82. Call Off Calamity + The New Rules of Work Clothes

Episode 82: Call Off Calamity + The New Rules of Work Clothes (Summary)

Have you ever heard a story about a crappy boss and thought “how does that even happen?” Or “what is wrong with people?” This happens to me a lot and we’ve got one of those stories today, plus, what are the new rules of work clothing? Let’s tackle all that now on Boss Better Now!

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Transcript – Episode 82: Call Off Calamity + The New Rules of Work Clothes

Joe:
Have you ever heard a story about a crappy boss and thought, “how does that even happen?” Or what is wrong with people?” This happens to me a lot, and we’ve got one of those stories today. Plus, what are the new rules of work clothing? Let’s tackle all that now on Boss Better Now.

Suzanne:
You’re listening to Boss Better Now. This show is sponsored by Joe Mull and Associates. Now here’s your host, speaker, and author, Joe Mull.

Joe:
Hello, BossHeroes. Welcome back to the show that aspires to be food for the boss’s soul. Boy, it’s a special time of year, isn’t it? The weather is cooling, the leaves are changing, and well, for some of you, end-of-year performance reviews are looming. And who doesn’t love writing all of those? So even though this new episode isn’t talking about reviews, I thought I would just quickly mention that if you are among the folks gearing up to do them, and you’re looking for some advice or some tips and tricks to write them better or save time, then you’re gonna want to go back and check out episode 47 of our podcast, which is packed with insights on doing annual reviews correctly. But for today, please welcome back, executive coach, HR advisor, and professional skydiver, Suzanne Malausky Welcome.

Suzanne:
Well, hello, Joe. Thanks. Thanks for the welcome. I’m super excited for the content for today. Well done, you! Although the professional skydiver thing…

Joe:
Are you in fact a professional skydiver?

Suzanne:
No, No. I, I have to, you know, I, I like to work from truth, so I’ve taken plenty of large leaps in my life…

Joe:
Oh, I see what you did there.

Suzanne:
But I never went out of a plane. How’s that?

Joe:
Uh-huh. I see what you did there. That was clever. (Suzanne: You see what I did there?) Listen, that intro was there entirely for my entertainment. And, and so I kind of did that to gauge your reaction and I may continue to do this. So, when we first launched the podcast, I was always introduced as speaker, author, and then some kind of like quirky third thing. But after like 70 episodes, it was really hard to come up with these additional third things. Like eventually you just run out of things to say about yourself. Cuz for me, they always had to be true. Right? And by the time you get to the 75th episode, it’s like, please welcome speaker, author, and ceramic tile lover, Joe Mull, <laugh>. And you know, like eventually it’s, it’s okay, we gotta retire the bit. But now it feels like since you’re joining our show every week, I could introduce you as, you know, executive coach, HR advisor, and blank. And sometimes it could be true and sometimes it could not be true. And then you could tell us, (Suzanne: Okay, I love it, you know, love it. Let’s do it!) Like, please welcome… executive coach, HR advisor, and a woman who makes all her own clothing, Suzanne Malausky.

Suzanne:
<Laugh>. There’s some truth in that one. (Joe: Oh, oh yeah.) Oh yeah. Seven years of 4H sewing.

Joe:
I see…

Suzanne:
The girl is equipped to make her own clothes and there were times when I did whip something up when the need arose, so…

Joe:
Yes. Oh, I should have saved that one for a different episode. I just used it up.

Suzanne:
Wow. Darn it. How, how would you have known?

Joe:
Well, that’s, that, that’s gonna be good fun then going forward. Thank you for playing along. Okay.

Suzanne:
Absolutely.

Joe:
Well, I’ve got a story this week to share. It was something that I encountered in the news recently and it’s, it’s something that I’ve shorthanded as a call-off calamity. So, I encountered this story online about this woman who worked at Starbucks. She was a barista and she quit her job after her boss asked her to reschedule putting down her dog. So, so the story goes apparently that she had been working as a barista for a couple of years. She was a college student and her beloved rescue dog was diagnosed with cancer. And this happened, I guess very quickly on her day off. And I believe the vet told her that, “Hey, this animal is suffering. She needs to be put down.” and this woman needed to figure out how to fit that into her life.

Joe:
And so, this text exchange gets posted online. This woman messaged her boss and said, “Hey, I have to put my dog down on Saturday and I’m trying to switch shifts for Sunday cuz I’m just gonna be an absolute mess.” and her boss wrote back and said “I’m really gonna need you to find coverage. I understand it’s a tough situation, but you have plenty of notice. So, it’s not gonna be approved if you don’t come in.” And then the boss says, “Is there a way you could do this on a day when you don’t work the next day?” And so in a subsequent interview, this barista said she was just in disbelief, feeling like this response was really harsh and that she was being asked, “Hey, can you just pick a more convenient day to put your dog to sleep?” and so I guess this barista wrote back and said, “No, you know, I’m gonna do my best to find coverage but I’m gonna need to do what I need to do for my family.”

Joe:
And then she also put in her two weeks’ notice and just said, “hey, I’ve worked for this company for two and a half years and I appreciate what it’s done for me, but I need to move on.” And so, this, this article kind of went viral a little bit and I encountered this, and I just kept thinking the whole time I’m reading it, man, there are so many missteps along the way. So, I sent you the news report. Suzanne, if you could go back and counsel this leader, what would you <laugh>, what would you advise them to do differently from the start of this unfortunate situation?

Suzanne:
Pick up the phone. (Joe: Yes.)

Suzanne:
Step 1. So, if you’re not gonna do it well, someone hasn’t captured a picture of it. I think if, you know, we could give empathy to this manager too. So, let’s say she’s the fourth call-off (Joe: Yep.) for that same day. The shipment hasn’t come. There’s supply change challenges with Starbucks and their missing sugar. Yeah. His wife broke her ankle last night and he’s having to do the laundry. Right? Yeah. So, there could be all kinds of things going on in his or her — did say it was a man or a woman? I, I should not assume it was a man, but anyway, that’s okay. Right? Whoever the manager is. So how could he or she have stepped back from this situation, not allowed whatever might or might not have been going on, and chosen a different response, number one, by showing empathy?

Joe:
Yep.

Suzanne:
Right. That… I’m sorry to hear this — showing that you care and then maybe lifting a little bit of a finger to help her with coverage. How are you coming with that? Any luck? Is there something I could do? It would’ve gone so much further than this. I’m not saying there might have been a solution. There are policies for reasons, right? There is a call-off process because I’m sure every Starbucks and retail environment deals with the fact that you need to be staffed, just to treat your customers. So, but… How could they have shown up with more empathy and more of a solution-oriented conversation to help her with her need? I mean, she’s distraught and it’s understandable.

Joe:
Yep. And you know, so much of this kind of ties back to what’s the quality of the relationship between this manager and this employee prior to this exchange. This exchange doesn’t happen if it’s really good. Right? You know if there’s mutual trust and respect and caring. This, this doesn’t play out like this for many of the reasons you just described. I completely agree. Step one is you pick up the phone and that, I think that’s a general piece of advice for leaders everywhere. In almost every situation. You’re probably gonna benefit more from a call than a text, right? Text messaging should probably only be used when a one-word answer is appropriate. Right. If you’re saying, okay, or no problem, or sure, or yes or no, you know? But as long as there’s not like personal feelings and nuance involved in a circumstance, you know, that’s probably the only time to do texting.

Joe:
So yes. Call this person and then we lead with compassion, right? We say, oh my goodness, I’m so sorry to hear about your dog. Tell me about your dog. And you just let that person unload a little bit and talk about this, this beloved pet that they’re gonna have to say goodbye to. And maybe you talk about your dog and maybe you just bond over that kind of shared experience. I have put pets to sleep. I lost a lab after 16 years recently. And, you know, we, we’ve had to go through that a couple times in our household. I can really empathize with that circumstance. And even if you can’t as a leader exactly, you just gotta tell yourself like, this is a significant experience for this person emotionally. So, I need to show up and attend to that. Even just saying, hey, I’m really sorry that this is happening to you. And then to your point, Suzanne, I completely agree. Where and how could this leader lift a finger, lift a hand to try to help, you know, maybe it, even if it’s something is saying, hey, listen, if you, if you ask around and you can’t get somebody to switch with you, let me know and I’ll see what I can do. You know, maybe they can send a message to the team that says, hey, so and so’s really going through something this weekend. I’m not gonna say much about it, but we could really use somebody who would step up and switch with her. I’d really appreciate it. Even if you’re just capitalizing on the fact that maybe somebody on the team wants a little bit of extra sway with the manager. And so, they’re gonna say yes to that. Right. You know? Exactly. Or, or, you know, maybe in the end the manager says, I’ll cover for you – you know, you can’t do that every time. Like you said, they, they may have a lot of other things going on that may not be a realistic option in this scenario. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, or maybe it is, who knows. And send a card.

Suzanne:
<Laugh>

Joe:
Like after this happens, you know, if you, if it plays out that way and you say, let me see if I can help you switch, or let me cover for you, or let’s work together, we’ll figure this out. Then you do the kind thing, and you just drop a card in the mail. This is, Hey, I’m really sorry for your loss. Like, that’s how you build trust and mutual respect and create an environment that people wanna work in.

Suzanne:
Absolutely. I think the asking her to be flexible without meeting her in the middle somewhere. Yeah. The flexibility is terribly unfair. And certainly, came across the wrong way for her. So, it’s unfortunate.

Joe:
And I think about the, what’s the part of the story that we don’t know in this circumstance? Exactly. Right. We’ve, we’ve all had employees who call off for every little thing, and then when the time comes when they are going through something or they’re up against a significant conflict they need resistance from their boss. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, because up to that point, they’ve been the boy who cried wolf and, and had, you know, all these other issues that we, we aren’t inclined to step up and help out and pitch in and really be accommodating whenever possible. And so, a story like this is a cautionary tale both for managers and for employees, right?

Suzanne:
Yes. Yes. She may be a chronic Sunday caller off-er <laugh>. And I could, I actually tried to figure out the dates and the time because the adequate time, I’m sure the policy does speak to how much advance notice and those types of things. So I was, you’re curious about that too, is she following the policy? And, and some you can’t, I mean, the things like emergencies and death that isn’t always possible. But, you know, if you’re an employee or the manager really lean on that policy to see where the solutions might be right there in front of you, or the, the argument or the persuasive message that you need might be sitting there.

Joe:
I think that’s where a lot of leaders struggle — is they, I think there are some folks who, and, and you know, you, you’ve done a lot of work around DISC, and I do a lot of work around MBTI. So, you and I both know there are some innate preferences to our behavior based on our environment to our personality that influence how we show up. And so, we know some people show up and they make decisions first based on relationships and values and beliefs. And so, for those folks leading with empathy in a situation like this comes very naturally mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. But there are some folks who run everything first through logic and analysis and in this case policy. And so, they would yes, they would come to the first blush reaction to be, what does the policy say? Well, you know, it, we require 72 hours’ notice for a shift switch, and this is 48.

Joe:
So, unfortunately, I’m not gonna be able to let you do that is not the best first reaction, even if that’s true. Right? Right. And so, to your point, take kind of taking a step back and saying, where’s the policy? What does the policy say about this? Where might pointing to policy limit my empathy as a leader in my response? Are there some places here where I need to work around the policy, or I need to figure out how to enforce the policy, but in a really kind way where I can be as flexible as possible? <Laugh>.

Suzanne:
Yeah. You might, you might not wanna start by pointing out that the bereavement section does not include pets.

Joe:
According to Article 24 point 19…

Suzanne:
Immediate family. Right? That’s right. Media, family. Yeah.

Joe:
But if it was your grandma, we could make it work. But sorry.

Suzanne:
Right. Sorry. And I think you’ve already had three of those last year. Yeah. yeah. So, but <laugh>, for the most part, HR policies were written with compassion in mind, with the balance of the needs of employee and the needs of the business. Yeah. But if we’re using ’em as a, a, you know, a bat or a weapon Yeah. Then they’re never gonna be seen that way. Yep. But so that balance, like you’re saying… what do I know about this person? What do I need to show her? And then what tools do we have to work with?

Joe:
Yep.

Suzanne:
Yep. That we could reference mm-hmm. <Affirmative>

Joe:
Even that phone call, that’s why that phone call is so important, right? Cause you call that person up and you say, hey, listen, Suzanne, my hands are tired a little bit on the policy in terms of what we can and can’t do. But I want you to know I’m gonna do everything that I possibly can to figure out how we can accommodate this for you. So, let’s put our heads together and work it out. Like just knowing that’s

Suzanne:
Who you already talked to. Yeah. Right. Weirdness together. Yes. And get some more information. Or he could just say, hey, I’d rather talk. I’m sorry about the situation you’re in. Let’s find time to get on the phone.

Joe:
Yes. And you know, that

Suzanne:
Can go up

Joe:
When we did the preview, you know, at the very beginning of this episode, and I said, have you ever heard of about a story that makes you go, what is that about? Or what makes people, you know, show up that way? I very often will encounter stories like this in the news of bosses responding to certain things in really crappy ways. And it does, it makes you go, Man, what is wrong with people? But I think your point is really well taken too, and it’s a filter through which we need to, to consume some of these stories, which is being, and everybody listening to this podcast knows this being someone’s boss is very challenging most of the time. And there’s almost mm-hmm. <Affirmative> always more to the backstory. There’s almost always things going on. We hear one side of the truth when there’s really three sides to it. We all know that analogy. And so that’s such a great point to make. And I think as a takeaway, when we do hear some of these stories that make us go u all right folks, well, it

Suzanne:
Is okay.

Joe:
That’s the call-off calamity that I wanted to talk about this week. And if you find yourself in a situation where people are texting you, pick up the phone where people are going through something, lead with empathy. And even if it’s just giving voice to, I want to help you sort this out together. We would love to know what you think about this story. You can email the show at bossbetternow@gmail.com. Do you disagree with our thoughts, our advice, our response? Is there another way that we think either the employee or the manager could have handled this in this circumstance? We’d love to hear from you. So, you can email the show, or, hey, if you’re watching this episode on our boss Better YouTube channel, pop a comment in the box below. We’d love to hear what you think.

Joe:
And we come now of course, to the Boss Better Now Camaraderie Question of the Week. Bosses build camaraderie on teams by making it easier for people to find things in common with each other. That’s why every week on our show, we give you a question you can use at meetings and huddles, and in one-on-ones to facilitate connection and build camaraderie. And so, our question this week, Suzanne, it feels to me like a little bit of a heavy question, but I also had like a couple funny responses that popped into my head when I saw this question. So maybe we’ll do a little bit of both. The question is, what is one thing you really wish you knew when you were younger? You wanna go first? Or do you want, or do you prefer I go first? You decide.

Suzanne:
I’ll go ahead. I’ll, I’ll take this one first. So, I came up with three really quick ones.

Joe:
Okay.

Suzanne:
An adult is allowed to buy Happy Meals. As a child, I thought, Oh, no. Once you get to a certain age, you’re not allowed to buy a Happy Meal.

Suzanne:
Not True. You don’t get in trouble. No one busts you.

Joe:
Oh, that’s really helpful.

Suzanne:
I, as an adult, I thought, I could not buy a Happy Meal. I’m gonna pull away and someone’s gonna come after me. Knock… “you don’t have a child in there.”

Joe:
Are you ordering the Happy Meal now when the mood strikes?

Suzanne:
I’m trying to avoid that altogether, but generally; I know that I can, yes.

Suzanne:
Especially for a really good toy. Okay. Right. So, and the second one is, you should eat vegetables because when you only love carbs, they will tend to stick with you longer as you get older. Okay.

Joe:
You wish you knew that when you were younger?

Suzanne:
Yeah. I wish I knew that. Younger. And then (Joe: Yeah, me too.) The third one is a little bit more related. I needed; I need to remind myself as I get older that being curious is a great thing. When we’re younger, we start out really curious, and then the world, our parents, the norms, society start putting us in this narrow box. Yes. And I’ve learned that getting to curious is great for conflict, great for when your mood is low, Great for when your situation, you don’t, you know, you’re lost and don’t understand. Get yourself to curious because it opens your mind. You get to think of things differently, learn something new, get a new perspective, and it just helps. So, get to curious.

Joe:
I love it. And spoken like a true coach.

Suzanne:
How about that?

Joe:
Really at the heart of it, right?

Suzanne:
Its, it is,

Joe:
It’s easy to sit across from somebody and say, What’s that about? Let’s, let’s dig deeper, but then it’s a little harder to do for yourself.

Suzanne:
It is, yes.

Joe:
Yep. I love your answers.

Suzanne:
Thank you, Joe.

Joe:
All right. Okay. So, it’s my turn.

Suzanne:
Yeah, your turn.

Joe:
Okay. So, what is one thing I really wish I knew when I was younger? And it’s funny because the first thing that popped into my head, based on now years of traveling — never plant your face into a hotel bath towel until you look at it first. Yeah, I, I’ve done that. 

Suzanne:
Tell me more about that.

Joe:
Yeah, I pulled, I’ve pulled the towel away and there’s like the makeup stain that maybe I tell myself that the towel was washed, but the stain didn’t just come out. Not the only stain I found on hotel towels. We don’t need to get into that, but yes. As a general rule, tell your children No, no, no. Never plant your face into a hotel towel until you look at it first. 

Suzanne:
Thank you. I’ll take that one with me. Thank you.

Joe:
That’s icky. All right. I’m sorry for bringing icky into the ears of our loyal listeners. The other answer that I have to this question it’s a little bit of a heavy answer, but I wish I knew when I was younger that I absolutely have to fight back sometimes. I’ve talked on the podcast about, you know, my experience growing up. I was very small, and I was very smart, and that’s a pretty lethal combination for bullies in, in middle school and, and even going into high school. And yep. I was always so afraid of getting my butt kicked. I don’t know if that’s the way to say it, but you know, when, when bullies pick on you and they rough you up and you don’t fight back, they just keep going. And I think I can look back now, you know, we all hear people say, If I knew then what I know now, I look back, now think, man, you just needed to wig out on a kid or two, and people probably would’ve left you alone and not messed…

Suzanne:
Punch him in the nose, Joe. Yep.

Joe:
And so much if it, so what if, you know, I got messed around a little bit and it hurt and it didn’t feel good. But I think that going through that pain in the moment  would’ve prevented a lot of pain and suffering that came later. Just, and I mean, there’s a lesson for that in life too. You know, you gotta set boundaries Absolutely. For how you let people treat you.

Suzanne:
Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. Yes. And I, I, I agree. I think it’s not about; I hope wigging out on anybody now, <laugh>, but it’s more Oh, right.

Joe:
I mean, there might be times when it’s appropriate, right?

Suzanne:
Yeah. but it’s more about standing your ground. I think that confidence in what, you know. True. and that comes with age. Yes. A good bit, doesn’t it? Right? Just, it just owning your voice and your opinion and your point of view, I think is, is very powerful. I’ll take that one away for myself too. Thank you, Joe.

Joe:
I like it. High five. And that’s the Camaraderie Question of the Week.

Joe:
All right, folks. I have some news. In just a few days, we are going to be sending a big announcement to the subscribers of my Free BossBetter Email newsletter. I will tell you it’s the announcement of our next Boss Better Virtual Summit. And this email that’s going out is gonna contain the date, the session titles, the incredible guest speakers that we have lined up. And that email is gonna also contain the discount code to get tickets for half off during the very short subscriber VIP presale. So, here’s what you wanna do to make sure you get that email. Take out your phone right now and text the word BossHero, all one word to 6 6 8 6 6. When you send BossHero to 6 6 8 6 6, you’re gonna get a prompt to enter your email address. And then that’s it. You’re gonna get all the great info we’re about to push out about this terrific event.

Joe:
And you can be among the first and only people to get tickets for half price. You’re also gonna get the articles and the videos and the insights that we push out twice a month in that BossBetter email newsletter. So, one more time, take out your phone and text the word Boss Hero to 6 6 8 6 6.

Joe:
All right, Suzanne, for our final segment of the show today, I’m gonna talk about the New Rules of Work Clothes. And this stems from a terrific article that showed up a couple weeks ago in Harvard Business Review. And it’s funny, we found the article before we knew who wrote it, and then I read it and saw that it was written by Allison Shapira, who’s a friend and colleague of mine. And of course, the article was brilliant because she is brilliant. And it just felt really natural to me that we would bring the article to the show here because so much of the advice in the article is relevant to the boss heroes that are listening. But here’s the other cool piece of this, and this is something that our listeners don’t know about you yet. You wrote a book not that long ago that tackles some of this stuff called Stiletto Standards. I’m gonna, wait, hold on. I’m gonna drop that really cheesy. There it is. (Sound effect) We’re applauding your book. Tell us about, tell us about Stiletto Standards. What, what’s the book about and how did it come into the world?

Suzanne:
So, it is a book for women who need to have the tools to build their life, of their, their own design. I believe in setting goals intentionally. I believe in helping people tap into their strengths and build a life that they, that they want, and they deserve, and that makes them very, very happy, right? Mm. And so this was a compilation of stories, notes, thoughts, ideas that I had over many years of consulting where, gosh, I wish people knew this, or I wish they already knew that if they had these foundational skills, which I call standards, and there are 10 of them in the book, that if you do a lot of these things well, you’re just gonna be the head of the game. And if I could share some of the hardest lessons, I learned with people who are coming behind me, and save them a little angst or embarrassment or shame and help them feel more confident in their stilettos or shoes of their choosing mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, then I’m doing a service back to the world. Why can’t I share this? So, there are 10 chapters about everything from negotiating to controlling your emotions to building a network. And then I have one on your own brand where I talk about clothing, how to present yourself. So, Allison’s article was very much in sync… Yeah…. With me because she had the shoes’ reference, but also the content that she shared with us.

Joe:
Well, so this sounds like a terrific book for women who are in leadership, women who are in the workplace. If, if you have a woman in your life who maybe just got promoted or is moving into management or maybe just took a first job out of school, this is the kind of thing that that is really a lovely gift to put in their hands. So, before I forget to ask, where can they get the book?

Suzanne:
They can get it on amazon.com

Joe:
And we just look up Stiletto Standards.

Suzanne:
Yep. Or Suzanne Malausky. There aren’t many of me out there either.

Joe:
So yeah. But I can probably figure out how to spell stiletto. I’m not sure I can figure out how to spell Malausky.

Suzanne:
Okay. Stiletto Standards. That’s…

Joe:
It. But I’ll give our listeners Malausky, M A L A U S K Y. Did I get it right?

Suzanne:
You did. Thank you, Joe.

Joe:
No problem. All right. So, check out Suzanne’s book, but in the meantime, I wanna talk about this article cuz Allison’s advice was just terrific. So as just a quick recap you know, Allison’s article really says, hey, we’ve had a lot of years where there’s been a certain amount of strict etiquette in a lot of workplaces around what we wear. And let’s acknowledge that, you know, as a man, I get to play by a whole different set of rules than women do. We know there’s a lot of bias in the workplace, there’s a lot of gender discrimination in the workplace. And that clothing and, and appearances and perceptions around appearances come in and, and play a significant role around that, which is why I’m so glad that I have you to, to help us talk about this <laugh>. But Allison’s article says, hey, after a lot of years of this, then, of course, we lived through this global pandemic where a lot of people were working from home and were choosing comfort over, you know, obviously having to put on a certain kind of appearance at work.

Joe:
And now that we’ve come back out of that, we’re sort of in this place where there’s a lot of uncertainty around are we supposed to go back to these old rules? Are we making different choices now? And that some people are making choices, some people are waiting to be told what to do. And so, she goes on to give a lot of really sage advice about observing others about experimenting and evaluating about, you know, looking for advantages that come with dressing in ways that align more with your personal style. We’ll talk about that in a minute, cuz I thought that was a really cool insight. But let me kick it to you first. Suzanne, you’ve read this article and gone through this advice. Yes. What was your response and, you know, what might you add to that conversation?

Suzanne:
Sure. Well, the, one of the things I thought was most interesting that she was talking about working in the financial industry. So, the financial institutions she’s working with, those were, you will see the most conservative and the most buttoned up, the most probably specific dress codes, right? Because I used to be in a bank and the tellers had, we didn’t pay them much, but boy, they better look nice, right? Yep. Yeah. So, it’s been a big part of that. So, the interesting that, you know, she had her little journey and experiment with this in the financial side, and I love that she took the bravery of choosing her sequin sneakers over the Jimmy Choo’s. And I think, like what I say in the book is, whatever you choose to wear, own it and, and right. Be confident in whatever shoes you wear, your Birkenstock or your army fatigue boots, whatever it might be. Just do it on purpose and be thoughtful. And I think her advice really marries up with that cuz observe what’s going on around you, whether other people doing the, the advice we would get growing up would be dress for the role that you want.

Joe:
Yeah.

Suzanne:
So that’s a consideration, that’s a data point. Not that you want to mirror or mimic. That might be a little creepy, but what are the people who are in the roles that you aspire to be promoted to or get into? Yep. What do they look like? What’s the leeway there? Is it more casual? Is it more buttoned up? You also be, be conscious of what makes you comfortable. Yes. cuz, I heard her comfort. She was surprised that she was comfortable because those heels when a, you don’t know this Joe, but when a, when you put your heels on, you have to stand a little taller and your shoulders back or you’ll fall over. Right. Okay. So, it does give you a sense of power.  A feeling about it — but not for everybody. Yeah. So, I love that she experimented, and it came out okay. Right. So, she evaluated what was the response was, Okay. Oh my gosh, the audience was okay, and my feet don’t hurt.

Joe:
Yeah. Perfect.

Suzanne:
Yes. Right. And then it also, we can’t help it as human beings. You know, our fight-flight brain, part of our brain, when we see anybody, it is firing on all five senses and all of the memory that we have to make sense of this person. So where does this person fit in? Are they safe? Do I like them, do I trust them? All those things. And our dress has so much to do with it, right? So, I found this quote from Chin-Ning Chu. She’s the author of The Art of War for Women. Ah, we can’t allow men to read it. It’s like all the secrets and stuff.

Joe:
Is it like a secret handshake and a secret book that all women get? That’s really interesting to know.

Suzanne:
Yes. Kind of cool in there. <Laugh>, she says, style is the packaging for a product. Your substance is the product. So, it still matters what we say, how we behave, what we have to contribute. So, Allison felt comfortable in her tennis shoes, but I bet the content had much more to do with, right? The acceptance of her. If she had sequin tennis shoes on and gave a lackluster performance, she might not have felt the same. And it might have to do with the shoes.

Joe:
Right? It’s really what’s you’d quality work. Then people tend to celebrate the alternative packaging that things come in. And unless you’re showing up in a substandard way, then we just add what we might call questionable clothing choices to the list of things that we find to be substandard. So, to your point, right, you still gotta be good.

Suzanne:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. And you can get by with your technical dream coat – the shock and awe of it. Maybe when someone sees it when you open your mouth or how you treat them, or making eye contact or what, you know, those things that you say help people see how that fits into who you are and whether they reject or accept

Joe:
That. Yeah. Right. And one of the things that Allison pointed to in her article was some research about what we ascribe to people when we see them dressing in a way or showing up in a way that maybe isn’t conventional right. She points to some research that non-conforming behaviors actually can act as a signal to infer status and competence. I guess the idea being that, hey, if this person can get away with this, they must be really good. Or we just ascribe a certain level of aptitude to people who we perceive as confident. And so, I think that’s a really interesting dynamic to this conversation because if it’s me, if somebody comes to me if an employee or a manager that, and from an organization that I don’t work at comes to me and says, hey, hey, I’m really struggling with what are the, the, the new norms or, or the morays around dress at my work.

Joe:
I’m trying to figure that out. One of the first pieces of advice I might give is to say, well ask, why don’t you ask what’s allowed? Why don’t you find out what the policy is? Why don’t you check in to see what people prefer that you do? But that is actually not in any of the advice that Allison gives in this article, which, and I really appreciated because what she really says is you actually have to set your own, your own dress code and you have to let your light shine for a couple of reasons. And I think that’s, that’s a part of the point that you’re making here too, right?

Suzanne:
Yeah. You’re, you were, you had this opportunity to establish your brand and as women, I think it’s expanding for men, but we’ve always had this, what is it a painting thing. We’ve had that, what’s my, gosh, what’s the word? A blank sheet of paper there. I’ll use that.

Joe:
A blank canvas. 

Suzanne:
Yes! That’s what I was looking for!

Joe:
I got you.

Suzanne:
We’ve always had this, we’ve always had a blank canvas. Do I wanna wear a skirt or a dress or pants, a jacket? No jacket. So, we’ve always had this leeway, and then we’ve always been able to play with a little bit more with the height of our shoes or the colors. We men have a lot more, but it’s been less. Right? Okay. And so it is about your brand, it’s how you show…everything from your hair… I even talk about in the book that your perfume should be for your own comfort and pleasure, not everyone else’s. Because in, you know, like I said, all senses fire up…

Joe:
Use an amount where only you can smell it. Yes. Thank you. 

Suzanne:
That’s right.

Joe:
As a, as a particularly perfume-sensitive person. Yes.

Suzanne:
Yeah. And, and I think in our, in the world that it is today making people feel welcome and accepted and safe, even if they choose to be a little bit different is needed. Yes. It’s necessary for our leaders.

Joe:
Yes. And there’s one other point that Allison makes in the article, which is actually my favorite takeaway from the article. Okay. And that is the degree to which giving people some freedom around making their own choices for how they show up with their appearance in the workplace is actually a strategy that is tied to inclusion. The idea here is that conformity is exhausting. And if you ask people to dress a certain way to not show up as their true and authentic selves, you’re actually creating an exclusionary environment. And we know that belonging is one of the critical components of creating a workplace that people wanna join, wanna stay in, and are willing to commit to and, and give it all they’ve got. And so, get rid of as many rules as we possibly can that limit people’s ability to show up as their authentic selves.

Suzanne:
Yeah. And dress codes fits right in that category. Right? However, you know, I walk around with this little HR hat on mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. So, if you’re in an, an organization and there is a dress code, we don’t wanna give advice that, you know, dress code be darned, everybody wear anything you want. And all of sudden it feels like mutiny. If you see that there are opportunities to change it, then be a leader in that way. Take a constructive approach, go to your leader, go to HR, be the the one that helps make change happen in a, in a collaborative way. Get that thing changed to get it thrown out. Learn, understand why it was there. You do, you know, the other thing I want to say is you let your light shine, be you, but also take ownership for how people might respond to you. So, if you’re wearing something that’s off putting or you’re a billboard for irreverence, like, I’m gonna show the establishment that I can do whatever I want. Make sure that you’re doing something that doesn’t turn people off to the point that they don’t approach you or avoid you. Yes, we need to be more inclusive, but be very, she talks about being aware, right? Yes. Being aware of where, how far you can go appropriately from the HR lady, right?

Joe:
Yes! So, shout out to Allison for the great article. We will link to this HPR article in the transcript. So, if you’re looking for it, you can just go to bossbetternowpodcast.com. Click on this episode, and in the transcript, you’ll find a link, or just go to HBR’s website and search for the New Rules of Work Clothes. And so great job Allison. Thanks very much for putting that out in the world. And maybe we’ll have her on the podcast one of these days cuz I know her. That’s, that’s fun to do. Like, hey, I know her, I have smart friends.

Joe:
All right, folks, that’s our show this week. Thank you so much for spending your time with us. As always, remember, if you wanna get notifications when new episodes are available, then all you gotta do is hit that subscribe button.
You’ll get that little red circle with like the one in it that says, Hey, there’s a new episode of Boss Better Now available. I really like this on my iPhone because sometimes I’ll get caught up on Sundays and kind of not paying attention to what’s going on. And then I’ll glance down at my phone and on the little notification, it’ll say, the new episode of Boss Better Now with Joe Mull is now available. And I think to myself, hey, I really like that show. I’m gonna listen to that. And so that’s why you wanna hit the subscribe button. In the meantime, BossHeroes, thanks for all that you do to take care of so many. And thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time.

Suzanne:
This show is sponsored by Joe Mull and Associates. Remember, commitment comes from Better Bosses. Visit joemull.com today.

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