On business casual (part 1)

Today’s post starts a two parter on business casual attire.

Because one part was too long and two parts extends the boredom that this topic conjurs.

You’re welcome.

Several weeks ago, I was reprimanded for my “casual work attire and posture.”

Now, I’m not what you’d call an envelope pusher. I don’t have pink hair, no tattoos or odd piercings, and no revealing attire or hooker heels. So, when I heard this, I was rather taken aback.

After talking to my boss, I learned that it was the occasional flip flop appearance (I wear them to walk to work and sometimes they creep into my work day), coupled with the way I sit in my chair, coupled with my more “youthful” attire (I rarely wear a suit and am typically in pants, a solid color tee, and a cardigan) that had drawn the attention of the higher ups.

First…the posture.

We have an interesting work space. I don’t have an assigned work station, and can choose to plug in to a variety of stations every day — from the typical desk and chair to a more casual environment with a booth and table.

Picture a coffee shop, but without all the clamoring for the one electrical outlet and the constant sounds of the cappuccino maker.

Even at a normal table and chair, I routinely curl one leg under the other (I’m sitting at my kitchen table doing it right now). So, put me in a booth with a table that is neither comfortable nor ergonomically correct, and you’re going to find me in all kinds of crazy poses. Because it’s the only way I can get comfortable. And on meeting-free days when I’m at a computer, the typical ankles-crossed posed gets old around noon when my ass goes numb.

Yet, this posture is apparently affecting my credibility. And it’s not just me, several other young staff members have received similar feedback.

There’s a part of me that can see the issue. We constantly have guests visiting, and if they see staff being all slouchy, I guess that reflects a certain image that we wouldn’t want to convey.

But at the same time, I can’t help but think: it’s a damn booth. How do you expect us to avoid carpel tunnel and all the other bad office job-related injuries if our feet don’t even touch the ground to do the proper ankle-cross?!

I could also go down the path of: I’m a creative, and work best in a certain way, which is more casual than how others may work. To get my creative juices flowing, I usually need to be comfortable — not proper — when sitting at a computer.

But I’ll refrain. Instead I’m being much more conscious of how I’m sitting and walking and trying to correct my poor posture.

I realize I’m being a sissy, and need to just suck it up. But c’mon. After 6 years, my posture is influencing my credibility? At this point, shouldn’t my work outweigh whether I prefer to sit cross-legged?

You tell me. How do you sit at work? Do you notice difference in generations? For example, do the whippersnappers sit and walk more casually while the old hats stay buttoned up with feet firmly planted on the floor?

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “On business casual (part 1)

  1. The whole idea of business casual seems a bit of an oxymoron to me. Because, really, there’s nothing “casual” about being at work. At least, not for me. The moment I step into my office, I inherently assume that I am being assessed—on my performance, my output, my demeanour, my outfit, my posie, my professionalism. And so, I find I conduct myself accordingly, despite the fact that on the whole, I am an extremely casual dresser and person.

    I think it’s one thing to be told you shouldn’t wear flip flops. Fine. I get that. You’re not on a pool deck. But…to critique how you’re sitting at your desk?? That seems odd. It’s not like you have your feet up on the table and your undies showing. Do you?????? šŸ™‚

  2. i can maybe understand the occasional wardrobe suggestion, when i worked in my dads office he would get on the guys if they came in wearing khaki’s they clearly pulled out of the dirty clothes hamper.

    but posture? really? i think i’d take that personal, to be honest (but i’ve always been too sensitive at work). i naturally do what you do, sitting with my leg under me, and i don’t think that’s all that horrible. and i think everyone slouches if they’re at a computer for awhile, you sort of slump down into a “zone.” if anything, doesn’t it show you’re hard at work or concentrating?

    but considering you already appear to look really professional and i’m sure do well at your job, if they’re bitching about stuff like that it’s like they’re looking for things to critique about people. they have to accept that our generation is different and while we still enjoy our jobs, we’re not as “stodgy” or traditional as the rest. if they want us to work well at what we do they need to be willing to work with us and adapt to the way we work best. if that makes sense.

  3. That’s the kind of comment that would really tick me off. I can understand where they’re coming from, but seriously? Posture?

  4. I just began work at a place that is super formal, e.g., pantyhose with my already conservative knee length skirts, and no capris (and I just bought all these formal “dress” capris for the summer). Bah. It drives me crazy.

    Not to mention I’m a twitchy person. I just am. I don’t sit still, I fidget, I shift. But I’m working my ass off as I fidget, so I don’t like the assumptions you’re getting subjected to.

  5. My work environment is pretty casual. No dress code. Open toed shoes allowed. Bosses occasionally put feet up on their desks. I constantly have one leg curled under my butt. For us, it works.

    However, those of us in the office are not client-facing (we travel to our clients, so our office can be casual). I’m not sure how much that would change if we had clients coming through the office.

    At the end of the day, I think bosses need to be concerned with productivity and work product. And sure, an occasional discussion about how you carry yourself is merited, but if it becomes a big deal, then the important things become lost in the fuzz.

  6. Ugh! If someone said that to me I’d be looking for a new job. I gave up wearing the usual gray pants and a button down years ago and my performance at work has only gotten better (due to the years I’ve put in, not my style). Today I’m wearing a black mini dress, black legging, a black 3/4 cardigan and boots that are so not business casual. My coworkers attire ranges from sweats to suits. My posture is terrible and there are regularly feet up on desks. On a night, like elections, when there will be lots of clients and cameras in the newsroom we dress a little more professional, but generally things are fairly lax and I don’t think our credibility is based on attire. Super lame if I do say so myself. Anybody fighting back over there?

  7. Honestly, feels like the most bullshit reprimand. Sure, a certain amount of decorum is expected, but the way you sit does not affect the quality of your work, and your work should speak for itself. I think you should speak back on that issue. Also the fact that your posture is NEEEEEDING all these crazy poses is actually evidence of an HR problem. Your office isn’t ergonomically correct. You can get injured with the way things are currently set up. That is another thing you should speak up about… only after apologizing for your posture, or broaching it with the fact that you understand your posture does make things look questionable.

    The attire… well, can’t help you there. If it’s not a terribly creative workspace, you might want to spruce up your outfit with a skirt and tights one day (with that tee and maybe a scarf or necklace), and on trouser days, ditch the cardigan for a comfy boyfriend blazer with the sleeves rolled up.

    However, you kind of are being a sissy. Flipflops aside, your professionalism shouldn’t be called into question considering how hard you work and that you’ve worked your way through the company for 6 years. I think bringing that up at the next review is necessary. Just say you understand that it was needed to point out but that you felt that it was overshadowing the fact that you work your ass off with good results.

  8. I work at a pretty young company and people have really embraced our “tastefully casual” work environment. People are very respectful of it. But you can tell some of the older staff are having a hard time with this because they see the younger staff in certain outfits and are not approving. I can’t imagine being reprimanded though!

  9. These types of blog posts push me harder to make something out of myself.

    If I can sustain this life, there’s no way I plan on going back to an office setting. I know there’s a better way out there.

  10. ria

    i work in a really causal environment and i don’t think i could ever go back to wearing dress pants and a dress shirt. and posture? really? i sit all kinds of ways at my desk, some of my “poses” help me work through problems i’m having with projects etc. i agree with Sarah i’d probably be looking for a new job.

  11. Pingback: On business casual, part 2 « A Super Girl

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