Every week, Mallory Ortberg answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. Adventures in babysitting: Last week, I decided to work from home after a meeting instead of driving back across town to work. When I came home, I walked in on my 19-year-old female nanny working out in our home gym in just her underwear. This seems not-very-comfortable, but I didn't really care because the kids were napping.
I did tell her that she should probably plan ahead and bring workout clothes, which she can store in our house and launder if she’d like. I told my wife about this when she got home, and she was livid. The girl’s mom is a family friend, and my wife wants to talk to her.
My thoughts are that our nanny is an adult and is great with the kids, who love her. This might make her quit or affect our relationship with her negatively. Her behavior was odd but certainly not reckless in any way.
Do you feel further discussions are warranted?
A: I think it’s perfectly fine for you to slightly strengthen your initial recommendation from “You should probably keep gym clothes at the house instead of working out in your underwear” to “We’d like you to wear gym clothes if you’re working out in the house.” I think it should come from you, since your wife is currently “livid” and you’re not trying to communicate to your nanny that she’s done something borderline unforgivable. But you should say it when you’re all together so that it’s clear this message is coming from the both of you.
It is perfectly reasonable to ask anyone who looks after your children that they wear a shirt and shorts, even if the children are napping. You’re not trying to police her off-hours attire or demand she wear leggings and a turtleneck to the beach, nor are you demanding she apologize. You’re just letting her know the general, reasonable rules of workplace attire in her workplace.
Keep your request pleasant, say it once, and don’t overexplain or overapologize. She sounds like a reasonable, thoughtful employee, and odds are excellent that this is a conversation you’ll only ever have to have once.