The Guardian 14 December, 2005

Buy this bra says CBA management

In the face of low customer satisfaction levels and continuing staff cuts, it was with amazement that the Finance Sector Union (FSU) discovered Commonwealth Bank (CBA) management paid consultants to advise employees on what sort of underwear to buy, how often to colour and cut their hair and where the bottom of their ties should hang.

Multiple copies of the Grooming Handbook have been sent to the FSU by members offended and concerned they will be pressured to spend a greater proportion of their income on personal appearance or risk negative performance reviews.

Besides patronising staff, a common theme in the Handbook is to spend considerable money on appearance, but the Bank has not offered any type of allowance to help staff comply with the guidelines.

What's more, although the Handbook describes itself as only a guide and not bank policy, this document will be in management's hands when they assess staff performance, particularly under the recently introduced Behaviour Assessment Tool.

The FSU is seeking an assurance from the bank that the Grooming Handbook will not be used by managers in upcoming performance reviews.

Thanks to the new "People Principles" some CBA staff are missing out on bonuses most would have qualified for under the traditional performance reviews, and it is absolutely critical that this Handbook is not another hurdle for staff to jump over.

FSU National Assistant Secretary Sharron Caddie said "behaviours" are a set of vague concepts of the ideal employee. The FSU is concerned that there is nothing to prevent the Grooming Handbook being used against employees.

She said the Handbook is particularly galling as new CBA chief executive Ralph Norris is yet to do anything to address long standing staff concerns, such as updating wages and conditions under the enterprise agreement, which is now two years out of date.

Advice from the Grooming Handbook includes:

For Women

"When choosing stockings 'avoid shiny finishes they make your legs look larger.'"

"Flesh coloured, smooth finish t-shirt bras will give you the best, most discrete look."

"Take the time to style your hair before leaving for work in the morning."

"Your hands do get noticed moisturise your hands regularly."

"Consider having unruly brows regularly waxed or plucked."

For Men

"If your hair is light in colour, grey or curly, a shine product can add lustre and help it look healthy."

"After-shave lotions contain alcohol and can produce broken capillaries on your face (small red veins). Use eau de colognes on your body instead."

"If you wear glasses, update them at least once a year."

"Trim your nose and ear hair. Hair in these areas can increase as you age and may give the impression you are not well groomed."

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