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My boss is the director of outpatient pharmacy services for a large hospital network. I am the operations manager and decidedly wear a shirt/tie everyday I am in the office. He has always reserved that sort of dress for "important" meetings and is constantly hazing me about dressing up unnecessarily. The other day he was again badgering me (wife makes me dress up, what's the point, etc.), but this time it was in front of my direct reports - I snaped a bit and announced that I wanted to know "what the problem was". He gave me that deer-in-the-headlights look and told me it made him look like the subordanate if I'm constantly dressing formal and he decides to go with a polo shirt, etc. Correct me if I'm wrong, but is there a strong sense of insecurity here? Or is it true that I am out of line to dress up everyday? I could understand if my job required a uniform (like waste management or playing on a sports team), but in other jobs, how do you get in trouble for dressing [i]too well[/i]? My feeling is that he got away with it for a long time and now I'm busting up his polo shirt party...

Your thoughts?

-Anthony

Gareth's picture

[quote="RxMan"]
Your thoughts?
[/quote]

Anthony, I also work in an office where 'dress' is of no real importance as we are not customer facing.

I personally dress simular to yourself, minus the tie, while others dress down to the point where i wonder if they are here to work or 'play'.

My personal view on this matter is your manager showed a great amount of disrespect to you by 'badgering' you infront of your directs.

itilimp's picture

You're the operations manager... are you also customer facing when needed?
If so, I think wearing a shirt and tie is perfectly appropriate in the absence of a formal work dress code.
Surely he has more important things to worry about than what you are wearing? ;)

AManagerTool's picture

[quote]Surely he has more important things to worry about than what you are wearing?[/quote]

I worry about what my directs wear to work. I recently had the distinct displeasure of delivering feedback on one of my directs for their dress habits. It had to be done because they were not complying with the dress code or the site's culture with respect to dress. This is a slacks and collared shirt site....not a sweat pants and tee shirt one.

I don't want to defend your boss. I personally think he/she is being an ass. That said, I think that the culture/safety should dictate what my directs wear.

My point: If everyone else around you is wearing jeans and a t-shirt and you come in wearing a tuxedo it's just as large a problem as the inverse. Look around you. I feel that it's alright if I dress a little bit above the average to show I care but not in excess. I hate for anything, including my dress to detract from me, my message or my influence. Your boss is [b]YOUR BOSS[/b]. [u]You are making him uncomfortable[/u]. It is detracting from your influence. [u]You cannot change him.[/u] [b]You can change your clothes. [/b]

bflynn's picture

[quote="Gareth"][Anthony, I also work in an office where 'dress' is of no real importance as we are not customer facing. [/quote]

Customer facing isn't the only reason that how you dress is important. Like it or not, fair or not, we are judged by how we look, or how we don't look. You normally wouldn't wear a tux to work without a really good reason because you'd be overdressed for the environment. You wouldn't wear a tee shirt to the stock trading floor because you'd be severely under-dressed.

Anthony, do you feel strongly enough about this that you're willing to risk giving up advancement and your boss's goodwill at this job? I don't want to make too much of it, because only you know the real politics of this situation and your boss's personality. This isn't a hard and fast rule of correctness of dress, the correct thing could be to wear the appropriate clothing.

It sounds to me like you're asking because you think your boss is in the wrong, but I'd ask if it might not be more important to be be part of the team on this one?

Brian

RxMan's picture

All great feedback so thanks up front everyone. To maybe put things in a better context, I will say my boss is also the type that likes to "pal around" with everyone. Having said this, I don't mind the teasing when it's appropriate - I have pretty thick skin. I do mind when it becomes distractive to me though, which is what happened in this case. I think it's a bit middle-schoolish to be worried that I look more important than him because of my dress. My boss and I get along great and aside from this issue, there are no problems. I'm just trying to figure out why he does this, sort of like a middle school bully who picks on someone because there's no retaliation and it's "fun".

I think it has a lot to do with our difference in preference. I've worked as a pharmacist for years and many feel professional dress in that setting is a shirt/tie (plus or minus the lab coat :wink: ). I've taken that to my current job which, of course, is more managerial. I'm certainly not wearing a tuxedo or even a sports coat, so it's not [i]really [/i] formal - but it is above "dress casual" which is where he apparently thinks I should be in the attire arena.

I'm more old fashioned with dress than he is. I understand where he's coming from, but I dress this way for not only customers - I do it for myself as well. I receive complements often (mostly female ironically enough and no, that's not my reasoning more doing it :lol: ). I don't give anyone a hard time about not dressing as I would, so it's just irritating that he makes a point quite often to "tease" me about it. I personally draw the line at where I am at - a sports coat would be overdoing it I think and would be overdressing in my opinion.

I would definitely change my dress if I felt he was being malicious about it. As one poster said, doesn't he have something bigger to worry about?

Thanks again!

Anthony

Gareth's picture

[quote="bflynn"][quote="Gareth"][Anthony, I also work in an office where 'dress' is of no real importance as we are not customer facing. [/quote]

Customer facing isn't the only reason that how you dress is important. Like it or not, fair or not, we are judged by how we look, or how we don't look. [/quote]

Apologies, maybe my statement did not read as i meant it. Its of no 'importance' to our two managers at the office, while one of them does have a preference they don't dictate.

I once read that you should dress not for the role you are in but for the role you want to be in.

Mark's picture

Folks, good discussion, and thanks for posting and making some great recommendations.

If it were me, I wouldn't change a thing. I ascribe to the theory of dressing like my boss's boss. If that makes my boss uncomfortable, that's my boss's problem.

Yes, he's your boss, and so I encourage you to be cognizant of his issues, but your characterization of his issue with your attire suggests he's on pretty uncertain ground. Look, it's great to be "boss aware", and I'm NOT NOT NOT recommending open seaon on poking him or her in the eye.

But one can only be sensitive to one's boss up to a point. About this, he's being an idiot, and showing an incredible amount of insecurity.

That said, you blew it by smarting off. Go back to him and apologize for your outburst. If he changes the subject (and one ought not do that when one is being a apologized to, but it sure happens, alas), simply tell him you mean NO disrespect to his attire, and you just feel more comfortable as you're dressed.

The fact is, he knows he's got nowhere to go. If this were to get elevated, he'd appear the fool he is to his bosses.

On the other hand, how smart can this guy be, and do you really want to work for him, aside from this issue?

Mark

PS: Please tell me your shirts are long sleeved if you're wearing a tie, and they are white or blue, and your ties are muted look like something a wall street banker would wear. Wearing a tie with Mickey Mouse or Star Trek characters on it sends the wrong message.

Todd G's picture

RxMan,

Good for you! Stand up for what you believe in and if your boss is uncomfortable with it, then I agree, it's his problem. What you are stating is that you are a professional.

If you were working in a bike shop and wore that, I might be apprehensible more so that I would with kakhi pants and a polo shirt. But come on, you're in pharmaceuticals and you have a relatively large customer population.

Give him some feedback and let him know how his behavior has made you feel. Good Luck

Mark's picture

Hey folks, you might want to re-read my last post here. I left out the word NOT, and boy it sure changed things. It's in there now, three times.

Mark

PS: Nobody caught that??? :D

AManagerTool's picture

It just shows your influence, Mark. Take it as a compliment. People went and poked their bosses in the eye...LOL

dsfsystems's picture

Out dressing your boss does create a little tension ... but if he plays his cards right his boss will think he's put together a better team of direct reports and is therefore a better manager that someone whose team is dressed down.

It's the same subconcious affect as putting action verbs in your resume.

Mark's picture

Theoretically true, but this boss doesn't sound like the kind of guy who knows how to play his cards right on this one.

Mark

Justin's picture

I understand that organizations want to have "employee friendly" work spaces, but it is almost rediculous.

Lately while I have been doing some job searching in my area I have spent a little time looking around large businesses such as Sony Ericsson, Cisco, etc. Walking around, I've seen so many people in shorts, or t-shirs, etc. It rather boggles my mind. Perhaps being in the military previously I expect a certain level of distinction between sitting at home on my couch and my work attire, but shorts and a t-shirt?

Anthony - I don't think you should change your dress one bit. If it fits in to where you are working (not on the floor of a manufacturing facility), then you don't have an obligation to dress down because others like to. Now, what I would definitely recommend is talking to your boss in private about it. As others have said, it would be a great idea to apologize as well. If this guy already has an inferiority complex, dressing him down in front of your directs isn't going to make your life at work easier. Anyhow, most others have given you feedback advice so I won't go any more into it.

Good luck on dealing with this issue!

WGW's picture

[code:1][quote]PS: Please tell me your shirts are long sleeved if you're wearing a tie, and they are white or blue, and your ties are muted look like something a wall street banker would wear. Wearing a tie with Mickey Mouse or Star Trek characters on it sends the wrong message.[/quote][/code:1]

Not wanting to sound at all obstructionist, but I believe that wearing a tie with Mickey Mouse on it is [i]de rigeur[/i] for managers and security personell at Disneyland. From my observations, they actually have some very refined and elegant blue and red ties in that category, in addition to a complete, professional looking "Executive" series brushed nickel desk set, with Mickey Mouse theming, for sale in the gift shops. Needless to say, unless you worked for Disney, or one of their major suppliers, investing in that would probably be a bad idea...

Gaúcho in WI's picture

know your culture and be comfortable with it. Your boss has approached the prob in an "immature" way...but you're not responsible for his attitudes, only your own.
-- if you're comfortable (not trying to impress, compensate, insult, etc) with how you dress, and it's appropriate for the culture you're in (ex: when I go to meetings in Colorado, they're much more laid back than ones in Ohio), allow your confidence to bolster the workplace environment!
-- my college prof in the kilt was accomplished, taught well and didn't seem to mind the draft!