MEN WORKING FOR WOMEN

 

Dear Mr. Molloy:

 

I just found out that my new department head is going to be a woman. Since I’ve been married for 15 years to a professional woman I understand that women think differently than men. Before I go to work for this woman I wonder if there is anything I should know before I meet her. I’m sure women supervisors have different expectations of male employees than men in the same position.

 

RC

Des Moines, Iowa

 

Dear RC:

Since your wife is a professional woman I’m sure she knows how professional women think and since she has been married to you for 15 years I’m sure she knows how you act and behave. I think she would be a far better consultant on any problems that arose at work on a day to day basis. However, since I answered a letter similar to yours when I was writing a column I thought I might be helpful also. Your situation reminds me of my son when he was in the fifth grade when the teacher announced she was going to teach the class how to write. He sat with his arms folded. The teacher naturally asked him why he was not writing and he said his father was going to teach him how to write. When she suggested that both of us could teach him, he thought it seemed like a good idea and went to work. I hope you agree two perspectives on the problem might be more useful than one

 

Years ago when I was writing a column I received a letter similar to yours. Though I don’t remember the exact content of the letter I do recall the advice I gave to the gentleman who wrote the letter. I told him to treat his new boss, who happened to be a woman, the same way he would treat her if she were a man. That is my advice to you because department heads all have the same goal, to manage their departments successfully and they promote people who contribute to their departments and their success.

 

But since that letter was written several decades ago I felt obliged to interview a number of women department heads.   In the last two days I interviewed 12 women department heads and ran a focus group with seven women managers two of whom I had interviewed.

 

They unanimously agreed that my original piece of advice was valid and that is exactly the way they wish to be treated. During the discussion of the focus group I told them that in the past I advised men who work for women to pay more attention to the way they dressed because women brought their own perspectives to the workplace. One of which is upper middle-class women which women managers are dress well.

 

Many of the women in our focus group objected to my assertion that they paid more attention to the way their male employees dressed than male managers. At the same, they said if you are sloppy and you work for them your chances of succeeding diminish dramatically. In fact three said that no matter how talented they were they would never consider putting someone like that in charge of others or the position where they have to interact with other departments, clients or the public.

 

At the same time, several of the women took umbrage at the idea that they paid more attention to image than their male counterparts. They said it implied they were shallow and made decisions based on factors that did not affect their department’s efficiency. Others got around this point by insisting that a person’s image did impact their efficiency. They thought slobs were usually disorganized and poor workers and they destroy the professional look at their office. I think the reason for the disagreement was in part due to how we define terms. When I showed them pictures of very talented high-tech people who were so casual they looked sloppy, lower class and unsuccessful even though all of them earned a six-figure income most the women said they would be a lot less likely to put them in charge of anything. So my advice still stands particularly for high-tech people who have to interact with women executives who are not techies themselves. Women technical executives generally not only accept males who dress very casually, but as one woman executive said they treasure them and promote them. So the impact of dressing very casually depends on where and for whom you work.

 

The focus group generally agreed that women when they were first put in charge were often nervous and reacted negatively if challenged by a man. They said that women had to be better at their jobs than men to move into management. Nevertheless when they first become managers it is not wise to challenge them. If you disagree with your woman boss and she’s new on the job do so privately and in a low-key manner.

 

I know this advice in not very definite but the women themselves varied dramatically on what a man should do differently if he has a woman supervisor. While years ago women executives were a rarity now they are in every section of the country and in every industry. As a result their opinions on how a man working for them should act or dress differed dramatically.

 

At the end of the focus group, one woman asked what advice I would give to a man working for another man. I thought about it for a minute or two, and said be a team player, as productive as you can, one of the better workers in your department, and dress appropriately for the job.  And finally and most importantly when dealing with your boss, remember that person is the boss and often holds your business life in their hands. When I finished most of the women clapped and said that was the advice I should have given to men working for women. When I pointed out that is what I advised in the beginning they said they thought this version was better. So here it is.

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SALES BOOT CAMP TO IMPROVE INTERVIEW SKILLS

 

 

Dear Mr. Molloy:

 

I graduated from MIT with a degree in electrical engineering five years ago. I was not at the top of my class but I did graduate with honors and it should have been easy for me to get a job. However, it took me three interviews to get the job I wanted. Some of my classmates who were not nearly as well qualified as I, were wined, dined and hired after their interviews.

 

I was interviewed by three engineers before being hired. I overheard them discussing whether I should be given the job. The reason I was hired one fellow said he knew I was like a jumping Jack but since I was not going to be dealing with the public he was going take a chance on me. He added I will be working with other engineers and I’m sure he will be good at that. The reason he made that comment was I am a terrible interviewer. I get nervous, my hands sweat, I fidget and stumbled over my words and generally make a fool of myself. I’ve been to a dozen interviews and every time I fall flat on my face. Believe it or not under most circumstances I am cool, calm and collected.

 

I’m going for an interview for another position within my company but it will be a real interview and at present I don’t expect to get the job,even though I have excellent references, good recommendations and a gift for problem solving.

 

Please don’t tell me to relax, I’ve tried and it doesn’t work. Can you help?

 

Name and Address Withheld

 

 

Dear Engineer:

 

Your problem is not only solvable but easily solvable. I’ve dealt with it literally hundreds of times before. You have what is called “sales fright” which is a common problem for new salespeople.

 

You can be assured I’m not going to tell you to relax, that is like telling someone learning to walk a tight rope to relax. It’s easier said than done. What you have to do is learn to handle pressure and the only way to do that is to practice under pressure. However, before putting yourself in a high-pressure situation you must consult a physician and describe the training you’re about to undertake. I think if you tell him that I refer to it as sales boot camp he will have a general idea of how we are going to treat you.

 

The first thing you should do is arrange for several interviews for jobs in your field.  Since these are only practice sessions you will be relaxed enough to analyze the approach of the interviewer and the questions they’re likely to ask. Once you’ve done that you will be able to write down the questions you are likely to face in a real interview and develop smooth and clear intelligent responses to them.  You should have several versions of each question and answers that fit each one. Read through these answers several times.

 

Your next step is to think of the questions that you’re likely to face in the interview you’re going to have at your company. Follow the same procedure and once again develop several versions of each question and excellent answers for each version.

 

In the second stage you are to enlist the help of a friend or your significant other. Give them the questions you’ve developed then have them ask you those questions over and over and comment on how smoothly and calmly you’ve answered each one. Next, have the person doing the interviewing increase the pressure. He or she should at this point raise their voice, in fact almost shout, challenge your answers and even possibly your honesty. At no time will you react to those challenges or the attitude of the interviewer. They should run this high-pressure interview repeatedly until you remain calm, friendly and seemingly pleased to be speaking to the interviewer, no matter what they say or how they say it.

 

Once you have mastered your emotions and your reaction to forceful interviewing, your pressure interviewing really begins. The interviewer from this point on must become verbally abusive. He or she is to get directly in your face, which means he will place his face within two or 3 inches of yours and shout. The interviewer must also insult you in ways that are not only impolite but rude. If they cannot carry this out effectively find another person to interview you.

 

Many women interviewers have a problem using this technique. I found it helped when we showed them a movie in which a Marine drill sergeant puts a recruit through his paces. Tell them to use as many of his tactics as possible. Finally, combine the verbal abuse with physical abuse that is designed to never do real damage to the person being interviewed. While questioning you the interviewer should shoot a water gun in your face, shake your chair, play a radio very loud while you’re answering questions etc. Once again throughout this ordeal you have to maintain your composure. During these sessions, not only should you appear calm, cool and collected but pleasant and friendly.

 

I realize this is very difficult but it works for 97% to 98% of those who take the time and effort to run through the steps. However, if you’re one of the handful for whom it doesn’t work, the solution is simple, go back and do it again. It will take practice but sooner or later everyone becomes if not a great interviewer a good interviewer, particularly those who are by nature calm, cool and collected.

 

If you can manage to appear friendly and pleasant through a dozen of these abusive interviews, the real interview should seem like a walk in the park.

 

Good luck!

 

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TUXEDO

 

 

Dear Mr. Molloy:

 

 

I just rented a black tuxedo that I will wear with a white shirt. The only reason I chose that one is that’s my image of a tuxedo. I’ve been seeing them on TV and in the movies all my life.

 

Until last month I had never worn either a tuxedo or a dinner jacket. As a field engineer who has recently moved into management I’ve learned that formal attire must become a part of my wardrobe. In my new position, I will have more responsibility and will earn considerably more than I did in the past. I will be working at headquarters and there it is mandatory to join a very exclusive country club. Frankly, I’d rather not but I have no choice.

 

Last week I attended a meeting for new members and was handed a schedule of next Spring’s events. The first thing I noticed was many of the events were formal. I think it’s time for me to buy my own tuxedo. When I arrived at the store to buy it I assumed all tuxedos were black, but apparently not. I already noticed that many members were not wearing black tuxedos, but a majority seem to be.

 

Once the clerk found out that I belonged to the best country club in town, he showed me a deep maroon dinner jacket and a tuxedo in tones of gray. I said no to his suggestion, however my wife said she talked to the other women whose husbands belonged to the club and they all said that black tuxedos were worn by the old timers.

 

When I returned to the store I tried on that maroon dinner jacket. It was not and never will be me. I decided to purchase a black tuxedo and a traditional white dinner jacket over my wife’s objections.

 

Was she right?

 

California Engineer..

Name Withheld

 

 

Dear Engineer:

 

I am not sure whether your wife is right because in casual and sometimes avant-garde California she may be. However, I never knew anyone to get in trouble wearing a black tuxedo and an appropriate white shirt. If you move to any other state I suspect that you’ll disappear in a sea of black tuxedos. Nevertheless, I am certain I am right because from a statistical point of view the odds are in your favor. When a fellow researcher who regularly reviews my work read your letter he showed pictures of men in different colored tuxedos at a company meeting in California. He said he did this because he was attending a meeting and every one in his company wears only black tuxedos. Since he showed the pictures I gave him to a crowd in a very traditional company to men dressed very traditionally obviously the black tuxedo tested best.

 

However, when he followed up with the question what would you think of a man wearing a tux of any other color?  Their answers were very telling. Their printable answers went from tasteless to low class. Their semi-printable ones were idiot, jackass, clown etc. You will have to guess what the unprintable answers might have been. What was so significant was they judged the man by the tuxedo he wore and I think some of their judgments would eliminate anyone wearing a nontraditional tuxedo from becoming a member of their group. To be ostracized even mentally in a business-social environment would be a disadvantage both in business and socially. Remember when you’re at the club you’ll be meeting clients from all over the world and they will bring their standards with them and make similar judgments.

 

Further research indicates that on most formal occasions it is best to wear traditional attire. Of course, that means a black tuxedo. Since you are new in your position I think it’s essential to maintain a constant image with your coworkers. The majority of us are more likely to trust and believe others whose visual image is consistent. In short, consistency means credibility particularly when that person is new and members of the community have not had a chance to make up their mind about him.

 

I mentioned before that white shirts tested best, by white shirts I mean those with a rich, elegant and simple design, with straight pleats no ruffles. Those shirts require using studs or traditional simple gold and onyx cufflinks. You also will need a black bow tie (if you don’t know how to tie a bow tie you can wear a clip on but I suggest you learn. There are simple instructions in my “Dress for Success” book.) In addition, you will need black patent leather shoes, black sheer executive length socks, and black-and-white suspenders.

 

As an afterthought, my friend asked that gathering what was the most common mistake made by men wearing formal wear. Their surprising answer was that men occasionally wore tuxedos with stains on them to affairs where being crisp and neat is expected.  When he followed up with did you ever do that?  Most admitted they had. What happened in most cases was when they got home after a formal affair usually late in the evening they hung up their tuxedos without looking at them. When they were going to the next formal affair they took them out, put them on and ran out the door. Don’t do that.

 

Good luck!

 

 

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ART, ANTIQUES AND COMPETENCE

 

Dear Mr. Molloy:

 

My husband is a cardiac surgeon and has just been appointed head of cardiac surgery at a major hospital. He was given this position because he is a surgeon with a wonderful record. The doctors with whom he worked appreciated him because if someone in their family needed cardiac surgery they sent them to him.

 

We live in an affluent area. While we have gotten along with most of our neighbors I never felt we were accepted by others. Possibly that is why some of our friends went to other cardiologists. This was particularly true of old money people who I feel looked down on us. Nobody ever said anything. We were invited to parties at their homes so why they chose others over my husband I will never know.

 

Since we are going to be leaving in seven months because of my husband’s new position I thought I’d ask a neighbor and a friend who is a leader in this community if she could explain to me why we received this treatment. Her answer was simple. She said people who have money all their lives think of themselves as a superior group and actually believe they are smarter than the rest of the world. She said, in fact they’re not, but if you wish to be successful with them you have to adopt their lifestyle. She said we should furnish our new home with antiques and art on the walls. That will announce to them we are sophisticated and will convince them that my husband is probably good at his job. Is she right?

 

How can we in seven months develop the expertise to buy antiques and art?

 

A Doctors Wife

 

 

Dear Doctors Wife:

 

The lady who advised you to purchase antiques and art was giving very good advice. She is a leader in the community and understands it. In fact, I say she is very insightful.

 

In the early 80s I was hired by an association of dentists and their accounting firm to find out what it took for their members who were attempting to sell themselves and their services in social settings to be successful. As soon as the study started it became evident that the wives played an important role in their husband’s careers and part of that role was maintaining an upscale home and knowing how to entertain.

 

Once I told them that, they wanted to know how they should dress and how much they should spend on clothing, automobiles, furniture and other items. They had a basic understanding of the problem because they wanted also to know what types of items would add to their status. The accountants were particularly interested in impressing people with money including old money.

 

This study went on for almost 6 years because I told that group, they could get it done much more cheaply if they allowed me to run their study work in conjunction with other studies. They were asking for too much information. I explained to them that the information I would get would be useful to me and therefore I would do the research at a reduced price if I could get their cooperation. I also insisted they send us photographs and videos of their homes, country clubs and other places where they met potential clients.

 

That study produced so much information there is no way I could outline results in this blog. However, I will hit some of the highlights and answer as many of your questions as I can.

 

If you are selling yourself or your professional services in an upper middle-class or upper-class area, your image will directly impact the perception of your competence. If you do not come from a privileged background I suggest you get a copy of my “Dress for Success” book. It will teach you how to buy upper middle-class clothing for both business and social occasions. If you still have difficulty doing this, in every community there are usually several stores dedicated to selling expensive, conservative, traditional attire to the elite in the community. Usually you can trust the taste of the buyers in the stores but if they go against my basic advice find another store.

 

Since what is worn by members of country clubs varies depending on the nature of the club and the area, I suggest you sit outside the club and photograph the members as they enter. Do this during the day and in the evening.

 

If you visit any club in the area you would like to join you should pay careful attention to what the other women are wearing including their jewelry. People are invited to join clubs where the members think they will fit in.

 

As for purchasing art and antiques, you are right, you cannot becom expert in either of those areas in that short period of time. You’re going to have to hire experts. All experts are not honest so before you hire one you must study books on antiques and art and be able to identify the characteristics of different periods and schools. It is not necessary for you to be able to identify a legitimate piece from one designed to fool the buyer that’s why you hire an expert. In addition by checking the prices paid at auctions for various pieces you should have a pretty good idea of what those pieces are worth. Unfortunately, if your approach or conversation tells some dealers you know nothing about antiques or art you’re likely to be taken.

 

Keep in mind all experts are not experts. We have a 1840 rosewood dining room set and we hired an expert from Orlando to appraise it. We had it appraised before so we knew exactly what it was, we were only curious about what it was worth at the time. She announced that it wasn’t from 1840 but 1890, it wasn’t rosewood because rosewood boards were not that wide and it wasn’t exactly a set because some of the chairs didn’t match. She didn’t know early rosewood boards were that wide and when a family in 1840 purchased a dining set they usually bought a table and four chairs. When additional children came along they purchased a chair for each one. Since all furniture at the time was handmade the new chairs didn’t exactly match the old ones. When I asked her to leave and said I would hire someone else from Orlando she told me she was an instructor for antique appraisers in Orlando. We haven’t had it appraised yet.

 

Unless you are willing and able to spend a fortune on art I suggest you stick with more traditional material. While the great modern artists are wonderful some of the lesser-known ones are often simply related to someone in the field. For example, many of the people who run art museums have friends and family members who own stores around their museums. And believe it or not they also have friends or relatives who are well known modern artists mainly because their works are displayed in the museums they control. Never was the phrase “buyer  beware” more appropriate.

 

Good luck

 

 

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NASTY NERD TO NICE GUY

This has been edited extensively because it contained words and phrases that I refuse to use.

 

Dear  You Blank-Blank:

 

When I found out you were writing a blog I knew I had to write. In 2003 I went to a high school class reunion and one of the people who showed up was (name withheld) a tall redheaded nasty nerd. When he first arrived, we couldn’t believe it. Nobody thought he would come because no one in the class liked him. I went to see my old friends, but he didn’t have a friend in the class. He was the most obnoxious person I’ve ever known.

 

What really surprised us was the way he behaved. He actually treated most of us as if we were his friends, although nothing could be further from the truth. When several people asked him why he was acting as he did he said you had taught him how to be popular and in his new job and where he lived he had lots of friends and was now very popular. He said being popular changed his life but we did not see any change.

 

He then went on to explain how by teaching him to send popular signals you gave him the ability to charm the world. I know no one believed that but he continue with that charade to the end of the evening, and then thank God he left.

 

If you have the guts explain how someone who has been obnoxious all of his life can by smiling and pretending to be pleasant can win over the world. Winning over the world is a direct quote from Mr. Obnoxious who wasn’t winning over our world.

 

We think if you even claim you can make someone like him into a human being, you are a fool or a con man. If you’re not either of these please explain how you work miracles.

 

Name and Address Withheld for Obvious Reasons

 

 

Dear Doubting Thomas:

 

You will have to understand three things; first I never tried or claimed to change anyone’s personality. Second, I have run across literally hundreds of men and women who before taking my course told me that everyone hated them and they hated everyone. So the world changed them. Third, once I taught them to charm the world they loved almost everyone they met because while the people they met in the past treated them poorly today the same people are their friends and are very nice to them.

 

As for who I am, my name is John T Molloy and I am the author of best-selling books, most of which were on success and image. I also have had two national radio shows and a nationally syndicated column dealing with the same subjects. My books were bestsellers because they were based on research not my opinion and the advice I gave was accurate and useful.

 

Which brings us to the subject at hand, you and your friends probably disliked him when you first met, possibly as early as the first grade. You disliked him because of the signals he sent verbally and nonverbally most of which he’d been sending since he was two or three. At that age the majority of us imitate facial expressions and body language of those we love and admire at the time. We may copy our parents, a good friend, a neighbor, a playmate or an acquaintance we like or admire. If that person is popular we may become popular as well but as often as not we learn to imitate signals that turn off others. Which means that being popular is largely a product of our environment and chance.

 

The first bestseller I wrote was “Dress for Success.” After it was published I was hired by corporations to dress their sales people in hopes of making them more effective. Once I started I discovered that buyers were more likely to purchase products and services from people they liked.

 

In an attempt to discover which salespeople were successful and why we set up cameras in buyer’s offices and sent salespeople from companies we represented and sometimes trained into those offices. After we taped them, we had the buyers look at the videotapes and tell us why they bought from salesperson A and not B. We improved on this when we put switches under the buyer’s desks and asked them to push them one way when they received a positive message and the other way when they got a negative one. As a result of this research we changed the way salespeople approached and interacted with buyers and sales increased.

 

Because our initial research worked, we then were asked to teach salespeople who spent their days in clients offices to charm the people they work with every day. Once we succeeded at that we were asked to train executives but since they often sold in social settings that required new research. This research gave us the ability to train almost anyone to be popular in a social setting which I will be doing in my new book on popularity. I’ll be publishing it shortly.

 

If you would like to receive preferential treatment from almost everyone you meet I suggest you purchase my popularity book. It will also answer your questions more completely and explain why that tall, nerdy redhead might be really be a nice fellow.

 

 

 

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EXECUTIVE WOMEN

Dear Mr. Molloy:

 

I am one of several women in the executive suite of a Fortune 500 hundred company. Two months ago I became assistant to one of the vice presidents which means if I do my job well I will become an officer in the company.

 

I come from a small town in upstate New York so I never knew anyone who was an executive in a large company. Just working at headquarters has been an education for me. I now understand that women executives have a different image and approach to problems than the women I met in the past including most of my professors. I earned an MBA from the University of Michigan and believe I’m well qualified to make management decisions. One of the professors said that years ago your book was used in some classes but it was now hopelessly dated because the women’s movement has opened the doors of the executive suites to women and things have changed so much.

 

Because I had no background when I started working I read your book on business dress but did not take it seriously. Since I arrived here I’ve rethought that and now realize you still have an impact on how women executives dress. While most of the women do not follow your rules exactly I’ve noticed that when they’re going to meetings many of them wear jackets and some wear suits.

 

I have several questions. Is the professor right or am; I right is your book still relevant? If you have one piece of advice to give me on image what would it be?   Are there any mistakes that women moving into the executive suite make?

 

Any other hints on executive image would be appreciated.

 

Name and Address Withheld

 

Dear Future Executive:

 

Your short seemingly simple questions are anything but. To answer them properly would take an entire book but I will try in this blog to cover the obvious points.

 

You’re both right. My book has become dated because today women executives dress more femininely and fashionably than when I wrote the original book and the update. There are two reasons for this, women in most fields are no longer looked on by the men in executive suites as less competent than their male counterparts. There are only a few fields where women have to prove their worth when they walk in the door. They are the traditional male-dominated businesses, construction, high-tech, and energy to name a few and even in those fields women have made it to the top. 30 years ago when women weren’t accepted in construction Donald Trump’s top construction person was a woman. Like most businessmen he was a pragmatist and didn’t care about anything except how well she did the job.

 

My first piece of advice is keep doing what you’re doing. You said you are learning by studying the people around you and today when dress codes vary from company to company that is exactly what you should be doing. Keep in mind that although some of my specific advice may be dated, the principles on which it is based are not. In any management job if you’re a man or woman you will do better if while not straying too far from the unofficial company dress code you dress conservatively and traditionally. If you’re going into a situation where you think your authority is going to be challenged, the darker your outfit the more authority you will have and the less likely it is you will be challenged.

 

 

Every woman in business in a certain sense has to make the bedroom or boardroom choice. If you dress in a frilly and feminine style you will not be taken seriously by most men and if you dress in any way that sends a sexual signal men are more likely to object to your giving them orders. By the way most women do not think that most of their garments send sexual signals even when they do. A majority believe if everyone wears a short skirt to the office short skirts are acceptable. When the fashion industry pushes short skirts they say fashionable to most women but we’ve been testing for years and short skirts always say sex to men. Since I’ve been in this business women told me many times that all that has changed. They often use the date to justify their argument, they usually say it’s 1974, 1994 or the 21st century and that’s simply not true anymore. In fact with men very little changes, although they may give lip service to being politically correct the majority are not. To understand how differently men and women view sexual signals just think about the fact that while most women do not consider wearing very high heels to be a sexual signal, most men do.

 

 

The primary weakness of executive women is they often are ineffective when making a presentation before a group. They are usually ineffective not because of what they say but how they say it. Just about all women who have not been trained and a substantial percentage of men speak too rapidly when discussing an important topic. If they slowed down they would be far more effective and have a greater impact on their audience. Another reason women have problems is one third of them have high pitched voices which makes it difficult for them to capture an audience. To become effective, they should hire a speech coach from a local University to help with this problem.

 

Another mistake made by women is when they get their dream job and the office that goes with it they don’t immediately redecorate. If the person who held that job before them was a man he usually sat in a large leather office chair behind a large wooden desk which added to his power and authority but more often than not the same desk and chair dwarfs most women and makes them look small, weak and ineffective.

 

 

Finally, several years ago I didn’t have to tell men or women not to discuss politics at work. Today however many young women come out of  universities convinced that global warming is destroying the world, that socialism is more effective than capitalism, and that a man who uses a locker room speech or makes politically incorrect assertions is a sexist. You can believe whatever you want but keep your mouth shut. If you defend left-wing theories in a conservative, traditional, capitalist workplace it will not help your career. And if you use one of those theories to attack an individual it can and probably will kill your career.

 

Keep in mind liberal students are attracted to the academic life while conservative students tend to go into business. A substantial number of executives today believe that their careers and their lives were diminished by left-wing professors who did not give them the grades they deserved because they didn’t parrot the left-wing professors beliefs. They like the far left divide the world into them and us. and if they think you are one of them they will kill your career.

 

 

Good luck!

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REAL ESTATE SALES & CREATIVE MINDS

Dear Mr. Molloy:

 

I am a real estate salesman and have been managing the Commercial Sales Department in my firm for almost 7 years. My standard uniform in the winter   consists of gray slacks and a navy sport jacket. When I’m dealing with corporate types, particularly when we’re meeting in their offices, I wear a suit. I found that this look works very well in Boston, New York, Connecticut and most of the area around Washington DC.

 

However, I’ve just been given a promotion. I’m now vice president of the company and I will be running nine offices primarily selling residential real estate. I did a walk-through of each office and noticed that there was no dress code. I’m not sure what is necessary because the socio-economic background of the buyers varies dramatically from office to office. I recognize that those dealing with the actual buyers have a better insight into what is needed than I. Nevertheless I believe there should be some general guidelines for dress in real estate sales. After all you are asking buyers to make a major financial and personal commitment.

 

Can you give me any hint as to how I should approach this problem?

 

 

CV

Fairfax, Virginia

 

 

 

Dear CV:

 

Moving from selling commercial real estate to residential properties virtually puts you into another business. The fact that they’re both real estate sales is really irrelevant. When buyers look at commercial properties they usually have had the property appraised and discussed how much the property is worth to them with in-house financial experts, so there is very little room for negotiation on price. In over 90% of the cases whether they buy or not depends on whether that properly suits their needs. Since you’re dealing with businesspeople you are right, it is usually best to dress in the same style as the buyers.

 

When people buy residential property however the story is entirely different. Unlike people buying commercial property they are less interested in the bricks and mortar aspect of the building and more interested in the lifestyle of the community. The general rule is to dress as if you are a successful member of that community. If it’s a blue-collar rural community casual dress is almost a must. One very astute real estate person said dress the way you think the people in that community would dress when going to church on Sunday.

 

The second rule is you must be neat and well put together. People at all socio- economic levels are more likely to trust others who look as if they know what they’re talking about. Most of us trust those who appear to be in control of their lives which means to women, who are often the critical decision-makers, dressing well or at least neatly and appropriately. I wish I could be more specific but with such a broad range of buyers that’s impossible.

 

 

 

 

Dear Mr. Molloy:

 

I am 16, a junior in high school and by nature creative. I love the arts and the theater and I participate in theater in school. I read several times if you want to be successful in life find something you love and do that for a living. I want to live in the world of da Vinci, Chagall and the great minds of the 21st century most of whom are artists. The creativity in a Hollywood, on Broadway and in the writings of our great men have changed our world.

 

My father, an engineer, is the dullest and least creative person I’ve ever met so it did not come as a surprise to me when he said he will not pay my tuition in college if I become an art major. He said it’s a degree in unemployment and I should find something more useful to study. Can you think of any way I can convince him he’s wrong?

 

A Hopeful Junior

 

Dear Hopeful:

 

I do not know you or your father but I think you do not know your father either. At least you don’t have any idea of what he does for a living. Engineering by its nature is creative. Now I will admit some engineers are more creative than others but they are problem solvers, which often requires creative thinking.

 

Which forces me to point out an obvious fact, in da Vinci’s time the most brilliant  creative minds became artists. In the 20th and 21st century the sharpest and most creative minds have gone into the sciences. Edison and Einstein changed the world so much you cannot imagine the 21st century without them. In fact Edison invented the movie camera and built the first studio to produce movies. The reason Hollywood is located just north of Mexico is the people who first made movies to put it politely borrowed much of the technology needed to make movies. They wanted a location that would allow them to move to Mexico in case they were sued.

 

I am certain if da Vinci lived in the 21st century he would be a scientist. He was centuries ahead of his time when he drew some of the most accurate depictions of the human body produced until the early 20th century. He also drew up plans for a workable airplane and submarine hundreds of years before anyone conceived of them. He was without a doubt one of the greatest scientists of all time, but in his time creative minds went into the arts so became a sculptor.

 

Creative scientists have given us the ability to travel into space, to the bottom of the ocean and to every corner of this planet. They also develop technology which helps us live longer and better than the Kings and Queens did just a few hundred years ago. If you really want to be creative you’re more likely to succeed in the 21st century if you become a scientist or even an engineer.

 

As far as your father’s assertion that a degree in art history is a degree in unemployment he’s right.

 

Nevertheless, I wish you good luck, I suspect you’re going to need it.

 

 

 

Dear Mr. Molloy

 

I will be graduating next year with a degree in English literature, I would like to teach. So far I’ve been interviewed twice and both have been disasters. I wore a suit to the first interview and was told in no uncertain terms that I overdressed and would probably not fit in. In an attempt to be more casual I wore a sports jacket and a golf shirt to the second interview where I was told they expected me to be a bit more formal for the interview. I have no idea what to wear to my future interviews, can you help?

 

Name and Address Withheld

 

Dear Future Teacher:

 

Don’t worry, most school principals and department heads would like you to dress more formally for the interview than when you get the job. While a suit might be a bit too much for teaching today I think the sport jacket with conservative slacks, a shirt and tie would be appropriate in most places.

 

However, since you had such negative experiences I suggest you call the school before you show up, tell them what happened to you and ask them what they expect you to wear.

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HANDLING DIFFICULT PEOPLE

Dear Mr. Molloy:

 

I am a man in his mid-30s and have just been elected to the school board in my town. In the course of campaigning I visited both blue collar workers and young professionals in their homes. The one thing I noticed was the better educated parents were more interested in their children’s education than those with a high school education or less.

 

In about a month and a half the school board will be having a second public meeting. I intend to introduce a program which will by its nature increase the cost of running our school. There is already opposition in the community to my proposal but if it’s well presented I think it will pass since many school board members will respond to pressure from the community. I know I already have the backing of a majority of parents who are college educated and they are more likely to attend school board meetings but I fear I will not win the blue-collar majority.

 

I’m looking for an outfit that will work equally well with both groups. I noticed when I was campaigning that if I showed up wearing a very conservative suit it offended some blue-collar workers and when I dress down I was  not as effective with the more sophisticated members of the community. Can you recommend a specific outfit I can wear to this meeting?

 

Please keep in mind our school board meetings are often loud and disorderly. The president of the school board often spends most of his time bringing the room to order. I’ve seen you speak several times and I know you are very good on stage and am wondering if you could give me specific advice on how to handle interruptions.

 

KN,

City Withheld

 

 

Dear K.N.:

 

Yes, there is. Wear a navy blazer with gray slacks, a white shirt and a solid maroon tie. When the meeting starts loosen your tie and if the audience is predominately blue-collar take off your jacket.

 

One of the tricks used by union leaders and professional politicians when they attend such a meeting is to have people who agree with them from different groups accompany them when they go on stage. While you’re the primary speaker you can refer to individuals and ask them about their personal experience or opinions to back up the argument you’re making. This will make it seem as if the argument is not yours personally but that of a group which will give you greater credibility with most audiences and make it less likely that you will be interrupted.

 

Another gambit used by sophisticated salespeople and you are a salesperson in that situation is if you are interrupted by someone who is loud and obnoxious do not get angry. Tell them and the audience that you respect their opinion and invite them up on stage to counter the points you have made. If you pick someone who’s particularly inarticulate or even better rude to defend the opposing point of view you have chosen the best person from your perspective. In addition, you can calmly and politely ask them questions which require specific expertise that they probably will not have, giving your side a definite advantage.

But since no one can predict how such meetings will go I must tell you that the first rule is to read your audience and follow your instincts. So although I’ve given you what I think are a couple of good tactics, only use them if you think they’re appropriate at the moment.

 

Good luck!

 

 

 

Dear Mr. Molloy:

 

I work for a company where about one third of women managers wear jackets usually over dresses almost every day and the others wear jackets but not the ones you would recommend. There are some who dress very casually, most of them are in technical positions and work with men who are casually dressed.

 

I have an MBA from a major university and while I dressed casually and hardly ever wore a jacket for the first four years I now wear a suit whenever I can and jackets when I cannot. I did this because my father who is an executive bet me that if I changed my look I would increase my chances of getting promotions. I was sure he was wrong but because I received two promotions in the last three years and am being looked at for bigger and better things I insisted that he take his winnings.

 

My latest promotion put me in a new department. I am now working for a woman who has hinted without subtlety that she dislikes my dressing like a man. I think she really dislikes my dressing better than her. It would be hard not to because she dresses terribly.

N.H,

St. Louis, Missouri

 

 

 

Dear NH:

 

 

I wish I could give you better advice but I cannot. Since you just started working for her I’m sure will be difficult to transfer to another department but that is exactly what I suggest you try to do. If you cannot transfer for a while you can adjust your dress to suit her just a bit. You may have no choice. However, once it becomes possible to move, do so.

 

At present, you’re in a Catch-22 situation. Since you have earned an MBA from a major university I’m sure you’re aim is to move into management. If you start dressing in a manner that destroys your executive image, I’m sure it will be noted by the men and women at the top. While if you do not she will probably give you a hard time, and might write negative reviews of your work and short-circuit your career.

 

I talked to several women executives and explained your situation to them. They suggested that you continue to dress professionally but when you’re dealing with her take off your jacket and relax your image. They conceded it wasn’t a perfect solution to your problem but added that one of the necessary skills to be an executive is handling difficult situations and difficult people. I wish I could give you upbeat positive advice but I can’t.

 

Sorry!

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Mr. Molloy:

 

I always admired your advice but am beginning to question it. My wife attended your lecture on popularity last week at the Disney hotel. She said you are writing a book on popularity and it will be available in a couple of months. She said nevertheless you told the audience that 40% of them didn’t need it. That’s idiotic.

 

Name and Address Withheld

 

Dear Sir:

 

After another test speech on popularity I was approached by a publisher who is interested in my book. He said he had only one requirement for publishing the book, I had to stop telling people they didn’t need it. He said to do so was stupid and he may have a point.

 

However, I didn’t exactly say that. What I tell all my audiences is if 30% to 40% of them do exactly as I say they will learn to make a great first impression and charm people for a limited period of time. What I do tell them is that they do not need my book to accomplish that but the book would make it simpler, quicker and easier. What is more I tell them if they want to be popular and receive preferential treatment from the world they need my book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BEING BALD & WHAT KIDS DON’T KNOW

 

Dear Mr. Molloy:

 

One factor which you have not discussed that would probably interest many readers is the effect of baldness on a businessman’s image. Being bald I wondered if it is better to wear a hairpiece or to live with your baldness.

 

Having this problem for many years I feel that being bald creates a negative impression and wearing a hairpiece makes one look vain. In addition, I have never seen one that I didn’t immediately spot. Many bald men comb their hair pieces over the forehead in an attempt to camouflage them, it doesn’t work. Most often hairpieces are parted differently than real hair and color difference between what’s left of the real hair and the rug is usually obvious. I’m sure there are hair pieces and plugs that are undiscernible but I have never seen any.

 

Partially bald men have even a greater problem. Most comb overs look stupid and only draw attention to the fact that they are bald.

 

I’d appreciate if you could comment on my observations and I wonder if you have any research on the subject,

 

Name and Address Withheld

 

Dear Sir:

 

I was gray when I was in my early 30s and as a result one of the first things I researched was the impact of gray hair on image. Since a substantial percentage of men who were bald or going bald had touches of gray in their hair or were completely gray, the two subjects became intertwined.

 

The first thing I’ll tell you is if you are bald or going bald you should dye your hair. Apparently if both occur simultaneously the impact is totally negative. The negative impact on the person’s business and social life is at least twice what you expect it to be. So if you are both balding and going gray, you should color your hair and you must keep it up. If your hairline is even receding touches of gray will hurt your image in business and socially. That will make it more difficult for you to operate in either world..

 

Being bald in business can be both a positive and a negative depending primarily on your age. If you’re under 35 and have a young face it will add to your authority and that can be a positive. If you are 40 it probably does not affect your image but it can make you look inept if you are overweight or diminutive. Such a negative effect varies from individual to individual but we found when we asked men about the impact it had on their careers most made an accurate assessment. If you’re not sure I’ll show you, in future blogs how to research that problem. Having touches of gray in your hair can be either neutral or negative. Since  you’re not going to be sure without extensive testing it would be prudent to get a hairpiece and a good one and color your hair as soon as you hit 40.

 

This gentleman’s letter indicated he came from a small town in the Midwest. I’m certain that is why he never ran across good hairpieces or plugs. I found them only in large metropolitan areas, although they may exist elsewhere.

 

As fo comb-overs I have to assume you have never heard of Donald Trump. If he wears a hairpiece or plugs or had his hair restored surgically I am sure you would never notice because obviously he can afford the very best. At 70, if he decided it was necessary since he was going into the public arena, it was a very wise move. By the way Donald Trump would not stand out in DC, hair pieces are as common among politicians in Washington as they are in Hollywood. If you want to know how undetectable they can be, think of Ted Danson the star and sex symbol on Cheers. In one show he actually took off his hairpiece. I was surprised and I am sure everyone else was.

 

Whatever you decide, good luck!

 

.

 

 

 

Dear Mr. Molloy:

 

I am a 21-year-old junior at Caltech and I will be interviewing next year for a job as a structural engineer. I do not believe I will have any trouble landing a position since I have a 3.3 average and a 3.8 average in my major.

 

At present, I have shoulder length hair and a short beard which my father refers to as stubble. I am also a socialist who believes that capitalism takes advantage of the average working man and that if we ever tried socialism everyone would love it and be much better off. It is also more efficient, the fastest growing nation on earth is communist China.

 

My father tells me that unless I cut my hair and trim or cut off my beard I will find it hard to get a job. I often speak about my beliefs and he said if I tell employers I am a socialist it will make it more difficult to get a job. I find that hard to believe but I will go along at least for the interview. However, when he tells me I have to dress up for interviews on campus that’s ridiculous but he said he would not pay my last year’s tuition unless I did as he said.

 

I know he will listen to you because he has a copy of your dress book on his shelf and he’s been trying to get me to read it forever.  Even you know in high tech companies dress is so casual that you can wear anything you want. Please tell him.

 

A Desperate Student

 

 

Dear Desperate:

 

You may not be desperate now but you soon will be unless you listen to your father, he’s right. Once you get the job you can dress to suit yourself but before you do I suggest you look around very carefully and see what others are wearing. Pay particular attention to what your direct supervisor wears. Many high-tech managers not only allow but encourage their techies to dress very casually because they believe that casually dressed engineers will be more creative. There is no statistical data to back up that belief.

.

I would also point out that we started as utopian socialists. The Puritans had a strictly socialist society and in the first year they came half of them starved to death. The second year the same thing happened. The merchants who underwrote the trip tried to sell the debt that the Puritans owed. No one would buy it. The leaders of the colony noticed that many of the young men weren’t working diligently to grow more crops. Since the colony was literally starving to death they concluded the original system was not working. So everyone was given his own plot of land to work .Once they were working for themselves they planted more, grew more and made a profit. With the introduction of free enterprise the colony became so profitable they easily payed back their backers and with that success others followed.

 

As for China, poverty was a way of life until they concluded that socialism didn’t work. I understand that the government is communist and the army is communist but that is because their rulers did not want to give up power. However, the same government who shot people for even thinking about capitalism, introduced it. Once they did China had free enterprise, multi- millionaires and as you pointed out economic growth.

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WHEN YOU MOVE & THE IMPACT OF POPULARITY TRAINING

 

Dear Mr. Molloy:

 

I am a software engineer and have finally been asked to move to corporate headquarters. It means money and prestige right away and hopefully bigger and better things in the future.

 

Corporate headquarters is in San Francisco. I’ve only visited that city twice and both times the weather has been very pleasant. At present my wardrobe consists of seven suits, three sport jackets and a dozen slacks. As you can see I have two images because my job at present has two functions, first I am a working engineer and second a manager. I have seven suits. three medium weight two winter weight  and two light weight. My question is, what type of adjustment should I make with my clothing since the weather in San Francisco is more moderate.

 

In addition I have to adjust my wardrobe to suit California which is more casual. As a manager in the Boston office I dealt with people in the Northeast from Maine to Albany New York, in San Francisco I will be dealing with California high-tech people. Since I’ll be dealing with technical people I will spend considerable time in the Silicon Valley.

 

 

 

HG

San Francisco, California

 

Dear HG:

 

At first your question seems to be about the change in temperature in the two areas. Obviously the Northeast is far colder than San Francisco which has about 3 ½ months of winter, from mid-November until the end of February. During those months your winter suits will work just fine however your moderate weight suits will as well. You cannot wear the same wardrobe because dress at corporate headquarters is almost always more traditional than it is in field offices. California even in a casual industry like yours is far more casual than in the Northeast so most of the time business casual will work best.

 

Although in the Silicon Valley you will see people dressed very casually the men who run the Valley have adopted a business casual attire as a minimum for executives who deal with those outside the industry.  Since obviously your goal is to become one of those executives you should wear business casual most of the time. There are of course companies that are exceptions to this rule but it’s the safe way to go.

 

In California there is such a variety of dress codes in the high-tech industry that you almost have to adjust your look to suit the company or the people you are dealing with on that day. When you arrive ask to speak to the people who were handling the clients you’re about to get. Ask specifically how those clients and their workers, managers and executives dress and their attitude toward people who dress differently. While in most companies business casual works well for people in management positions there are some departments in the same companies where wearing a suit or even sports coat will identify you as an outsider. It reminds me of the banking, insurance, financial and similar traditional industries 30 years ago. When you went to sell in those companies unless you wore the conservative suit, shirt and tie uniform when you arrived, most of the time you and your proposals were DOA.

 

Interestingly enough because the dress codes are so casual even when the executives and managers dress as casually as everyone else they usually do so in upscale high quality garments. If you know what you’re looking for you can spot them across the street. So don’t kid yourself in 90% of those companies there is an executive dress code. Since there are so many executive dress codes you will have to identify them and adjust your look as you go.

 

Good luck!

 

 

Dear Mr. Molloy:

 

I attended your lecture on popularity in the workplace two months ago. It was interesting but I couldn’t really take it seriously. I don’t see any reason I should spend a minimum of 4 to 6 hours a week for several months to become popular. I’m an electrical engineer and my work speaks for itself so I’ve no interest in becoming charming. In fact I’m thinking of working on my second Masters which I believe will be a lot more useful. My question is, why would any company pay for such a lecture?

 

Name and Address Withheld

 

 

Dear Electrical Engineer:

 

I’m sure your work speaks for itself but not as clearly as you might think. What your superiors, coworkers or subordinates think about your work, your expertise or what you suggest depends to a degree on how they see you. I’m not claiming that if you’re an idiot and a charming one you will do well, you will not. As you said you are in a field where your work speaks for itself. But there is an old joke in accounting that applies in your field as well. I first heard it when I asked Jack Grady a buddy of mine, who in the 70s was the controller of Peat Marwick, what I could do when he was no longer around to give me solid advice. His answer was to hire a talented accountant. When I asked how I could do that he said by asking a simple question, How much is one and one? My immediate answer was two. He said now ask me the question. When I asked Jack how much is one and one his answer was how much do you want to be? Which proves even the most obvious statistical data is open to interpretation and that’s true in your field as well.

 

The answer to your second question is companies have found that when I trained their employees to turn their charm off-and-on like a lightbulb it helps in several ways. The employees who had taken the course were far better able to charm clients and convince them that they can solve their problems. And once their employees had mastered the skill of charming the people they met they brought that skill to work and charmed everyone around them. Once they did the offices ran more smoothly and efficiently.

 

I feel obliged to tell you that I wasn’t paid for that speech. It came about by accident. Almost 3 years earlier I was speaking about image and sales at a yearly corporate meeting when one of the scheduled speakers became ill and I was asked to fill in for her at lunch. I was researching popularity at the time and since almost everyone had heard my sales speech, I said I would train the audience to make a good first impression. A little over one third of the audience three weeks later was able to turn their charm on and off like a lightbulb and I’ve been giving that speech ever since.

 

Several clients said that once their employees learned to charm everyone they met they were more affable and friendly and seemed to get along better with their fellow employees. I wasn’t sure if that were really true so I spoke to several companies and did follow-up studies to test it. You heard one of those speeches.

 

By the way, popularity training does positively impact employees behavior and attitude.

 

 

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