but so does a female one.
  3. It might cause some reflection the other way and individuals don’t want the spotlight on them

However, issues related to personal image must be tackled if they are having a negative effect on the company’s image, especially if it is negatively affecting how an individual is relating to prospects and clients.
The idea is to build good relationships to grow business, not to put clients and prospects off. People are the face of any organisation and in many areas there are many different companies to choose from so people will (when they have the choice) often pick the one where they connected well with the people and liked them, perhaps even if it involves a slightly higher cost. This is highly correlated to personal image – what your team communicates through their appearance, body language and voice. So this issue cannot be avoided.
Companies often use people like me to tackle these issues as we can bring a third party perspective and there is no danger of the issue at hand getting mixed up with other political issues that may be about. For example, an individual my feel ‘got at’ regarding their personal appearance but put it down to another reason so ignore the discussion.
Whenever I work with people who haven’t chosen to work with me i.e. they’ve been asked to see me 1-2-1 or come to a workshop, I get them to think about what personal image is, how we form perceptions of others and what they want to communicate. It’s much better to start there than going into specific advice.
Some advice to help you tackle such a situation
If you don’t want to work with a third party, my suggestion for starting to tackle such a thorny issue would be to take a similar approach i.e. start to talk to the individual about what they think they communicate and what they want to communicate. This will help you ease into the discussion.
Think carefully about who will have the discussion with the individual – don’t just think about role but relationship!
If it feels too hard for you or someone else in your company to do, you know where I am but don’t ignore personal image issues that are having a negative impact on your company. Your company is nothing without its people – help them be the best they can be for the benefit of the company and the individual.
Joanna Gaudoin helps individuals and companies with their image and impact for individual and organisation success and better relationship building. If you’d like to know more about how she can help you and your team, send her an email to arrange a discussion [email protected]
Image courtesy of freeimages.com/BobSmith