The Dress Code Fight Isn't Worth It

If your boss asks you to stop wearing something--even dress shorts--just let it go.

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Suzanne Lucas

I work for a very well-known, worldwide, prestigious company. In our employee handbook, it states: "Employees should use their best judgment regarding appropriate dress for their jobs and the schedule for the day. When determining appropriate dress, employees should consider not only the task, but the appropriateness given a safe, accident-free work environment."

So on that note, I wore dress shorts to work. They come slightly above the knee but are made for the work environment. Today I was told that I could not wear them because they are against company policy. My boss said I can not wear anything above my knees and that my tattoo on my ankle can not show. However, this is not the first time I have worn those shorts...it is actually the 3rd, in which they have never said anything before. Also, there are others in my office that wear very provocative clothing and get away with it. What should I do?

You should never wear those shorts again, keep your knees covered, and make sure your tattoo is not visible.

I know, that was not the answer you wanted. What you wanted was a plan for addressing this with your boss’s boss and perhaps bringing in HR (because we love dealing with dress code issues). I could give you that. Chances are, given the vagueness of your dress policy and your scantily clad coworkers, you could win that battle and wear the shorts.

But at what cost? Your boss would feel humiliated. And let’s be honest, you don’t want to work for a boss who holds you responsible for the dressing down (ha!) she was given by her boss and HR. This will spill over into your relationship with her.

Even if you are completely in the right, this is what we have to file under, “not a big deal” and let it go. I know that you feel humiliated and singled out. You may well have been. But, for something this minor, just let it go.

And before anyone starts screaming that this is discrimination due to the tattoo, I want to say that, yes, yes it probably is. But discrimination, in and of itself, is not illegal, nor immoral. Hopefully your workplace discriminates against people who are incompetent or lazy. Tattoos are something you choose to get; they are not an innate characteristic. Some people just don’t like them. Anyone choosing to spend their time and money getting jabbed repeatedly with a needle full of ink on a conspicuous patch of skin should be aware of the fact that it may have some effect on their future.

So, let it go. Remember that your boss is the one who evaluates, mentors, trains and guides your work. She may be stricter with you because she feels you have potential. Figure out what makes her happy and your time at work will be better spent.

Suzanne Lucas has nine years of h uman r esources experience, most of which has been in a Fortune 500-company setting. She holds a Professional in Human Resources Certificate from the Society for Human Resource Management. She blogs at Evil HR Lady .