“A computer is like an Old Testament god, with a lot of rules and no mercy”

Wednesday, April 14

Why You Dress So Funny?

During my years in IT, I've worn many hats (metaphorically speaking). As in any other job, you dress for the role you play. I was basically "attacked" earlier (spoken to quite harshly) by someone very high up in .gov for the way I've dressed today.

Allow me to describe my ensemble: Button up, short-sleeve tan South Seas Tiki Lounge shirt (with accompanying graphics on left breast and back), blue jeans, and white Nike running shoes. This is well within our loosely defined dress code, and while it may not be considered "professional", it does serve a purpose, as I demonstrated (more below).

This official (she's a .gov director, so how official she really is is open to debate) seemed offended at my attire. She spoke to my Big Boss while he stood with us as I prepared a loaner laptop for her about my lack of professionalism. She basically harangued this poor man for letting his employees dress "this way."

I cleared my throat and said, "M'am, if I could explain, the reason that I'm dressed this way is primarily phsychological." While she looked at me like a bug under a microscope, that did get her attention enough to allow me to proceed.

"While I may not be in a button down, slacks, and tie, this actually serves the purpose of putting my customers at ease. If I'm dressed in a way that is less formal than themselves, they aren't competing with me on a subconscious level and do not see me as a threat, thus allowing them to relax. Also, this mode of dress serves to remind them subliminally of vacation, allowing them to relax even further. I dress this way in order to instill a sense of comraderie, understanding, and empathy, like I'm an old friend. While my customers may not look forward to seeing me, as this means thier computer is broken, nor do they dread the encounter as I do everything I can to make the experience less painful. I want to put them at ease and let them know everything will be OK."

She thought about this for a few moments, being thoughtfully quiet while I completed the setup for her, and said that she agreed.

Later, my Big Boss came back by, gave me an "attaboy", and told me to keep up the good work.

As my wife says, there are days I could sell ice to eskimos. I don't think I'd ever really thought about the way I dressed in this fashion before (pun intended), but I'm glad it came to me at that point. I hate wearing ties.