Devil Employees

By popular request, today's free-for-all: the worst employees you've come across.

My horror stories, strangely, didn't have to do with actual work, and they are hardly horror stories. But I've racked my experience and these are the best I can cough up. They both had to do with...clothes. Specifically, how employees dressed at corporate offices. One 20-something woman, a recent graduate from a prestigious MBA program, wore a white thong underneath a short, very sheer, white skirt. Neither men nor women could get much work done when she walked by. Another was an intern who wore flip-flops daily. (She didn't get asked back.) Both seemed sincerely puzzled that their choices weren't appropriate office attire. The experience taught me why hyper-specific company dress codes came about in the first place.

I admit these are both pretty lame, boring stories. I hope you all have better ones. Can't wait to read 'em.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  July 21, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Free-for-All
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I work in a hospital. The one thing that makes me crazy is the super long fingernails - some of which almost look like claws. I am always afraid someone is going to accidently stab a patient with one of them, not to mention the crud that must live underneath.

Posted by: KB in DC | July 21, 2006 8:27 AM

I worked for a government contractor as a writer and editor. While I was never in a management position, I often a task leader on different projects. For one project, I managed a group of about 15 fellow editors, most of whom telecommuted. All of them did a great job except one person who, by her own admission, "could not figure out technology." Bad news for a telecommuter. Over the course of the project, this person routinely sent in assignments late (by weeks sometimes) and would reply to e-mails hours after they were sent. That's not a big deal in the office, but it spells disaster if you work from home. And the excuses centered on her computer connection. The worst part? The employee could come into the office whenever she wanted--she didn't have to rely on the home computer. My position was unique in that I couldn't reprimand this person, and I was uncomfortable directing her because she was 20 years my senior. So after trying diplomatic ways to solve the problem, I reported her to my manager, and my manager asked her to work at the office. When assignments were still late, she was removed from the project.

She was a nightmare because she was the "last straw" in our troubled telecommuting structure. Because of her, our managers had a reason to distrust telecommuters and had more ammo with which to criticize the system. Established employees who had proven themselves were allowed to continue to telecommute, but new employees were never given the option.

Posted by: Meesh | July 21, 2006 8:31 AM

My worst employees were always the ones that understood how far they could push the rules in the workplace. Like petulent children they would get right to the edge, then back off.

I have learned that putting just three women in a work group is the worst mistake you can make. The emtional politics that women play when the situation is always two on one is unreal. And the two on one changes combinations several times a day so there is no good way to keep up with, or correct, the problem.

Posted by: TC the Terrible | July 21, 2006 8:36 AM

I had an intern who volunteered to take urgent, priority first-delivery to FedEx - which he lived next to, because I was working on a tight deadline and wouldn't be out of work by drop-off time. The next morning all 25 people called because they didn't have the packages. He had forgotten to drop them off at night, so did it first thing in the morning! And then Devil Boss scream me out because I should have done it in the first place.

It's made it really hard for me to delegate work to anyone.

Posted by: NewMom | July 21, 2006 8:36 AM

Had to laugh at Leslie's comments. I have observed mostly younger women on the Metro who look like they're dressed for work, except that they're dressed in such a low-cut shirt that their "girls" (as Stacy and Clinton say) are practically falling out.

Perhaps they changed for a hot date? Somehow I think not and they're clueless.

About 13 years ago I worked for about 6 months with a young admin asst. who thought she was oh-so-smart and intelligent. But her work was only average at most, and she proceeded to use the office as a place where she starting her own business. So she would use the work phone and computer for her home business. They finally let her go, and no one was sad about that.

Posted by: TGIF | July 21, 2006 8:37 AM

I worked in HR in a large non-profit company for a short while and it was my assigned task to speak to employees who were not dressed professionally... at least not for office work.

One young lady who worked in our marketing department was fond of wearing outfits that were "up to here and down to there" as her boss would say. It was such a problem that we would joke about her "Wide Belts". Thankfully, she had a great sense of humor and would come to my office each morning and ask if her belt was too narrow. She kept a pair of slacks in her office for the days when we asked her to change.

I never figured out why she didn't just wear the slacks to start with!

Posted by: Just Sayin' | July 21, 2006 8:52 AM

one day our intern in the IT dept took his bag with him everywhere he went. We thought it was a little odd. he disappeared for a few hours and we found him in one of the spare rooms with his xbox hooked up to a tv. it had been in his bag the whole time!

Posted by: oy | July 21, 2006 8:59 AM

This summer my office has hired several teenage children of employees as interns. They are doing an OK job from what I can tell, but the girls have all taken to wearing those low, wide waistband, floaty leg "gaucho" pants that are always wedged up their butts and don't leave anything except the color of their skin to the imagination. I just can't belive their parents, who work in the same office, let them out like that!

Posted by: Kid Free in Alexandria | July 21, 2006 9:04 AM

I supervised someone who took unscheduled days off even tho it was against policy and even after she was warned several times. We weren't unreasonable with her, she was calling in every other week with an unscheduled vacation day, usually Monday, leaving a message around 5am on my voice mail even tho we'd asked her to call during regular hours so someone could speak with her in person (ie, ask some questions). Nothing doing, she would call in every other Monday, say she wouldn't be in, no reason, and not answer the phone at home if I called. Next day she would tell me she had to take the day off to go to a funeral. Eventually even she had to admit she'd run out of relatives, so she switched to telling me she had to have the day off to go to a funeral for a close friend. Then it was former neighbors. Everyone she knew was dying. I finally asked her if she could go to a funeral and then come to work afterwards, since it seemed she had become a professional mourner. Nope, she informed me, she had to have an entire day off to go a funeral because she might have to drive out of state. And, she told me, no way was she going to make any changes, she would take off whenever she felt the need. Thankfully, when I told my boss about this conversation, it was the last nail in the employee's coffin and she was downsized shortly afterward. Before she left she told everyone she knew that I got rid of her because I wanted her job.

Posted by: Anon | July 21, 2006 9:08 AM

I used to work at a company that developed some rather large web sites during the late '90's and early 2000's.

As this was the height of dot-com madness, we had a few just-out-of-college employees who had demanded obscenely large salaries, and enjoyed the perks of our company (a game room was our largest extravagance, and many people didn't even use it).

But they also thought life was one big game. One that sticks in my mind in particular was a colleague who would roll in around 10 (despite living in the next building over in Arlington), take a long lunch around 12:30ish and then be out the door no later than 5:30 (some days it was earlier), because there was a Happy Hour somewhere.

Including the days when we were on a tight deadline to launch big sites, and he was supposed to be a major part of the production team!

Our managers tried to talk to him, but he kept brushing it off. When bonus time came around (and our bonuses could be considerable), he got the bare minimum because of his lax performance. And he actually complained about it to anyone who would listen, instead of taking the criticisms to heart.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | July 21, 2006 9:14 AM

I became a controller and office manager of one of my companies subsidiaries a couple of months shy of my 22nd birthday. I supervised just three women (all older than me - one late 20's, one mid-30's, one early 50's), but it was certainly trial by fire. Within about 9 months, 2 of them (the younger two) were having affairs with plant supervisers. All four were married. :o/ I realize that intracompany romance is common!, and they were discreet - sort of - but it was still a difficult situation for me!


Posted by: momof4 | July 21, 2006 9:18 AM

When my wife and I were first married, she had a few outfits she would wear to her office that I thought exposed way too much cleavage, so I dropped a few quarters in the slot, pressed the button, and asked her where my soda was.

The maintenance guys that worked around her office loved her!

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 21, 2006 9:20 AM

What is it about the flip-flops that gets people so riled up? I personally don't wear them, but is it the thwack-thwack noise? Or their appearance?

Posted by: Question | July 21, 2006 9:25 AM

I had a legal secretary one time who I hired at a high salary based on her resume that sounded like she had great skills, they turned out to be devoted primarily to watching the time clock. On one occasion she called in sick claiming that she would be out for several days. Coincidentally, I was departing the next day for an extended weekend skiing trip to Lake Tahoe. On my return flite at the end of the weekend, bad weather caused the plane to be diverted to Las Vegas where a few new passengers embarked, among them my secretary and a bevy of her party friends, all laughing and in high spirits after an apparent lark trip to Las Vegas! You should have seen the look on her face when she saw me sitting on the plane!!!! (She quit very shortly after that stunt!)

Posted by: Jerry B. | July 21, 2006 9:28 AM

Complaining about your fellow human beings is a sign of low self esteem and dissatisfaction with life. Focus on what you are doing. I have met people who caused me trouble, and I have caused a lot of trouble for people. It is not interesting to discuss.

Posted by: preslopsky | July 21, 2006 9:29 AM

Flip-flops seem to be the new standard of "too casual" - personally I wear them walking to and from the metro only and I see alot of women doing the same. But a more conservative pair of open toed shoes lives in my desk drawer to wear at work.

The best devil employee story I have is a former co-worker who had a multi-year dispute with HR to the point that HR didn't speak to said employee on instruction from her boss (the CFO).

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | July 21, 2006 9:33 AM

"I have observed mostly younger women on the Metro who look like they're dressed for work, except that they're dressed in such a low-cut shirt that their "girls" (as Stacy and Clinton say) are practically falling out."

God bless these women. God bless every single last one of them..........

Posted by: B.B.Jones | July 21, 2006 9:36 AM

I once had the misfortune to supervise a woman who felt compelled to send what she (wrongly) felt were uplifting emails to everyone at the firm. She was actually the reason the "NO EVERYONE EMAILS" policy was created. The last straw was a message she sent encouraging all of us to get down on our knees to praise the Lord and drive out Satan from our hearts and minds. She was also the one who ended up trashed or crying at all firm events. After a holiday party, I had to order the car service for her because she was so wasted, and she threw up all over the backseat on the way home. The firm was presented with a bill for cleaning and disinfecting the upholstery. Lovely.

Thankfully, she resigned after 18 months (the longest 18 months of my life). As soon as she left my office after "breaking the news" to me, I ran up to HR and did a dance with the Director.

Posted by: WMX | July 21, 2006 9:38 AM

preslopsky seems to have no sense of humor.

We had a girl in our office who went out every night to clubs and would come straight to the office afterward. One day she came in wearing a black mesh shirt with large holes, so you could just see her bra.

We have a girl who leaves her dirty dishes in the office sink or at her desk for days at a time. Once she went on vacation for two weeks. A colleague and I discovered a mouse in our office and went around to see where it could have come in. We saw five dirty dishes laying on the floor under this girl's desk caked in mold and mouse droppings.

We had a guy who was hired to redesign our database system who came in every day at 10am. He wore jeans to the office. He never did a single thing for the two months he worked here (before he was hired) and admitted to sleeping for two hours a day under his desk.

Posted by: daedalus | July 21, 2006 9:41 AM

I have never understood why the way a person dresses is more important than the work they do. I can do a better job in a T shirt, jeans and sneakers than in a a dress shirt, tie, and dress shoes - basically because I'm comfortable!!!

Posted by: FreeDress | July 21, 2006 9:44 AM

I am an attorney and manager at a federal agency. The worst employee was a young attorney who pretty much never understood the facts or the law on any matter he worked on but assumed that he knew more than anyone (I think his tendency to assume may have been the source of his analytical problems as well). He would regularly get into heated debates about how little I or whoever was managing him knew and would fight every edit tooth and nail. He is one of two people I have ever yelled at in my career. Every manager in the division tried to work with him and the same thing happened every time. He was so good at arguing, we thought he could not be that stupid so we kept giving him different things to work on hoping he could be competent at something. He made two of the best attorneys I have ever worked with (by best I mean smart and thoughtful with excellent writing and people skills) doubt themselves. His name has become synonymous with nightmare employee around here.

Posted by: Another DC Mom | July 21, 2006 9:46 AM

'What is it about the flip-flops that gets people so riled up? I personally don't wear them, but is it the thwack-thwack noise? Or their appearance?'

at least with the thwack-thwack noise, you know where people are, and no one can sneak up on you!

Posted by: experienced mom | July 21, 2006 9:46 AM

oh, we have this other employee in our accounting department who is just a pill. I work for an international organization and she can't point to most of the countries we work with on a map. Anyway, this woman has zero communication skills. For example, I just got some invoices back from that department with a post-it note on top saying "not clear." That was it, no explanation. Standard for her. But the strangest thing this woman ever did was quit. She had taken some work home to do over one weekend, but she took some files that were not supposed to leave the office because they had bank account information. No one knew, though. Still, she came in that Monday morning before anyone else and sat a letter of resignation on her boss' desk, telling him she had taken the files home and that she was sorry for it. An email was sent around announcing her departure. We all rejoiced, of course, but her boss called her and told her to come back, that she didn't have to quit simply for taking the files home. She came back to our dismay.

Posted by: daedalus | July 21, 2006 9:49 AM

"at least with the thwack-thwack noise, you know where people are, and no one can sneak up on you!"

LOL, but these usually aren't the ones you have to worry about sneaking up on you.

Posted by: HaHa | July 21, 2006 9:49 AM

To Question:

I know it's off-topic, but I have to say, flip-flops bug the bejeebers out of me as office attire. I think because I grew up in the era where officewear = more formal, and flip-flops were something you only ever wore for that one week a year you got to escape work to go to the beach. So to me, they epitomize that lazy, ultra-casual beach feeling, where the whole point is you're NOT working, and the only reason you're wearing shoes at all is because you need something to shield your foot from the heat of the sand. So flip-flops in the office feels just as wrong to me as a business suit at the beach.

Posted by: Laura | July 21, 2006 9:49 AM

Oh there are so many...

One was a consultant hired by my company to write a required OSHA safety plan, the company was a small startup and we had just broken through certain thresholds in amounts of chemicals used etc so we needed this document. This guy charged BIG bucks but did hardly anything. He stretched this out for weeks while he mostly sat in our joint office openly making phone calls to new prospective clients (for HIM not us!). A bunch of us finally ratted him out and he was fired, but the most annoying thing is that one of the women happened to add that he sat at his desk reading Playboy - true - and he loudly told everyone that the real deal was that us radical feminists got him fired for THAT, not for totally goofing off and being incompetent and shameless. None of us really cared what magazine he was reading, honestly, we just thought it was a sign of his misuse of paid time. And the kicker is that after he was gone, one of the women working there finished up the document (well almost started it from scratch actually) in a few days where this overpaid slacker had "worked" several weeks on it. I have a generally bad view of these overpaid consultant suits but this guy took the cake!

Posted by: Catherine | July 21, 2006 9:51 AM

"I have never understood why the way a person dresses is more important than the work they do."

I don't think there's any job in the world where how you look is *more* important than what you do, unless you're Linda Evangelista. But come on, if you work in a white-shoe firm or at the White House or the Pentagon, no, you're not going to be able to get away with a T-shirt and jeans.

And there's plenty of fairly formal businesswear that's just as comfortable as T-shirts and jeans. I'm so tired of people saying "But it's uncomfortable!" Not if you're buying clothes that actually fit you, it's not. If you don't like dressing up for work because it's indicative of a workplace that's more structured than you're comfortable with, that's fine, but don't beg off with "It's uncomfortable."

Posted by: Lizzie | July 21, 2006 9:57 AM

I once worked as an art therapist for an organization serving severely troubled children. My assistant at one point was a nice woman, but extremely flakey. One day she thoughtlessly left a SHARP KNIFE in the classroom sink (it was usually locked up.) Immediately, one of our charges noticed, grabbed the knife and began threatening the other kids and us with bodily harm. Eventually, the only course of action was to leave the room and lock him in until the police came. In the meantime he sliced up all the other kid's artwork, detroyed a display that I had stayed up several nights to finish, and got himself into a whole lot of dangerous trouble. I watched the police use pepper spray to subdue him and take him away, handcuffed, in a squad car. The boy was 12 years old (although he had 100 pounds on me). It was very sad for everyone. I left the organization the next year and don't believe the assistant was rehired.

Posted by: Ingrid | July 21, 2006 9:59 AM

I worked loyally for a small company for 7 years and was the third in command after the 2 partners. I could basically run the company since they were out of town most of the time and should have been offered to partner. Then one of the partners decided his out of work stepson could come in as a consultant, learn the business, and be in their succesion plan. Fortunately for me, my DH got a job out of state and I had to move so I didn't get to be in charge of training him like the partners wanted. Well, he did basically what someone else complained of consultants. He rarely came into the office, turned in as little work as possible, was supposedly sick a lot, and hardly returned our clients calls. This ticked off the other partner and now he is no longer with the company let alone be part of the succession.

Posted by: DHL | July 21, 2006 10:01 AM

I work for state government, and the number of "devil employees" I have supervised is huge.

There was the college graduate with a Masters' in Engineering who couldn't read a contour map, was basically useless in anything he tried, and wanted to start his own business where he could work from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm (he did and he closed in a year).

There was the technician who was trying to have a baby, and came in every morning telling us all the details of their attempts to conceive that day.

One trainee who was well endowed had a tendency to stand behind whoever was reviewing her work and lean against them.

Another technician (and a very good one at that) would get upset whenever he had to make a change to what HE thought was a good design, so upset he would just get up and go home to get drunk.

And finally, there was the assistant who never let a chance go by to stab her boss in the back, blame someone else for her shoddy work, or claim responsibility for anything that was well done on her projects. She had worked for a consulting firm where that was the normal way to get ahead, but in my state agency it didn't work that way.

Posted by: John | July 21, 2006 10:02 AM

Laura,

I don't think it's the era you grew up in. There are standards of professionalism and flip flops simply aren't professional. It's that simple.

I wear flip flops in the summer if I have to wear anything on my feet (and am not going to a restaurant where they are inappropriate) but I would never even consider wearing them to the office, even if they were allowed.

Professionalism is about respect. Try meeting with a client wearing flip flops - you aren't going to get that job, that's for sure.

The fact is that standards of conduct in this country have become extinct. I wake up every morning at 7:30am to the sounds of lawnmowers because there is no such thing as common courtesy anymore. People behave in a manner that tells the world they are only concerned about themselves.

Oh, and I'm not yet 30 and feel this way. I must be one of the last in this country to have respect for others.

Posted by: daedalus | July 21, 2006 10:03 AM

I just can't resist...

I, too, don't totally understant the flip-flop hate out there. If you'd wear them to the beach or in a dorm shower, no, you shouldn't wear them to the office. What about my dressy leather thong-style sandals? Yes, you could say they're "flip-flops." But they they show no more of my feet than fancy-pants coworkers in their dressy sandals, and they make a lot less noise than anyone in any other sort of open backed shoe.

Annoying coworkers? How about that guy who only uses speaker phone in an open office environment? Not only can we hear every call he makes, but we also know that he calls IT pretty much every single day to get something fixed. It's gotten to the point where I've seen IT people duck and hide from him!!

Posted by: anon | July 21, 2006 10:04 AM

I had an assistant who actually did a pretty good job, but she was rather sensitive. I shared her with my boss, who could get cranky occasionally. I had learned to deal with him (just let him vent and then move on with your life), but she took it all very personally. One day, when we were working on a deadline (and he was particularly cranky) she took a late lunch and never came back. I ended up having to do two jobs for the rest of the day, which considering the deadline was not fun.

Posted by: Virginia | July 21, 2006 10:06 AM

My offfice doesn't have casual fridays and most of my friends offices do! Iwould kill to wear jeans one day a week! My office's dress code is a little more strict, nonetheless most of my fellow staff (we're all girls 1-2 years out of college) pretty much ignore it. Gap cargo pants and white flip flops are not uncommon most of the week. I do my best to stick to simple and more dressy (lots of sweater sets, innumerable black skirts and black pants, black heels). I feel fo teh guys in my office though--it bothers me that the other girls wear this stuff while I make an effort to dress more professionally, but it must annoy the hell out of them--they wear suits everyday (tie and everything)!

I think in college we get so used to just throwing whatever on and being very casual ALL the time that when you leave, you (unfortuantely) have as much of a sense of whats dressy and whats not. There is a difference too between looking "nice" or pretty or being dressed professionally. I look adorable in my halter top polo dress, but I couldn't wear it to the office! It's backless sleeveless and the fabric is very casual-looking.

Ladies! If you see a newbie in your office who looks like she's haveing some trouble, point her in the right direction! Give her some shopping advice ("You know I always have good luck at ____. They have great pants/skirts/suits for inexpensive prices.)

ok, I'm done :)

Posted by: office gal | July 21, 2006 10:08 AM

I am merely a lowly support staff, the lowest of the low and treated likewise by the higher-ups. At one point I worked in our Firm's document processing department on the midnight to 8:00 am shift (yes, folks, we're staff 24/7). One co-worker who lives in DC would come in late every single night, although rush hour traffic couldn't have been the cause at midnight. Our dept. manager wrote her up several times but nother ever came of it. So she'd arrive late, sleep at her desk (had a pillow in a drawer so she could crash any time she felt like it). She even slept on an overtime shift a time and a half! She took all her entitled smoke breaks, even though she had a raging case of bronchitis. At 7:00 when the fax machines and phones started jumping to life she'd take more entitled smoke breaks, leaving me alone to handle the whole department. Then when others started arriving for their shift she'd chat and talk and go to breakfast with them. I was finally reassigned to another department (Thank you, God) and she --- get this --- was promoted to supervisor! Equal opportunity at work.

Posted by: Northwest DC | July 21, 2006 10:08 AM

>>>> 9:44 - I have never understood why the way a person dresses is more important than the work they do. I can do a better job in a T shirt, jeans and sneakers than in a a dress shirt, tie, and dress shoes - basically because I'm comfortable!!!

Because those of us who sell deals can't close them if our employees look like unprofessional slackers! It stinks when we lose deals (commissions!) because buyers think the company down the street is more professional.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 10:09 AM

I have been really lucky to work with great people, so it's been hard to come up with good stories. But the worst situation I dealt with was our IT support guy. We were under a huge deadline -- had to get two massive documents filed by a 4:30 Tuesday afternoon deadline, and I had been working round the clock with another associate to get them done. Sunday night, about 1:30 AM, the document freezes, and then we get the Blue Screen of Death. Computer ate the first document.

I immediately paged our IT guy (first time ever), apologized profusely for bothering him in the middle night, but explained our deadline and said I needed to recover the document right away (at that point, didn't know if we'd lost just the changes or the whole thing). He basically said, "I'll get to it tomorrow when I come in." I explained again that we needed it now, and he said, "if it's not due until Tuesday, I don't see why you can't wait until tomorrow." I again tried to explain that we needed it now, because we had two documents, and unless we could finish one tonight, we wouldn't be able to get the second one done tomorrow. To which he said, "do you know what time it is?"

I absolutely lost it -- first (and last) time I have actually yelled at someone at work. I started screaming that I knew %&*^@%(@ well what time it was, because I'd been there working on this document since 7 in the morning, on 3 hrs of sleep because I'd done the same thing the night before, and was going to be doing the same thing again the following night, for which I needed a document to work on. And turns out, when he got his butt out of bed, he was able to log in from home and recover an earlier version of the document for us in under a half-hour, so we only lost 2 hrs of work -- if he'd just TOLD me he'd try that, instead of giving me flak, I'd have been happy as a clam.

Luckily, he was let go within a couple of months. But that associate I was working with never forgot the day she saw a completely different side of me!

Posted by: Laura | July 21, 2006 10:12 AM

I work for a global telecommunications company. We had a 3rd shift employee that had apparently lost his ID badge. Each night someone from the 2nd shift crew would let this guy in.

After a couple of weeks we started to notice a very foul smell around the office. It turns out this guy was peeing in a particular storage closet and various large potted plants around the office because the restrooms were located in the office building's common area, outside of the secured doors. Instead of requesting a new ID badge, or even temporarily blocking the door open to use the restroom, he elected to violate the place. He actually thought his actions were justified.

I felt sorry for the cleaning and maintenance crews that had to remove the carpet from the closet and sanitize this guys handy work. Unfortunately, many of the plants didn't survive either.

Needless to say, HR got rid of this guy in short order.

Posted by: Jimmy Dean | July 21, 2006 10:14 AM

What are you talking about--flip flops are very professional.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 10:15 AM

I had one employee, who after being on the job for about two weeks came into my office practically in tears. She needed to go to Kansas City for a few days for "personal reasons," she realized she didn't have any leave, but it was really, really important that she get to Kansas City right away. From her attitude and the desperation in her voice, it sounded like a relative was dying, so I gave her unpaid leave; I personally picked up the slack from her absence. She came back the next week and handed in her resignation--she had gone to KC for a (successful) job interview.

Another, a young secretary, sent a company-wide email one afternoon inquiring if anyone had seen the fork she had brought with her lunch. She went on to explain in great detail how this was a very important fork, it had sentimental value to her mother, and she simply could not go back home without the fork or her mother would be devastated. Not really a bad employee, just a weird, weird, story.

Posted by: Brian | July 21, 2006 10:15 AM

Early in my career, I worked as a paralegal for a very high maintenance partner who went through 10 secretaries in about a year. At one point, he hired a male secretary who seemed to resent me and refused to take directions from me, even though it was his job to support both me and my partner. He also believed that the way to keep the partner organized was to let him lose documents (rather then making an extra copy for the file), thinking that if the partner lost enough documents, he would learn to be more careful. He could not get along with the other secretaries either and every little thing that happened was blown into a huge drama. Things were just not working out, and after a month, the partner had had enough and fired him. For weeks afterwards, he stalked us on the streets near the firm, yelling at us that we were evil liars. I was afraid to go out to lunch for a while. Finally after a few months, my boss hired his former secretary back (one who had worked for him for 10 years previously and knew how to handle him). I was so happy to see her back I sent her flowers.

Posted by: Rockville | July 21, 2006 10:15 AM

"I think in college we get so used to just throwing whatever on and being very casual ALL the time that when you leave, you (unfortuantely) have as much of a sense of whats dressy and whats not."

True. This is how you get women's lacrosse teams wearing flip-flops to the White House, and saying, "What are you talking about? This is no big deal" when their outraged mothers call them and demand to know what they were thinking.

Posted by: Lizzie | July 21, 2006 10:16 AM

Okay, here's a 30-for-one:

I was a mid-level manager in one of the local dot-com consultancies from '99-'01. This very paper did a bunch of pieces on us and our controversial CEO. We had a bunch of unique perks including a full gameroom that had a ping pong table and two been fridges.

Well, in Summer 2000 we hired about 25 college kids with no projects to put them on, and they decided that since they were bored it was acceptable to play beer-pong all day in the game room. For about a week, we wound up with multiple drunken new hires for the second half of each day.

We all got downsized eventually, but I wasn't sad that these folks and the recruiters were the first to go.

Posted by: Proud Papa | July 21, 2006 10:17 AM

Jimmy Dean wins, hands down. That is both disgusting and funny!

We have a guy who was caught twice by our IT guy masterbating at his desk. He comes in on weekends, and Sundays are the day when the IT guy gets a lot of work done since no one is in the office.

Posted by: daedalus | July 21, 2006 10:20 AM

Regarding the flip-flop wearing women's lax team, when the President thinks it's ok to give back-rubs to another head of state, I think it can be safely assumed that his White House is a "casual" one. And I don't think it's bad they wore flip-flops.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 10:20 AM

I had an intern who posted scripture all over her cube. Not that there is anything wrong with loving Jesus, but just not at work where people can be offended. If I said it once I said it five times-she is an intern and doesn't know any better.

She also painted her nails white with white out when she was bored.

Posted by: scarry | July 21, 2006 10:22 AM

My sister, a crunchball if ever one walked, reported the first company she worked for to the county for failure to follow the city's recycling laws. They were fined a ridiculous sum (in the thousands) and made an example of in the local paper. Gee, wonder why she wasn't ever promoted and got pathetic raises . . .

Posted by: ThreeGirls | July 21, 2006 10:24 AM

Dressed like a hooker. Worked as often as Santa Claus. Felt as smart as Einstein, but really was as a Pee Wee Herman intellectual. Took 4 weeks consecutive, unexcused sick leave and screamed unjustified dismissal lawsuit while being helped out the door. Perhaps, genetic engineering could help free the workplace of such beings.

Posted by: Underappreciated HRDoer | July 21, 2006 10:28 AM

If you are not dealing with customers, then I think it's fine to wear whatever you want, as long as your outfit is clean. :)

It's not uncommon where I work to kick your shoes off toward the end of the day and walk around the floor in socks.

If you are comfortable working, your work quality will be that much higher.

Posted by: Gee | July 21, 2006 10:30 AM

The problem with flip flops is that apparently some people do not know their audience. I am sure there are some offices where they are fine. In most offices, however, flip flops are not fine. Open toed shoes can be fine, even nicer sandals in the summertime if there is a casual dress policy, but flip flops, only in the most casual of offices. If you do not know if you work in a casual office, you have more problems than wearing flip flops.

Have people ever heard the saying that you should dress for the job you want next, not the one you have? If management cannot see you in that "next" position, you will not be getting that promotion. Quality of work matters, presentation matters too.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 10:32 AM

Lawyers are known to be the worst to work for, which is why they have to pay such high salaries. Thankfully in government, abuse doesn't fly too well.

I once worked in an office where the lawyers were pretty low key and the admin assistant was excellent and had 20 years of experience on any of them. This hotshot lawyer comes in and starts demanding things he's not entitled to, like a cushy chair (tells the AA to sign a doc saying he has back trouble rather than giving proof), tech toys he didn't use and seemingly the right to scream whenever he felt like it. The AA was taking it all in stride, even the weekly verbal assaults, biding her time until he left. Then one day he wanted something no one could give him, simply because it was ILLEGAL. So he threw his desk phone at the AA. The AA called security and he was fired that same day.

Flip-flops at work are ghetto. Get over it.

Posted by: copperred | July 21, 2006 10:34 AM

Scarry,if she limited the scripture to her cube how is that offensive? I do the same thing and it's to give me inspiration not to offend others.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 10:42 AM

Daedalus,
you aren't talking about working at the AIDS Marathon, are you?

Posted by: uh oh | July 21, 2006 10:43 AM

Wow, with a few notable exceptions (peeing in the closet?) it sounds like many of these people have achieved work/life balance. I don't know about you, but if a colleague called me at home at 1:30 on a Sunday to harangue me about anything I only HOPE my response would be, "can't this wait 'til tomorrow?"

A beloved colleague has a mantra she recites when things get tight at the office. "Nobody's gonna die and noone's going to get hurt if X project doens't make it out the door by 3:00." This really helps put things in perspective. She's a great worker, by the way, who always meets or exceeds expectations with grace.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 10:43 AM

A couple of comments:

To Father of 4: You sound like a real creep. Why would you tell a story like that about your wife? Or is she your ex-wife by now?

To daedalus: Don't quite understand your objection to lawn mowers at 7:30 a.m. Many people prefer to mow the lawn before the day gets too hot. Lawn care firms have to begin in the early morning to get in a full day's work. What's the problem? Where's the lack of courtesy?

General observation: Seems like the biggest issue employers have with employees is what constitutes proper attire. Does this say something about our priorities?

My own worst employee story: I had a couple of occasions, years ago when I was a manager, when I had to address employee hygiene problems. Neither of the people in question were devil employees, but they stank, and their coworkers complained to me constantly. I felt badly having to sit them down and talk about the problem, but I had an obligation to their coworkers, so I had to do it. Among the worst experiences of my management days.

Posted by: KJ | July 21, 2006 10:48 AM

"I think in college we get so used to just throwing whatever on and being very casual ALL the time that when you leave, you (unfortuantely) have as much of a sense of whats dressy and whats not."
My small liberal arts college had a dress code for classes--jackets and ties for men, skirts for women. It was a church-affiliated school, but that had nothing to do with it. The argument was that education was an endeavor that demanded your respect, and the way to demonstrate respect for an activity is to dress appropriately. The code was waived for "inclement weather" (and, as a friend put it, sometimes she'd wake up, look at the sky and see a cloud, and say, "Look! Inclement weather! I'm wearing jeans!" and we could get VERY creative with what we did with those skirts and ties and jackets (ever seen a tie with overalls?) but for the most part, people stuck with it, though I don't think there was any real enforcement mechanism. By the time I graduated, you'd hear the administration admit that one reason for the code was to give people at least a hint of what their future work life would be, and I have to say, graduating with a closet full of skirts did give me a leg up on my friends who had to shop for a whole new wardrobe when they graduated.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 10:53 AM

Not doing your job when it is not convenient is not balancing your life.

Some things do actually need to be handled right away. I think there was a discussion yesterday about the nature of some IT work (it sounded like technical support issues but I am no IT person) and the whole point was that it meant being on call 24/7. If a person's job is to be on call 24/7 then that is what it is. The reason people are on call is because sometimes things cannot wait until morning.

I am a lawyer that left litigation and private practice to get life balance but I have not forgotten it. Sometimes, everyone working as hard as they can, it is hard to meet a deadline and if the deadline is not met it is a really big deal. Courts have been known to not accept documents late, deals fall apart if contractual deadlines are not met, etc. I do not think the attorney giving the example was out of line at all being pissed at the IT person, the person was refusing to do his/her job and it sounds like did not appreciate that others would not be working in the middle of the night if they had a choice.

Different jobs require different hours. Doctor's are on call all night sometimes. I recently had a medical emergency where a sonagram technician had to be called from home into the emergency room in the middle of the night, I am glad he did not tell the caller to go fly a kite because it was 1 am. I did not choose when I had to be there.

Posted by: Another DC Mom | July 21, 2006 10:56 AM

Scarry,if she limited the scripture to her cube how is that offensive? I do the same thing and it's to give me inspiration not to offend others.

I wasn't trying to start a god vs. non-god fight on the board. It's distracting from the stories but...........

It didn't offend me it offended other people. And it wasn't like a little post card piece of scripture it was huge poster board pieces of scripture that you could see from the hallway. I mean we don't actually own our cubes and many different people work in this city, so I think it is best not to plaster your views all over your cube where eveyone can see them.

Posted by: scarry | July 21, 2006 10:58 AM

1. The guy who had a fantastic first week and seemed super eager to learn the business but would take naps behind supplies. He also accidentally stabbed my hand - that was weird.

2. The kid from Atlanta who, on his first day, used the color copier to try to counterfeit money. He claimed to have done this successfully in Atlanta. His process was to xerox and then put the fake money in the dryer to give it a worn look. His first day was his last.

3. We had one of those people who runs around acting busy all the time, but really does little. He kept claiming that he was assigned to re-organize parts of the office. Basically, he didn't want to do any work. This went on for a number of years. He also never came to work on time and would always leave early. The problem became his time sheets - he never acknowledged his attendance problem there. Further, he had an excuse every day - metro, car troubles, funerals, getting mugged... he must've been mugged at least twice a month and witness to car accidents that demanded his attention nearly every week.

Posted by: B | July 21, 2006 10:58 AM

It's soooo funny when people take Father of 4 soooo seriously. Thanks for the laugh.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 10:59 AM

I once supervised a young woman who had the worst, most offensive body odor. I believe she did not shower every day... possibly not even every week, given her scent. I felt awful, because no one could bear to be around her, especially in the summer. It was unbearable. None of us knew quite how to handle it. She quit after about 9 months, and unfortunately, I was glad to see her go. Everybody has a bady body day now and then, I guess... but this was chronic, and enough to make you dizzy.

Posted by: Sharon | July 21, 2006 11:02 AM

This is going to be long.

I ran a copy center for a large law firm in Boston for eight years. I have stories that you wouldn't believe. Unfortunately, they're all true.

One night-shift guy came in one afternoon and started taking off his clothes in the middle of the room. Standing right in front of the large window where secretaries dropped off their requests. And several secretaries were standing there, shocked.

"What are you DOING?" I asked.

"Changing. Why, what's the problem? Am I turning you on?" (with lots of attitude).

"No, it's just TOTALLY UNPROFESSIONAL! Go change in the bathroom!" I said, pointing to the men's room which was literally right outside the door.

He snickered, and for the next several weeks he and the other employees threw "totally unprofessional" at me often, in an orgy of sarcasm. They knew that HR wouldn't back me up on discipline.

We later found out that that guy was bringing in beer and drinking on the job.

Then there was the temp who worked for us for six months. He arrived late every morning, took a two-hour lunch, and left at least half an hour early each day.

He started taking orders for candy around the office, ignoring any work that needed to be done. When the candy finally came in, he dumped it all in a delivery cart and spent the day - the WHOLE DAY - delivering it.

Now, if you haven't worked in a top-line venture capital firm, I may need to explain something here. Partners are God. Clients...are God's boss. Meetings between partners and clients are sacred beyond all imagining. Mere mortals dare not trespass.

I later received reports that the temp simply walked into a number of high-level client meetings that day, pushing his cart, and shouting "Here's your candy. Now where's my MONEY!"

We later found out that he'd faked his time cards the whole time he'd been with us, claiming that he'd arrived early, worked through lunch, and stayed late. His temp agency was so desperate to keep the firm's business that they refunded the entire amount of the overcharge - all six months.

But those two were nothing compared to #3. A guy built like Frankenstein, about 6'8" tall, ex-military. Who, among other things, brought a knife to work - a big one - and told me that he "probably" wouldn't kill me. The situation got worse from there, and once again, HR wouldn't back me up - it turned out that the guy had been going up to HR every morning and complaining about me. So we were both brought into a room, verbally spanked, and told to shut up or they'd gladly replace us both. We were, and I quote "as replaceable as used Kleenex, and worth about as much."

I gave notice the next day. I later found that the guy with the knife got my job after I left.

My current job is much better; now I'm a technical guy, and I don't supervise anybody. Which is just as well; I wasn't very good at it, obviously. That firm recently went out of business, and good riddance.

Okay, I'll stop now - even though I have plenty of other stories, believe me!

Posted by: PM | July 21, 2006 11:03 AM

Not a devil employee, but funny, to me at least. I worked in a job where I had to work closely with IT temps. We had a regular who was good at his job but was frequently late. He was in his mid-forties and his mom would call to see if he was scheduled to work, make sure he made it to work, that if he was late he was on the way, that he needed the work so please don't fire him, etc., etc. There were three of us who answered the phones and it got to the point she knew us by name. She was so nice, we would just say, yes ma'am...

Posted by: August | July 21, 2006 11:09 AM

KJ:

You have to read this on a regular basis to know that Father of 4 is joking. Or not, but overall, it is funny.

Maybe lawnmowers at 7:30 during the week aren't so bad (8 would be better), but on a weekend, it is absurd! Our trash guys come at 5:45 some days (weekdays) and, by law, they aren't supposed to come around until after 6. A call to the company fixes it for a few weeks.

It must have been awkward asking employees to shower more often.

Posted by: Stacey | July 21, 2006 11:09 AM

My husband is an IT person and you wouldn't believe the ridiculous requests that come in at all hours of the day and night. He is never technically on call. He doesn't get paid to be on call and he's not contractually bound to be on call. Some people go nutty when their computers are buggy and lose all sense of perspective. He helps out when he can and sets reasonable boundaries around what he determines to be hysterical requests. (1:30 AM? Come on, we're not talking a medical emergency here.)

So yes, not doing what something THINKS should be your job even when it's not IS balancing your life.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 11:09 AM

" How about that guy who only uses speaker phone in an open office environment? "

I worked in an office that was mostly open-plan but had few private offices. When one became vacant, my supervisor moved into it on his own accord, without vetting it with the office management (in an office that prided itself on egalitarianism). But then he would make all his calls from a cell phone in the hallway, apparently because his new office was too small, and was one of those awful people who thought that to use a cell phone you have to yell really loudly. It made me absolutely INSANE!!!

And Lizzie, I'm with you on the office wear. And I'd take business formal over business casual any day - suits are just so much easier to put together in the morning, just choose what color shirt, no complicated outfits to figure out. It's great for those of us completely lacking in fashion sense.

Posted by: Megan | July 21, 2006 11:19 AM

I worked with a woman who was constantly late for work. The job was near the Capitol Hill metro station. We knew she took Metro, so one day I asked her where she got on.
Kris: The red part.
Me: Oh, you mean the red line?
Kris: No, the red part.
Me: What line do you take?
Kris: Orange.
Me: What red part are you talking about?
Kris: You know, the bricks.
Me: Nice chatting with you, I have to get back to work.

For those of you that don't take metro here in dc, every metro station's floor is red tile. (I guess they sort of look like bricks.) She was an attorney, btw.

Turns out, she lived right above the Courthouse metro station and just took the orange line in. Why she was late everyday, I'll never know. She also chewed 5 pieces of gum all at the same time in meetings really loudly and was rude to pretty much everyone. We were so glad when she left.

Posted by: Capitol Hill | July 21, 2006 11:20 AM

My personal favorite: we have a good sized group of 20-something girls who work in our office. They prefer to dress so that everyone can see all they have to offer. Then they complain about the middle-aged men staring at "the girls." What exactly do they think men are going to do if you put "the girls" on display?

Posted by: Gotta Love It | July 21, 2006 11:20 AM

"So yes, not doing what something THINKS should be your job even when it's not IS balancing your life."

I agree. But, when that is your job and one of the requirements is to be on call and offer support 24/7 or at least during your shift, IT IS YOUR JOB.

I had an employee who refused to do anything that was not specifically referred to and/or defined in his job description, such as report on the progress of his projects. That wasn't his job. He refused the updated job description and was subsequently fired....I guess it's not his job anymore!

Posted by: NOT MY JOB | July 21, 2006 11:21 AM

A number of years ago, there was a guy in my office who was obviously a hoarder. He used to buy stuff off out of catalogs by the dozen (i.e., umbrellas, pillows) and then hide them in filing cabinets or wherever he could find space. He had newspapers stacked to the ceiling and he also did things like spill sugar in his space, leave food around, etc. that attacted bugs and other critters.

Our supervisor tried to get him to clean up the space, but he wouldn't do it. A number of other employees stepped in and filed a grievance with the Union because this fellow was creating an unpleasant work environment. So when the supervisor went to the employee with the grievance in hand and again asked him to clean - he still wouldn't do it. The messy man ended up filing his own grievance against our supervisor for not respecting his cultural background. We always wondered about that cultural background thing.......

Posted by: VA mom o' 2 | July 21, 2006 11:24 AM

From a safety perspective, an open shoe invites more serious injury, even in an office (dropped objects, hot coffee spills, etc.).

In case of a building evacutation, closed shoes make it easier and faster to get out and away from the building, without scrapes or cuts.
We all watched the DC offices clear out like a bad 50's sci-fi flick when the private plane went off course.
(btw, on 9/11, I was close enough to see the smoke at the Pentagon.)

After walking on city streets, Metro, etc., don't you want to boil your feet when you get home?

Posted by: Flip-Flop | July 21, 2006 11:27 AM

I worked for a bookstore, and we needed to hire help for the holidays. One applicant made a big deal about how she was a Christian and would really prefer not to work on the Sabbath. We told her that wasn't an option, and she took the job anyway.

Guess who got wasted and puked all over the manager's house at the Christmas party?

My least favorite type of employees are the ones who sit around complaining about how another employee never works. I can handle goofing off, but the convoluted logic drives me crazy.

Posted by: chinesebones | July 21, 2006 11:34 AM

I'm right with chinesebones - I used to work with a guy who was so lazy (how lazy was he?) that he would spend 20 mins trying to find someone to do something that would take him 5 mins to do if he felt it wasn't "his job" to do it.

Posted by: Silver Spring | July 21, 2006 11:38 AM

"I don't know about you, but if a colleague called me at home at 1:30 on a Sunday to harangue me about anything I only HOPE my response would be, "can't this wait 'til tomorrow?""

Wow, guess that just shows there are two interpretations for everything. Honestly, if this guy had just ASKED "can't this wait 'til tomorrow," I wouldn't be telling the story. My problem was that he TOLD me he'd "get to it tomorrow," because HE thought that would give me enough time to get my job done. Even then I stayed polite, until he got all snotty about the time (which, having been there for 18 hrs straight, I didn't really need pointed out to me).

"Another DC Mom" pegged it: this guy was hired to be on-call 24/7, and he was paid well for it. If you're not willing to deal with an occasional middle of the night call, then don't take a job that makes that part of your responsibilities. Yeah, grumble and b*tch all you want in private, but at least do the job. This guy flat-out refused, to my face, to help me (didn't even tell me he'd look into it at home, which he ultimately did -- just said no, he'd deal with it in the morning, and left me hanging until he called back an hour later with a solution).

And just to be clear, this was as big an emergency as a law firm can have. It wasn't some made-up internal deadline, or "the client wants it by X." This was a filing deadline for a major rule -- meaning if we didn't meet it, our papers would be trashed, our clients would have lost any right to contest the rule, and we would have been sued for malpractice (and lost). So again, you don't want to deal with that, don't take that job -- but if you do, don't turn into a smart-ass and refuse to do it just because it's inconvenient.

Posted by: Laura | July 21, 2006 11:39 AM

I'm waiting for the bosses to post about their employees wasting time on a work-life blog instead of WORKING. ;)

Posted by: Michael | July 21, 2006 11:43 AM

Some of us who are working have computers that are so slow that we have time to read while they decide to work ;-(

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 11:45 AM

My boss is right here in my office having a personal conversation with my office mate. I wish he would leave pretty soon so I can blog without the fear of getting busted. but, as of now, he thinks I'm working on a Microsoft Access project.

It's not the work you do, it's how you play the game!

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 21, 2006 11:48 AM

Oh, man, I worked with a guy who was a hoarder, too. His office was full of jars of spaghetti sauce and boxes of cereal. Once the VP came in over the weekend to clean out her office; the following Monday all the recycling bins were full of things like Korea studies from 1995 and books about the structure of Soviet defense budgets. Hoarding Guy came up to me and said, "Is she just gonna throw those out? Those are perfectly good resources!" He put every single one in his office.

He also added so many USB devices to his computer that he completely destroyed it.

After he screwed up a huge report for our most important client, the VP fired him. He begged for his job, though, and said he was willing to stay on as an intern. So that's what he did. He went from being a senior staffer to someone who reported to me (I was in my mid-20s at the time), at a $20K pay cut. Unbelievable.

Posted by: Lizzie | July 21, 2006 11:51 AM

Dress code. Good thing!

Yeah, it means work clothes are a bit like "uniforms", but they serve the same purpose that school uniforms do - they make it easier for everyone to fit in and concentrate on work.

Still, codes are difficult to enforce when it down comes down to details and "letter of the law".

One of our most intelligent, productive, and personable employees apparently could not keep up with her laundry. Her clothes sometimes smelled bad, looked rumpled, even rather dirty, and she often wore the same outfit repeatedly. This topic was addressed with her several times and she always made a good effort for awhile. She would made apologies with excuses about her washing machine being broken, or the scent from her cats climbing on her, or water problems in her old house pipes, etc.

She could not really be fired for this "offense" (pun intended) but she did not get any raises or promotions, either, and eventually quit because she was getting married! We liked her but we were all relieved.

Posted by: granny | July 21, 2006 11:51 AM

To 11:09 am, it sounded as if it was that person's job to be on call. The person responded to a page. If I were not on call, I certainly would not be responding to work pages at 1:30 in the morning. Some people are on call because sometimes work requires that someone be available.

Posted by: Another DC Mom | July 21, 2006 11:54 AM

Perfect timing, just yesterday one of the summer interns asked me "Where do we go so we can sleep?". I had ask her what she meant and she replied "like if we want to go take a nap where do we go?".

I work for a government research lab, I know gov. workers have a reputation for sloth but this seemed a bit worse than normal

Posted by: sten | July 21, 2006 11:57 AM

Thought this would've come up already.....bathroom etiquette or lack thereof. We had a lady who would make sounds as if she was in pain while in the stall next to you. Also would were sweatpant/stirrup like pants and had bedhead almost every day.

Another doosy is the IOR (in office retiree) that sleeps at his desk with one hand on the mouse and when you turn the corner to ask him a question, shakes free from his dream and acts like he's working on something. He also sleeps through most meetings. It's pretty bad!

Scarry-it's her cube-no big deal. If people are offended that's there problem. How you do know what will offend others? Maybe the NASCAR poster down the hall is offensive to me. People need to get a little tougher.

Posted by: Lou | July 21, 2006 12:00 PM

My pet peeve, and I am dealing with it currently, are employees who feel they are entitled to a paycheck and have to do nothing to earn it. And I work in a field that pays large salaries! I once sat next to a woman that spent all day, every day, on the phone making personal phone calls. She called each of her kids, grandkids and friends each day to chat. She, rightfully, was eventually fired. I now have a coworker that spends all day surfing the internet and playing games, and making personal phone calls (on his cell phone, so it can't be traced). Unfortunately, this guy is intelligent and a master of BS, so he has the boss totally snowed. He always has an excuse for why his assignments aren't done, or he manages to delay enough that the other team members get stuck doing them. He has the boss totally convinced he is wonderful, and she has even handed him a non-compete promotion! How do these people look themselves in the mirror knowing they are bilking the company?

Posted by: CJB | July 21, 2006 12:01 PM

oops-wear and their....it's been a long week.

Posted by: Lou | July 21, 2006 12:03 PM

>>>Flip-flops at work are ghetto. Get over it.

Hey, I'm from the ghetto, and it isn't us. Go blame the suburban slackers ;-)

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 12:04 PM

I have never understood how some people "know" that their coworkers are surfing the internet for hours at a time. Do you stand behind them with a stopwatch all day and time them? And isn't that just 2 workers wasting time instead of one? Mind you own business people, you'll live longer.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 12:05 PM

I once had a co-worker with fly-killing perfume. She used to bathe in it.

Posted by: Miscellaneous | July 21, 2006 12:07 PM

Many of today's posts are about young people being clueless about work wardrobe. Maybe no one has bothered to teach them.

One of my sons attended an expensive, selective, small college where he got a great education. This education luckily included some "finishing touches" - the seniors were taught how to dress, interview, write a resume, eat and act at a business or other formal meal, make introductions, engage in conversation using good listening skills as well as speaking, write thank you and follow-up notes, etc.

This was not 100 years ago - just a few years ago! It works well. Maybe finishing schools could make a come-back!

Posted by: granny | July 21, 2006 12:08 PM

"...and left me hanging until he called back an hour later with a solution."

Hmm... So he DID do the job, and within an hour no-less? That sounds entirely within the range of acceptability to me. What's the problem? That he was grumpy about it? That you were grumpy? I'd be grumpy if I was working around the clock on a weekend too.

But how did this profoundly unbalanced situation arise in the first place? Did a judge not allow enough time for the papers to be filed? If so, why didn't you petition for more? And if you did, and it was refused why didn't the powers that be at your laws firm throw more resources at the problem so it could be resolved during reasonable business hours?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 12:09 PM

One guy in my office has covered his walls with pictures of almost naked men (and what grosses me out even more is his pictures of Prince William and Prince Harry (children). He also uses a cup that says "I am the queen" on it at staff meetings. Once, he asked to scan a photo of himself in drag (which was apparently taken on a vacation cruise). I think it's a little over the top for a professional setting.

Posted by: in the government | July 21, 2006 12:09 PM

I had a co-worker who spent about 6 hours of her "working" day, every day, on personal phone calls. Everything that happened, every thought she had, she would call her mom and at least 3 other people and share it with them. Loudly. She could be heard through the walls. People on the other end of the phone would ask me what was going on, because they could hear her. Everyone complained, but the Dept. head refused to do anything about it, because she couldn't stand any confrontation. The most she would do was send out an e-mail asking everyone to keep their voices down. For some reason it wouldn't have been "appropriate" to single out the loud talker.

The loud person also refused to do any work on Fridays. If asked to do something, she would say, "I make sure I get all my work done by Thursday so I can relax on Friday." So the rest of us would scramble while she read a magazine.

Another co-worker (at the same place) refused to use e-mail. So if you sent her work via e-mail, it wouldn't get done. And it was not her fault, it was the fault of the requestor, because we were all supposed to hunt her down and give it to her in person. She spent at least 20 minutes our of every hour on a smoke break. She would refuse to talk to you about a job if she felt she had been "interupted." Anytime there was a change in the way we did something, she would say "We never did it that way before" and refuse to do it. The Dept. Head (same one as above) said she couldn't do anything about this person because she was "close" to retirement (4 years away when I started) and too "set in her ways."

Posted by: Hated it | July 21, 2006 12:13 PM

This was years ago. Our law firm hired the daughter of a client as a summer associate, who was attending a New York City law school. She seemed nice, dressed well, and was intelligent. However, she never used deodorant, and you could tell, quite a while later, when she had walked down a corridor.

Posted by: Legal Secretary | July 21, 2006 12:14 PM

I currently work in a cubicle next to a woman whose mouth never -- absolutely NEVER -- stops flapping. She wears one of those headsets so she can be on personal phone calls all day long and still look like she's working. Her voice is like a fog horn and everybody can hear her discussing personal things, talking baby talk to her grandchildren. She also has pictures all every relative and person she's ever met in her entire life in her cubicle, framed prom photos, baby picutres, nephews, neices, Got-children, the whole litter. I can understand making your cube comfortable but to bring in all those personal pictures is a little too much, not to mention taking up valuable work space.

Posted by: Northwest DC again... | July 21, 2006 12:15 PM

What is it with all the law people having examples of bad-smelling-women in the workplace? I have a lawyer friend (female) who has the same stories. I can honestly say I have never run into a bad-smelling women outside these stories, or the gym.

Is it something about the legal profession?

Posted by: Confused | July 21, 2006 12:22 PM

". . . why didn't the powers that be at your laws firm throw more resources at the problem so it could be resolved during reasonable business hours?"

Big problems that require long hours happen in law firms. That is why they have the bad reputation they do for requiring people to work crazy hours. This is also how they make a lot of money, working associates long hours. Both the attorney and the IT person knew where they were working and the nature of the work. Her point was that the IT person refused to do his job in a crisis situation, the kind of situation that apparently justified his good pay. The fact that he left her hanging for an hour and then called back with a solution does not absolve him. If he said, "I will see what I can do, I'll call you back within the hour," she sounds as if she would have been fine. He did not do that. He was a jerk, that is why his story is here.

Posted by: Another DC Mom | July 21, 2006 12:23 PM

"Many of today's posts are about young people being clueless about work wardrobe. Maybe no one has bothered to teach them."

I agree with this comment. I've had to learn by example and I just make a note of what others are wearing, then adjust accordingly. Though I work in a professional field, most of the offices in which I've worked have had very lax dress codes, if at all, to the extent that I was beginning to think flip-flops were okay, myself, since I've seen them worn in every office I've worked in over the last five years.

Apparently not. But though it may sound silly to some of you, with workplaces becoming less conservative, setting boundaries and limits about things that may have previously seemed ridiculous (tank tops, body piercings, flip-flops) seems more necessary now, especially in offices with no specific dress code in place. Being catty about what someone is wearing is counterproductive, especially when he or she may have no clue that they're transgressing what is often an unspoken, cultural standard.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 12:24 PM

I can read and comment on this blog because I have two solid months OFF! I don't care how much money I don't make--TWO MONTHS OFF! ( and I still get paid)

All of the employees at my school are great. I love my boss, the kids, the other teachers. I wish I had a 'uniform' of sorts besides the one I wear, because clothes shopping is not fun for me. I am a little like Mr. Rogers --I have 15 white shirts and one red sweater. I used to wear all black but it scared some of the kids.

Posted by: parttimer | July 21, 2006 12:25 PM

Shew, the boss is finally gone. Before he left, I asked him a question about the database I'm working on. He was glad to answer. What a great boss!

As far as office attire goes, I go to work wearing just my underwear and wife-beaters.

Telecommuting is great.

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 21, 2006 12:27 PM

Hilarious stories, thank you all.

No idea why flip-flops are so annoying at work but they just are.

Posted by: Leslie | July 21, 2006 12:28 PM

"if we want to go take a nap where do we go?".

I usually try to find a meeting to go to.

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 21, 2006 12:34 PM

"...and left me hanging until he called back an hour later with a solution."

'Hmm... So he DID do the job, and within an hour no-less? That sounds entirely within the range of acceptability to me. What's the problem?'

sounds like maybe you've never worked with attorneys or IT people!

Posted by: experienced mom | July 21, 2006 12:37 PM

Wow, there are some pretty gross things posted here today...

As for office attire...I was in for a complete culture shock when I left the WDC area and moved to Arizona. People here believe that flip flops are presentable anywhere, including the office. And tank tops. And shorts.

However, our agency has a stricter dress code than most. We're okay with business casual (skirts and blouses) in the summer (it reached 113 yesterday) and suits the rest of the year.

I'll be in Baltimore on business next week and visiting NoVa, so I am thrilled to be back, even if only for a week!

Posted by: single western mom | July 21, 2006 12:39 PM

"Another co-worker (at the same place) refused to use e-mail. So if you sent her work via e-mail, it wouldn't get done."

I used to work with one of these but she also refused to listen to her voicemail in a timely fashion and didn't think it was her place to know what was on our website even though she was the person who handled answering questions about what was on the website. She told us she was just too busy doing HER job. A coworker and I had both held the position prior and we had always gotten the job done with time to spare. One of us was also responsible for doing her job when she was away and we always did twice the business on those days. And, becuase it took her so long to do her job she was approved to get extra pay for extra time. Too bad we couldn't deduct the time on the phone she used to tell her teenage daughters and her husband what to do everyday and all the PTA functions she perfomed while working.

Posted by: In the Midwest | July 21, 2006 12:39 PM

To those who think attire in the office is superficial---what one wears says a lot about you as a person and how seriously you take your job. I work in the medical profession and we had a physician who would wear short tops that bared her midriff, pants that she got in the Junior department (she was in her mid-30s at the time) and wore open toe shoes in the ER (a hazard). She was constantly flirting with the male employees and making a big fool of herself.

At the same workplace we had a couple of back stabbing jerks. One would tell lies about other employees to boost himself up. He would obviously treat white patients better than black patients and the African American staff complained about this a lot. I don't know if he realized that EVERYONE thinks he's a jackass.

I was a recently a supervisor of a group of physicians and I couldn't believe how unprofessional some would be. A group would come late all the time to their shifts. I sent a polite e-mail reminding them why it is important to come on time (to relieve their colleagues, so we could open another section of the ER, etc). At the next meeting, I was accused of causing "bad morale" when I sent that e-mail. I told them that coming late causes bad morale. Can you believe the transgressors complained about being asked to do their jobs?

And I had an employee who was in the army reserves. She told me she was being deployed. I asked for a copy of her deployment letter from her commanding officer so that I can make sure she gets the leave and gets paid. She was very angry with me and didn't provide a letter. Instead she told me 5 days before the supposed date that the deployment was cancelled (those things almost never happen). This messed up the schedule for the entire group. Obviously she lied. This same person thought that she could dictate her schedule based on her child care issues. She had 8-5 day care, had a husband who was also an ED physician and worked shifts at night. I told her that the department could not bend to her schedule, it was not fair. I gently explained to her that the rest of us have nannies. She began to tell others in the department that her childcare was none of my business and who was I to tell her this and that... I told her it was my business when her childcare was preventing her from doing her job in a professional manner.

We had even another employee who on more than one occasion made sexual comments to patients. I had to let him go (a whole big to do with HR). Some in our group were angry with me for letting him go. Can you believe that?

And I also worked with another physician who was a complete pervert. He would send dirty e-mails to people, make sexual comments to staff, took a shower at work and then stood naked in front of staff members, etc. HR knew about this, but he was allowed to keep his job. He has created a hostile workplace and many have left because of him. The rumor is that management was afraid of lawsuits and if they fired him would be admitting wrong-doing.

Posted by: Hey this topic was sort of my idea | July 21, 2006 12:46 PM

The one who said something about lawnmowers early in the morning is so right on. Someone mentioned they couldn't understand what the big deal is. Common courtesy in this country is you don't make a lot of noise before 9am and you stop at 9pm. It's like with phone calls, too. Young people are so clueless about these general rules of courtesy that they are flabbergasted when you mention them. I suppose we should blame a generation of parents on this, a generation who grew up in times when selfishness was no longer considered a character flaw. Sigh.

As for the person who said they need to teach how to dress in college, you make me sad. You go to college for an education, not a job. Universities are centers of knowledge. They are not babysitters. What is wrong with your parents that they could not teach you how to dress yourselves?

Posted by: Ann | July 21, 2006 12:51 PM

Sorry it's not her cube, it belongs to the company and Nascar doesn't equate to religion. And I know it offended people because people told me so, everyone is not a Christian, or for that matter believes in God.

I am a democrat, but I don't put campaign flyers all over my cube, religion and politics shouldn't mix at work, especially the non-profit where I work. We are neutral in politics and religion. Part of being an intern is learning what is appropriate and what is not, small bookmark citing a scripture or a calendar appropriate. Large poster board with scripture throughout cube where it is visible to the whole company is not.

Posted by: scarry | July 21, 2006 12:52 PM

Another DC Mom, once again, you've hit it dead on. If he'd just said, "give me an hour, let me see what I can do from here," I'd have gone into the Office Manager's office Monday AM praising him for his responsiveness.

Why did it happen? Because rules have short deadlines for comments, and the agency refused to move this one back. Because the client and the partner kept revising the documents and providing more information and raising more issues. Because I was the low person on the totem pole and sh*t flows downhill. It's kinda what happens sometimes in this job -- not a lot at my firm, thank God (witness my time on this blog today!), but when it does, everyone has to do what's necessary to get it done, without complaint (except for the inevitable b*tching over a beer afterwards).

Posted by: Laura | July 21, 2006 12:55 PM

My husband related this story to me.

He worked in a military association as a writer for their magazine. In the office, the highest-ranking guy had this secretary who was a horror. She was allowed to be because the boss liked her and they had worked together for year.

One day the entire office gets a memo telling them to stop wearing cologne. Apparently the secretary had "a hightened sense of smell." A few days later, there was another memo about reheating fish or bringing in fish for lunch. Apparently the smell of cooking fish was also very unpleasant for this woman. The last memo my husband received before he left was a memo detailing the types of deodorants that were "too strong" to use in the office.

A story that comes from another friend: She worked in an office with a middle-aged woman who my friend said smelled really bad. My friend had the cube next to this woman's and said that the smell made her lose her appetite on most days. My friend eventually brought it up with the boss who talked with the woman about it. It turns out that she was incontinent from her last pregnancy and birth. My friend was a little ashamed to say the least.

Posted by: Meesh | July 21, 2006 1:02 PM

"What is wrong with your parents that they could not teach you how to dress yourselves?"

Let's see...My mother (who was widowed when I was only six), only went to the eighth grade and I was first generation college out of a very, small appalachian town. She didn't believe in me going to college in the first place mostly becuase we didn't have money. She did other peoples laundry, cleaning and childcare for a living. But getting scholarships I was able to go. Do you think I learned anything about the business world from her or my community? I am 30 something and I'm still learning. I really wish colleges and even high schools would teach more about going out in the world. I'm sure it is the same in inner-city locales as well as the very rural places. I was at least lucky enough to learn some common sense and good manners from her. And, on a funny note, when she saw the other students at my college she said to me "I will never complain about you wear again."

Posted by: Dlyn | July 21, 2006 1:02 PM

Now I know this doesn't really count, considering I'm only in high school, but I have a project-partner horror story that will
bring back all your bad memories!!

I had to work in an assigned group with three girls and two guys (one of the guys being me). The other girls and the guy were all okay, the girls were actually really productive and thoughtful, but the last girl was a pure brat. She got into serious personal arguements and insulted people on sensitive issues over project problems. It all came to a head when the groups had to work together to close a "trade deal" (I'll leave it at that). She proposed a deal that was horrifying to think of, because other than a couple of good aspects it would devastate everybody involved. Besides her, I was the only group member at this little conference. When I protested, she told me that I should "be quiet, this isn't real life". ("Our bad grade will be", I wanted to tell her). Finally, after being ignored and talked over for about 10 minutes, I lost it: "Would you shut up and listen?!". Naturally, her dignity was hurt by my senseless and meanie-bo-beanie remark. The next time I tried to talk to her, she puckered her face, like she was going to cry, and waved me away, saying "I hate you!"

This girl was sixteen.

Our group wasn't able to stop her in time. All we could do was lecture her on the consequences of what she had done. I was really angry, because I realized that all those midnight bedtimes I had suffered for this project meant nothing. My favorite teacher gave me a C. Way below normal for me or my groupmates. Of course, the last I heard of her, my uncooperativeness cost our otherwise wonderful group a good grade.

Hey, just cause we're kids doesn't mean we don't have idiots for partners!

Posted by: chris | July 21, 2006 1:04 PM

I have had four separate people advise me that my sister is known at work as the "Bch from Hell" . How silly to think while growing up that I was the the only one to have to put up with her....

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 1:09 PM

"What is wrong with your parents that they could not teach you how to dress yourselves?"

My parents did not attend college. They work blue/pink-collar jobs in a very small town with only a Wal-Mart for their clothing needs. Neither of them have ever filled out an application for a job. My father is self-employed, and my mother has received her employment from word-of-mouth and one-time interviews. Neither of my parents have ever prepared a resume, neither own a suit, and neither have ever held a job with a dress code.

In spite of all of this, they've taught me a lot of things, but apparently there's "something wrong with them" for being unable to teach me about the fine nuances of proper business/casual attire. I'm learning a lot today!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 1:12 PM

How's this for a devil employee:
She shows up late consistently, then has to wander around the building chatting. Late morning, she'll squeeze maybe 30-45 minutes or work in, then take a long lunch. After lunch, she makes the rounds to gossip again. If time permits, then comes another 30-45 minutes of work. Finally, she leaves work early to "beat traffic".

Why is she still working her? She files EEO and other official complaints on a regular basis. Her bosses are or have been recently tied up, trying to get their names cleared of the charges and are reluctant to challenge her in case she files more charges.

This employee recently has been complaining that she hasn't received a grade increase (promotion) in a long, long time. She says that a grade increase might inspire her to try and work harder. How sad is that?

Posted by: Sally | July 21, 2006 1:15 PM

I really don't see what the big deal is about dress at work, unless someone is wearing something disgusting (e.g. fat person wearing tight clothes with skin showing).

These hyperconservative people need to leave their uptight views at home. I personally find it refreshing to see people (women especially) dressed to kill. It's a welcome distraction from the boring day to day routine, and unless you have hyperconservative customers coming in and out all the time, I just don't see what the big deal is... bring it on girls!

Posted by: Happy guy | July 21, 2006 1:16 PM

HA! My situation is similar to Dlyn's. My mother also was from an Appalachian town and did not go to college. If I followed my mother's fashion sense, I would be wearing blue eye shadow. Good grief, she wore bright red to her mother's funeral...as did her sister.

When I was in college, I had a boss who was a tough mentor (much like Miranda Priestly in Devil Wears Prada), but I did learn a great deal from her, including how to dress for success.

The boss was applying for a PhD program, and I had to copy her college transcripts for her. I saw that she failed ethics...not surprising. She asked me if I would work on her doctoral dissertation for her (NOT kidding here). I had ghostwritten several journal articles under her name, getting paid $6/hour, and she would collect upwards of $500 for my work. I was a college student on financial aid, and on top of her salary, she had a trust fund.

I also learned what I did not want to be when I grew up : )

Posted by: single western mom | July 21, 2006 1:16 PM

Employees who chew with their mouths wide open during client lunches. Yuk.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 1:16 PM

This person works with my sister in private industry:

A woman received permission to "telecommute" three days per week. She dutifully would carry a laptop home with her. About six months into her "telecommuting", she had her annual review with her boss. He asked her how the telecommunting was going and she told him how productive she was working from home. She didn't realize, though, that the boss had found out she hadn't done a single thing. It turns out that when you dial into the work computer system remotely, you need a different password than the one you use from your desk. The IT department had called her boss just before the six month point to ask why the "telecommuter" had never requested either the dial in number or the external password.

This woman did, actually, get fired.

Posted by: Sally | July 21, 2006 1:19 PM

"If I followed my mother's fashion sense, I would be wearing blue eye shadow."

Hey, ya'll what's wrong with that. I luv blue eyeshadow, flip-flops, and showing lots of cleavage. People don't understand me. I'm country.

Posted by: Britney | July 21, 2006 1:21 PM

Most, if not all, of the career centers in colleges have specific advice on proper business attire, resume presentation, general office etiquette and even "manners." These range from checklists, to brochures, etc. Most career center directors, I am sure, would be more than happy to sit down (or have someone sit down) for a half hour with someone to provide tips in any of these areas--it is their JOB to make sure that companies that hire graduates are pleased with their decision to do so.

No one expects a fresh-from-college person to be perfect, or to have a super-extensive wardrobe that runs the gamut from "Friday casual" to "business casual" to "semi formal". But for a pending college graduate (and fully adult human being) not to take an hour or two to avail themselves of at least some (free!) basic knowledge and preparedness for the workplace is not excusable, whether you come from a one-Wal Mart town or Park Avenue.

Posted by: Grow Up | July 21, 2006 1:24 PM

And three cheers for father of 4. I wish I could telecommute from school. I could sit around drinking soda in my boxers. Awesome, dude.

Posted by: chris | July 21, 2006 1:24 PM

Our receptionist is out of the office so often, the organization hired a permanent backup to man the front desk. The receptionist apparently has diabetes and stuffs herself on an occasional Sunday so she can go to the hospital and have an excuse to miss work for extended periods of time. She is always eating at work, and if we have cake, she'll eat it even though she isn't supposed to.

Posted by: Jane | July 21, 2006 1:24 PM

And three cheers for father of 4. I wish I could telecommute from school. I could sit around drinking soda in my boxers. Awesome, dude.

Posted by: chris | July 21, 2006 1:25 PM

Grow up,

Amen to that! There used to be a little something called common sense. Apparently, though, sense is not so common anymore.

Posted by: Thomas Paine | July 21, 2006 1:28 PM

"Most, if not all, of the career centers in colleges have specific advice on proper business attire, resume presentation, general office etiquette and even "manners.""

You're exactly right. My college did as well. I learned what color blouse to wear with what color suit and that women must always wear hose with their skirt suits.

This doesn't particularly help those in a casual office with a lax dress code, which is what seems to be the source of question. I think most people can figure out what "business attire" means. It's "Casual Friday" that leaves a lot to be questioned.

Opinions on flip-flops, capri pants, visible body piercings, and casual dress codes seem to be very office and employer-specific, to me.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 1:29 PM

Not all IT people are on call 24/7, and even for those of us who are, we're on call for system issues. I've never worked anyplace where desktop support was on call 24/7.

If Laura's PC did not regain functionality in her time of crisis, that's one thing, and a necessary call. Restoring a file that she and her colleague were too computer illiterate to save (2 hours work lost!) every few minutes, that's just an ID-10T error (spell it out). So is not knowing how to retrieve files on your own. Both things are as basic as they get.

You answer ALL pages (although it sounded as if this were a call) because you don't know which are important.

Obviously you were feeling put out by the hours you were putting in on the documents, the possibility of losing one, the time . . . you have (1) no idea how many hours that tech had put in (2) how "well-paid" he actually was. Desktop doesn't pay well. (3) whether your file emergency was something he was required to cover--it's very possible he was doing his job, and all the anger over his "failure" is speculative.

That said, someone at my company would have covered you too, and an hour is very reasonable. If you'd called me, I would have helped even though it's NOT MY JOB! I have helped our business colleagues in similar situations. However, they'd also have the grace to send nice e-mail to my boss and shower me with chocolate the next day, because they'd admit they had a hand in creating their problem.

Posted by: IT Vet | July 21, 2006 1:31 PM

Wow. If the worst employee you've ever come across achieved that title by wearing flip-flops to work, consider yourself blessed!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 1:39 PM

I had a young lady, a single mother, who liked to take advantage of our "unlimited" sick leave policy. Every other weekend, either Friday or (usually)Monday, either she was "sick" or the "baby is sick". Unfortunately for her, I knew all of her friends in the office and I heard how she'd spend most weekends partying it up with them (leaving her daughter with Grandma)and was actually too hungover to be bothered with work on Monday. To top things off, she would get my bosses admin to change the hours on her timesheets from sick leave or vacation after I'd signed off on them, to regular time before my supervisor signed them. As a federal contractor that could have gotten our entire project shut down, but apparently she didn't care.

In an ironic twist, a former coworker of hers whom she'd had several noteable run-ins with, and who knew all about her little scams became her new supervisor after I left. She was fired within a month.

Posted by: TR | July 21, 2006 1:41 PM

This may sound strange, but I've heard of an employee from a family member who sued for sexual harrassment on absolutely no grounds - just to flatter her own ego! Talk about crazy! :) Of course, she lost the lawsuit.

Country fashion is just fine with me. Good makeup is okay, although "single western mom"'s story about her mother's makeup us is really funny. And for people who are finding out the rules of fashion, why just today I got told off for not wearing formal clothes to a company sponsored intern tour of the White House. As it turned out, the other interns were the only ones wearing formal clothes. Ha ha!

Anyway, don't worry about attire. Worry about performance. I mean, George Bush always dresses well, and... well, we all wish he'd perform a little better!

Posted by: chris | July 21, 2006 1:44 PM

Re. professional clothing: it shows that you put time, effort, and money into the way you look. It's a signal that you give a crap about where you're working and what you're doing.

I'm 23, and I will generally wear jeans and wrinkled, faded, worn-out t-shirts when I'm not at work - and I'll wear flip-flops, too, sometimes. But when I'm at work? No way. Unless it's an employee picnic or something, there's no excuse for looking like you just rolled out of bed.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 1:45 PM

Alas, I should know better than to engage in conversation about work/life balance with a buch of lawyers! Yet I continue on...

• experienced mom wrote: "sounds like maybe you've never worked with attorneys or IT people!"

Yes, this is true (how'd you guess?) Although I live with (and love) an IT person. My general take on IT people is that they get into their particular line of work becasue they LOVE interacting with computers. Their social skills may be fair to middling. And (again, generally) they may care little to none about the end product or service that their employer provides.

• Another DC Mom wrote: " He was a jerk, that is why his story is here."

Hmm... we're getting a one-sided story here. Although Laura claims she made her request sweetly it's possible (even likely) that the IT person bearing the brunt of her ire remembers the story differently. My guess is that for a number of reasons this was an extremely frustrating weekend for everyone involved. And I propose that it was easier for Laura to take her frustration out on a relatively powerless IT guy than on the person or people responsible for creating her frustrating situation in the first place.

Ultimately, the IT person responded within an hour and got the job done. And probably without any more attitude than any self-respecting lawyer would feel comfortable expressing on a daily basis

Whenever we as workers say "Yes, all-nighters are OK with me" we train our employers to expect them of us. And (hopefully) whenever we say "No, I can't work 18 hours on Saturday and Sunday" our employers or managers or whoever is in charge of work flow will learn to plan accordingly.

It's risky to push for work/life balance in a competetive hiring climate. But when you push for what you want and get it, it's wonderful!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 1:47 PM

I had an employee tell me he was stepping out to go get some cigarettes. That was in 1988. He still hasn't come back to work.

Posted by: KP | July 21, 2006 1:47 PM

[I wish I could telecommute from school.]

Chris, if I notice that my kids are getting swamped with homework at school, I have no problem giving them permission to take a "work from home" day.

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 21, 2006 1:49 PM

A long time ago I had an employee who seemed to be chronically ill -- always about 2 hours late for work; lots of stomach aches, etc, so had to leave early more days than not. She knew the HR policies backwards and forewards, and was potentially litigious. I figured she really only worked about 50% time give all of her illnesses. After consulting with our HR director, I called her in and discussed the possibility of our examining her suitability for consideration under the Americans with Disability Act -- we should not expect her to work full time if her health did not enable her to do so; that we could evaluate a position at less than 100% time expected (in our organization, she could still keep her benefits if more than 60% time). She huffed and puffed and insisted that she was not sick. The very next day, she submitted her resignation. Never heard from her again.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 1:52 PM

In my last job, I worked with a group of very dedicated and professional co-workers on a technical project. At one point, we were handed a sheet of paper with the company's "Official Rules" on them. We were ammused to find out that some people had to be told not to drink at work or come in to work drunk, to notify their supervisor if they were going to be out on a regular workday, and not to sleep on the job. We were puzzled by the rule that we were not allowed to leave the work site without permission, though, since people in our group routinely worked from home and traveled on business. Our supervisor, who was a flexible guy with a sense of humor, then told us that our "work site" was the continental US!

I've heard that a few workplaces do have "nap rooms" where employees can go catch a few winks if they need to. I wish this was more widespread. ;)

Posted by: Nap Time | July 21, 2006 1:52 PM

Hey, Britney! Smell my face!

Posted by: eitm | July 21, 2006 1:53 PM

IT VET, has it occurred to you that maybe, just maybe, you do not actually know the specifics of Laura's situation because YOU DON'T WORK THERE! And not every situation is the same. You know what happens in your world, not hers. Bugger off.

Posted by: hey | July 21, 2006 1:54 PM

and anonymous who said, "we're getting a one-sided story here" DUH! That's true for every single story here.

Posted by: hey | July 21, 2006 1:55 PM

I am really miffed - most of you are on the East Coast with access to actual shopping and still it looks like people cannot dress professionally. Try to shop in Albuquerque where the "nice" suit shop is Dillard's. And shoes? Flip flops would actually be preferable to the "hooker shoes" I see women wearing - women who are attorneys and otherwise generally dressed professionally. That being said, it explains why we have a dress code. However, capri pants are not permitted but stirrup pants are. Go figure.

Posted by: Albuquerque | July 21, 2006 1:57 PM

I worked with a team of all women. At a fairly young age I was promoted above my colleagues, who were all older by 5 to 20 years, to a new management position that had been created with my team. They all congratulated me on my new position. All except one that is. In this new position, part of my role was supposed to be to hand out assignments to everyone else as work came in. The first assignment I gave her - which I did much later than I gave something to everyone else - she went running to my boss, and the rule IMMEDIATELY got changed to me having to bring all assignments to the weekly meeting to ask who could do them rather than just doling them out as it had always been done. This was all just a game for her benefit, since I still gave assignments to everyone else outsidethe weekly meeting and nothing was ever said about it. In fact, sometimes the boss would just say, oh just ask so-and-so to do that (never the devil so-and-so though!). This all could have been understandable if she was a great employee and good at her job. As it was, she rarely turned in assignments on time, did what she wanted to do rather than working toward fulfilling the team goals, used her "single-mother" status to skip out on work early or take very long phone calls (sometimes lasting hours) at work about her children, and once even had the audacity to not show up for two weeks while the boss was on vacation and she didn't even have any vacation time to use. No one had a clue where she was - even HR was asking!

She has stayed in the same place (that I think was awful for other reasons as well) but I got out and went on to something even better - my own personal revenge. She is the reason, though, that I have begun to concur with other childless employees who complain about unfair treatment.

Posted by: Professional Learner | July 21, 2006 2:06 PM

Come to Silicon Valley. You uptight east coasters will get over your flip flop hate quickly here!

Posted by: andrew | July 21, 2006 2:06 PM

I recall explaining to our very intelligent, accomplished IT guy that yes, the client is an idiot, but please don't tell him so again, as the client pays the bill and that pays for our salaries.
Takes all kinds!

Posted by: experienced mom | July 21, 2006 2:07 PM

As a computer programmer/specialist, I have to admit that I secretly get intense satisfaction out of having a lawyer or attorney plead, whine, grovel, beg and bribe me for my computer expertise. Especially when it comes down to me saving their ass. (not that there's anything wrong with a lawyer that pleads, whines, grovels, begs and bribes.)

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 21, 2006 2:07 PM

Father of 4 wrote:
As a computer programmer/specialist, I have to admit that I secretly get intense satisfaction out of having a lawyer or attorney plead, whine, grovel, beg and bribe me for my computer expertis.

Indeed! Until you discover you've been fired for insubordination...

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 2:10 PM

To Lizzie:

Formal or nearly formal businesswear is comfortable? What planet do you live on? What do you smoke? Can I have some, please!!
Perhaps it is the case that formal businesswear is comfortable for women--certainly they can get away with more, clothes-wise [meaning that they can get away with wearing less and showing more; a guy who showed off his 'girls' would be taken to the looney bin]. However, I kinda doubt it, from the complaints that my wife makes on the subject.
But there is no way in or on god's green earth that a suit and tie are comfortable. Me, I tend to think that nooses should be for convicted criminals and Republicans, not the workplace. And the idea of wearing a heavy jacket in sweltering weather like what we are having now is simply stupid.

On another note, I would agree that the IT person who was on call shouldn't have copped an attitude and should have acted more professionally. [Although some latitude should have been given, considering the time]

All of my experiences have already been dealt with, more or less--I have seen a lot of the two on one female dynamic, and been the victim of a two [or three] women against one guy. Not good.

Posted by: Richard | July 21, 2006 2:11 PM

I grew up without much means and I don't believe you can't figure out what works in a business environment before somebody screams at you about it -- especially if you are a male.

Are you saying you never saw a TV show that was set in an office?

Was there a church in your town? If you're a guy, the dress code is pretty much the same (unless you're catholic, I think).

What did other guys wear to weddings / funerals where you were growing up?

What did you wear to high school graduation?

Give me a break. If you were smart enough to change your surroundings, you probably spent some amount of time figuring out what the greener pastures looked like.

Posted by: C'mon | July 21, 2006 2:12 PM

My best direct-report story was a summer intern who was the grandson of the CEO of the (small) company. He spent a few desultory hours pretending to work on the makework project I gave him the first week. The second he played video games. The third I walked in on him masturbating. After that day he never actually really showed up again and I have to say I was kind of grateful I didn't have to use the speech I'd prepared overnight.

Posted by: Shandra | July 21, 2006 2:20 PM

I once worked for a small think tank. The executive assistant has some kind of unnamed mental disorder, and the president for whatever reason appeared not to notice. She would take note of the staff's arrival time, length of lunches, departure times, etc. She reported the VP for leaving early (he had negotiated a schedule with an unusually early start and end time each day to accomodate his family's needs with a new baby when he was hired). This woman also spread false rumors, "befriended" younger colleagues to acquire more information to spread around. When the group hired junior administrative assistants, she was supposed to train them, but somehow, they all were - to her mind - incompetent, and we went through about four assistants in an 11 month period.

On one occaision, a computer was stolen from the office, and she actually asked me(in front of collegaues)if I had stolen it! I had not, and I wondered what could be going on in her mind to think to accuse me. (The computer was later found to have been taken by a member of the cleaning service.)

I wondered why this woman was not let go, but eventually came to suspect that she was having an affair with the center's president.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 2:22 PM

"But there is no way in or on god's green earth that a suit and tie are comfortable."

My husband disagrees with you. He is a public school teacher and wears a shirt and tie every day. No one else in his school dresses up as much as he does; he does it because he takes his job seriously, thinks his kids are worth dressing up for, and chooses his clothes extremely carefully so they're not uncomfortable.

As do I. Neither of us have all that many work clothes, but what we do have is high-quality, well-tailored, and comfortable. I've got one pair of extremely elegant black slacks that are probably the most comfortable item of clothing I own. Second-most comfortable would be my black cashmere skirt suit.

It can be done. It's not even that hard. I know that very few (straight) men pay the kind of attention to their clothes that my husband does, though.

I don't know where women get uncomfortable business clothes or why they - or anyone - would wear uncomfortable business clothes. If something isn't comfortable, keep looking. You might spend a little more time building your wardrobe, but it's worth it.

Posted by: Lizzie | July 21, 2006 2:24 PM

I think part of what IT Vet and others are missing about Laura's story has to do with big firm culture. It's not only that everyone is expected to be on the hook 24/7, it's also that big firms (from what I have seen) have an extremely rigid and heirarchical division of labor. Attorneys work for the clients and everyone else works for the attorneys. This makes sense from a firm economics stand point - the attorneys make money for the firm when they are billing legal work. It doesn't make sense to have them do anything else.

The brief time I worked at a big firm, we were told that we should absolutely not be doing things for ourselves that an assistant, paralegal or other staff could do - like copying, faxing, mailing, or fixing things. There were separate departments for all of these things (yes, there was a Fax Department). If Laura didn't know how to recover a file, IT Vet, it's likely not because she's an idiot, but because in her firm she's not supposed to know, because it's a waste of the firm's time for her to learn. And the IT people who work there know that too.

Not saying this is great - it's one of the reasons I don't work at a big firm now - but that's the setting in which the IT person were working. It doesn't mean the individual attorney's are all arrogant jerks (though plenty of them are), it means that's the way the firm makes money hand over fist, so everybody is expected to play along.

Posted by: Megan | July 21, 2006 2:25 PM

"Give me a break. If you were smart enough to change your surroundings, you probably spent some amount of time figuring out what the greener pastures looked like."

I'm not saying I didn't learn how to look the part but there's a lot to say on how to act the part and do proper etiquette things that one doesn't witness in their own environment especially when that enviroment doesn't value the same things as upper middle class people who seem to have better business relationships. Nice rich people are all for letting the poor folk go to school but not as encouraging at sharing their style and influence. If you haven't noticed there is a class system in our country that needs to be broken.

As far as watching TV to learn what to wear, if I wore what the TV women wear sometimes, well, I wouldn't want to have to bend over in polite company. And for what people wore to church and funerals in my hometown - you don't really want to know because that would just prove what hicks we really were.

Posted by: Dlyn | July 21, 2006 2:25 PM

In general the coworkers who listen in on phone calls or who are more interested in how you spend your time or who make comments to you about what you wear or things to that effect are my favorite. I once worked in a Congressional office (how many of you have worked in one?) -- there are generally 6-8 people crammed into one room. The woman who worked next to me used to look at the clock when I arrived in the morning or who made a comment after I got off the phone with someone about my conversation or just make rude comments to me about my life and talk about how great her life was compared to mine. I got so fed up one day that I said to her in a very loud voice, is your life so boring that you need to focus on mine?
She never bothered me again. And, the last I heard, her husband left her because she drove him crazy. There is justice in the world....

Posted by: typical working mother | July 21, 2006 2:27 PM

I had one employee who didn't come to work until 11 AM and would routinely leave at 3 PM. It didn't matter what I did, or HR did, and he had bad review after bad review. Finally I fired him. It still felt terrible.

And I can commiserate with Leslie - I've had a number of young post-grads wearing low-slung pants, camisole tops, plunging necklines (sans bras) you name it. Get a clue girls.

Posted by: Boss | July 21, 2006 2:28 PM

Yes, there are so many....

But one favorite was an intern working for me at a world-famous zoo. She was put to work writing captions for our vast photo library, which was available to publishers, etc. While pointing out her many mistakes, I noted that she had misspelled the word "lion." I told her that kind of error was unacceptable from a college-educated, would-be professional--and she wanted to know why.

Posted by: seatown | July 21, 2006 2:34 PM

IT Vet:

This string has gone on way too long. But to clarify, we knew how to save and retrieve documents (extremely unstable early Windows interface = frequent Blue Screen of Death = learn to hit save at about the end of every sentence). We tried all the regular tricks for a good 45 minutes before we called anyone (the LAST thing I wanted to do was bug someone at 1:30 AM), but the computer was fried. But even if it had been an "idiot" problem, that was still his job to cover (hey, when you choose to do tech support for lawyers. . . .).

And actually, I do know for a fact that this was his job, and that he was well-paid for it (heck, he designed the ^$@&@% system in the first place). And in the end, an hour turnaround and losing only 2 hrs work was a tremendous relief compared to what I feared -- and I made sure to tell our Office Manager that. But flat-out telling me he wouldn't do anything at all was completely unacceptable, given our line of work and his chosen position. Basically, the guy was a jackass who got his butt fired a few months later for pulling stuff like that too many times. Luckily, that system is long gone, and our current IT manager is fantastic -- very high patience threshold with Stupid Lawyer Tricks.

Posted by: Laura | July 21, 2006 2:35 PM

Sorry, Ann, but where I live (MD suburbs) the noise ordinance laws cover from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. I remember when we first moved into our house back in the early 1980s when the rest of the neighborhood was still under construction. You always knew when it was 7:00 a.m. on the dot--the construction guys all started hammering at the same exact time when the clock hit the hour, even though they were onsite before then. It was illegal for them to start with the noise prior to that time.

Posted by: oldiebutgoodie | July 21, 2006 2:38 PM

Leslie.....really? The best two stories you could share had to do with thong and flip-flops? What about using your blog (and your position of influence) to talk about something that affects women more deeply. This is just petty chit chat, and I'm disappointed that you would do this when there are so many pressing issues facing us.

Posted by: K | July 21, 2006 2:38 PM

>>

Well, I do understand that there is such a thing as mental illness. We'll just have to chalk his attitude up to that.
I suspect that there are some people who actually > to have bamboo pushed under their fingernails, or > being put into a straight-jacket.
But they are fortunately in the minority, and tend to keep quiet about their aberration. Please be kind enough not to parade your husbands'. Have a nice day.

Posted by: Richard | July 21, 2006 2:38 PM

I can understand the 'smell' issue.

In our office, we are not supposed to wear perfume or cologne of any type because the owner has severe allergies. To her credit, this is one of the first issues she mentions in the initial interview. It is easy enough for the employees to refrain. There is even a sign out front outlining this concern.

I once worked with an office mate who was sensitive to fish smells. I didn't know this until I picked up crab chowder from Whole Foods once. After she said something, I NEVER brought back fish-type food for lunch out of consideration for her.

Both situations are common courtesy.

Posted by: Stacey | July 21, 2006 2:38 PM

I know ladies will just chalk this up to me being a guy, but I recently got fitted for a tux for a buddy's wedding and they told me my neck was an inch bigger than the shirts I had been wearing. I bought 4 new shirts on the spot and lo-and-behold my work clothes are comfortable now.

They are still hot while I walk to my car though. No getting around that.

Posted by: Re: comfy clothes | July 21, 2006 2:40 PM

"[I wish I could telecommute from school.]
Chris, if I notice that my kids are getting swamped with homework at school, I have no problem giving them permission to take a "work from home" day."

That's pretty funny. My son used to be a big Lord of the Rings fan. For the first movie, we had tickets to the premiere here in DC. For movies 2 and 3, I took him out of school so he could see the first showings at 12 noon. I told his school the truth. Can you imagine: "I'm taking my son to a movie, he'll be leaving early today". For a long time I was the coolest mom amongst his friends. Sometimes even kids need a break....

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 2:40 PM

"Being catty about what someone is wearing is counterproductive, especially when he or she may have no clue that they're transgressing what is often an unspoken, cultural standard."

Why can't young people who get their first "real" jobs simply open their eyes and SEE what their co-workers are wearing? The truth is that most don't want to. They want to continue wearing their "comfortable college clothes" because they look better at the after-work happy hours. They don't want to look "conservative" or "old" or any of the other words that actually denote "professional". I get exasperated when a new intern shows up in summer wearing the basic "uniform" of short skirt, top with spaghetti straps, and flip flops. I don't even want to take them to lunch, and it's their FIRST day. You think they'd at least know to make the effort on that day. Anyway, yes, I've talked to them and given them gentle advice, but there's not much I can do if they choose not to follow it.

Posted by: Mel | July 21, 2006 2:45 PM

"Anyway, don't worry about attire. Worry about performance. I mean, George Bush always dresses well, and... well, we all wish he'd perform a little better!"

I wish he would too!

Posted by: Laura Bush | July 21, 2006 2:45 PM

To C'mon:

Did you not catch what I wrote about what my mother (and aunt) wore to my grandmother's funeral?

Yeah, I looked outside my surroundings for role models. Dlyn is correct: there is a class issue here (the NY Times did a fascinating series on class mobility last year).

I worked hard to leave my humble beginnings behind. When I first made the transition from poor to middle class, I felt like I did not belong...like I was trespassing on the middle class (not the case anymore).

And I will make sure my daughter has the wardrobe, etiquette, business contacts and every other advantage she needs to succeed. Hopefully, my daughter will only know a middle class life and never know the sort of poverty I knew as a child. It's a challenge as a single mother, but not impossible!

Posted by: single western mom | July 21, 2006 2:47 PM

IT Vet and other IT folks, pls remember that most mid-sized and large law firms use nutty case-management groupware stuff that causes more problems than it fixes.

As a IT consultant with a lawyer wife, this drives me nuts. I can't explain why her office IT issues make me lose sleep, but they do. That and my little guy who's teething. He'll be 1 year old next week and I'm considering getting him a dog. If I get the dog, so much for "balance". I won't have time to read the blog anymore I guess....

Posted by: Proud Papa | July 21, 2006 2:47 PM

Richard:

I'll wear your tie if you wear my pantyhose!!

Posted by: Stacey | July 21, 2006 2:50 PM

In my post above, I realize I'm talking mostly about girls, but it's true. The guys tend to dress more appropriately and certainly with less skin showing.

I didn't mean to say that looking professional means looking "old" either. It's just that so many young workers think that dressing well is for fuddy-duddies, and they certainly don't want to look different from all their other young pals, most of whom take pleasure in dressing poorly.

I also once had to speak to a young woman who spent entire meetings chewing, absolutely chewing, her fingernails. It was distracting, to say the least. I suggested she carry a coin or some other thing to keep her hands occupied. She didn't even seem to be aware of her bad habit.

My boyfriend had a co-worker who clipped his nails during meetings. And the boss never said a word!

Posted by: Mel | July 21, 2006 2:50 PM

I had an employee steal $1000 from my purse. I would have been happy to deal with bad clothing choices..

Posted by: Laine | July 21, 2006 2:51 PM

For single western mom - kudos for rising above (not the right term since none of us are really "above" others but I couldn't find the right word) and not forgetting where you started. The amount of work you did to get you where are is what makes you who you are. Your daughter has a good example to follow.

Posted by: KB in DC | July 21, 2006 2:53 PM

Another law firm story--In the early '80s, I worked at a firm as a secretary while taking college courses. In August 1980, with Hurricane Allen bearing down on the Texas coast, the firm decided we secretaries should work a half day to secure the office, which was near a bay, and then be allowed to leave. As we moved the sofa in one of the partners' offices away from the windows, we found boxes and boxes of ammo and some firearms underneath the sofa. The senior partner, who was helping us, went white as a sheet. Mr. Hot Shot had us gals "over a barrel" on that one; ammo boxes are heavy and it added another 30 minutes to the task. My advice is don't mess with IT, personal chefs or Texas lawyers!

Posted by: Texas mom | July 21, 2006 2:53 PM

Who carries around that kind of cash in a purse? Not to defend the thief, but that's why there are banks (or at least mattresses).

Posted by: Rockville | July 21, 2006 2:54 PM

Do I have a good one - there is a fat obese man that is a Director here at this Newport News Call Center. We'll call him Phil. He weighs close to 400 pounds (by his own admission), has no teeth, doesn't wear dentures, foul-smelling breathe, terrible body order (which I think is a mix of dried sweat and cigarette smoke combo) ... and to make matters worse, he is gay and touch-feely wanting to get close to us good-looking employees.

Ick!!

Posted by: DC Kevin | July 21, 2006 2:56 PM

Regarding behavior during meetings, I've noticed that when I am in meetings with higher-ups, they are constantly checking their blackberries. Even though there are even more senior people in the meeting. Can't people go one hour without checking their e-mail? It's hard to concentrate on what's going on when the person next to you is playing with their blackberry the entire time. (I also noticed someone using their blackberry or palm pilot or whatever during church once, but that's for a column on another day, perhaps one about letting work interfere with your weekends. But maybe that was an on-call, IT guy!)

Regarding IT at law firms - I once worked at a well-respected, large D.C. firm that had a horrible IT system. When I moved to the government, some people here were apologetic about what was here compared to what I must have been used to. They couldn't believe it was actually an improvement.

Posted by: Sam | July 21, 2006 2:59 PM

Single Western Mom I see where you are coming from. When I interviewed out of college, what was then called the "Big 6" accounting firms would not hire me even though I had a killer resume. I've always been convinced it was b/c the slick cosmopolitan biff-and-muffy types that I interviewed with looked down on my very old, ill-fitting sears jacket/slacks/tie. It's all I had access to at the time and I refused to feel bad about it.

I took a gig with what would be considered a "second-tier" shop and laughed as the SEC has busted these good-ol-boy-driven firms right in the pocket book.

I know that you and Dlyn have a point about the class issue but I have been there too. I knew what was appropriate and what wasn't even though I could not afford to wear Hugo Boss. I would never have "assumed" that sneakers were ok just because I had worn them in college.

There is a reason these jobs are called "White Collar."

Posted by: C'mon | July 21, 2006 3:05 PM

Meesh --

I actually have some sympathy for the woman who complained about the smell of deodorant, cologne and cooking fish. I have fibromyalgia, and one component of that illness is a heightened sense of smell. I can no longer be in the kitchen when someone opens a can of tuna because the odor is so overpowering as to make me sick. I can tell from across the room whether or not someone has brushed their teeth that day or smoked a cigarette. While I prefer the scent of deodorant to body odor, both just hit me like a ton of bricks, even though no one around me smells anything at all. I would never try to impose rules on my colleagues about what cosmetic products they can wear or what they can eat for lunch, but am grateful for having a private office with a window to avoid the aromatic bombardment.
Maybe your husband's colleague was just mean-spirited in her complaints, but don't discount the possibility that she suffered from fibromyalgia or some other illness.

I'm a labor and employment attorney for a federal agency and spend every day at work helping managers deal with devil employees. The worst is undoubtedly a woman who, on her very first day on the job, stole a colleague's wallet and racked up several thousand dollars of charges on her credit cards and wiped out her checking account. Luckily the employee was caught on security video using the credit card, so the local authorities promptly arrested her for theft and fraud and threw her in jail. Needless to say, we terminated her employment. Yes, it really is possible to fire a federal employee . . .

Posted by: MP | July 21, 2006 3:06 PM

"Why can't young people who get their first "real" jobs simply open their eyes and SEE what their co-workers are wearing?"

As I noted at the beginning of the post you quoted from, I have personally had to open my eyes and learn by example, because every office environment is different. I dress conservatively for my first few days at work until I get a handle on the particular office culture. Again, "business attire" is easy to figure out. It's "casual" that's iffy for me.

I once worked in a law firm where all of the paralegals wore flip-flops, cargo pants, and printed Urban Outfitters tees saying things like "Emotionally Challenged" in the middle of the week. I found all of this completely inappropriate from what I'd been taught to wear to work, but these items were okay with the boss, because the paralegals didn't interact with his clients. The receptionist at this firm was also allowed to have a small, discreet nose piercing. Yet the boss drew the line one day when one paralegal came in with a bandanna over her hair and then sent out a memo to everyone that such things were "not acceptable in the office dress code."

What dress code?

I've seen several people at my current job wearing flip flops but, honestly, after reading the consensus on here, I won't be doing it myself. I honestly thought they were becoming an acceptable part of casual attire because I've seen them so, so often.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 3:07 PM

Here is another bad-dressed boss story: My wife used to work for a Florida-based financial company who hired a new boss from the big city of New York. On the new boss' first day in the office, she wore bright blue panties underneath sheer white linen pants. Clearly, she didn't looking the mirror before she left home that morning! She immediately earned the nickname of "Blue Panties" and, needless to say, her credibility was ruined from the outset - she wasn't much of a boss, either - and she left the company within a year.

Posted by: BigTex | July 21, 2006 3:08 PM

We had a rather heavy navy female who came into the office wearing her summer white uniform and a thong underneath - it was not a pretty sight.

Posted by: DC military | July 21, 2006 3:10 PM

Ok, so I'm a member of the under-30 crowd who thinks it is ok to wear flip-flops in the summer. With one exception. If I have an important meeting set up, I'd never wear flip flops but be in the nice professional suit. If I'm absolutely certain it is a day where I'll be at my desk all day and basically no one will see me, though, I see no sense in putting my feet through the agony of heels when I know by the end of the day I'll have slipped them off and be bare-foot under the desk. I dare to say most women do this, so why not let me just wear my flip flops?

M brain and capability makes me work well and a valuable employee...not my choice of foot wear.

Posted by: Flip Flop Lover | July 21, 2006 3:15 PM

"I found all of this completely inappropriate from what I'd been taught to wear to work."

If you find it inappropriate, then there's no reason to copy it. I think this is something that makes figuring out proper officewear a problem. Those who "get away with" inappropriate dress soon begin to set the standard of "how low can you go"?

I know that some offices display a wide variety of apparel, but dress the way you were taught to dress or the way most business articles say you should dress. Dress a bit more conservative than your colleagues if you're not sure. Dress like the boss you admire and respect. Don't copy the youngest person or the ones lowest on the totem pole! If everyone in your office jumped off a building, would you?

Posted by: Not Carrie Bradshaw | July 21, 2006 3:16 PM

"But there is no way in or on god's green earth that a suit and tie are comfortable."

Yes, there is. First, you have to stop buying sizes like "L". In a shirt that has the proper measurements for your neck and sleeve length, and is properly tailored for your body type, wearing a tie feels no different than not wearing one. Same goes with slacks and jacket--you might be shocked to find that you're not really a 32" waist or a 42" chest anymore, and that's why your old suit feels like a straightjacket.

And, it doesn't have to be expensive. Not as cheap as buying a suit off the rack from Target (which I saw last week!), true, but there are several moderately priced men's clothing chains.

Posted by: Get a Tailor | July 21, 2006 3:17 PM

"When I interviewed out of college, what was then called the "Big 6" accounting firms would not hire me even though I had a killer resume. I've always been convinced it was b/c the slick cosmopolitan biff-and-muffy types that I interviewed with looked down on my very old, ill-fitting sears jacket/slacks/tie."

The first five minutes of "Devil Wears Prada" covers this very thing...(DWP was the impetus for this blog today). I think your insticts are dead on.

And, like you, I also started with small firms and moved up (sometimes it's better to be a big fish in a small pond). I've reached a professional position that is personally rewarding and I feel truly blessed...once in a while we are able to get laws passed that make a difference for public safety here in Arizona. It's very gratifying.

Posted by: single western mom | July 21, 2006 3:20 PM

"Clearly, she didn't looking the mirror before she left home that morning! She immediately earned the nickname of "Blue Panties" and, needless to say, her credibility was ruined from the outset -"

This is another reason why you dress professionaly - first impressions. You may be a great worker/talent, etc. but if someone (or everyone) can't get past the "blue panties" it may be hard to prove how valuable you really are.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 3:21 PM

Oh young people beware of flip-flops. The news station here just had a program on the perils of the popular footwear. They can cause serious feet problems when worn too much. They provide no support. Much like the flats I used to wear back in the day they are not good for your feet in the long run. In fact at a company I worked for there were 3 of us that had the same heel pain foot problem and our doctors had given us slips to wear really good athletic shoes with inserts to work. One employee took it upon herself to determine our dress code changed and she too started wearing tennis shoes until our boss told her differently. I didn't like wearing athletic shoes with dresses and nice slacks. I felt so out of place (and I looked ridiculous) but then I could barely walk from the foot pain and at one point I was on crutches because if felt as if one foot was broke. Thank goodness it finally went away but it comes back every once in awhile if I don't wear proper shoes (not tennis shoes either). Beware the flip-flop!

Posted by: Aching Feet | July 21, 2006 3:25 PM

I worked with a woman once who had a heart of gold and a head of wood.

She shared every aspect of her life with everyone in the office, whether they wanted to hear it or not! Her daughter lived in New York and had a great job as an assistant. Her boss even paid for her apartment and took her to dinner several nights a week! (can you say "mistress"?)

Same daughter married a man who didn't work but seemed to win the lottery almost weekly (can you say "mob"). When same daughter got married, she had a baby 4 months later. To hear my coworker talk about it, her daughter had a unique gestation period!

I will never forget her walking the halls of the office one day with her daughter's wedding album open like Moses showing the 10 Commandments!

I had another coworker who reported two employees to HR for using the "b"-word in conversation. She said it was sexual harrassment. The employees she cited had show dogs and were talking about a recent show. The HR manager made her read the definition of "b" out loud so she would understand it.

Posted by: DJS | July 21, 2006 3:25 PM

Not all of us can look at our colleagues for clothing ideas, either. Most of my peers are male. For some years, I dressed like a man (with some caveats) because I had no idea of how to do otherwise. My few female peers did the same thing. Eventually I got some people to look at, but still tend to dress fairly conservatively simply because I'm not certain what's acceptable and what's not--and I am in my late thirties.

Posted by: Fashion-challenged | July 21, 2006 3:31 PM

"If everyone in your office jumped off a building, would you?"

You can look at this the other way, though.

If everyone in your office wears tee-shirts and jeans, are you going to come in wearing a three-piece suit just because that's what your college career counselor said you should do?

When it comes to work dress codes, I'd follow my co-workers before following college career counselors who often haven't been in the job market for 20+ years.

Posted by: tuxedo to a barn dance | July 21, 2006 3:32 PM

Hey Leslie --

We've done two chats now on bosses and employees from hell, and dang, it's depressing. How about for next Friday, a "best boss/employee" chat to send us off on the weekend on a high note? (Or did we do that already and I've lost track?)

Posted by: Laura | July 21, 2006 3:37 PM

oldiebutgoodie,

Wow. Really wow. You think that common courtesy is dictated by a law? So you chose to move to a construction site knowing full well what that entails. That is your choice. However, most people don't live on a construction site. I can't believe you've never heard of common courtesy before.

As to your gross misunderstanding of what laws are for, I cringe. Are you by chance a Bush voter?

Posted by: Ann | July 21, 2006 3:38 PM

My boss wears flip-flops. So does her boss and her boss's boss (our CEO).

Don't know where all you uptight anti-flip-flop people work, but I'm awful happy it's not here.

Posted by: Nyah | July 21, 2006 3:38 PM

"As to your gross misunderstanding of what laws are for, I cringe. Are you by chance a Bush voter?"

Nah, then the attitude would be "laws apply to everyone BUT me."

Posted by: grr | July 21, 2006 3:40 PM

We had an employee leave the US to go back to his home in the Phillipines, not once, but twice, with no notice. Yes, they hired him back after the first time.
We had another employee throw a chair across a 30 foot conference room. He was promoted to manager.

Posted by: Fo2 | July 21, 2006 3:43 PM

This has been entertaining as well as highly therapeutic reading all these horror stories. To the few critics who think it's all so petty, waste of time, more important topics, etc, why are you reading past the 1st comment?

Posted by: Anon | July 21, 2006 3:45 PM

This is one of the best WaPo blog posts in awhile! Some great stories on here.

We had a confrontation a few weeks ago in the office. This woman with a chip on her shoulder (who has had several confrontations in the office) was walking down the left side of the hallway. Another employee was walking down the right side towards her. The first woman said "excuse me" with a nasty attitude, and the second woman, who is from a middle eastern country, said "no, excuse me!" Neither of them would move until the second woman said, "walk on the right side to pass." The first woman said "what country do they do that in?" like the woman was a savage or something. The mideastern woman said "in all the ones with common sense!"

I laughed at the story for awhile. The first woman has many enemies at work, so it was pretty funny to hear.

Posted by: Daedalus | July 21, 2006 3:46 PM

DJS,

LOL! Dog show...that's what happens when coworkers "overhear" conversations!

Posted by: August | July 21, 2006 3:46 PM

Oh, but Laura these ones are so much more fun that the good/best boss/employee stories! When I'm stuck in my office on a Friday I want to vent, not have my heart touched or a tear brought to my eye. Just my personal opinion and preference.

Posted by: 215 | July 21, 2006 3:47 PM

How about some middle ground? Sandals but not flip flops. Nice khakis or cotton skirts but not jeans? Comfortable shirts and sweaters but not t-shirts, particularly with slogans? Casual, comfortable and professional can co-exist. I don't see today's posts criticizing casual so much as tacky - too much skin, too little clothing, too sloppy.

As a woman who generally does wear suits, I can at least chose a skirt and a lighter fabric - so I do feel for the men in their long sleeved shirts, coats and ties. I used to practice in the South and really did see 1) seersucker suits on the men and 2) a short-sleeved suit on a male attorney. I think he'd taked it upon himself to alter some summer suits.

Posted by: SS | July 21, 2006 3:50 PM

I believe the rule on this blog is someone must criticize/complain about the topic no matter how simple or whistful. I had several great laughs...wonderful way to end a work week!

Posted by: August | July 21, 2006 3:52 PM

Spent an entire afternoon, reading about bad employees.

Posted by: Donkey | July 21, 2006 3:53 PM

Man, I only wish I had a good story to share, but all mine pale in comparison to some of the one's I've read so far. It doesn't make me want to have certain people back in the office, but I am definitely glad that when they were here they weren't as bad as the folks I've been hearing about today!

Posted by: 215 | July 21, 2006 3:57 PM

I wish the first idiot who ever wore that stupid tie to work had gotten fired on the spot, but hey, it could have been worse, at least he didn't wear a chain and padlock around his neck.

The purpose of the necktie is to show everyone around you that you've submitted yourself to the wrath of corporate bondage.

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 21, 2006 3:58 PM

When I graduated from college, my parents gave me a fantastic gift: a business wardrobe. I'm female, so I got lots of skirt suits, some of which were even mix-and-match. Too bad my first job out of college barely paid the dry-cleaning bills!

I totally agree with the poster who offered to trade pantyhose for tie. In DC, in the humidity, there's nothing worse than having to encase the lower half of your body in unbreathing nylon.

Nightmare employee story: my first cubemate in my current position spent the first 9 months of my tenure planning her only daughter's wedding. Nothing like sharing 120 square feet with Mother of Bridezilla...

Posted by: NYC | July 21, 2006 4:01 PM

short-sleeved suit on a male attorney

Ha ha! I'd like to see something like that. Bet it looked ridiculous.

Posted by: Jane | July 21, 2006 4:05 PM

"I used to practice in the South and really did see 1) seersucker suits on the men"

I saw one of those just this spring on a young attorney. I couldn't tell if he was trying to be retro and ironic or raiding his father's closet or what.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 4:07 PM

Had a coworker once who used malapropisms all the time. It was very entertaining. I will never forget the time she complained about some of her co-workers because they were all so "incontinent." Nearly peed in pants there after all.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 4:08 PM

I go to take a nap and you all go on without me. Lizzie, where do you shop? I love Ann Taylor Loft and Nordstrom. And they are not as expensive as I thought they would be. I do wait for sales--128 dollars for a sundress?

Posted by: parttimer | July 21, 2006 4:10 PM

...hey, nice reading the Post today to see that a contractor blogger at the CIA got fired for posting about torture on the internal highly-secure network. What a twit! :)

talk about baiting the bear!!!!

codename CC nice :)

anyway

to me there are two items of interest in this whole discussion, one is the question of "inappropriate clothing" second is the issue of sexually-provocative clothing.

the social issues are such that kids wear sexually-provocative clothing on a regular basis but it is not repeat not the business of the bystander or passerby to comment or chastise them for such clothing.

However the same rule that applies in school, that the clothing is distracting and undermines the educational process, should also apply in the workplace...but then if that is so, how can anyone look attractive in any way, at work? Hiring pretty girls, isn't that sexual misconduct?

Where is the line?

but there *is* a line. And on one side it is ok and you are a prude or worse if you complain...and on the other they are "inappropriate" and may get disciplined or "downsized" or fired outright as a result.

And this is a no-nonsense issue.

Getting fired for something that you wear or say or do at work, that is not directly related to your job or your work performance, is a no-nonsense issue.

Vs getting promoted for the same reason.

Office politics....not something to take lightly...but it is wrong to hire or fire based on office politics. Yet companies do it all the time, and especially in upper management.

anyway I'll leave it at that.

...but know without a doubt that there are jobs where "looking good" while wearing slinky, tight-fitting or revealing clothing is a good thing, or flip-flops or shorts or "casual wear", that have nothing to do with Hooters, strip clubs or massage parlors, or some other business of ill repute. Everyone has to find their niche, and hopefully they can do it without being fired.

A *LARGE* part of this is openness and honesty, and not just smirking or scheming behind someones' back to get them fired.

Posted by: cc | July 21, 2006 4:15 PM

This "flip-flops" discussion brings to mind a regional management retreat our bank had some 20 years ago, where people from our DC, Richmond, and Norfolk offices were invited. Dress was to be "casual".

The DC contingent showed up in khakis and polo shirts; the Richmond contingent showed up in business suits/dresses, because that was a "casual" as they got; and the Norfolk contingent showed up in shorts, T-shirts/halter tops (and yes, flip-flops).

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 4:19 PM

Hey, I have always been a fairly conservative dresser, but one day, I wore a sundress that showed a little cleavage to the office on casual day, and now I understand why younger girls do it. I am 40. Guys opened doors for me, smiled at me in the elevator, and gave me more attention than I ever get in my business suits. Kinda nice to know I still have what it takes to get attention.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 4:20 PM

What about "Psycho Temps"?

We had one once that was obsessive compulsive. She cleaned everything. She ever took her desk chair into the ladies' room to clean it off (3 x's a day)

I had a temp fill in when my assistant was on maternity leave. He was good. When my assistant came back, she screamed when she turned on her computer. Seems this guy was some sort of a pervert and had XXX pics as screensavers, wallpaper, etc.

Then there was the 300 lb temp who wore bicycle pants to the office one day!

Posted by: DJS | July 21, 2006 4:20 PM

Re seersucker suits: they're traditional in the south because they're comparatively cool. I grew up in Tennessee before air conditioning was available everywhere. In August, cool clothing was a necessity.

Posted by: Southern Boy | July 21, 2006 4:22 PM

How about the woman displayed her entire stuffed-animal collection (100+) in her cube?

Or the manager who spent all day on the phone trying to recruit gullible people into his Amway pyramid home business?

The best one is when I got a call from a car rental company wondering when one of our employees would return their car. Turns out she had used the corporate credit card to rent a car for personal use two months before, ran it into her garage and left it there. She was asked to leave.

Posted by: monterey | July 21, 2006 4:26 PM

I think a lot of people here sound very jealous and judgmental about those who can get away wearing casual clothes. I've never accepted a job for which I've had to dress up on a regular basis. Once in a while, fine - but even in my past life doing high-level customer service for multimillion-dollar clients, "dressed up" to me was a short knit jersey skirt and a pair of tights. I'm not a stuffy person and I don't like looking stuffy unless it's for a special occasion. Comfy ... yes please. If I'm going to be at my desk for long hours doing your bidding, I get to wear what I like.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 4:27 PM

we had a long term temp come in and steal someone's purse right in front of a security camera. camera wasn't hidden, either.

we had another temp for a week to do some data entry, as we were expanding our database. her simple task was to enter business cards. she didn't put any of the countries (and it's an international organization). when we pointed it out, she first asked why she needed to put the countries in, then she refused to go back and do it.

Posted by: temp stories | July 21, 2006 4:33 PM

We must work at the same place DC Kevin - that fay guy, Phil, is gross - smells gross, looks gross, talks with a lisp becasue he has no teeth, and feels gross. I am a bodybuilder with less than 5% body fat and this guy, Phil, seams to always 'accidentaly brush' my arse whenever we are near each other. He is disgusting and if HR cared, he would be gone. But alas, he is management (Director of Business Ops). Disgusting.

Posted by: Me too! | July 21, 2006 4:35 PM

"I've never accepted a job for which I've had to dress up on a regular basis."

You must love McDonald's!

Posted by: Ronald | July 21, 2006 4:36 PM

"I think a lot of people here sound very jealous and judgmental about those who can get away wearing casual clothes."

I agree that it sounds like sour grapes. "I have to wear a suit every day to work, so anyone else who wears less than that is a no-talent slacker."

If you're comfortable in a suit, good for you. Not everyone is, perfectly tailored or not. Not every woman can walk in heels.

I personally won't work in an office where I have to wear a suit, not just because I don't like wearing them/shopping for them/trying to afford them, but because I wouldn't feel at home in the kind of office where that level of attire was expectd of me. Perhaps I could make more money out there in an office with a stricter dress code, but that's a decision I've made and that I'm happy with. The dry cleaning and tailoring bills and brand/designer name comparison I avoid probably work out about even, anyway.

I want to be valued for my work, not my wardrobe. I have better things to do in the morning than match belts and shoes.

Posted by: Comfort is King | July 21, 2006 4:39 PM

"I think a lot of people here sound very jealous and judgmental about those who can get away wearing casual clothes."

Boy are you missing the point. The point is that some offices have rules about what is important, and the "Devil Employees" ignore the rules. They further frustrate things by hiding behind their own cluelessness. The office policy is to do timesheets, so you ask someone or otherwise figure out what that means. But because "business casual" is something that can be fudged, people push the envelope with stuff like flip-flops.

If you work at an office without a dress code, then no problem.

If their is a little bit of jealousy somewhere, it's that I STILL believe that a conservative, dark wool suit (appropriate for legal/accounting/political/banking environments) is hotter than some pantyhose, no matter what the ladies say. If that's not true, how come the ladies cycle out of their pants suits in the summer? Why not wear the pants in the summer and the skirts/hose in the winter if they really are warmer?

Posted by: Wow | July 21, 2006 4:39 PM

Hey Ronald,

In case you didn't notice, McDonalds employees do have to dress up in clean uniforms. So if the point was that only low-level positions have casual dress, you're wrong.

Posted by: McDonald | July 21, 2006 4:41 PM

If that's not true, how come the ladies cycle out of their pants suits in the summer?

It may be me, but I hardly see pantyhose in the summer anymore. Women tend to go bare legged in my office, even if they are wearing tailored skirts or suits.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 4:41 PM

This didn't happen to me, but to one of my friends at work. As outpatient speech therapists, we are scheduled for face-to-face patient treatment 80% of our working time. Our appointments are generally back-to-back, and they have definite start and end times (not like a doctor's office where patients expect to sit in the waiting room for a while and then will be with the doctor for however long it takes.) We get a 30-minute lunch break and usually just eat at our desks. One day our receptionist was heading out to pick up some takeout and so a therapist asked her to bring back some lunch for her. The receptionist took the student intern along with her and they decided to sit down and eat. So they came back with the takeout for the therapist at 1:00, which was when she had a patient scheduled. She didn't get to eat her lunch until about 3:30, when she had a cancellation. Receptionist never even apologized.

Posted by: speech girl | July 21, 2006 4:43 PM

This didn't happen to me, but to one of my friends at work. As outpatient speech therapists, we are scheduled for face-to-face patient treatment 80% of our working time. Our appointments are generally back-to-back, and they have definite start and end times (not like a doctor's office where patients expect to sit in the waiting room for a while and then will be with the doctor for however long it takes.)

We get a 30-minute lunch break and usually just eat at our desks. One day our receptionist was heading out to pick up some takeout and so a therapist asked her to bring back some lunch for her. The receptionist took the student intern along with her and on a whim they decided to sit down and eat.

So they came back with the takeout for the therapist at 1:00, which was when she had a patient scheduled. She didn't get to eat her lunch until about 3:30, when she had a cancellation. Receptionist never even apologized.

Posted by: speech girl | July 21, 2006 4:44 PM

Hey, speech girl. It's not the receptionist's job to fetch lunch for the speech therapist. The receptionist was completely within her rights to have her lunch out the office. The speech therapist asked the receptionist to bring back lunch, and the receptionist did her the FAVOR and did exactly that. If the speech therapist wanted lunch at a certain time, she should have gone to get it herself. And if she did not have enough time, she should have packed her lunch and brought it with her. I wonder if the speech therapist ever thanked the receptionist for getting her lunch. It was a favor, after all.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 4:54 PM

Some years ago, a partner at my firm had a meeting with clients. He told his secretary to ask them how they liked their coffee. She went to the conference room and asked them, and then jotted it down. She then went back to her boss and gave him the piece of paper, telling him, "here is how they like their coffee." Then she walked away. He never asked her to serve coffee again.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 4:57 PM

"He never asked her to serve coffee again."

Looks like her plan worked pretty well!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 5:00 PM

Years ago I worked in a smallish firm with only two secretaries in my department -- I was one of them, the other was a Hispanic Catholic. I took lunch from 12:00 until 1:00, the other went to lunch from 1:00 until 2:00 when I got back.
On Ash Wednesday of that year she wanted to go to noon Mass and asked if we could swap lunch hours. I figured no problem. She didn't tell me she was going to noon Mass and THEN to lunch. She finally got back at 2:00, and I got busy with a project and didn't get lunch at all that day. The following year when she wanted to do the same thing, I just told her no, I had a commitment at noon and couldn't change.

F*** me once, shame on you. F*** me twice, shame on me.

Posted by: Washington DC | July 21, 2006 5:03 PM

RE: flip flops, very few people--and I am not one of them--have feet presentable enough to be so exposed in the workplace (or at all for that matter).

Posted by: niner | July 21, 2006 5:04 PM

"She then went back to her boss and gave him the piece of paper, telling him, "here is how they like their coffee." Then she walked away. He never asked her to serve coffee again."

I love this! As a female associate who was sometimes expected to serve coffee to the older, male attorneys (and didn't) - I can identify. Stickier was the time the Judge asked me to fetch his coffee - but as he later explained, he assumed I was the male attorney's assistant notwithstanding the fact that I was in a suit, at the table, and participating in the settlement discussions. I must have been a rather uppity "assistant." Sometimes it doesn't matter how you dress, you're still the "girl" in the room. But, that's another topic for another day.


Posted by: SS | July 21, 2006 5:06 PM

To those of you who pass judgment on people who dress more casually than you do:

Since appearance is obviously so important to you, read over your entries before posting.

Look for things like misspellings, poor grammar, and disjointed, nonsensical sentences. As a reader, I can't see you, so how you write is how you present yourself online.

Otherwise I will sit here in my jeans and flip-flops and smile about some of the people who make such a huge deal about being perfectly groomed, perfectly coiffed, and perfectly dressed -- and yet can't remember the difference between "there" and "their."

And for those of you who (rightly) point out that this is a blog and not formal business writing, you are basically arguing my point in a different context. I conduct myself professionally and do my job well. If I'm not going to have contact with clients, what on earth does it matter how I'm dressed?

(And yes, I do wear a suit when a client is going to be on site.)

Posted by: just a thought... | July 21, 2006 5:08 PM

Bravo, just a thought...

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 5:10 PM

"I personally won't work in an office where I have to wear a suit, not just because I don't like wearing them/shopping for them/trying to afford them, but because I wouldn't feel at home in the kind of office where that level of attire was expectd of me."

See, this makes perfect sense. It has nothing to do with "Oxford shirts are uncomfortable!" and everything to do with the fact that workplaces where you're expected to wear a suit every day are categorically different in culture and values from workplaces where you can wear jeans and T-shirts. Good for you; I really mean that, and I say that as a person who wears suits most of the time.

"Lizzie, where do you shop?"

Most of my suits are bought on sale at Neiman's. I only buy one suit every year or two, and I've only got 4-5 suits (two came with both slacks and skirts and are the same fabric in different colors, so I can mix and match). I find that Tahari fits me perfectly with no alterations, and is very well-made and long-lasting. It took me years to find a brand that really works for me, so I don't mind the extra expense.

My husband buys most of his clothes at Filene's Basement or Potomac Mills, and he is extremely rigorous about sticking to what he knows will fit. If he finds the dress shirt of his dreams, the one that will get him a higher salary and make him more beloved by his fellow man, and the only size available is a 17 instead of a 17.5, he won't buy it.

Posted by: Lizzie | July 21, 2006 5:12 PM

This is not exactly on topic, but it is amazing how people will take advantage of those who let them. Our office secretary used to be asked to fetch lunch for our management team on a weekly basis. She had to get their orders, call them in, go get them using her personal car, and pay for it from her personal funds. She then had to be a collections agent and beg these arrogant jerks to reimburse her. Some of them never would. And then she took off for two weeks of vacation, and they were put out because no one would volunteer to get them their lunch. Yikes.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 5:13 PM

"If everyone in your office wears tee-shirts and jeans, are you going to come in wearing a three-piece suit just because that's what your college career counselor said you should do?"

Tuxedo, I also said that you should dress a bit more conservatively than your colleagues if you're not sure of the office dress code. I did NOT say wear a three-piece suit when everyone in the company is wearing jeans and t-shirts. That is a situation where the "dress code" is pretty clear. I'm talking about most modern offices, where people dress in a wide range. If it's a "professional" atmosphere, and you want to be "professional", it's best not to dress like the high-school intern who's only there for the summer.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 5:13 PM

The worst employees are those who don't show up, and/or don't do any work, and make everyone else take up the slack. It really does not matter how they are dresssed.

Father of 4, I like your sense of humor. Your comments help lighten the mood when the posting gets too tense. I just hope that your wife, also appreciates your style of humor.

I am glad to say, that I do not currently have any devil employee stories to share. I work in a small office with one co-worker and my boss, and they are both wonderful people. We work well together as a team. We are all dedicate workers and we all do what is needed to get the job done. Have I mentioned that I love my job?

Posted by: dcdesigner | July 21, 2006 5:14 PM

There are tons of places to get comfortable professional clothing - though, I do wonder if women just have an easier time finding the right fits than men. Not because of anything innate - it's just that it seems as though boys are raised to be passive about clothes shopping, whereas girls going shopping with mom seem like active participants. Fellas, it's not your fault that you left college not knowing your neck size.

But you can learn - it's really not too late. If you get clothing that fits well, it's going to be comfortable. Just don't do that "two sizes too large" crap - you'll just look like a little boy dressing up like daddy. Check out places like Target and JC Penney for inexpensive, decently tailored dress shirts - they come in all colors, and all materials, so you're bound to find something you like. And if you're, shall we say, "blessed," try pants with pleats - I've heard they give a bit more room where it's needed, so your boys need not stifle in the name of professionalism.

Dressing well does not mean giving up your looks or personality. A well-tailored suit can even make you look better than you normally look, "broadening" shoulders and "slimming" waistlines just by the cut that's employed. And with the variety of colors, materials and textures that you can get dress shirts and ties in now, you don't have to look like a Secret Service agent just to go to work.

Posted by: more abt comfy clothes | July 21, 2006 5:14 PM

just a thought - so what do you do when a client unexpectedly shows up on site or they changed the appointment time when you were out sick the day before?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 5:15 PM

I have a blackberry, so this has never happened to me.

Posted by: just a thought | July 21, 2006 5:16 PM

So just a thought - your blackberry tells you when a client is dropping by unexpectedly - where can I get that program?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 5:18 PM

This has kind of devolved into a dress code blog. The way people dress is really a low-rung on the devil employee ladder, so how about moving up a few steps?

I had a sales guy with a medical sleep disorder where he would instantly fall asleep when the lights were turned out. He had to be re-assigned when it happened during a customer presentation.

Posted by: salem | July 21, 2006 5:18 PM

To Ann - in refernce to the noise comment:
"You think that common courtesy is dictated by a law?"

As a matter of fact they are. They used to be known as blue laws. Now they are commonly referred to as noise ordinances.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 5:20 PM

When I was younger, I got a lesson in "dressing professionally". I typically wore what could loosely be called business casual and got away with it. I had one "interview suit" that I would wear to interviews, wear the first day, and then ignore. I hated the suit and it didn't really fit me, thus was uncomfortable.

Then I found a really nice suit on sale and decided to buy it. I wore it to an interview, and then I went out to lunch and then shopping afterward. I had never gotten so many "respectful" looks and been treated so well. I really believe it was that I was dressed so much better than the average person on the street. If you want to be noticed, dress well. If you just want to log in your hours, keep rockin' those flip-flops.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 5:21 PM

you keep a spare sportcoat/blazer in your office, of course. doesn't look too bad with jeans and a polo.

Posted by: just un case | July 21, 2006 5:21 PM

Unexpected client visits: Don't happen. We don't have a single client who is local.

Schedule changes: If I'm out, I check my work e-mail from home, so I'm not surprised.

Plus, in spite of all the times I have quite willingly dressed up for client visits, I have yet to lay eyes on a single one of our clients. Just the nature of my job.

Posted by: just a thought... | July 21, 2006 5:22 PM

"The way people dress is really a low-rung on the devil employee ladder, so how about moving up a few steps?"

I'll say that this whole discussion has made me really self-conscious about my appearance today! This topic just had to come up on a hot, sweltering, casual Friday rather than Monday, didn't I?

What if everyone in my office is making fun of me behind my back? What if I smell? What if I have bad teeth? Oh, the humanity!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 5:23 PM

"I am really miffed - most of you are on the East Coast with access to actual shopping and still it looks like people cannot dress professionally..."

LOL Albuquerque! I'm three hours west of you and I totally understand. Everyone complaining about casual dress should head west of the Mississippi and see what casual really means!

I sometimes wish I could wear a nice suit to work and had a place to buy one. There are times when I miss DC. My boss right now is wearing the flip-flops and his supervisor is wearing untucked t-shirt and shorts - summer casual, but still...

Posted by: AZ | July 21, 2006 5:27 PM

We're pretty casual here in summer given the heat and humidity. But my story is very sad. My employee was charged with making logistical arrangements for a visitor with a severe congenital physical handicap. I asked her repeatedly how the arrangements were progressing, how he was going to get from the airport to his hotel, whether the hotel was handicap accessible. She always said, "Oh, it's fine, the hotel says it's OK, the airport has accessible taxis." Well, she completely blew it. He had to wait for hours at the airport until a taxi van happened to show up that could handle his wheelchair, his hotel room did not have a handicap accessible shower, no provisions were made to get him from the hotel to the venue, etc. He was extremely upset and I apologized profusely and accepted all the blame because I was his host. Another very competent employee saw to it that he was handled properly the rest of his visit but there was no fixing the mistakes we had already made. It took me a few months, for HR reasons, but she was fired. I never was able to repair the relationship with the visitor, though, and feel sick about the incident to this day.

Posted by: Texan | July 21, 2006 5:34 PM

Well, now I know why we've got such great and loyal employees. Some wear flipflops, one has dreads, more than half have tattoos and piercings, and one has pink hair. And they all work their ***es off and do a great job. Of course, we have a mostly-internet-and-phone business (95%), but we also guarantee that if you order or call by 2PM it will go out the same day, so they have to work hard. Our employees have helped us to grow from $200K/year in 2001 (when we hired the first employee) to $5 million/year now--with only 7 employees.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 5:40 PM

" "I have observed mostly younger women on the Metro who look like they're dressed for work, except that they're dressed in such a low-cut shirt that their "girls" (as Stacy and Clinton say) are practically falling out."

God bless these women. God bless every single last one of them.........."

Thank you, and I do what I can.

Posted by: Lolita | July 21, 2006 5:47 PM

One Friday, one of the women came in at work with a tee shirt that had roses on the chest and said 'smell the roses" underneath. The next Friday, she wore a tee shirt that showed two squirrels mating and said "bust a nut" underneath. She's truly tacky, but at least it's entertaining.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 6:00 PM

dressing up for work costs TIME and MONEY. suits and nice clothes and drycleaning cost a LOT more than t-shirts and jeans to throw in the laundry. when you're putting in long hours and don't have a stay-at-home wife to do stuff for you, it's a pain to spend extra time shopping for "proper attire," running drycleaning errands, ironing stuff, shaving your legs all the time in order to wear skirts, etc. it essentially adds probably an hour each week on average to the job, during which time nothing of use is actually getting accomplished. i just don't really understand the point of dressing up for work.

Posted by: sammy | July 21, 2006 6:00 PM

I have never understood how some people "know" that their coworkers are surfing the internet for hours at a time. Do you stand behind them with a stopwatch all day and time them? And isn't that just 2 workers wasting time instead of one? Mind you own business people, you'll live longer.

Answer: it has become sport on our team to go into his office and catch him doing it. And some of the team members announce it loudly, as a joke. This is several different people at different times of the day. Also, I sit in the next cubicle and can often hear musical game sounds coming from his PC! I can't mind my own business because 1) I often have to do extra work because of this slacker, which cuts into MY time, and 2) it often effects my annual review, which is at least in part based on the performance of the team. If it weren't for these two things, I would like nothing better than to be away from the guy and ignoring him, believe me!

Posted by: CJB | July 21, 2006 6:01 PM

i just don't really understand the point of dressing up for work.
It's the same as shaving your legs. If you don't you look untidy and badly groomed.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 6:04 PM

I work in IT and many years ago I worked for one of the hosipatals in town. Almost every night the neonatal intesive care unit called the help desk and said there was a computer crisis and if some one did not come "babies would die".

And almost every night the help desk would call between midnight and 3 AM so I could rush down to the NICU and either put paper in the printer or unjam the label printer.

I think there was onle ligitmate emergancy in 6 months with them.

Posted by: jls | July 21, 2006 6:14 PM

Salem -- I agree with you. It's easier to comment on the relatively trivial (dress) when the more difficult issues related to human interaction, communications, personalaties, motivations, and work habits are really in play.

I think the 16 year old student who shared the experience of her group activity hit the nail on the head. (Nice going! I'd hire YOU in a second... Thx for sharing.)

How does one deal with high maintenance divas in the workplace?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 6:15 PM

How does one deal with high maintenance divas in the workplace?

It depends. If it's a rainmaking partner at a law firm for example, you give her everything she wants and more. If it's your average employee, you ignore her demands as much as possible. If it's the new intern, you get rid of her immediately.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 6:20 PM

Now I feel like I'm a devil employee. I'm ill nearly every morning, burnt out, apathetic and depressed. As a long-term employee, I now feel like I've gone way down in my overall professionalism, focus, and quality.

I have been very fortunate to be cut extraordinary slack at work but I want to get it together before that slack runs out. I pray for it.

As for "Laura". Has she EVER been on 24/7 call? For all she knows, she called the guy when he was having sex, eating, and so on. Just because she's been in work mode all day doesn't mean the other person has to snap to it within 0.5 seconds of the call. That's inhuman.

She needs to learn about the 5 minute rule used in the Army and Marines, etc.

Now, professionalism is important, especially in the Armed Forces or in the Marines, to give two examples. Those people are on duty all the time so to speak.

This means that a soldier cannot be disciplined for anything he says within the first 5 minutes of waking, because they are not "with it" and may not recognize who they are speaking to. And I'm sure a lot of soldiers wake up with cursing their life, superiors, and God before their brains arrive where their mouths are. The commanding officer has to pretend that whatever was said never happened, basically, until the soldier is fully awake.

My sympathies are with the IT guy. Really, being on call is not something people actually get paid very much for, and it's stressful.

I have a friend who is an IT manager in an understaffed department. So he is on call ALL the time. He is also type I diabetic, and if he doesn't eat he can go in hypoglycemic shock-- babbling and then getting unresponsive. This actually has occured 2 times in the last year because of the stress of his schedule and cuz he isn't the type to say no. He's lucky his wife was there to get him to the ER.

He's a good employee, but understaffed AND being on call way too much because he's the only one who can really do that, double ugh. I think this is employee abuse, unfortunately something that company does have a reputation for.

Another thing I want to say is that some people actually can talk when they're still asleep. I know somebody who's really expert at saying "just 10 more minutes" and listening to reminders and saying "later, tomorrow", whenever he's roused from sleep. He can carry on surprisingly persuasive arguments when he's actually still asleep and have absolutely no memory of the conversation later.

So, yeah, the IT personnel was rude and unprofessional for the first few minutes, but he did get your problem fixed when he was fully awake. You remembered that for life?

Man, can you take all my hurts and hard feelings? If you're carrying something that minor, you're strong enough to take my emotional issues. PLEASE.

Posted by: Wow | July 21, 2006 6:22 PM

Then there was the young female co-worker who complained about the men ogling the attractive women in the office. And her cubicle was plastered with photos of her favorite male celebrity - shirtless!

Posted by: Calvin | July 21, 2006 6:42 PM

My office requires suit & tie of its male employees M-Th. We share the building with a software firm where "anything goes" dress wise.

One day I was sharing an elevator with a young man who had torn jeans, flip flops, earings all over the ears, bed head hair and a "Vote for Pedro" t-shirt. He looked at me and said "Must su*k having to wear a suit." To which I responded "At least I'm not mistaken for a homeless person."

Also, if you travel on business and dress professionally (or at least business casual), you are apt to get better service.

Posted by: DJS | July 21, 2006 6:48 PM

I've been an IT guy and on call. It is totally unacceptable if you are on call to say you won't deal with it. You are paid to do it. The fact that he did it anyways shows that he knew that, too. I've been called when I'm asleep and eating. I might say, give me 5 minutes to wake up, or can it wait 'til morning, but I won't say piss off. It is my job, and I take it seriously. Guess I'm not a devil employee...

My devil employee story... Had a guy who routinely didn't show up at work (along with a ton of other things -- sexual harrassment, drinking at work, basically getting nothing done, etc). No excuse, just didn't show up. He didn't show up one day and that happened to be a day some people got laid off. He showed up the next day saying "Whew...glad I missed the cut" We had to tell him... um... no, actually you didn't... :)

Posted by: IT Guy | July 21, 2006 6:55 PM

"He showed up the next day saying "Whew...glad I missed the cut" We had to tell him... um... no, actually you didn't... :)"

This is the best story ever.

"dressing up for work costs TIME and MONEY. "

Not if you know WHERE to GO. The best suit I own, nicely designed and in a beautiful, but professional (not loud) color, was $60 from Target. I use those home dry-cleaning kits, or go to the $1.50/piece place down the street. It takes a little effort in the beginning, but even in the DC area, you can affordably dress professionally if you just stop being lazy whiners and stop making excuses.

As for the shaving legs bit, there's a very easy, common-sense solution: wear a pantsuit. Nobody needs to see your hairy stalks if you're wearing slacks. As for shoes, Payless is not beneath you. Nobody is going to know your nice, polished business shoes only cost $15.

Honestly, why do people think it's so expensive to look decent at the workplace? Even on a limited budget, almost anyone can do it. I get the "it's uncomfortable" and "I don't like how it looks" arguments, because that's all about personal opinions, but it doesn't have to be expensive at all. I can afford good business attire, as well as digital cable, nice electronics and furniture, and still have money left over to save as well as for going out - and I make less than $40K/year and live in NW. It's doable.

And the point of dressing professionally is that there's the implication that, if you are meticulous about the way you look, you'll be meticulous about the way you act and work. It isn't always true, of course, but if you're in any kind of business where you're meeting with a variety of clients, appearances matter quite a bit. That doesn't always have to mean suit and tie, as you can look neat and clean in khakis and a polo, or even jeans and a button-down or long-sleeve t-shirt. It just means leave the strategically ripped jeans and faded fashion t-shirts for the weekend.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2006 7:23 PM

You want stories? I swear these are all true

Two employees having an affair, she got pregnant, they agreed she would have an abortion. She demanded his half of the money, he refused without a receipt. She threatened to beat him up. All documented in email.

Same male employee, previously his wife and another woman were fighting in the parking lot over him

Another two, she called him at home, he didn't answer. She hit him at work the next day. He complained. She denied hitting him at first, then said it was because he said he was having sex with someone else. But he was also beating her at work and she had witnesses

The one that washed her underwear after an "accident" and left them drying on the stall door, and the unfortunate soul that discovered them and demanded we make whomever it was come get them. How were we supposed to figure out who they belonged to?

The new sales manager attempting to program the phone he inherited from his predecessor and finding nude pix of his precedessor spread across the desk on the camera phone

The employee trying to solicit men callign into the company

I swear these are all true. I could go on...

Posted by: anon | July 21, 2006 7:24 PM

"Come to Silicon Valley. You uptight east coasters will get over your flip flop hate quickly here!"

LOL - the same thing could be said for Oregon.

I worked in very casual offices because of the nature of the business (forest products.) I think how you dress has absolutely nothing to do with what kind of an employee you are - all of this stuff about looking professional is just shallow, imo - as long as you're not purposely causing a distraction to the millworkers by wearing shorts that are *so* short they show your butt cheeks or tops so low and tight they show a good portion of your breasts or go around announcing that you're wearing a thong because panties would show through your tight pants. And yes, I had an employee who did this!


Posted by: momof4 | July 21, 2006 7:28 PM

Most of these stories are pretty mild... I once worked with a group that had a cabal of employess who were truly... evil. Among their activities:
--Spreading rumors that others were incompetent
--Refusing to talk to or cooperate with folks they were 'out to get' (and they did manage to get a couple of people fired)
--Creating disrespect for management and trying to foment a rebellion.

Yes, some of us tried to warn management to no avail-- we were not believed. When the ringleader in the cabal was eventually transferred out by management and elected to leave the firm, the cabal retaliated by getting the group manager removed.

As you can imagine, it was like working in Dante's inferno. I have never seen a worse work environment.

Count your blessings if you've never encounterd something like this...

The one positive thing that I can say about having worked productively in the midst of this situation is that it made me very relaxed about more minor problems in the workplace, which includes just about everything.

Posted by: A Reader | July 21, 2006 7:39 PM

For those who are not near decent shopping, I suggest Land's End catalog, Talbots, and other boutique stores that have either a catalog or website. If you go to Land's End, they have a program where you can enter your measurements and they can help you find your correct size. Or do what my husband does: shop twice a year while on vacation and get EVERYTHING. This works well if you are a stable size.

Posted by: parttimer | July 21, 2006 8:03 PM

We have a new employee who started criticizing all of us who have been there for years within the first week - loudly and frequently. "You have to do it this way" or "I don't believe you don't do this" even tho she had never worked in a place like ours. She also weighs herself every time she walks by a scale (hospital and, yes, she is overweight), eats huge meals, hovers over anyone who is eating, then complains that she is gaining weight.

Posted by: MD | July 21, 2006 8:15 PM

We have a new employee who started criticizing all of us within the first week - loudly and frequently - even tho she has never worked in a place like ours. She is overweight and weighs herself at least 3 times a day (or anytime she walks by a scale). She eats huge meals, hovers within inches of anyone who is eating, then complains that she is gaining weight. All of workout after work and she complains when we discuss our routines that we are not including her in our conversations and are trying to isolate her (meanwhile she rearranged her office so she doesn't face the door and keeps it closed most of the day). All in all not a devil in comparison to the other stories here but someone who makes the day go a little less smoothly.

Posted by: Hosp in MD | July 21, 2006 8:20 PM

I love the story about the guy who found out he'd been buying the wrong neck size. I'm routinely amazed at the fact my husband buys clothing without trying it on first - womens' clothing is so inconsistent I would never DREAM of doing that.

For those wondering how to dress well on a budget - take the time to try on a lot of different brands and buy what fits. Like Lizzie, I know the brands that fit and those are the only ones I buy - dressing nicely is way MORE expensive if you waste money on stuff that is cheap and doesn't fit than if you spend the bucks for 5 good suits that mix and match and fit the way they should. And I always wear pantsuits to avoid the pantyhose problem. Pantyhose were invented by some devil employee somewhere, I'm convinced.

Posted by: Megan | July 21, 2006 9:33 PM

To Richard:
"But there is no way in or on god's green earth that a suit and tie are comfortable. Me, I tend to think that nooses should be for convicted criminals and Republicans, not the workplace. And the idea of wearing a heavy jacket in sweltering weather like what we are having now is simply stupid."

Why, yes, thank you....I WOULD like fries with that!

Posted by: Ed | July 21, 2006 9:35 PM

About the receptionist fetching lunch -- usually when someone is going out to pick up lunch they ask around to see if anyone else wants anything. I think that's what she did but realize that in my wording it sounds like the therapist asked her.

Either way, they both have only 30 minutes for lunch and the agreement when she left the office was that she was picking up the food and bringing it back. Once she got there she decided to stay and give herself a 60-minute lunch break. (and no, she did not stay 30 minutes later that night to make up for it.) She did not call and say "hey I'm going to stay here and eat; do you still want me to bring you something--I won't be back until 1:00" and she knows how tight our schedules are. This is not the kind of job where you can eat your lunch at 1:00 instead of 12:30 because that's when your food got there. She just let someone sit there and wait for her.

Posted by: speech girl | July 21, 2006 9:37 PM

I work in the production side of the wine industry, where one of the "perks" is casual dress. Really casual, unless you want to cross a catwalk wearing a skirt or to get acid burns and red wine stains on your suit pants. Nevertheless, it is plain to see that most of the winemakers and general managers are wearing business casual, being removed from the dirty work. I have sucked it up and bought nicer clothes for work because this is where I want to be and what everyone else says is true: if you want to be promoted it helps to look like the people doing the promoting.

I'm still glad I left Washington. I haven't work pantyhose in years.

Posted by: bd | July 21, 2006 9:51 PM

The people in Albuquerque and Arizona who complained about how casual things are around here should move back east. We're overpopulating the desert anyway! And my mother (back east) is slightly apalled that I haven't worn hose in years.

Posted by: Tucson | July 21, 2006 10:44 PM

Here's a horror story of a fellow employee: I work for DoD, and we have an engineer in my group who's been around for 15+ years. He's been working in optical sensing for most of that time, and has yet to contribute anything meaningful to the "project" that he supposedly directs. He's truly clueless about how clueless and incompetent he is. For most of the past ten years, he has just sat in his office and read magazines, claimed credit for the work of others, made powerpoint presentations, wasted huge sums of money (>$100k this year on useless or redundant equipment) and attended conferences. Several bright engineers have quit or transferred rather than continue to work with him. No one has been able to fire him because he's on that great civil service conveyor belt and knows how to manipulate it. Recently he's finally transferred to another part of DoD, and I pity the people that have to work with him. So guess who gets to sort out the mess he leaves behind? Uh huh, you got it. On his going-away card, I think I'll write something like "Your loss is our infinite gain".

Posted by: USG Engineer | July 21, 2006 11:01 PM

Long time reader, first time poster. Great discussion.

I came down with the chicken pox for the first time at age 24. (What can I say...I was a late bloomer.) I worked in sales at the time, and called my sales manager early one morning to tell him I had the chicken pox. He paused, then said, "Sooo...does that mean you won't be in until this afternoon?"

Another time I was working briefly as a temp, doing an 8-to-5 stint in phone reception and letter writing for a small company whose secretary was out for the day. I had to pull up the Web early in my shift to look up something work-related I couldn't find on the desk (an address, I believe) when sales guy #1 came by, noticed I was online, and told me to close the Internet connection because I'm "supposed to be working." He then went on to say I'd better not slack so he doesn't have to tell my supervisor.

A few minutes later, sales guy #2 came in and introduced himself, welcomed me to the company, and told me to have a terrific day. So for the next seven hours, I transferred every hot prospect to sales guy #2, and every angry, obnoxious caller to sales guy #1. The company had a bell in the lobby for salespeople to ring when they really surpassed their monthly sales quota (I got the impression this was a rare event). Around 5 p.m. sales guy #2 ran out and rang the bell, whooping it up while everyone stood around and clapped. Sales guy #1 stood in the background, with a dazed, "how-the-heck-did-he-beat-me?" look.

Meanwhile, I sat quietly on the other side of the room, answering the phone with a huge grin on my face. My work there was done.

This happened more than 10 years ago, but it still makes me smile.


Posted by: former temp | July 22, 2006 1:41 AM

This whole discussion makes me want to shop for business clothes.

I love business clothes.

And all you men who think that sneakers, jeans and t-shirts is a-okay for any and all situations, just remeber: every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp-dressed man.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 22, 2006 2:42 AM

[every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp-dressed
man.]

So, if I get what you're saying, if I stuff a monkey suit at work, then it's more likely that I'll find a girl crazy enough to fetch me a cup of coffee custom taylored to my liking? Perhaps one of those cleavage toting, flip-flop wearing interns with the nose ring and tongue piercing? Hmmm... The idea has merit. Of course, because of my very considerate nature, I'll have to take into account the extra burden of washing, ironing and trips to the dry-cleaners will put on my wife.

I like the whack, whack, whack sound the flip-flops make. Better yet are those hard bottomed sandles that go ka-klop, ka-klop, ka-klop. the sound reminds me of horses, ponies, saddles, stirrups... Anything to help get my head out of the office is appreciated.

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 23, 2006 8:00 AM

There was a time when people spoke of women in pantsuits the way some of you are speaking of flip-flops.

Posted by: 70sgirl | July 23, 2006 1:08 PM

I've taken the advice of dressing for the job you want and not the job you have to heart. Having moved to south after working in D.C., I had to take a position that pays less and, frankly, is not very satisfying. Even though everyone I work with wears jeans, I wear business casual clothing (slacks, knit sweaters, you know). It makes me feel a little better, and I'm hoping it makes me look better.

Having said that, I'm working on Sunday (a rarity except for this time of year due to work influx). The client is wearing jeans and a tee shirt, but I'm wearing business casual. Even though I'm wearing the more professional clothing, he's still the Ph.D. and he still tells me what to do. So sometimes what you wear really doesn't matter.

Posted by: Meesh | July 23, 2006 4:01 PM

To 70sGirl: The difference between the pantsuits argument and the flipflop argument is that people who were against pantsuits wanted "girls to look like girls," whereas both men and women wear flipflops to the office, especially when the office has a slightly more casual dress code (or no dress code at all). In other words, the argument against pantsuits was meant to limit a woman's choice of clothing in the workplace, whereas the argument against flipflops is that your feet look nasty as hell and smell funny too, and that sound flipflops make is annoying, so get over yourselves and wear some real shoes, dammit.

"Better yet are those hard bottomed sandles that go ka-klop, ka-klop, ka-klop. the sound reminds me of horses, ponies, saddles, stirrups."

Really? It always reminds me of the noise of two coconuts being smacked together.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 12:03 AM

It's amazing how quick we women are to dump on other women. We say that we praise them for trying to find balance in their life by working/staying at home/whatever they choose, and then we make fun of them for what they wear, how they decorate their cubes, etc. etc. Granted, some women are over the top and inappropriate -- just like some men over equally culpable. But in general, shouldn't we first and foremost be supporting women who are doing what they want -- whether that's working full-time, working part-time, or staying at home? I don't understand the people on this blog. It's sad, and perhaps this mentality is partly the reason why women still face so many challenges.

Posted by: K | July 24, 2006 9:58 AM

In response to preslopsky's comment (July 21, 9:29am), I don't see these comments as evidence of low self-esteem: some might be a learning tool or confirmation that i'm not crazy. For example, TC the Terrible ( July 21, 2006 08:36 AM) said that 3 women together gang up on each other. So, true. And that's grammar school behavior. Plus, I'll be hard pressed to wear flip-flops any time soon;-)

Posted by: big flirt | July 24, 2006 12:18 PM

Hey, remember in high school when people would slip random notes into your locker? Well, fast forward to my first professional job in DC where I actually got a piece of random hate mail placed in my inbox. The envelope simply had my full name hand written on the front. Inside was a copy of the dress code from the employee hand book with certain restrictions highlighted, such as skirt length, no spandex, etc. I was shocked and horrified as I trepidly took it into my immediate supervisors office, asking him if this was his doing. He was appalled and said he had no such problems w/ my dress. We then took the letter to HR, who was likewise distressed. They did not have a problem w/ my wardrobe nor would they ever address that problem in such a manner. It was later revealed that the person that put the letter in my mailbox was another young female colleague who tried to sue me for sexual harrassment over the way that I dressed. Needless to say, she had some crazy jealousy issues and was soon let go. Until her departure, I would occasionally fear for my safety.

Posted by: Hate Mail | July 24, 2006 12:48 PM

I was the bad employee last week. I switched into flipflops in the late afternoon (nice leather ones, not loud plastic thwacking ones) because I got a terrible blister from my heels. Not a problem when I'm with my staff. Suddenly there's an emergency meeting upstairs-upstairs, no time to go get my shoes! I don't think anyone noticed but I dressed up on casual Friday to make up for the faux pas (the lax Catholic doing office penance).

Posted by: Accidentally bad | July 24, 2006 12:51 PM

These are mostly hilarious and do bring back fond and un-fornd memories ... but I am loving life as a sahm not because I was tired of working with devil employees. It's the devil bosses that will kill you. I usually could have cared less if peer x or y was dressed like a slob, smelled, came in late -- who has the time to care? It's funny to dish about at home or over lunch but never affected me professionally. But the Devil Bosses are the ones that make some office environments toxic. My three kids never make a day as bad as some of those freaks. I'd never go back to paid work unless I were my own boss.

Posted by: sahm (in flip flops) | July 24, 2006 1:56 PM

My workplace is a university, so the devil is a little different here.

1. We had a woman in EEO that was basically insane. Getting things past her was as predictable as dealing with a Magic 8 ball. What worked before was no predictor of what will work in the future. At the university, if you can't get past EEO, nothing happens. She moved on, thankfully, and things work just fine now.

2. We had a secretary who was stealing packages as they came in and then selling the contents. She specialized in examination copies of books that came to faculty. She also was arrested at the office one day (for things done elsewhere, but it sure spiced up the place).

3. At a previous place of employment, I had a senior colleague who turned away from me, bent way over at the waist, and then asked if I liked her butt. Odd, but not awful behavior, at least until you recall she was famous for making charges of sexual discrimination.

4. The students are a whole different game. As noted in earlier posts, they specialize in casual attire. Nothing wrong with that. I would not expect them to come to class in a tie or long dress. However, I really do not want to see their goodies. Low-rise pants with lots of dorsal cleavage (sometimes so much you know they are close to their jeans). Tight, deep cut shirts that have their features flying all but free. The worst (?) is the trend of very very short skirts coupled with amphitheater seating in the big rooms. When making eye contact with a student, just to the left and right of their face is the crotch of the person behind them. Nothing like an unexpected flashing to really blow your 8am class out of the water.

A friend who has been doing this for much longer speculates that we (the faculty) are just enough older to be invisible to the students.

A different kind of devil student (would they be the employee or the employer?) is the one that has their life mapped out, with a position in Daddy's firm waiting for them, explaining to the faculty how nothing in this course matters to their future and there will be hell to pay if they don't pass. Another senior colleagued dubbed them "entitlement babies."

Posted by: Prof. J. | July 24, 2006 2:45 PM

About young women's attire at work, we should remember that clothes for teenagers and people in their early 20's have gotten more low-cut and made with cheaper fabrics (usually involving some level of spandex) in recent years. Unless a young woman has a mom with enough money and sense to take her to Talbots or Ann Talyor, many are left to wear their nicer, everyday clothes to their first job or internship, which are usually too racy for work.

My nightmare coworker was a hypo-chondriac who would call in sick once a week. One day, she left work early and went home and picked a blemish to the point where half of her face swelled like a balloon. She looked awful and we had to pretend nothing was wrong. She then proceeded to have loud phone conversations with half of her address book about how she needed to have surgery to fix it, and the doctor asked to take pictures of her face to show teenage girls why you shouldn't pick blemishes. Truly disgusting.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 3:40 PM

A former employer hired his teenage daughter as an intern one summer. One day in the restroom, minding my own "business" (as it were), I heard a loud "Whoo hoo!" come from the next stall. She emerged, and then gushingly explained to all who would listen that--hooray!--she was not pregnant! There were several other shocked women in the restroom as well.
She was new and not exactly "familiar" with anyone on staff, certainly not at that level. In any case, I'll take flip flops over that any day.

Posted by: somebody | July 24, 2006 7:55 PM

The anti-flip flop brigade sound a lot like the folks who were anti rock n roll and anti rap music. Someone above said it sounds a lot like the squawking back in the 70s about women wearing pant suits to work. In short, it sounds like flip flops in the workplace are here to stay. I don't wear flip flops to work myself but I see nothing wrong with employees working in whatever's comfortable clothing as long as they are clean and neat. Bottom line minded employers know that its all about getting the job done - not about costuming and play acting.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 9:59 PM

Our company does not allow flip-flops, but they DO allow open-toe shoes and dress sandals from Memorial Day to Labor Day. And capri pants on Friday. So there is flexibility but the line is drawn at flip-flops. And that's okay. I've only been out of school for two years (the casual clothes of college are not that far from my memory...) and I fully realize that flip flops are far too casual for the office. ESPECIALLY if you meet with clients.

Our worst employee was a girl that routinely refused to take part in any office activity. And after said activities were over, she would bad-mouth them and say that she wanted to go home and watch Gilmore Girls. One time she reported a group of us for being too loud and disturbing her while we were having a meeting. Someone actually came up from facilities to tell us to be quiet. HELLO--like we didn't know it was her right next door filing the complaint.

Posted by: S | July 25, 2006 11:00 AM

Flip flops? Really? And just who is going to pay the worker's comp payments when they fall? or there is a fire drill and they have to go down 19 flights of stairs in these things? Most companies have dress codes and they should make it clear from the date employees are hired. I'm sorry, but when did casual Friday become casual whatever? We've recently hired a group of young clerical staff. Most of them dress as if they were going to the beach or the nightclub and unfortunately the work reflects that attitude. When they dress to far "outside" the dress code, I ask them if they would dress tht for an interview. Really makes them think.

Posted by: Debbie | July 25, 2006 11:01 AM

Hey Grrr,

"As to your gross misunderstanding of what laws are for, I cringe. Are you by chance a Bush voter?"

Nah, then the attitude would be "laws apply to everyone BUT me."


Sounds more like ole Slick Willie himself...laws that apply to everyone else but himself. Can you say: perjury by a lawyer.

Posted by: red voter in a blue state | July 25, 2006 12:55 PM

Nobody died when Clinton lied.

Posted by: Blue by You | July 25, 2006 3:57 PM

Tell that to all the people in the '93 WTC bombing.

Then think about how Al Quaida went from being a nothing...to a something due to his being asleep at the wheel in the Oval Office. (Obviously, too busy getting his cigar smoked by Monica under the big desk to do his job.) All the while being dressed for success... Only Hillary was busy being president. Something we definitely don't need in this country. I'm sure she has a big clothing budget. Dressed for success. But a disaster in the making.

Then think about the two U.S. embassies in Africa (Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) that were simultaneously bombed, the USS Cole, Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, the '93 Blackhawk Down incident in Somalia. Then we all paid for it even more on 9-11 when the bill came due for Slick Willie being asleep at the wheel.

So...the "Nobody died when Clinton lied." comment doesn't work with this citizen. He obviously was too busy sweating his legal worries (and wagging the dog)to take care of business. His suits and charm were fine. But I prefer substance over BS anyday.

It's a sad day in America when everyone walks around as blind as you.

God Bless the USA and everyone in it.

'nuf said.

Posted by: red voter in a blue state | July 25, 2006 5:12 PM

Devil workers and clothing:

Husband works with one woman who routinely wears "teenager" styled clothing, thin, strappy tops (no bra), sandaled feet or no shoes, is overdue for a shower/shampoo. She is the general manager of other employees.

Her malapropisms are so great and varied, I have told him to write them down for posterity. The worse thing is she hides mail, financial documents, etc. from him and then calls him on why his work is late. The boss doesn't do anything, he knows he has cheap employee in her.

Posted by: boomergirl | July 26, 2006 10:39 AM

I just left a place where the CEO rather disapproved of even open-toe shoes, but young girls routinely shattered the professional dress code and nobody ever did anything.

One girl came to work wearing a tank top with c-shaped straps and a bra with not-c-shaped straps. Another girl came to work wearing bermuda shorts and 4 inch spike heels. I don't care how cute you are, how young you are, how skinny you are---there's only one "profession" that calls for this kind of attire.

But my favorite was the girl who gained some weight and her wardrobe didn't. She came to work in a black skirt and top combo that exposed her Special K pinch an inch (or two)--with the kicker that the top of her thong was showing!

Posted by: KM Fairfax | July 26, 2006 12:25 PM

Putting dress code violations aside for a moment:

A young married girl at my old company was having an affair with another employee. They issued regular denials with a persistence Bill Clinton could envy. What made her a bad employee, though, was her pathological lying.

When the boyfriend resigned from the company, he gave significant notice. During his last weeks there, he blew off work assignments, came in late, took long lunches, left early. He was short-timing. The girl, at that point, was not. In fact, she was a new employee, having temped to hire. She came in late and claimed that she had marriage counseling sessions and court dates. She took long lunches and came back reeking of wine. She left early in reportedly frantic efforts to save her marriage.

She cried. She trembled with stress and emotion. She played upon the sympathy of her managers. And the whole time, she was making excuses to fly to Chicago to see loverboy.

The final straw came when she called out on a Friday (every other Friday had become the norm) and said her toddler son had broken his arm. She bolstered the story the following week by saying that he had a cast.

The story fell apart when her husband brought the child in to the office---no broken arm, no cast---and confronted the chick's supervisor and told her that there had been no court dates, no marriage counseling---all lies.

Years ago, I worked with a guy who had TERRIBLE personal hygeine and brought in some pretty disgusting lunches. One night, he spilled a large bowl of that evening's slop on the carpet in the office. When I saw and smelled it, I vomited. I got to go home shortly thereafter, not scheduled to return for 2 days. When I got back, several people told me that his lunch smelled worse than my vomit.

Posted by: KM Fairfax | July 26, 2006 12:41 PM

I had a boss who hired an exotic dancer for his secretary, who came from a club he frequents. During the summer, he hired an intern who does not wear bras!

I knew a girl who dresses like Pam Anderson at work and she's one of the bosses' children!

Posted by: Bebe | July 26, 2006 12:55 PM

I once interviewed at a place that was so conservative, the men could only wear white button down shirts with their suits. Any other color was out of the question. (And this was just 6 years ago!)

Needless to say, I declined the job -- and I'm a female. No way was I going to wear pantyhose every day. Tights in our cold, frigid winters? Yes. I may go bare-legged in the warmer months, but I am always nicely dressed. No flip flops ever -- but sandals and dressy mules, yes.

On topic? I can't say as I've ever worked with devil employees, and I've been a temp for many years and worked in a lot of places. I've encountered employees who've felt threatened when I've filled in for them, but I always just smile and remind them I'll be gone (x).

Love these stories - thanks for the great laughs!!

Posted by: kcm | July 26, 2006 3:10 PM

I live in Bakersfield, CA where the temps run in the high 90's low 100's during the summer. You still can't get away with wearing flip-flops..It's just unprofessional.Now you can get away with no pantyhose,open-toed shoes and even a nice sundress.But they draw the line at flip-flops!

Posted by: shayla phillips-mcpherson | July 26, 2006 3:52 PM

As a famous rapper once said (and I'm paraphrasing).. "That's why you wear suits, you can't dress no more"

Point being, putting myself together to come into the office now that I've accumulated a decent business warddrobe is actually pretty easy compared to rifling through all my clothes trying to look decent for classes in college..

2 suits (blue and charcoal pinstriped), several shirts (white ones including a fancy one requiring cuffs, blue, pinstripes and a Skittle colored one for a change of pace), 3 pairs of slacks (plus another 2 included with the suits), maybe 4 or 5 ties and two pairs of black shoes (one loafer, one traditional).

After 5 years of engineering school and currently working in IT, I used to be envious of folks who were allowed to dress down. But I have to say, business attire simplified my life!

It's also like putting on a costume some days... call me or the world shallow, but how I dress sometimes gives me a psychic boost in the morning and affects how others treat me.

Business clothes for business... relaxed clothes for chill time. If I could set my own dress code, though, I would rarely wear a tie... I can't shake the symbolism of wearing a "leash" to work.

Posted by: Newly comfortable | July 26, 2006 4:31 PM

Here's a quick one:

I am PhD student working on research in natural resource management. One of my fellow students wears Winnie the Pooh sweatshirts to the office and uses the word "suppositories" when she means "repositories".

Posted by: Researcher | July 27, 2006 5:29 AM

Here's a quick one:

I am PhD student working on research in natural resource management. One of my fellow students wears Winnie the Pooh sweatshirts to the office and uses the word "suppositories" when she means "repositories".

Posted by: Researcher | July 27, 2006 5:29 AM

I think my story tops the list. I had a temporary assignment in an operation center. There were 8 computer terminals and each terminal was not dedicated to an individual. We would always have to change terminals. There was this one guy who would use a computer terminal and then have to scratch his body somehow or another. But he wouldn't just scratch over his clothes like most people would. He would shove his hand underneath his clothes and scratch the skin. He would scratch his butt, his chest, his head, his genitals (reminds me of that scene in the movie Blue Streak), almost everything at least once in a given day. And after scratching all that, he'd move over to another terminal. What a disgusting man!! So the office made sure to buy MANY bottles of Lysol and spray every terminal he ever sat on.

Posted by: Thank God I don't Work There Anymore | July 27, 2006 9:01 AM

http://future-lawyer.blogspot.com/


That isn't a shameless plug folks, the entire blog revolves around the point of this article. Check it out.

Posted by: Anonymous Fed | July 27, 2006 10:08 AM

These women that are showing cleavage and wear short skirts at their jobs....where do they work at?! They need compassion too, you know.

I'm okay with people dressing "casual" to work as long as they don't wear dirty clothes, flip flops, sandals (especially men), shorts, and tank tops. Aside from that, it doesn't bother me. What did bother me is the guy that would sit in the cube right next to mine and would take his shoes off every day, the stench was just horrible. You'd think that he was making his own cottage cheese at home with his bare feet, that's how much they stunk.

Posted by: Pivvy | July 27, 2006 10:12 AM

I once worked with a serial killer. He was very efficient and polite. Funny thing is secretaries would end up missing and the law firm had to keep hiring new ones...they eventually figured it out and made him partner!

Posted by: Satan | July 27, 2006 11:10 AM

This guy at my work never has anything to do, and spends all day surfing the internet. And then when he finds something he thinks is interesting, he IMs me the link. I can't get anything done! This happens 50 times a day.

Posted by: Claire R. | July 27, 2006 11:55 AM

Years ago, while working as an intern for an association, the office manager made a pass at me even though she knew I was in a committed relationship (perhaps something less common, a woman going after a man). I must admit I was flattered, nevetheless, I wasn't interested .. and, I didn't want to make any waves and just forgot about it. After I left, I was a little surprised at first to learn that she had filed a sexual harassment suit against the association due to a relationship with her superior. But then, it all made sense to me, that was really what she'd wanted was a reason to file suit. And my balloon popped a bit too, ahh, maybe she wasn't so into me, eh?! I think I could have been a potential victim or pawn in her plan. I worked with the guy accused in her suit (which the association settled), just a real great guy really, and I just couldn't help but think that she was really an ambulance chaser and he was the real victim.

Posted by: Bob | July 27, 2006 12:00 PM

I once worked with a serial killer. He was very efficient and polite. Funny thing is secretaries would end up missing and the law firm had to keep hiring new ones...they eventually figured it out and made him partner!
Posted by: Satan | July 27, 2006 11:10 AM


OMG I thought that one was real. Seriously.

Posted by: governmentern | July 27, 2006 1:19 PM

Claire R., just because I IM you the links does not mean that you have to actually look at them, take some responsibility for yourself. I will no longer IM you anything from now on, see how you like them apples. Don't talk me anymore either.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2006 1:21 PM

I'd take bad dressers ANY day over evil psychopaths who try to sabotage coworkers.

I worked at a Very Impressive Think Tank once upon a time, and the boss hired me instead of promoting her assistant into the position (though the assistant was promoted into a parallel position just a couple weeks after I started). The boss and the assistant were quite close, personally and professionally, they'd worked together for over a year.

Before I even started, this woman was spreading rumors about me. She constantly told our boss little white lies about me, and eventually worked her way up to telling preposterous, outrageous lies. Once our boss was away on vacation, and called in to talk to each of us. The assistant pretended to transfer the boss to me, and then told the boss that I was refusing to take her call. Of course when the boss returned from her trip, I was called into her office and read the riot act for refusing her call, which I of course knew nothing about since she'd never tried to transfer the call in the first place. Nothing I said made any difference to the boss; she'd sided with the assistant from day one and I was just SOL.

Eventually I quit the job, even though I had no other job and wasn't sure where I'd go... figured even temping would be better than that hellhole!

Posted by: divine ms. k. | July 27, 2006 1:47 PM

We had a coworker who used to have broccoli in a jar and it would kind of ferment. When she took the lid off, it was steamy inside the glass, and a wave of broccoli smell would hit the air like a cloud. We also came in to find that she had erected makeshift barriers out of 1" x 1X lumber and cotton sheeting so that she had a divider between her and the person who sat next to her. And then she would get angry if an officer reprimander her.

Posted by: Stephanie | July 27, 2006 1:54 PM

I once worked at a manufacturing firm as a buyer/planner for one of the product lines. There was a supervisor who managed my production supply line for the first shift. This guy was not directly a subordinate of mine, but he was responsible to accept my tasks and close my orders for production. Upon taking the position, I was warned by several colleagues that the man was a voracious liar. I would discover that they were being kind. The man was brazen in the lies he told, lies that he couldn't possibly think would fly. And he was constantly caught in them. Meanwhile, the time I spent in the wrong direction because of his lies started affecting our contract with the customer. Not good. It got so bad, I approached this idiot one day fully intentioned to beat him down right on the production floor (yea..it got that bad)! The business manager intervened, and to my suprise, had been slowly building a case to fire this guy. When the hammer finally dropped (in front of just about everybody), I actually felt sorry for the guy. Folks, sometimes it works itself out.

Posted by: W.L.Prioleau | July 27, 2006 2:04 PM

father of 4 you are hilarious!

Posted by: driver guy | July 27, 2006 2:07 PM

I once had an employee who would call in sick, death in the family you name it. He was an okay worker, nothing stellar, when he was at work. Well one day he called me to tell me in a tearful voice that his mother had passed away. I was understanding and really felt bad for the guy. He said he would have to go out of town and would be out for a week, I asked if I could do anything to help out. He told me he did'ny have enough leave to take off so long, and it would be a struggle for his family for him to take off a week with no pay. I told him I would look into it and see what I could do for him. While getting the information together for the HR department to get him on administrative leave I noticed entries in the leave book when the former supervisor had made notes about his unscheduled leave. One note said "Mother's Funeral". Well that peaked my interest, and sure enough going back a year of two there it was again "Mom's Death". Like a train wreck I kept looking and sure enough found a third entry that stated "Mother's Death second time this employee has had his mother die". So in all I calculated that his mother had died at least 4 times in 5 years. Well I contacted the local paper in the town that his mother (mothers) lived and where he said the funeral was taking place, and requested the Obituaries for the previous week and the present week. No mention of his mother was made. When he returned and thank the office for the flowers that were sent to his mom's house, and how he laid them on her grave, I confronted him about his mother's previous deaths, and showed him the obits. He just threw his hands up, laughed and said "about time someone caught on" as he punched out and resigned on the spot. I will give him this he had guts and when confronted at least he didn't try to lie his way out it. BTW he also told me his mom loved the flowers the office sent her.

Posted by: Gruzog | July 27, 2006 2:13 PM

Many Orthodox Jewish cover their own hair with wigs, out of religious obligation. When I was working in the word-processing department of a large law firm years ago in NYC, I decided to change the style of wig I wore (long to shorter hair.) A fellow word processing center worker wrote me a note saying he wanted to see me return to my "classic" look and my new wig should be "sent to Tel Aviv." Another coworker referred to me as "rug head". Someone else told me I obviously had "body issues" because I dress modestly.

Posted by: Proud to be Jewish | July 27, 2006 2:28 PM

I worked with THE most insecure woman in the world once. She blamed everything on everyone. She never accepted blame for the multitude of things she did wrong. She would come in late and leave early. She would put makeup on just to flirt with the bosses. She would make catty comments about other women - especially women that were smarter or more attractive. She was always jealous or upset about someone or something. She gossiped about everyone and everything. She thought she was beautiful, even though she had seen her better days. She would wear clothes to try to show off her chest, but ended up showing off too much of her flabby body.

Fortunately, the people I worked with could easily see through her shallowness. And everyone went out of their way to avoid her. She still works at that office. But a dozen people have left that office, in part - because of her.

Posted by: Bob | July 27, 2006 2:29 PM

OK, I got you all beat as for bad employees. I was in the Army in Germany from 1980-85 and we had a new 2nd Lt. who went AWOL (from a cush job, no less), then got arrested back here in the States, and kicked out of the Army. On D-Day of 1986, he and another guy robbed a bank in Pennsylvania and killed 3 people.

All true.

Posted by: Former Army | July 27, 2006 2:57 PM

People who wear flip-flops to work are pig-slobs. I don't want to see your hairy toe-knuckles or your toe jam. And it's work, not fun. Do you get up and go to 'fun' every day? Is Monday to Friday called the 'funweek' or the 'workweek'? Howsabout you people stop acting like the world owes you a living and start being adults?

Posted by: Tom | July 27, 2006 3:02 PM

Tom is right, at least trim the toe-knuckle hair, show some decency.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2006 3:36 PM

In a surreal soap-opera move, one of the corporate managers brought over this Belorussian woman, his mistress, from the overseas office, and installed her in middle management here at the head office. He later married her, which did not do much to improve her unprofessionalism and Soviet-style management techniques. Who could guess this stuff actually happens in real life?!

Posted by: stuck in the office | July 27, 2006 4:11 PM

I had an employee tell me "if you want me to show incentive, you'll have to tell me what to do".

Posted by: yet another Fed | July 27, 2006 4:25 PM

This is off-topic, but speaks to the dressy vs. casual debate.

Dress clothing is typically made with fabrics that are less comfortable than casual clothes. I always feel itchy and constricted in dress pants and blouses (and yes, I buy the correct size). Dress shoes, I find particularly crippling. Don't even get me started on pantyhose and the unfairness of making women wear skirts. And I tend to get more work done from home in my pyjamas (less interruptions, no commute and no struggle to find something to wear) then I ever do in the office. Nonetheless, I understand that businesses (like individuals) have a right to set their own standards and preferences. That's why I choose only to work for companies that have casual dress codes (or at least business casual). You just have to know your environment. Also, I know better than to abuse the casual privilege with dirty, torn or offensive clothing. Human beings are visual creatures, and how you look does matter!

Posted by: casual dresser | July 27, 2006 5:34 PM

Soviet-style management techniques.

Racist, racist. delete this entry!!!!

Posted by: The PC Police | July 27, 2006 5:52 PM

Okay, appropriate dress is one thing. Even if it's unprofessional - it just can't compare to actual incompetence.

I used to manage a music store (guitars not CDs) and I had the ultimate baboon of an employee. Now, I'm the first to admit that I am capable of having trouble suffering fools, but this guy... I'll call him "Ed" to protect the stupid. Every moment working with Ed was like babysitting and every few hours out of work involved phone calls from Ed. I couldn't get away from this guy.

To work in a music store, you don't need to be a rocket scientist, but you do need to be able to multitask (and make rational decisions). Like the time a customer wanted the strings changed on his guitar. I come back from running an errand to find a disassembled guitar on the counter and Ed scratching his head trying to figure out what he should do next.

Or try this. I get a call from a customer on my day off. She's standing in the store trying to buy a $2000 saxophone. Ed can't seem to figure out how to ring it up. It's like the information just POOF was gone from his brain. After a failed attempt to walk Ed through the steps, I figured it would be better to just come in (I lived close). I get there and... where's the customer? He tells me he figured it out after all. Didn't call me to let me know, just let me just come in anyways, because you know I had nothing better to do. The next day, the same customer comes in and places a saxophone case on the counter. The case is barely staying closed, the latches are straining to hold it together. She tells me the sax doesn't fit in the case properly. I open it and what do I find but a $5000 saxophone jammed into a $2000 saxophone's case. Yeah.

I could write an entire series on this guy. Ed.

Posted by: casa_de_springfield | July 27, 2006 9:15 PM

Ouch. My name is Ed. I never worked in a music store.

Posted by: To casa_de_springfield | July 27, 2006 9:20 PM

Soviet-style management techniques.

Racist, racist. delete this entry!!!!

Posted by: The PC Police | July 27, 2006 05:52 PM
----

I think it's a little tasteless, but since when are/were "Soviets" a protected "race"? It's like saying "American-style management techniques" is a racist statement.

Posted by: jim | July 27, 2006 9:21 PM

I once mentioned to my supervisor that I was Catholic and she responded back with, "well I hope you believe in birth control."

Posted by: Nicole | July 27, 2006 10:56 PM

Another reason that a lot of young people don't dress as nicely for work is that decent looking formal clothes tend to cost a bit more than jeans & flip-flops. Granted that shouldn't be an excuse if your office calls for a specific dresscode, but remember how painful it can be to pay for a decent suit (not even stylish, just somewhat flattering/non-frumpy)on an entry-level salary while paying for your first apartment, bills, etc. I think we all looked for corners we could cut as long as long as we possibly could!

Posted by: ash | July 28, 2006 1:51 AM

i can remember when i started working as a fine jewelry manager at a high end department store, just after graduating art school. i didn't have a lot of money, but i HAD to dress like a grownup - looking professional is a huge part of convincing someone to buy a $5000 piece of jewelry. My employee discount helped a lot for buying beautiful shoes (which, no, they were not comfortable, but they made me feel powerful as a 21 year old manager). Since i was capable of resisting the cute but more club appropriate clothes, i found Express was a surprisingly great source (with frequent sales) for simple classics like a three quarter sleeve, black button down blouse in a dress fabric, or a black pencil skirt. I made less than $30K my first year at work, during which time i supported an out of work boyfriend, but i still managed to look the part, as well as be reasonably comfortable in a job where i needed to stand all day, operate jewelry cleaning machines, deal with "devil employees" (half the cosmetics department), and still look happy and engaging.

Posted by: red | July 28, 2006 10:30 AM

How about when you're in a meeting, informal, but still a meeting, with other people in your team and all of a sudden they break out into a converstion in a completely different language? You just sit there wondering what the heck they're saying about you or what's so funny. Beat that!

Posted by: Gibberish | July 28, 2006 12:03 PM

I once helped to edit a small daily newspaper where the reporters had to be begged to do stories, especially one guy. I had to spoon-feed them story ideas. One Friday he had nothing to offer the Friday, Sunday or Monday editions. I suggested he go to the local college and grab an easy but worthwhile feature on a teacher-preparation program. He literally smote his forehead, clutched it, and let out a gurgled moan. Top that.

Posted by: Eric | July 28, 2006 1:04 PM

I have this one coworker now who is really crazy. She is terribly paranoid and vindictive. Her cubicle is across the hall from mine and we're both near the office printer. Ms. Paranoia really has it in for another employee in our unit. Ms. Paranoia stated that this person would always look at her computer screen while going to the printer to get printouts and was always trying to find out what she was working on so she could sabatoge it. I never saw this. When the other person got promoted and moved to another office , Ms. Paranoia had her computer screen, along with all the other furniture in her office, changed around so that she faced the door. Ms. Paranoia constantly complained that this coworker was out to get her professionally and personally. Also, Ms. Paranoia got into a huge shouting match with another coworker about a videotape for work that she took home but wasn't supposed to and Ms. Paranoia went home for a couple of hours to get the tape. Also, another coworker in our building sent around a joke via email to everyone. It was a little funny but not belly aching funny. Ms. Paranoia saw it and started laughing so hard and so loud that she had tears rolling out of her eyes and people were going to her cubicle to stare at her. She also ordered some Girl Scout cookies from someone at the office and when the person called to tell her they had come in, Ms. Paranoia ran out of her cubicle to get them, like she was trying out for the Olympic track team. Several people wondered what her problem was. Also,at a meeting with others, my boss corrected her for a minor mistake. At a break in the meeting, Ms. Paranoia got so angry about the correction, she slammed her fist into the wall. Also, she wished me a happy birthday on a day that was not my birthday. When I politely corrected her, she sped off out of my office like a track star without saying a word. So weird.

Posted by: celeste | July 28, 2006 2:09 PM

you think that's bad,

http://amazingovershare.blogspot.com

Posted by: a fan | July 28, 2006 2:23 PM

I just ended a temp job in a satellite office of a very prestigous national military consulting firm. I am a middle-aged woman and noticed that the male "leadership" hired several attractive 20-something women with great bodies and bad work ethics. After four in a row, I realized that it was a preference. Eye-candy I guess. One young college grad's shirts got lower and lower by the week! A few women in the office tried to gently tell her that her attire was too revealing. Her response? "...I will use every advantage that I can to get ahead". So much for feminism.

Posted by: maxmoe | July 28, 2006 3:11 PM

you post scripture all over your cube and think it scary that someone might be bothered by that? How about if your co worker posts god is the father of all lies, god is a pig, there is no god, god is like an a-hole, only s*** come from it, etc, think that might offend you? Get the idea now? Its not nice to force your crap down other peoples throats, and by putting your crap up like that you make everyone else have to deal with it. You are offensive to me and you should be glad that you don't work with me because I fight back.

Posted by: nogod | July 28, 2006 5:45 PM

you post scripture all over your cube and think it scary that someone might be bothered by that? How about if your co worker posts god is the father of all lies, god is a pig, there is no god, god is like an a-hole, only s*** come from it, etc, think that might offend you? Get the idea now? Its not nice to force your crap down other peoples throats, and by putting your crap up like that you make everyone else have to deal with it. You are offensive to me and you should be glad that you don't work with me because I fight back.

Posted by: nogod | July 28, 2006 6:08 PM

I am a part owner of a small engineering firm.
We do a lot of business with the government.
The government is a great customer, but, reviews
can be really tough, when they send their A team out.

Well, we had one engineer we hired. Great credentials, lots of
experience, one issue we noted, he had been unemployed for
2 years when we picked him up. We asked, and he said it wasn't
a moral thing, it had just happened. His references all checked out
and frankly we needed that skill set filled.

Well, complex designs are often Iterative. That means one or
two engineers make a guess at what they think the design will be. Then everyone analyzes looking for flaws, then a revised design is stepped out, rinse lather repeat.

Well, this guy refused to produce any results until everyone
else was done. His inputs were critical to everyone elses work.
Then we noticed he was leaving work at 2 PM every day.
The day before the review, he left work at noon.
The day of the review, he left the building for 4 hours,
then went home at 2 again. The customer was there until
7 PM.
He had insisted that he couldn't do any of his work without
$300,000.00 in contractor support.
The day after the review, we asked the contractors if they
would just take over the function, they said yes
and by Noon, his position was eliminated.
He left and took $50,000 in controlled software with him.
It took 3 months to get it back from him, including a
threat letter from our General Counsel.

He calls every week asking when his reporting time is for
consulting. Our office manager has standing orders to
call the cops if he steps in the door.

We had another employee, show up for the christmas
party and then vanish for 6 weeks. I had him fired
summarily, and it turned out he had been on a
bender the whole time. He still calls every day drunk
trying to get his job back.


Posted by: salesguy | July 29, 2006 10:17 PM

I am as appalled by the poor spelling and grammar of these so called 'business professionals' as I am by their stories. Has anyone the ability to construct a sentence anymore?

Posted by: Mr. V | August 7, 2006 9:55 AM

I am from India. I thought that USA was a very developed country where people were very professional and these kind of issues(read Unprofessional Behaviour) was non-existent. But sadly, after reading all the comments, I can say that in India, people are more warm and professional in their approach. Esp. when it comes to office dress code. People are reprimanded when they do not follow the dress code. Discipline is given due importance.

Posted by: G K | August 17, 2006 6:04 AM

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