Thursday, April 28, 2011

Discussing Professionalism

I haven't had a good bitch session in quite some time now. Not just an "old man grumpy complain" session, but an honest to goodness, real reason behind it bitch because I can session. I believe the last decent one was my thoughts on poor customer service. It might interest you to learn that I haven't purchased anything from that EB store since, and have only been in there a couple of times whilst waiting for my wife to get off of work.

Anyway, onto thoughts about professionalism. I'm not going to EVER claim that I am a professional writer, my posts are more bloggy sounding than most and I wouldn't dare offend someone who has put real time and effort into learning how to write an article properly. My thoughts today more concern the look of professionalism, mostly in a retail sector, not demeanor in an office.

Uh oh, the reader says, here comes grandpa complaining about how the cool kids look! Well, to a degree this may have a little truth to it. I am looking at a younger generation than my own, and wondering what the hell are they thinking?But there is also more to it as well, in that the arena for which they are displaying their "individuality" is not the right one.

One of the key places I've truly noticed a poor professional look is at the Bell Aliant stores. I walk by or into one of these stores and I do notice their new dress code with white dress shirts and ties, or scarves for female staff. The female staff are seemingly allowed to have their shirts untucked, but this is still considered a professional, business like look. But when the male staff do the same thing, and have their ties not done up properly and have them hanging low like Avril Lavigne circa 2002, it just looks sloppy and makes me not want to be served by that person. This is made to look even MORE sloppy when it's only a few of the staff doing it, and others come to work with their shirts tucked in and their ties done up properly.

So, grandpa is out a little. Yes, I am aware that it is the fashion these days, not just for young people but also for people of my age as well (I'm at the ripe old age of 35). I'm not blind. But, going to work isn't about fashion, it's about earning a living and doing what you have to do at work. There is an obvious dress code in these stores and if it is being followed, it is only by the skin of it's teeth. There are other things to mention, like fantastical haircuts and having your earlobes stretched to the size of a basketball hoop, or the dirtiest looking beard one can possibly grow, or even tattoos stretching completely from chin to wrist and back, but we don't need to talk about these things, as we ALL know that these are accepted these days and it would be WRONG to suggest that it looks unprofessional. (Hrm.)

There are a lot of things that are wrong about this whole situation. Workings not caring what they look like, establishments HAVING to work these people because it's too hard to get anybody to work anymore. Let's not put the onus completely on people with questionable professional habits. There is a reason why they are in these positions. Most people just do not want to work retail anymore. There will always people who do it out of necessity. But why should someone go to work for minimum or near minimum wages, when they can go on government assistance, get into programs to help them find "better" work, etc, etc, etc. It just isn't worth it when you a) DO have to deal with lower wages b) have to deal with the public and c) have to deal with terrible management and supervisors? Would you work in a place like that if you didn't have to? I've witnessed TERRIBLE management in my days. People who claim to be professionals, yet show obvious favoritism towards blond hair and what we'll call "tight jeans". People who even when obviously wrong will argue black and blue and threaten termination to make sure they never look bad in front of others. People who use their staff and schedule themselves off for every weekend in a summer when in retail, we ALL know weekend shifts, even for management, are part of the territory. The list goes ON and ON. Throw on top of this the obviously difficult task of dealing with the public, and you get yourself a work environment that just isn't desirable.

I say to you, the reader: let's start making life easier for people who have to work these jobs. Let's all say thank you when we are served. Let's not yell at someone for not giving us our way. (Nobody deserves to be yelled at) Let's not take our bad days out on people, just because they happen to be unlucky enough to be standing in front of us. Maybe it'll be the start of something better.

As for the people who aren't showing their professionalism at work, readers who are bosses: Let them know. Don't let it slide. A day where a fella forgets to shave or a girl has her hair tied back is one thing. It happens. But when someone looks sloppy, it takes away from the complete package the store is trying to sell. Call it old fashioned. It doesn't matter, what matters is there still is a definable line between fashion and professionalism and it is being crossed far too often. If these individuals want to wear their pants halfway down their butts and have their shirts untucked and their ties undone, there is a time and a place. It's perfectly ok to so at home or out with friends. In truth it does look good and modern. But not at work.



  1. First of all, I'm pretty sure you don't have a grasp on the term "professional." Professional has many different meanings but it generally revolves around a career in which someone has specialized training. You could expand it further to outside what is commonly considered a profession, but it is not reasonable to expand it to the entire retail sector. Many people working in this sector are there temporarily as a way to meet a current need and would not consider it their profession.

    Secondly, just because you don't like the way someone looks does not make them unprofessional. I don't disagree with dress codes at certain jobs, but I do think it is up to the company to enforce them, not the customer. If the company wants to allow some individualism that is completely within their rights and in fact more progressive companies encourage it. We do not live in Orwell's 1984.

    Your thinly veiled attack at tattoos, earrings/hoops and facial hair is offensive. Have you ever heard the phrase "don't judge a book by its cover"? People should be hired base on whether or not they can do the job, not on how they look. I personally am not interested in tattoos and hoops, but it is generally accepted in our society that a person has the RIGHT to express their individuality. Should this have any bearing on whether or not they can get a job, NO. In fact you make this argument yourself when you discuss the manager that hires girls with "blond hair and what we will call tight jeans". That is simply applying another form of discrimination base on looks, no different then the one you suggest in the previous paragraph.

  2. I appreciate your candor. This is obviously a sensitive subject for some. I never did say that they shouldn't work here, there, or anywhere. I suggested that this isn't the place where expressing individualism should be done. There is a difference between the work environment and the personal environment.

    We are in a different era. I understand that. But I still believe that professionalism, both in attire (suggested issue of an employee) and attitude (suggested issue of an employer or supervisor) is something that isn't being addressed properly in this era.

    I never once said I have a problem with tattoos, hoops, or piercings. I even suggest it does look fashionable. I suggested, not said, that I feel they do not belong in a professional environment.

    Thank you for your comments!

  3. I get what you are saying Chris. Some of what ppl our age were taught about what's considered professional in the workplace is maybe different than those younger than us. That's all fine and dandy. To be honest with you, I work in an office. I am a supervisor. I am here today wearing jeans and a shirt that isn't tucked in. Also rockin a wicked pair of Adidas Campus (they are black so that's kinda business like).

    Having said that... I think what is a little bit insane is that someone selling me a cell phone or a ipod should be dressed better than me. I don't quite grasp that concept. I find it kind of funny that people working in a mall and making less money than I do by far are forced to buy clothes that are way disproportionate to what they make. Nothing wrong with jeans and a golf shirt or something like that...

  4. Another fantastic comment on a sensitive subject. I'm also not saying that they need to look "like us" either. It's not hard to dress what is considered "professionally". Especially in the circumstance of Bell Aliant, where these people have a uniform, the people in question just wear it differently instead of according to what professional standards suggest.

    Professional clothing isn't expensive. A dress shirt and a pair of slacks that would be considered professional can be purchased in discount retailers like Pipers or even Frenchie's for as little as 2 dollars. I've had to buy these sorts of discount outfits for years.