Thursday, March 26, 2009

Mail Bag: Standing Out at Work


I stumbled upon your blog a while back and really like it! It's great. I'm a working woman as well and curious to know your opinion on something.

Your style is certainly not tame. And you wear a lot of nice stylish clothes and definitely have an individuality to you. In many workplaces, there is a lot of competitiveness btwn. women and many times women who are older, or overweight or unattractive or who don't dress well are resentful twds stylish women. Does this happen to you?

this has happened at my workplace to me at various times. I'm also thin and some of the overweight women or frumpy women have given me dirty looks.

Also, in many workplaces it's not a good idea to stand out. Even if it's not so competitive, it inspires jealousy or negative vibes from other people. If i dressed like you to work, i know i would get dirty looks from women who are jealous.

Could I get your thoughts on this?

Tactic 1: Ignore Them
First, I try not to concern myself with the negative attitude someone might have toward me because of the way I dress. If a woman judges me vain, shallow, bitchy, vapid, etc based on my appearance, she probably isn’t someone with whom I want to be friendly. Is this truly someone with whom one wants to have a personal relationship?

Cruel comments can sting, but try not to let them get to you. No matter how fabulous your style, not everyone is going to love it. Content yourself with the knowledge that most of the criticism is borne of jealousy, not an actual violated ideal.

Tactic 2: Befriend Them
When I was little, I used to complain to my mother about the kids at school that I “hated.” She’d invariably reply that I’d better get used to being around people I didn’t like, because some day I’d have to work with them. She was right.

What to do if you must have a working relationship with someone who gives you the stink eye and makes catty comments about your clothes? Get to know her.

Unfortunately, many women view the workplace as a battle field and female coworkers as enemies. One of the first principles of warfare is to dehumanize the enemy. In this situation, you have been cast as the enemy. You are no longer considered an actual feeling, thinking person, but “that skinny bitch.” To overcome, you must demonstrate that you are a multi-dimensional human being, not a flat caricature.

Try taking the coworker to lunch or arrange to work on a project together. Create a situation where she can’t help but get to know you as a fellow person. Working on a project together is an ideal way to show your coworker that (1) you carry your weight at the workplace, despite your “frivolous” appearance, and (2) you are a valuable work partner. If she’s close with the rest of the group giving you dirty looks, she may end up being a great PR rep for you. Remember the adage: keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

Tactic 3: Get Help
If you can’t ignore these unpleasant coworkers and your attempts to befriend them are unsuccessful, you may want to enroll your Human Resources contact. A situation like this is an indicator that there is a general atmosphere of intolerance in the workplace. Some diversity training might be in order.

Tactic 4: Concentrate on Work
Finally, no matter how flamboyant your dress, ensure that your work speaks even more loudly. You want to be known for the quality of your results, not the trendiness of your footwear. If your appearance stands out, you may have to do more advertising of your work product so that your coworkers don’t dismiss you as silly and vain. The ideal balance between the visibility of your style and your work will vary depending on your industry and your workplace environment.

Please don’t let jealous coworkers and snide comments cramp your style. Think what a fun and colorful place work would be if we all unleashed our inner fashionistas! You never know…the day you ignore the meanies and wear a wild scarf might be the day you inspire someone else to break out of the corporate mold, too.


Alison said...

Great response! This why I prefer to work with men. I've had people outside of work tell me that they could never dress like me. They tell me they like how I dress. I tell them that you just need to make the decision to "Just do it". I think they are shy, but dressing up or dressing fun doesn't mean you have to talk to everyone around you in Target or the grocery store. For me, it has helped me to have more confidence in myself and body.

~Tessa~Scoffs said...

Older, heavier, and frumpy women can appreciate elegance, hipness and style on younger, thinner co-workers but once it crosses over into trashy territory - out come the claws and the eye-rolls. Watch those hemlines, necklines and too tight-ness. Save those sexy looks for the nightclubs.

Anonymous said...

Well said, and well considered from multiple angles.

dmbdreamgirl08 said...

Speaking as someone that is currently overweight (i am happy to report I am doing something about it) anyone that give you the stink eye is doing so out of jealousy! They can range from a size 0 to a size 28 and it is all jealousy! I hate to say it but woman can be very catty and mean! I agree with another poster, I usually prefer to work with men. But men can be just as bad as women... I have learned the lesson the hard way, you shouldn't let others (be it men or women) dictate how you are. I am not saying go to work with a micro-mini, low cut blouse, sky high heels if you work in a very conservative office, but you should be able to wear pops of color and be you without worrying about bitchy catty women! I agree that sometimes the best thing to do is try and befriend some of these women, when they get to know you as a human it makes it much harder to hate!

ayan said...

I went to a preppy high school in the Ol' South, where Junior Leaguer's daughters got $150 highlights for prom and carried Gucci and Coach to school. Most of these girls were openly scornful of anyone who didn't match their standards. As a homely, unstylish teen, I sometimes got the brunt of that attitude.

When I started working at my current job, I found myself reacting in a restrained, almost cold fashion to a female coworker. She's very striking - looks like a model - and has expensive taste in shoes and bags. Although she was no more or less friendly than anyone else here, it took me a while to work out that my dislike of her was based on my own preconceptions and past experiences, not *her* behavior. Once I dropped the prickly barrier, she magically seemed "friendlier."

I heard another female coworker criticize this woman's outfit (a miniskirt over tights and boots) as too short, then say in the next breath, "Of course, I guess if I had a body like that, I'd flaunt it too."

It's a painful issue for many women. My only advice is to be kind and always observe yourself from the outside, as well as reacting from the inside.

Jeannie said...

It's funny, I always find fashion to be a good ice-breaker between myself and other gals- be they young and stylish or older and "frumpy". I get compliments from women when I wear something particularly fun to work.

Sarah R said...

I have to say, I'm one of the fat people who read your blog. And this letter completely rubbed me the wrong way.
I wear a size 18-22 depending on the designer or label. And I'm probably one of the bigger people in my office. And I assure you, when I am watching other women in my office, I am *not* jealous. I'm normally checking out their style to see if there is a way I can convert to my fit my own fat butt. It's not scornful, it's not judgemental, and I certainly don't ever care to be a size 0. Just seeing from how that letter was written, I'd say if people were openly snarking, it could be the 'tude.
Let me say, I may be "overweight and unattractive" but I certainly don't resent style on anyone. If I did, I certainly wouldn't be reading Kasmira's blog. Style is just not for the thin and young, my friends.
*hops off high horse.*

smooches, Sarah (also known as the fat girl who tries to be pretty despite the world's objections)

bekster said...

Wow, great post. :) That is all very sound advice.

There is a woman I met recently who is always beautiful and polished, and I admit that I struggled at first with some jealousy and the "sour grapes" complex. However, the more I am around her, the more I see how kind and loving she is and the more I want to emulate her. How can I not love her when she is as lovely on the inside as she is on the outside? So, even if you meet with disapproval because of your outfits at first, if you let your real beauty come from inside, the people who you really want to impress should learn to love you for who you really are.

Melanie said...

"I'm also thin and some of the overweight women or frumpy women have given me dirty looks."

I wonder how much of the dirty looks are a result of that type of attitude? She honestly doesn't sound very sensitive or nice, but comes off as pretty judgmental.

Elise said...

Fantastic way of putting everything.

I couldn't imagine working with negative people. The women in my office are all so nice and make the work-day pleasant. I'm actually the youngest person in my entire office so I can "get away" with dressing a little funky every now and then but the older ladies enjoy talking about clothes even though we don't wear the same things. Like Jeannie commented earlier I find clothing/shoes/bags an ice breaker, it certainly allowed me a chance to get to know the other women I work with.

Lain said...

I have been reading this blog for a while and this post really got to me. I am overweight, but rapidly losing it. I have gone from a 22 to a 14 in 2 years. I am also middle-age (39). In my career, I have been thin and fat, well dressed and frumpy.

My thoughts is that this has less to do with the poster’s weight and style and more to do with the fact that she is young. I must admit, I am resenting the “kids” in the office more and more, as I am sure that the older women did when I was young.

I started working in the era of Anita Hill and appreciate the fact that I no longer have to dress like a slut, put out or act like a child to get ahead. I am glad that I am appreciated for my skill and talent, not how I look in the office. I have seen that the younger generation, who did not have to prove themselves without the blatant sexual harassment, are completely unaware of the work we did a generation earlier to allow us to be seen as equals without the sex-appeal. Of course, the men in the office do not mind the short skirts and tight clothing, but it really is completely unnecessary and should remain outside the office, no matter what your size is. Honestly, if I can tell the type of lingerie you are wearing, its inappropriate. It’s a matter of taste and respect. Dress like you respect yourself and most of the “older, frumpy” women will not have a problem with you.

Victoria said...

Wow, Lain, great comments. I still consider myself young (28) and understand the desire to express oneself by provocative clothing. But as I am getting older I appreciate the desire for everyone to exercise a little more modesty, if for no other reason than to keep the focus on the work itself.

BUT, I also think Kasmira does a great job with pushing the envelope a little bit, without being distracting. I think you (Kasmira) should do more posts on the politics of fashion...

Nana Erin said...

Well said!~ I get tons of “I could never dress like that” comments, and the truth is, the ONLY thing stopping you from dressing the way you want to, is YOU.