I’ve always thought that a dress code for the workplace was a little archaic, but I suppose I’m just progressive like that. If you don’t have a uniform does it really matter all that much if your employees dress how they want? I guess there is one in every crowd that messes up that flexibility: “oh, you mean a spaghetti strap tank and pajama pants are frowned upon here?” You’re an idiot ma’am.
I work in a corporate environment which means corporate attire. I kind of bend the rules and wear a lot of dresses with cardigans over them and I keep a pair of sanuks under my desk in case I need to make a mad dash across campus to save someone’s life, because let’s face it those four-inch heels would only slow me down in that scenario. I know enough to know that if I have a meeting with an executive or a presentation to give that I need to slip into my suit jacket that hangs on the back of my door before I make one last check for lip gloss on my teeth and stride out like the successful meeting attendee that I am, but occasionally we get a treat. That treat is known as casual day.
Not the kind of casual day that dares you to wear a Hawaiian shirt (shout out to my dad, this man digs Hawaiian shirt Friday and I love him for that!), but the kind of casual day where you get to wear blue jeans to work. Unfortunately I’m the kind of girl who has two sets of clothing: office clothes and workout clothes. Casual day (blue jean friday) stresses me out to no end. I feel awkward in jeans, yet I own a pair to have on hand just for this special day. I never know which shoes to wear with my jeans because all I have is high heels and tennis shoes. High heels make me feel awkward weird dressy in jeans, like when we were 18 and would go out clubbing on friday nights (ew, I know). Tennis shoes make me feel like I’m going to go work in the yard, which I don’t do. I refuse to wear flip-flops to the office (c’mon now, flip-flops are gross), even though they are surprisingly allowed on casual day. If I skip casual day and wear normal work clothes everyone assumes I forgot it was casual day and I have to answer that question all day long and that’s annoying. If I wear casual clothes, I feel frumpy and I don’t do my best work when I feel frumpy. Maybe dress code policy should encourage employees to dress in a way that’s conducive to the work they need to produce, yet presentable in case of any customer or executive interaction. Is that too simple?
I recently gave a short presentation to our local SHRM chapter about all the fun I had at #SHRMleg this year and the amazing job that SHRM did with the speakers and concurrent sessions. I seriously learned some great stuff at the conference and I was pretty impressed with the speakers for the general sessions. As timing would have it, right before we left for the conference SHRM shared an announcement that the USDOL Secretary would do our closing general session. This announcement was not far behind President Obama’s announcement of making a point to change the exempt/non-exempt standards, so of course HR was hopeful that we would get some insight from DOL Secretary Perez on this issue, (because that was kind of the spin SHRM put on the announcement). So at the end of the presentation for our NASHRM group when I took questions a handful of them were actually directed at Secretary Perez’s remarks and my previous blog post on Annie from Detroit. My opinion was made somewhat obvious in that blog post that I can’t bleed for every story that comes my way in HR. I can do my best to take care of my people and I can do my best to find the best talent for my organization, but I cannot hire based on someones sad story of long-term unemployment. This is not my opinion it’s actually a real lesson I learned early on in my staffing days-everyone has a story and we are not hiring “a story.” All that to say that I found out today who Annie from Detroit is. I obviously don’t know her life, but she sure doesn’t seem like she’s been unemployed anytime since, well-since I’ve been alive. Here (video below) Perez mentions Andra Rush and I only recognize that Andra is “Annie from Detroit” because he mentions some of the same key points, she manufactures a console for a truck and she’s the sole supplier for that particular part. She didn’t seem like a poor soul in this story like she did the first time I heard him mention her.
To be clear I’m not saying shame on Annie from Detroit for anything. I think it’s great that she has a business in (and has had since 1984) and she wants to employ people and all the other things she wants. I’m saying shame on you Thomas Perez for misrepresenting her story. I’m saying shame on you Thomas Perez for telling less than half of her story and acting like her long-term unemployment struggle was recent. Shame on you for twisting facts to make an impact on people to sway them to think the way you want. Oh wait, just kidding…this is politics.
I know, I know-To be fair we all tell a story or two and leave out a detail or embellish in a way to get our point across. The point isn’t to shame Perez, even though he should be ashamed. The point is to challenge you to be involved. Get involved with HR advocacy. Get face to face with the truth and be a part of the solutions for your industry. If you don’t get involved with HR advocacy someone else is going to tell HR’s story for you, and they may not get it right and who is to blame then?