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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Casual Dress

Dear Sue: My husband is an engineer for a fairly conservative company that recently allowed casual dress in the office. This may have been a welcome announcement for most of the employees, but my husband is not very happy with the change in dress code.

He has always worn a tie to work and prefers to continue to do so. I told him that I was sure the new policy didn't infer that he had to change his dress for work, but apparently I was wrong. The other day his boss came up to him, pulled on his tie and told him he better not come to work again with a tie on or he will be sorry -- and he wasn't joking around.

This has upset my husband, and he isn't sure what to do. Is it right for his boss to insist he dress casually? I would like your opinion on this matter.


Sue Says: Although many companies allow casual dress as a perk to employees or with the hope it will lesson the pressure of deciding what to wear to work, in many cases, it merely complicates the issue and creates more stress when deciding what to wear.

Some people think that clothing has become a non-issue in the workplace since so many companies have gone "casual," but the reality is that it can create a set of new problems. The majority of the problems I hear about have to do with employees that dress too casually.

My stand has always been that a person is better off being slightly overdressed than underdressed, and the stories I've heard from people who are promoted or rewarded for "looking good" support my stance.

When a company moves to a "casual" atmosphere, it generally means that employees have more choices when deciding what to wear. Rarely, if ever, have I heard of a policy that bans traditional business attire altogether.

Creating a casual work wardrobe can be a hardship for some people when casual is not defined or when it creates a void in their wardrobe. It takes time and money to create a new wardrobe.

Personally, I think your husbands boss is out of line, and that your husband should approach his boss and ask him how and why dressing "up" can be harmful. Companies struggle with employees who dress inappropriately, and worry about their rights when it comes to telling an employee what to wear. It would be a bigger challenge to find fault with someone who looks good and dresses nicely for work. Unless your husband is dressed inappropriately or there is a policy banning ties in his company, his boss probably won't be able to do anything about the fact that your husband chooses wears a tie to work.

Dear Sue: I am a very dedicated and hard worker. I'm currently in an administrative support position and have been so for the last 10 years. I've managed to gain the praises of just about every boss I've ever worked with due to my loyalty and quality output. However, I've also always managed to make enemies amongst my coworkers.

I drive myself crazy trying to figure out why they choose not to like me. Perhaps they think I am competitive and a showoff, when all I'm really doing is applying my knowledge, experience and skills. While I feel my coworkers may be a little insecure, I'm working to further my career and to expand my horizons. I really need your advice because this is interfering with what I really want to achieve.


Sue Says: You say you work with a bunch of insecure people who are threatened by you. It is possible that their behavior has nothing to do with you, but there is a chance that they are reacting to something you are inadvertently doing or not doing to win their acceptance.

You can choose to accept their disdain or try to win them over. However, if you do, you are the one who will have to make the effort to gain the respect you deserve.
Have you ever asked for feedback from your supervisors or approached any of your coworkers to find out why they seem distant? Continue to pursue the reason you feel alienated, because although you know you perform well, getting along with people is equally important and will be essential as you continue to pursue your goals.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
For more Ask Sue articles, click here.

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