Angry at Shallowness

Going through the regular workday morning ritual of ironing my business shirt for the day (sometimes I get it together enough to iron all my shirts at once – but not often) I had a bit of a domino effect happen with my angriness. First I was angry at having to iron a shirt – it's a sucky job. Then I was angry at having to wear a shirt an tie to work. Then I flashed back to how the crappy washing machine had put oil stains on some of my clothes, including a few business shirts. These were the only ones that really pissed me off. With the casual clothes, unusual stains could be written off as "character" but I can't go to work with a stained shirt. Then I realised what I was really pissed off about.


Specifically, I was thinking about the belief that how you look in the workplace is of vital importance to your work. Admittedly, I don't want to go into a bank and be served by someone wearing stained sweatpants and a torn t-shirt. To be frank, I'd rather not go into banks at all but that's a different issue. When you have a "customer facing" role that's one thing. But when you work in an office where nobody else sees you, what the fuck is the point of wearing a business suit? I've had it put to me before that business dress promotes as professional environment and casual clothes promote a casual (or lazy) environment. Uptight bosses don't want slack staff so they enforce a strict dress code.

Let me offer you this wisdom in return: bollocks! Quality work is the product of a complex range of factors: the quality of workers, the quality of management, the extent to which people want to do their work (as opposed to simply picking up a paycheck), the level of support and security workers feel, the quality of tools available and the clarity of communication regarding what is/should be going on. Nice clothes won't get you anywhere if you don't address the core issues. So why is the dress code so often the focus of a company's management?

My opinion? Doing things right is hard. Telling someone what to wear is easy. Challenging pre-conceived ideas is hard. Supporting the status quo is easy. So much of what it takes to be successful is open to interpretation and/or needs to be adjusted to suit individual situations and people. A business suit is the same in any environment. Measuring the quality of someone's work accurately requires engagement and focus from management, they have to care about what's happening. Telling someone what to wear simply involves looking and pointing.

This shallow obsession with appearance obviously goes far beyond what you wear to work. But like most other manifestations of shallowness, this one revolves around being lazy and passing judgement rather than actually seeing a person as an individual. And it's the one I have to deal with four days a week (casual Friday, woohoo!) so today it's what's making me angry.

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Filed under Work

11 responses to “Angry at Shallowness

  1. There are definately advantages to my job. ‘Professional’ attire being one of them. We must wear clothes that afford us the ability to engage physically, if necessary, with aggressive youth. This means jeans, tennis shoes, t-shirts, shorts in the summer, sandals. Oh – life is hard, alas.

    Now – if we could just get paid adequately, we’d have it made. :-D

  2. at least you are not in the nba. you would be f23cked

  3. Sandra: I’ve noted before that important work is often paid badly :) At least you like your work gear!

    Howard: I’d be fucked in the NBA because I’m only 5’8″, have poor motor skills and no sporting ability.

  4. Rick - a 'merican'

    Just last year (Feb 2005) I quit a $90K+ FTE position in part, at least, because the management decided that it was time to enforce the corporate dress code. Ok, there were other *real* issues too, but after having worked nearly 2 years to develop an enterprise wide CRM application it really pissed me off that it was more important that I wear a particular combination and color clothing than wearing somthing comfortable enough to actually stand being in the office for the ongoing 6 and 7 day weeks of 10 and 12 hour days required at the time.

    I cited the ‘shallowness of management’s perspective’ and the ‘apparent corporate drive for mediocrity’ as reasons for leaving in my exit interview. All that and I wasn’t even invited for a farewell lunch.

  5. Hey Rick, long time no comment. I love those lines from the exit interview, I wonder if they were actually passed on for management to ignore or the HR people ignored them all on their own.

  6. Pus

    Our exit interview is just a formality from HR department. I always say it is a passed down thingy. They sent you ‘out’ with the ‘copy and paste’ encouraging words. That was it. The same when new hires come in. The formalities are all “copy and paste’. Same templates for all.

  7. i was asked at an interview once if what i was wearing would be how i’d normally dress at my job…

    it wasnt bad but i wasnt wearing a suit, dunno how much more conservative they wanted me?

    didnt get the job, but that wasn’t the reason.

    personally have no problems being served by someone in casual clothes, yes, even at a bank. I jus dont get the big deal about suits. its only coz men only look good in suits. so we must all suffer. hmph.

  8. always hated formal clothes, what more suits and skirts! duh! jst another reason for those in the upper echelons to look at women’s legs! LoL! anyway, that’s why i always liked my techie kind of job before but now in my new one, i was personally asked by my boss to wear business clothes me being the office manager and all! would have fucked him with a paper weight in the neck if he wasn’t a nice old chum and also loved my job so i’m jst tolerating it! (hmm seems Sandra’s ‘words of wisdom’ already infected me!) LoL but then anyway, i still hate business clothes esp. the tailored fitting skirts or pants! miss my jeans and shirts to work! grrr…

  9. Pus: yeah, I think exit interviews are a waste of time, it’s not as if they ever change behaviour in response.

    Maryam: I don’t get suits either, I think people work best in what they’re comfortable in.

    Mayang: I work in tech jobs and still get forced to wear business clothes most of the time. It’s not fair! I want to go back to jeans and t-shirt.

  10. Paul Brown

    “Telling someone what to wear simply involves looking and pointing.”

    Am I the only one who had a “Body Snatchers” flashback at that line? Maybe just because the managers at my place were replaced by animated vegetables a long time ago.

  11. Hey Paul: a common situation, I for one welcome our new alien overlords.

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