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We have no office attire in our company and this is one of the reasons why I like it: I’ve been working here for 10 months now as a sales executive.  I like to come to office dressed and made up differently.  Initially, I got whistles from the males, including my boss, and envious looks from some females.  Some frown on my mini skirts, boots, bare midrib, etc., my disheveled hair, my colorful/metallic make up, etc.

Now my 50-year old boss has been frowning on my attire and my make-up.  He wants me to dress like the other ladies who are conservative which is not my style.

I don’t know why they have to fuss about my attire and about my looks.  I’m a good performer; I deliver my targets and I have excellent rapport with our external customers who find me “exciting” and refreshing to look at.  This is why I’m able to hit my sales targets.

Ms. Different


The fact that you are seeking advice shows that you feel uncomfortable with the reactions you are now getting from your boss and co-employees about your attire and make-up which are distracting to them, perhaps contributing to their unproductivity.   You are now torn between your desire to be, or to look, different from the others, or to conform to the unwritten/unspoken conventional attire that is obviously approved of in your organization.  Your boss and co-employees didn’t realize that their reactions, including the negative ones, were actually a positive reinforcement to your behaviors that they disapprove of because they were giving you the attention and recognition, albeit negative, that you want.

Your boss should just simply have called you to his office and told you assertively that he didn’t like the attire and the make-up you use in the office, and directed you to wear conventional attire and conservative make-up.

You my want to look different, but what you are actually communicating is “I’m not a team player,” “I don’t care what you think and feel,” “I’ll do what I want and you can’t make me,” etc.  all of which are indicative of a negative attitude.  You need to examine your heart to see the root cause of your desire for attention and recognition.  However, understanding why you do what you do is just one element; just as important is managing your attitudes and behaviors so that you can be a “good corporate citizen”.  Whatever organization you will work in, following norms and corporate values is as important as performance.  You are in no position to change rules; you are there to follow them.  You can not be a deviant and still get the social approval you want.

You may be performing well and hitting your sales targets, but as an employee of the company (I suppose you have already been regularized) you need to abide by corporate values.  Read each of them and see where following norms – both written and unwritten – fall under.

Since you sought my advice, I suggest you listen to your boss and follow his directions.  Look at the attire and make-up of the female smart dressers in the company and learn from them how to dress right for work.


Josie Santamaria