Posts tagged ‘shopping’

February 12, 2011

What to Wear, What to Wear

Without advancing a stereotype, I’m the first to admit that despite having a fairly comprehensive wardrobe (ranging from sloppy t-shirts with kitschy sayings to blouses nearly crisp and starched enough they almost cause physical injury), there are days when I stand in my closet and haven’t the faintest idea what to wear. Now in my mid-twenties, I find myself naturally straying further away from the casual wear, leaning more toward more basic colors and silhouettes. This has also carried over into my now-growing professional wardrobe, which I’m being more cognizant of now that I’m out of school. Just today I made my way to the store, picking up some more career pieces.

In “Dress for the Job You Want”, Hewlett mocks one Swiss company’s (UBS), attempt to address work dress code, in a 43-page how-to of sorts, covering protocol on things like high heel height to hair coloring and makeup application expectations. Though excessive, undoubtedly, research conducted by other outlets reveals a true need in addressing corporate fashion and dress code.

Women, in particular, believed that dressing the part was a vital factor in attaining success: 53% of them felt aspiring female execs needed to toe a very conservative line, avoiding flashy make-up, plunging necklines, too-short or too-tight skirts, and long fingernails — exactly the sort of sartorial no-nos UBS spelled out. Indeed, half the women surveyed and 37% of the men considered appearance and EP to be intrinsically linked; they understood that if you don’t look the part of a leader, you’re not likely to be given the role. Far from imagining that appearance is a personal matter, they perceived that looking well-turned-out engenders self confidence, a trait they considered the bedrock of authentic leaders. (“Dress for the Job You Want“, Sylvia Ann Hewlett)

Looking professional and executive is struggle enough, but what about one’s sense of identity and personal style? As the article suggests:

The research also revealed, however, that it is one thing to grasp the importance of looking professional, and quite another to interpret the ever-shifting notions that define a professional appearance. Women, certainly, struggle more than men to achieve the look of leadership, a factor that contributes to their overall stall in middle- and upper-middle management. On the one hand, they’re told to conform; on the other, they’re advised to stand out. They’re told to downplay their sexuality, but warned against coming off as too mannish and threatening. They know they will be judged on their appearance, perhaps unreasonably so. (“Dress for the Job You Want“, Sylvia Ann Hewlett)

What’s the message here? It depends on who you ask and what you’re willing to put into practice. Unless and until organizations communicate the dress code expectations required of their employees, it’s inevitable that a fashion faux pas  or two may occur. UBS may have been a little heavy handed in their expectations, but ultimately, employees should know what is appropriate and tolerated and what simply isn’t. Personal style should only be incorporated into the workplace so long as it aligns with the organization’s image. That said, when in doubt, ask! If you’re unsure what may or may not be acceptable, asking for a refresher on the dress code isn’t out of the question, nor is doing a little research in the event you’re hesitant to ask. When in doubt, go the conservative route and think basics. And if you’re a girl, like me, who needs a pop of color in her life, a tasteful, colorful accessory will probably keep everyone satisfied.

For more resources on corporate fashion, check out the 20 Best Fashion Blogs for Professional Women.

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November 10, 2010

Office Gift-Giving: The Do’s and Don’ts

One of my few quirky neuroses is my incessant planning. So, it should be no wonder that I’ve already begun my holiday shopping. I’m happy to report that my 5-month old niece, Paisley, has already accumulated three gifts of her own, and I’ve only just begun. Shopping comes naturally to me, and shopping for a bubbly, wonderful, headband-loving newborn is easy. Unfortunately, we all have those hard-to-shop-for gift recipients— uncles, neighbors, and the obligatory acquaintances like the lady who collects your mail when you’re out of town— but no one is harder to shop for than a coworker.

The true extent of ‘oh, well isn’t this awkward’ isn’t fully realized until you’re attending an office holiday party, gender-neutral fuzzy socks in tow for the annual Secret Santa debacle.

Photo Credit: DanielleT, Flickr

There are some general tips one should follow when shopping for those at the office, offered by Vincent Hyman:

  • Model good manners. Manners are not about rules, but rather fundamental human values: respect for the intrinsic value of other people; consideration of their feelings; integrity, or staying truthful to personal (and company) values; graciousness, or putting other folks at ease; and humility, or seeing the wisdom of deferring to others.
  • Keep it simple, low-cost and public. If you are going to hold a white elephant or secret Santa event, set a price limit affordable to the lowest-paid employee and tell everyone the rules. Let them know that breaking them (e.g., overspending, competing, belittling gifts) can make others feel bad.
  • In work groups, keep it private. If work groups are going to exchange gifts, they should do so in private and away from others, so no one feels excluded. If at all possible, carry gifts home and open them in private. Work groups can have greater flexibility in gifting when they’ve been together a while and share team norms openly.
  • Don’t give a private gift to the boss. It can be seen as currying favor. (But if you are the boss, receive graciously and quietly.)
  • Receive gracefully, no matter what. Ingratitude is always ugly.
  • Never give gifts that might be perceived as intimate. Stick to things that can’t be misinterpreted; at the office, bland beats grand.

All fairly obvious, right? But then there’s the struggle of just what to get. Hyman offers the following as ideas of good gifts:

  • The gift of giving back. Some workplaces have foregone gift-giving but taken up collections to give to a local charity, such as a food shelf. Some adopt a family in need and provide food and presents for children. Some join in volunteer groups to help people during this time. All are good, provided expectations of donations of time or money are kept low and respect staff’s limited resources.
  • The gift of thoughtfulness. Staffers especially like it when the boss thinks hard about what they might like. For example, Whitney C. runs a nonprofit environmental group. “I started giving a book — mostly environmental classics — when we were a small group. We’ve grown to 17, but I’ve kept it up; I have to keep a list of who’s gotten what. I also gift wrap each book myself. It has become a major undertaking each year, but I enjoy it, and the staff appreciates my personal approach.”
  • The gift of utility. A little creativity can quickly lead you to an enormous number of gifts that are not expensive, not specific to a religion and not overly personal: plants, work-related books, subscriptions, cooking items, candy, desk gadgets, fruit, restaurant certificates, online gift certificates — all have been well-received and most fall in the $5 to $20 range.

What Do You Think: What is the most awkward or memorable gift you received from a coworker? What rules should colleagues follow when purchasing gifts for those at the office?
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Source: The Do’s and Don’ts of Office Gift-Giving, Vincent Hyman