Sunday, 28 July 2013

Discrimination or genuine concern

I promise I'm still here guys. I'm still alive and kicking (just barely some days). I am actually writing this to you from in the middle of a circus. (A metaphorical one anyway.) My sister in law and her daughter are camping out at our house at the moment, there are dramas going on with the house they live in with my little brother, so we've taken them in for a few days until some stupid paper work can get sorted out and they can return to their house. (Have I ever mentioned how much I hate bureaucracy?) Given that my niece is only 3 months older than Miss K, it's been good having a friend in the house for her to play with that is so close in age to her. Of course given that they are both only 2 and still learning about the delicate art of sharing, (something they both hate as they get royally screwed any time they have to share anything) we've had a fair few dust ups the past few days, but for the most part they get on really well.

Movie time. I was hoping they would actually go to sleep but no such luck.

So the point of today's post wasn't just to talk about the babies, it was actually to share something that happened to me at work last week. Yes I'm still employed, and according to my boss I'm doing a good job. But she still felt the need to call a staff meeting last Wednesday before we turned on the phones for the day and rush hour began. I was terrified that I was going to be given my marching orders, and had been since the day before when she locked herself and the office manager in her office for five minutes without me. I knew something big was coming and I spent the whole of Tuesday wracking my brains trying to remember anything I had done that was bad enough to get myself fired. Luckily for me I wasn't about to face the firing squad (ba boom) but there were a few things the boss wanted to bring up. One was I needed to tidy up the place a bit more, this one didn't surprise me, I hate housework so I avoid it at all costs, but I'll cop that one on the chin. The second one was that I smell like cigarette smoke. That one doesn't surprise me, my boss is a militant anti-smoker and a health nut to boot. I am very aware of the cigarette smoke, but considering I am unable to douse myself in perfumes at the office because she is also allergic to a lot of the chemicals found in deodorants and perfumes there aren't a lot of options for me. I'm still determined to quit smoking for good and this may give me the boot up the backside to go the last few yards. 

But the third and possibly strangest part of this meeting was the one where she disapproved of my work outfits. Now it wasn't strange that she didn't like my attire at work (I've had that complaint at several places that I work. I hate shirts, being so ample in the front and all, I find it difficult to find shirts that fit nicely all over so I tend to not bother wearing them at all.) Her solution was the strange part of the day, and the part I still shake my head over even four days after the fact. Normally when a boss tells me to change my work outfits, they do so with much hemming and hawing and looking at the floor. (Mainly because most of my bosses have been men who find talking about women's outfits about as comfortable as discussing their emotions.) but then they walk out of the meeting patting themselves on the back for being so tactful and leaving me to figure out exactly what the hell it is they want me to wear. But with my current boss, her solution was to have the office manager take us shopping to a local office clothing store down the road from where we work and pick out my new uniform with me. And then she paid for it.

On one hand I'm totally grateful that the boss was picking up the tab on this excursion, especially given that one new jacket, one pair of trousers and four new tops (the office manager grabbed two for herself) cost a whopping $500. But on the other hand I can't help but feel the entire process was entirely wasteful. I nearly fainted when the shop assistant tallied up the final bill, and I don't even know if that price includes the tailoring they need to do to my new trousers. (I am what the office manager calls incredibly short, but I call midget, so I always need new pants taken up.) They will quite possibly need to do the same to my new jacket when it finally comes in, and then we are getting the office logo embroidered on all the tops. It will all look very professional and when I am in the office, we will look like we have a uniform especially with the office manager and I dressing alike now, but I don't know what if anything this new look is going to accomplish except to tear me away from my nice warm duffel coat. (It is pink which happens to be the least favourite colour of my current boss, and I suspect the whole reason this make over happened in the first place.)

Now the boss was very careful in holding this meeting. She made sure that the office manager was in the room with us so that there was a witness to the whole proceedings (gotta love solicitors for preparing for the worst case scenario at all times) and she was very tactful (or as tactful as a no nonsense solicitor can ever be) about the whole thing, but it still stung. It still felt like I was being told I wasn't good enough just as I am. I have never put much stock into my appearance, and even less goes into it now that I have Miss K. My motto has always been as long as it's clean it's all good. The fact that I manage to put make up on every morning before I go to work is nothing short of a miracle for me these days. I have always thought my performance on the job mattered more than my appearance, but apparently this isn't the case any more. I don't know if I can even get enthusiastic about clothes any more, because they just mean more work when it comes to laundry day. (especially if the jacket is dry clean only.) But it looks like I'm going to have to fake it at the very least because my successful passing of the probation period now rests on my ability to smarten up my appearance. 

So I am trying. I bought myself some new gel nail polishes, I may even invest in a new eye shadow and lipstick, and this week I am going to book an appointment at the best hairdressers in town. (The fact that she has been my hairdresser since I was ten makes her the best.) And then I am going to go to work and pretend that I don't feel like mutton dressed as lamb. And hopefully that will be enough to make the boss happy and keep my backside in a job for a little while longer. I'll keep you posted.

Image courtesy of
Mutton dressed as...well mutton


  1. Do you have a lot of visitors at the office?? I just wonder. I'm working in the financial department of a huge multi-national corporation, and I NEVER wear button-up shirts or blouses. Most of my colleagues wear jeans Monday through Friday. We do get dressed up when we know that visitors are going to show up, but besides that, we'Re VERY business casual. The last company before that I'Ve worked for had a "please no gym pants or torn jeans" dress code. So I really wonder. I can understand that if there are a lot of clients coming through that she wants to ensure a certain dress. At this point I'd rather focus on quitting to smoke (could you febreze your clothes in the morning and brush your teeth or pop in a chewing gum after smoking??) and the order at your workspace part. For now, enjoy your new "uniform" and that you didn't have to pay for it ;-)

    1. Yeah we've got a lot of people coming and going. It's not really what I'm used to, a lot of my old jobs were in call centres so I'm very used to being separated from the general public by a telephone. And I've never thought of using febreeze, I'm definitely going to look into that one. Thanks!

  2. Having worked in a solicitor's office and been told the same thing I can sympathise!

    I now work in an office where I never see clients but the dress code is still "corporate". Over time, I've come to enjoy feeling smart and professional. Everyone is different of course but I think once you get used to the uniform you might find that it makes you feel quite good about yourself.

    Appearance does matter, unfortunately. If someone looks professional and neat, they also appear more competent. Looking good makes you look good.... if you know what I mean!

    1. Yeah I don't know if it's just because I've been out of work so long but I'm really not used to having to care what I look like. I'll get used to the new uniform hopefully, one good thing is I made sure it was super comfortable and properly fitted so that I don't spend three days a week in uncomfy clothes, so it really shouldn't be too bad in the grand scheme of things.

  3. Wow, it must be something to do with solicitors. I find it a bit harsh of your boss, but what do I know about them. I work in mining, so people are in high-viz, or jeans, or tricked out suits and ties, you can never tell. As long as you're wearing closed in shoes, anything goes pretty much. I hope that you recover your equilibrium swiftly and just tell yourself that it's like your lunch box or your blackberry - it's a work thing and you can drop those clothes the instant you step through your front door...

    1. Thanks Emily. I'm usually in my pyjamas about five minutes after I walk in the door anyway so it won't be too bad really. Of course working in mining would probably be a lot different to what I do so it would make more sense for you guys to be in high viz clothes. I'd love to go to work in full high viz though, just to see what my boss said!!


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