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


Dear Sue: I work in a health clinic. There are three different classifications of jobs, which are based on a person's education and the degrees they hold. A coworker and I have noticed that the people who have the most prestige (those with the most education) are the ones who manipulate the system. 

People like me basically do the same job (I think even better than they do) with less staff, and fill in for them when they are short staffed or attending meetings. 

They come in early in order to leave early, which the manager approves, but my coworker and I are not free to adjust our hours or do the same. When I've approached the supervisors about this, I've been told not to make a mountain out of a molehill. 

The other problem is that other people, including the director and the supervisor, frequently come to me for advice. I've been here the longest, and have held most of the positions at one time or another.

All of this makes me feel as though I am being shortchanged. Am I just bitter for not getting a better education or does this seem unfair to you too? 

- Bitter

Sue Says: I can understand how things appear unfair to you, but I am not sure the bitterness you feel is toward yourself. I think you are more upset by the lack of value you feel from others. Experience often is valued as much or even more than education, but there doesn't seem to be any acknowledgement or reward for your experience or longevity with the clinic. 

Whatever the reason, envy often is the result of working in an environment where some employees appear to have greater freedom and flexibility over others. The higher the position, the more freedom there usually is.

While you can plea for equal treatment, and point out your value to the company as justification, you don't want to appear bitter or nitpicky. You've already been told not to make a mountain out of a molehill - so I suggest you don't. If there is something you feel you deserve and you have a reason to request it, go ahead. However, don't make a habit of comparing yourself to others or complaining about the benefits others receive - it's not guaranteed to get you what you want, and may end up hurting you in the long run. 

Dear Sue: I realize that leather is in style these days, but is it appropriate office wear? I have an employee who wears leather pants to work, and I don't think it looks very professional. Am I being too old fashioned? Should I drop the subject, and just accept her wearing the pants or tell her it's not appropriate? Our dress policy does not address "leather" attire. 


Sue Says: Leather can be expensive, and some styles actually look a lot nicer than other, more traditional fabrics. Leather would be inappropriate in a very conservative environment, and you will need to base your decision on the culture of your organization. 

Do you have a problem with the leather because the item being worn is pants? Are they too tight or an unusual color? What type of top is worn with them? Your answers probably impact your perception. Determine if it actually is the leather you are concerned about or the overall image of this particular person wearing the leather.

Many people (including myself) own leather. I would never wear leather pants to a business event (I am not sure why, but feel it isn't right for me), but I do own a black leather blazer and have worn it when I am dressing for a casual business environment. However, I wouldn't wear it for more formal business meetings or when I am making a presentation. 

If you think leather is inappropriate for your environment, you need to take a stand and address it in your clothing policy. If the problem is with one employee, you'll need to address that person directly. I realize it is not easy, but ultimately you will be doing the employee a favor. Most people don't purposely dress improperly, and can benefit from being told when they do.

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
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