CASUAL DRESS CODES

Dear Mr. Molloy:

 

I am a corporate consultant who works on a  computer from 8 to 14 hours a day six and when necessary seven days a week. I manage seven corporate consultants but it’s not always the same seven. I love my job but the company has just been taken over by a  corporate giant and their management really doesn’t understand what we do or how we operate.  My base pay is $142,000 and last year I earned $32,000 in bonuses. In addition I often get what we refer to as goodies.  For example last month I had a client in San Francisco that I visited for three days. I was given a first class round trip ticket and the company didn’t care if I traded that ticket in to help pay for 3 coach tickets. I took my wife and my daughter with me to San Francisco and although my job ended on Friday the company paid for my hotel over the weekend and Monday night. We spent four days enjoying San Francisco.The company let me use two vacation days so I returned to work on Wednesday.

 

This new company gathered all the consultants together and announced things had to change.  The way the old company ran things was inefficient and unfair in fact that’s why they had to  sell their company.  Everyone sitting there knew that the owners made a  fortune and while they were by contract forbidden to open a competing company for a year we know one day after that they intend to start a new  consulting firm using the same type of people they use today and rewarding them as they rewarded us. The new firm said that bonuses were out and they had many corporate consultants working for them and those incentives were never used and their consultants were very effective.

 

Right after the meeting I was called in to speak to the executive of the new company and they said they were doing me a favor that I would be able to keep my base salary but I would be put in charge of handling their consultants in India,  who do 80% of their work. My job when dealing with Indian computer people was to watch them very carefully because they weren’t that good and I  had to check their work.  I didn’t say anything but I intend to start looking  for a new position tomorrow and I’m sure most  consultants in my position are  going to do the same.  I have two master’s degrees and I’m sure I will not find it difficult to find a new position. Over the years half-a-dozen client companies have tried to steal me away, as my boss said on many occasions, so that’s not my problem. Although I put on a suit, shirt and tie when I’m visiting a  client most of the time I dress very casually  as do most in my field.

I’ve already contacted two companies and set up interviews for next  month and because I read your blog I asked them how I should dress for the interview. They gave the same answer, they said they had a business casual dress code. When I went to buy business casual they  wanted to sell me everything from sausage suits to jeans. That’s a term I read in this  blog six months ago.  Most men  look as if they have just gained 20 pounds and  their suit no longer fits.  I understand that if I fit in I’m  likely to receive a good offer but I also understand that I must look professional. My problem is both companies said business casual was what was expected of men at my level.  When I read about business casual  I discovered there was a variety of definitions.  Since I remember you discussing business casual, I would appreciate if you could  tell me  how to dress for an interview with a company whose dress code is business casual.

 

                                                                                    Name and Address Withheld

Dear Sir:

 

When I coined the term business casual about 40 years ago I was talking about the dress codes in high tech industries mainly in California. The reason I became involved in the subject was many of my clients found that some of their employees were not dressing casually but sloppily. While dressing casually does not make one more creative many creative people had been convinced that dressing casually created an environment in which creativity was more likely and as a result it was much easier to get them to work for a company that has a casual environment.  To attract  creative people many hi-tech companies In which creativity was essential to success,  adopted casual dress codes.

 

At the time, I suggested that the managers who worked with the very casually dressed employees dress better than their subordinates. It has been well-established that  when people in authority are easily identified large organizations run more smoothly.  This lesson was learned by the Chinese when officers were ordered to wear the same outfits as the enlisted men, that created real problems not only for the officers but the enlisted men. If a sergeant told a general to go to hell, even though he didn’t know he was a general, he was in trouble.  So even though they wore the same outfits officers put pens in their pockets and  everyone could tell their rank by the number of pens. To solve this problem for companies I suggested that those in charge of technical people dress slightly better than the people who work for them.  In companies where everybody wore jeans Including many of the executives, our research found that if a  manager wore a nice pair of pressed jeans with a conservative belt and loafers with a blue shirt and a solid tie he would not be looked upon as an outsider and at the same time command the respect of his subordinates.

 

Today all that has changed, business casual has become far more traditional and conservative but not everywhere. There are some workplaces where people still wear ripped jeans although in most  casual dress means wearing a decent pair of slacks and a golf shirt or a business shirt. My original advice to managers to keep a sports jacket, a shirt and a tie at the office Is found in most casual dress codes. While there are dress codes for almost all casual environments, as I suggested to my clients years ago, they are not written they are unofficial but understood by everyone. Written dress codes invite lawsuits. If you have to visit a company where you don’t know what the casual dress code is wear a nice pair of beige, blue or gray slacks, a blue shirt,  a solid tie, polished dressy loafers with a traditional sports jacket.   If when you arrive you decide you’re too formally dressed, take off your jacket and loosen or take off your tie. If you  take off your  jacket before the meeting starts, you’ll fit right in. However, my original advice to ask about the dress code still goes, only today you have to ask for details  because casual dress codes vary.  Ask specifically what the people you’re going to be dealing with will be wearing and take your cue from them.

Good luck!

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COMPANY UNIFORMS AND SIZE

Dear Mr. Molloy:

 

A week ago I started working for a company where everyone wears suits all the time.  The company I came from  those in management wore both suits and sport jackets. As a result, I own four suits and five  conservative sport jackets. I think the management team looked more professional in my last company because everyone wore good suits and by good I mean that cost at least $500 apiece and equally expensive sport  jackets.

 

I purchased one of those $200 suits just so I can wear a new suit every day of the week but in three or four weeks I will be  working with clients and will be required to visit their offices.  Since the purpose of a company dress code is or should be to send the right message to clients I’m wondering if when I’m on the road I can wear sports jackets in fact I’m wondering if I can wear them in the office.

 

                                                                                         Name and Address Withheld

Dear Sir:

 

I do not think you would have purchased that $200 suit unless you already knew the answer to your question,  Company dress codes perform various functions and their primary function is they create a team uniform. What would have happened if in your last company you showed up in a very conservative pair of high-quality slacks, a good dress shirt and a nice tie but left your  sports coat at home. You would have been out of place and sent the message you were not a member of the team,  Wearing sports jackets at your new company will send the same message and if you wear them when you visit clients I assure you word will get back to your company. You joined a new team with a new uniform, wear it,

Dear Mr. Molloy:

I am a large woman, 5 feet 11 and weigh 203 lbs. I just lost the job I never thought I would get but the reason I  lost it is  worrying me.  The secretary to one of the top executives worked for me when she first came here and we became friends.  She told me that the reason I was not considered for that position is they didn’t want someone who looked like me representing the company.  In their opinion I didn’t have the proper image.

 

I’m two to four years away from being considered for an executive position so I have time to change my image. I have been reading articles on what big women can wear to demphasize their size.So far what I’ve gotten from these articles is to draw attention to my face by wearing a  bright scarf, to keep my  patterns muted, to  avoid bulky materials, wear skirts that are smooth and fall below my knee. Can you add to this list?

 

                                                                                                  Confused

Dear Confused:

 

I can and will add to your list but I don’t know how helpful it will be. Most of the advice you have been given is very good. However, wearing a bright scarf that draws attention to your face or even a good piece of jewelry will only be effective if your face is attractive and while you should keep your patterns muted you must not use evenly spaced patterns because for some they will become a ruler they will use to measure your girth. While bulky material will add to your weight, material that clings will draw attention to bulges making you look fatter.

 

The reason I started my answer with “I don’t know how much it would help”  is I don’t think it will help. When it comes to weight women in business judge other women far more harshly than men.They see another woman who is overweight as being out of control.  They think of them for some reason as lesser beings and someone not worthy of an executive position. I’m afraid your only option is to lose weight.

 

There of course all those diet programs advertised on TV.   Most of them I am sure work. I think the  the best ones for a busy woman are those that send fully prepared meals.  If you don’t want to spend the money for fully prepared meals there are less expensive ones that send you supplements and ask you to eat one meal a day.  If you don’t want to spend for any diet become a vegan or count calories.  As someone who’s been on diets for the last 20 years I hate to tell you to do this because although it’s simple it’s not easy. So all I can do is wish you good luck!

 Dear Mr. Molloy:

 

I work in the world of high finance and have to sell my ideas to very sophisticated men and women on a regular basis. For the last 25 years I’ve been  6 feet 3 inches and weighed 280 pounds and believe it or not when selling to these very sophisticated individuals I found my size to be a great advantage.  Recently. I think that has changed and I’m wondering when did size stop being an advantage in business and why?

 

                                                                                      J.O. New York, N.Y.

 

Dear JO:

Size is still an advantage for most men in business.  What has undoubtedly changed is your age and probably your energetic image. There are two possible solutions to your problem,  exercise on a regular basis which might restore your  youthful and energetic appearance or lose weight  because when men get older they are most effective when they are tall and trim.

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DRESSING UP OR DRESSING DOWN

Dear Mr. Molloy:

 

Social workers throughout the United States are paid very  poorly.  Normally a social worker has to have a master’s degree in order to be employed. The salary for a social worker with a MSW is 1/3  lower than someone with an MBA.

 

I’m wondering if you’ve done any research on successful dress for social workers. As you know we have to work with the poor and are regularly required to visit homes that are often unkempt and sometimes dangerous. Is there any way for a social worker to dress successfully and still communicate effectively with their clients?  Are there any outfits that will make social workers look successful and  allow them to do their jobs?

                                                                                           H.G. Dallas, Texas

Dear HG:

 

Social workers are caught in a Catch-22 situation. If they dress in a style that says they are successful professionals, they will find it unsafe to work in many poor areas. Social workers dress as they do because their outfits are camouflage, their primary objective is to protect the wearer.The outfits worn by most social workers have  evolved over the years to increase their ability to communicate with their clients.  I don’t have to research what social workers should wear, they’ve done it themselves. Since that is the case I recommend that you stick with your present outfits when visiting  clients.

 

I think that social workers should have two uniforms; the first they will wear when they visit homes and a second one to wear when they’re working in the office. The first one to be effective must be low  status the second one must be high status. The second uniform would let them blend into a  typical office setting. The reason they must change their image  is they will never be paid a middle-class wage while dressing lower class. There is a direct correlation between the status of an office worker’s clothing and their salary.

I’m sure many of your colleagues will have difficulty with my suggestions because many of them come from blue collar backgrounds and they have been taught by their environment that image is not important, If you can get them to look at professions similar to theirs where advanced degrees are required but the pay is  low, they will find that the people in those professions usually do not dress like professionals.  A prime example of that is librarians who are required to earn one of the more difficult degrees  offered by most universities and yet are not paid well. The reason that is so is most people look at the library and think that everyone who works behind the desk is a librarian. Most are not, they are simply clerks. Unfortunately, most of the librarians dress in the same style as the clerks so the public does not see them as special or well educated.

I’m giving you the right answer but I don’t think I’ve changed anything. Twenty or so years ago I spoke to a meeting of the Library Association.  When I made the same statement to them that I’m making to you; if you want to be paid like a professional  look like a professional, the room split into two groups and they argued for at least an hour and a half  while I was present and I’m told four hours after I left.  Nothing changed.

Dear Mr. Molloy:

 

I am a  semi retired attorney and I specialize in negotiating high-tech contracts because before I became an attorney I was an electrical engineer.  Because of my reputation when I arrived I was offered a position with a local firm. I’ve been working about 2 to 3 days a week ever since and I  love the arrangement. If I were retired I would go crazy.  Before I retired, I spent most of my time in Virginia and worked most of my time in Washington DC.  There everyone wears suits and I of course did as well.

 

Once I arrived in Tampa I found the heat uncomfortable and in summer you can melt walking to and from your car.  Part of my image as a negotiator was I was always put together very precisely and I think my appearance impressed some people and  intimidated others,  so I’m not challenging Dress for Success. However, since I hate the heat I was going to call those I would be negotiating with and suggest that we all  leave our suits, shirts and ties home and dress very casually and comfortably .  I thought before I did that I would write to you and ask if I am making a mistake?

                                                                              Name  Withheld

Dear Attorney:

 

Your way of beating the heat is wonderful if you are a large man  preferably  with a deep voice. However, if you are below average in height or even average it may be one of the worst decisions you’ll ever make.  Our research indicates that size becomes the dominant nonverbal power signal when everyone is dressed casually. That is one of the reasons that I suggest women in casual environments wear suits or at least jackets, because they are usually shorter than men.

 

Height is not the only non  verbal power signal, in fact at times that is not the dominant one. What we’re talking about here is the power of intimidation.  Some men are just naturally intimidating not because they are tall but because they are large, muscular,  have a rough  look about them or their general demeanor is threatening. If you are none of these things stick with suits.

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MESSAGES SENT BY KID’S AND COMPANY UNIFORMS

 

Dear Mr. Molloy:

 

My husband is a  dentist and we live in a very nice area of town. Most of our friends are professionals or executives and my son’s friends are their children.  Three months ago my son dramatically changed the way he dresses, he went from looking like a neighborhood ktd to someone who lives in a poor area.  The other day he left the house wearing a hoodie up over his head even though it wasn’t cold. What worries my husband and I is he went from being a straight-A student to someone who gets B’s.

 

I realize that he’s just turned 15 and that’s an age when children often reject their parents values.  As an expert on clothes,  do you think we should continue to worry?

 

                                                                                          Worried  Parents

 

Dear Parents:

 

Being an expert on clothing hardly qualifies me to answer such a question but I taught high school many years ago and my first Instinct was to tell you there is little to worry about. When youngster’s hit that age they rebel.

 

However, I changed my mind after going to dinner with a few friends  two of whom were ex-teachers. I’m not sure how the subject came up but when it did both immediately responded to your question in the same way.  When I was teaching l could tell which group a youngster belonged to by the way he or  she dressed, apparently that’s true today. The dress you describe convinced both teachers, one who taught in New Hampshire and the other in Kentucky that your son might be taking drugs. Both said it’s a major problem today in high schools.  They suggested that you confront your son but before doing so purchase one of those kits sold at CVS  that lets you test to see if he is taking drugs.

 

From previous conversations I knew that they were against everything Trump did. However, both said if he could  end the drug epidemic that exists in their schools they might consider voting for him. They quickly added, they didn’t think he could do it. That was such a radical change from their normal position that it indicates that drugs are a very serious problem in our high schools and I think you should  take their advice.

 

They also said if he fights the idea being tested you should insist  and if you find he is taking drugs you should immediately seek professional help.

 

Dear Mr. Molloy:

 

I am writing to you for myself and two other women employees. I work at a manufacturing facility outside of Anaheim California and our company has decided to put  everyone in uniforms. These uniforms came about as a result of union negotiations and most employees like the idea.

 

I voted for the uniform along with the other two women managers. We voted for it because it gave us an outfit to wear to work that  will save a great deal of money. The other day we were at lunch discussing the uniform when a woman from another section of the plant said we were crazy to vote for it because it would make us less effective than our male counterparts. The uniform is going to be the same for men and women. It will consist of a pair of pants and a shirt in the company’s color with company logos on them. She explained that you said that most uniforms make men look efficient and woman  look inefficient.  Is that true?

 

                                                                                                 T.J, Anaheim, Ca.

Dear TJ:

 

I did say that  years ago but it is no longer true. If the uniform you described is neat, crisp, in traditional conservative colors and cut it will probably send a positive message for men in most blue collar settings. It will announce loudly and clearly that the wearer is hard-working and part of the team.  The same outfit on most women will send a message that they are sexy and ineffective.  Most trousers designed by uniform companies for women emphasize their feminine shape and are often almost skin tight  which emphasizes there very feminine rear ends which men find very sexy and attractive. Since our research shows that it is almost impossible for women to send a sexual and an authoritative message at the same time, wearing the uniform you described will make it far more difficult for a woman to succeed as a foreman.

 

I strongly suggest that before your company orders anymore uniforms, you and the other women foreman approach those making the decision and insist that the uniform company design a special version for women managers. The uniform should have a blouse that is full enough to accommodate a full busted women and designed to be worn tucked in or outside the pants. The pants should be in a dark color and tailored  not emphasize your figure rather than display it.

 

Before a company chooses a uniform it should test what effect it will have on its employees both male and female to perform their jobs.  Leaving the selection to the designer at a uniform company is dangerous because that decision can and often does affect not only the success of the employees but the success of the company. If the uniform manufacture knows what they’re doing they will immediately comply with your request.  But if they resist any suggestion for change, I suggest your company look for a new supplier.  There are a few uniform companies that specialize in designing effective uniforms for women and they won’t be too hard to find.  Simply ask  the uniform company’s representative if they already designed  uniforms for women managers. If their answer is yes hire them, if it’s no, look elsewhere.

 

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STANDARD ENGLISH A MUST

 

Dear  Mr. Molloy:

 

I am a software engineer and I work for a company that creates  programs for the Fortune 500 and others.  Our company is only 9 years old but has a reputation as being Innovative and creative.  I believe the reason it has this reputation is it  pays people right out of school who are at the top of the class signing bonuses and excellent salaries. In addition It gives generous bonuses to engineers who make breakthroughs or contribute to solving major problems.  Although I’ve only been working here two years I’m already recognized as one of the best engineers in the company. I have already earned over $40,000 in bonuses.

 

I see a very bright future for myself at this company that is why I bought a copy of your book Dress for Success. I know it was written in 1975 but I visit corporate American headquarters all the time and believe if someone simply followed your instructions they would be dressed for success today.  The one line that caught my attention was dress for the job you want not the job you have and that’s my problem.  Everyone in my department including my boss and his boss wears jeans to work as do some of the executives. However, when the executives go to clients offices and I often accompany them, they wear suits.  The most informal executive in our company wears sports jackets when dealing with clients.

 

One day last week trying to follow your advice I wore a pair of beige slacks and a blue sports jacket to work. The minute I showed up I got kidded about how I was dressed.  One of the guys said I wanted to be the boss instantly,  another when I walked in held open the door and the third said the squirt is taking over.  He referred to me as a squirt because I’m 5’ 6’’ while most of my fellow engineers  are 6 feet tall,  that’s another reason I wore a sports jacket, I think I have to add authority anyway I can. My question is can I get away with wearing a sport jacket and slacks, do you think the other engineers will get used to my new look or should I stick with jeans.  If I do will I have to wear sneakers and boots like most of the others

 

                                                                                       A Confused Software Engineer

Dear Engineer:

 

Often I have men and women who work in very casual environments tell me that they have no dress code at their organization. They claim they can wear anything but that is not the case. All organizations have dress codes. If you  don’t look like a member of the team you will not be treated as well as those who do.  Our research shows if you wear anything but jeans it will be hard to get the cooperation of the other engineers.  It will also make it more difficult for you to socialize and make friends with your coworkers. When working on a project not only will you find it more difficult to get cooperation from some there are others who might sabotage your work.  They’re not going to admit that but our research shows it is an undeniable fact.  If you wear anything but the corporate uniform You will be looked upon and treated like an outsider by some of your coworkers.  Obviously you should continue to wear jeans.

 

That does not mean that you should give up on having a successful image. While you should continue to wear jeans they should be neat, pressed and of good quality.  Your appearance should be one notch above those of your coworkers. If a few of your co-workers wear  dress shirts you should as well.  In almost every casual office some wear golf shirts while others  t-shirts If you have that choice  where golf shirts. A successful image includes everything you wear, while putting wingtips with jeans with make you look silly wearing a nice pair of  loafers will upgrade your image.

 

Good grooming of course is an essential part of an effective image, your hair should be styled so that you look like an executive. If you decide because of your  height  you need to add power to your look you might try a neatly trimmed beard but only if facial hair is common among the executives. You can also add to your authority by using obviously expensive status items. Surround yourself by as many  of these items as possible, you can wear jeans and use an  obviously expensive pen eg. gold cross pen.  If you have a paperweight or a frame on your desk buy it at Tiffany’s  along with your keychain and so forth.

 

In addition I suggest you approach the executives you accompany to these meetings and ask them if they think you would be more effective if you wore a conservative shirt and a blue blazer when talking to the executives of client companies.  Even if they say  that they would rather you look like a techie, it will show you think in terms of image and make it more likely that they will move you into a position that requires that you’re dressed better.

 

However, your image is not your main problem. I edit most letters that are sent to me because I want them to fit into this blog and I want them to ask questions succinctly  and ask questions that are of interest to the readers of this blog.  I also  clean them up just a bit when needed. I do not wish to hurt your feelings but you letter indicated that you are not familiar with  standard American English.  If it was  read by someone who had no background teaching English they might think that you were ignorant and semi-literate and obviously that would dramatically affect your chances of moving  into the executive ranks.

 

I suspect that one of  three factors affects your ability to use standard English;  You were raised in a foreign country and English is not your first language, you were raised in the United States and you come from a home in which English is not the first language or you come from a very poor background where standard English was not used. For a short time I filled in for a friend and taught English to foreign speaking students. I was giving  lesson plans which I followed but I also added some touches of my own.   I was advised to have my students listen to the news everyday both on radio and TV.  I did that but I also insisted that they record  anchormen and anchorwomen.  I  not only wanted them to hear standard English I wanted them to be able to play back sections of the news broadcast over and over. Since news people invariably use correct pronunciation as well as the vocabulary and  phrasing of the upper middle class. They are wonderful models for those learning to speak standard English.There are no shortcuts, the only way to learn to speak standard English is to  imitate those who do speak standard English for an hour or two every night for at least a year.

 

I know I am recommending a difficult set of exercises but as I stated earlier there are no shortcuts, so  all I can do is wish you, good luck.

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DRESS LIKE AN EXECUTIVE & BLACK ENGLISH

 

Dear Mr. Molloy:

 

I have been very lucky.  I dropped out of high school  in my second year and went to work for this company 15 years later. I’ve worked here for 22 years and worked my way up to head of production online.  Last week I was told that I was going to be made an executive in the company and put in charge of production.

 

I think that most of the people in the company, especially those at the top, know that I have very little formal education and I worked my way up the hard way.

 

Most of the executives in my company wear suits everyday. I’ve  worn suits occasionally but not too often and I’m wondering when I go into my new job and get my new office should I  start wearing suits or should I maintain the look I’ve always had.

                                                                                  A New Executive

Dear New Executive:

 

You are not lucky, you’re talented  and I am sure very hard-working or you wouldn’t be where you are. Since you’ve earned your new job you deserve all the perks that go with it. Even if wearing a suit will not let you function more effectively but it probably will and even if a suit isn’t expected you have earned the right  to wear one. You stated that the suit is the uniform of the executives in your company so you should wear one  since you are an executive.

Dear Mr. Molloy:

I have almost unbelievable luck. I quit school after my second year in high school over 40 years ago and I’ve been working for the same company for almost 25 years. To my surprise I’ve been promoted and given an office in the Executive Suite

 

I also suggest that you stop telling everyone that you quit High School in your second year. It’s like graduating from Harvard, if it doesn’t show in your work, it’s not important.

 

Dear  Mr. Molloy:

I am a counselor in an inner-city, overwhelmingly black public high school .Less than 50% of the students last four years and those that do are usually trying very hard to succeed. Many of them are very bright and do well on tests but they are almost inarticulate when they’re asked to speak and they do very poorly when they’re interviewed for colleges or jobs.They tell me they’re overwhelmed by the experience. Is there anything I can do to help them do better at interviews?

 

I will be working with them over the summer in a job placement program.

                                                                            Name and Address Withheld

Dear Counselor:

 

Your letter brings back memories. When I first started teaching I was going for my Master’s at City College of New York.  One of the teachers told several students in no uncertain terms that if we didn’t volunteer  to do a little work in the neighborhood we would not do well in his class.  I of course volunteered.

 

When I went to the address he gave I found I would be working in a small storefront Church run by a short skinny black minister. When I told him I had experience teaching  black children how to read, he immediately put me to work. He gave me six students and said he would like me to make them better readers.  Although I was supposed to show up only one day a week I ended up showing up 2 or 3 days because I became interested in the kids and the job, and I began to see some progress,

When I showed up one day that skinny black Minister ran out in the street and said get the hell out of here.  When I asked why he said don’t you know they’re rioting.  I immediately headed for my car but my way was blocked by a black woman who introduced herself as a representative of some organization that was in favor of teaching Black  English.  I said I wouldn’t teach that, it was unemployment English and I wanted these kids to do well.  He push her out of the way then pushed me into my car and said get out of here.  I did at top speed.  I went south to get on the West Side Drive so I didn’t have to go up through Harlem.

 

The minister called to thank me for my work and said I was doing a good job but it would not be safe for me to return. I said I thought I could help those kids if I could teach them to speak standard English. I said  I would need some tapes that taught standard pronunciation.  He purchased two tapes, one on teaching English to  non-english students and a second on mastering Standard English.  When he said I couldn’t come to his church  I asked if they could come to me, I lived in Washington Heights.  At first I tried to run classes for the four who came in the library on 179th Street.  That didn’t work because we couldn’t play the tapes and have them practice.  So I ran classes for four months in my Ford  Fairlane parked south of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital on Riverside Drive. Two of the four quit after a few weeks but the other two, a brother and a sister, met me every Saturday morning for several months in my  Fairlane and we practiced.  At the end of that time the family moved so I didn’t see them again. While they didn’t sound like they graduated from Harvard they could speak Standard English.  I’m sure it helped them.

 

That is why I’m going to suggest you buy a number of tapes designed to teach Standard English  pronunciation and phrasing. Next find a quiet  space and have your students using those tapes practice, practice and practice some more. If you run classes  at least three days a week for a minimum of two hours at the end of the summer I don’t expect they will sound like college graduates but they will  almost speak standard English.  I think once they do they will able to handle interviews and interviewers with some confidence and ease.

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SUSPENDERS, BLAZERS AND 17 YEAR OLDS

 

Dear Mr. Molloy:

 

I just moved from our offices in the Midwest to our Boston, Massachusetts office.  I will be the night manager,which is more important than you think because we are available to our customers and the public around the clock. One of my fellow managers asked me the other day how I matched the color of my suspenders with my suit, shirt and tie. He was thinking of wearing suspenders so he was just asking for information. I had to admit I had no idea.  I looked in your dress for success book and found nothing..

 

                                                                                       A Manager

Dear Manager:

 

Suspenders do not have to match your suit, shirt or tie, but they probably shouldn’t clash.  However,  I doubt If there is any rule on that. Some of America’s most successful men today wear brightly colored braces ( the term used by some executives for suspenders.) In fact wearing  bright colors and designs seems to be one of the attractions of wearing suspenders.The only real rule is only wear them if your trousers have buttons designed to accommodate them.

 

There is only one drawback to wearing suspenders.  Several years ago I ran across a  gentleman at a conference who said that his problem was he slouched and that made him look lower class.  He said he’s been trying to correct the problem for years but it wouldn’t seem to go away. He thought suspenders pulled down his shoulders making the problem more difficult to solve and asked if I had any suggestions?  In fact he specifically asked if there was a device that could help him stand erect.I told him I didn’t know but I would check.

 

Luckily I found several because people from limited backgrounds often slouch which limits their  potential because in corporate America class counts.

Dear Mr. Molloy:

 

What is the main mistake made by women when they buy clothing?

                                                                               17 Year Old but Willing to Learn

 

Dear 17 Year Old:

 

The main mistake made by women when they buy clothing is they buy clothing that’s looks good on someone else usually a model who is very tall and very thin. Several years back I had a thin, chic relative who worked in a store that catered  to heavier women.  The store’s customers took  one look at her and wanted outfits similar to hers.The clothing that looked beautiful and chic on her would not be attractive or even appropriate for  the average woman and certainly didn’t  work on her customers   Nevertheless, she sold  more than most of her coworkers. If there’s one rule every woman should obey it is,  picture in your mind how any garment would look on you before you purchase it.

 

However, being 17 there is a good possibility that you are  tall and thin and if that is so  you can  copy those models.  However, if  now or in the future you are not tall and thin avoid them like the plague.

Dear Mr. Molloy:

My husband just went into a discount store and bought a double-breasted blue blazer. He usually has two or three sports coats in his wardrobe which he wears all the time. He always buys very good jackets and keeps them for years.

 

I told him that the reason the double breasted model was for sale in an outlet is it is no longer fashionable.When I told him that he made a mistake purchasing it because when he wore it he would look dated, he disagreed. He said he didn’t know whether It would look up to date or not but it didn’t make any difference because It will once again be fashionable in a couple of years. And even if it doesn’t come back in style he’ll wear it anyway, men don’t pay attention to such things. Please tell him he’s wrong.

                                                                   A Concerned Wife

 

Dear Concerned Wife:

I can’t, traditional blazers may go out of fashion but they never go out of style.

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OUR LEADERSHIP IN SCIENCE IS COMING TO AN END

Dear Mr. Molloy:

 

I was one of those engineers you spoke to about how to become popular in Tampa four weeks ago. I enjoyed your presentation but I took strong objection to your  statement that America’s dominance in science was about to end .I was going to challenge you on it but I didn’t quite know how to go about doing it because the idea was new to me. I was busy at the time but I was laid up in bed for almost two weeks and could think of  little else. I am sure it’s untrue since we invented the internet, the cell phone and made  billionaires out of those who created Innovative ways of using either.

 

In addition you said engineers did not get the respect they deserved in Corporate America that may have been true years ago but it is not true today.  Most corporations could not survive without the input of well trained engineers and they know it.

                                                                                      A Creative Engineer

Dear Engineer:

 

In the first sentence in the above paragraph you state that Corporate America in the past undervalued engineers but today that is not the case.  In the second sentence you say that corporations could not survive without engineers but then you finish by admitting that engineers do not run corporations when you said “and they know it”.

 

The primary  reason we are going to lose our leadership in science Is today we produce 50,000 engineers a year while China produces 250,000.The same numerical disparity existed when we were competing with Russia but since our engineers were raised in a free society where free thought was encouraged  and were convinced they could do anything they out invented the World.  Today on college campuses everyone is told to think the same way and freethinkers  are punished  as they are in Russia and China. Second  our research shows creative people are extremely competitive. When we spoke to those who made breakthroughs they said they dreamed of inventing, and beating the other guy before they  invented anything.  Today we teach our children that winning  and losing are bad.  As result, in schools today there are no winners or losers, everyone gets a trophy.  In addition, today our schools are so bad that while we spend more money than any other country in the world on education  our students ranked 25th in the world in math and science. That was not always true, my mother went to the public schools in New York in the early 20th century when they were the best in the world.  Because she was bright and finished High School math in the first two years she was encouraged to take college classes.  She graduated from high school with a  special certificate in statistics, which was far more advanced then a junior college degree is today.

 

I know this because 32 years ago I was hired by a high-tech firm in California to study creativity. They hired me  after I spoke to them about dressing for success when they interacted with non-technical people and the results of my advice dramatically increased their business. They wanted me to apply the same research techniques to studying creativity.  Specifically they wanted me to compare their  most creative engineers to engineers who work as hard and were as well qualified academically but didn’t seem ever to produce or contribute to breakthroughs.I took the job because  I had been studying creativity for years on my own.  It almost became a fixation or at least it became a hobby. I read  every article and study I ran across on the subject and had already come to a few conclusions on my own.

 

Since this was going to be my first study of unquestionable creativity I asked for several weeks to design the project.I was very excited because I was going to be able to study people whose creativity was provable. Hollywood stars and many others claim they are creative when they may or may not be.  Some of them make the  claim because of the field  they are in. The creative artist isn’t necessarily creative because their paintings sell. I own a painting of a pale young doll like girl holding a doll painted by a  famous Mexican artist. It’s obviously a picture of a young girl who died, It isn’t worth much because once the artist died  his paintings were not sought by those who are in  control of the Art World. I own a number of paintings that are more valuable than that  one but I believe it is a masterpiece. So the creativity of an artist is a matter of personal opinion. I may be right I may be wrong.  That is why studying Engineers who had made breakthroughs  was so exciting.

When we questioned the most creative  engineers they told us that one of the motivating factors was they believed America was the finest country in the world and partially as a result we were special and more creative. Three months ago for the first time in 10 years I was hired  to speak to a group on creativity in which a  third  of my audience were engineers.  At the end of my presentation I opened the floor to questions which is my normal procedure.  I was shocked when most in the audience challenged my assertion that America is a wonderful country, they said we  were no better or worse than any other country. That is what is being taught in American schools today while in Germany, Japan, Russia, China, Great Britain, France and every other country I could check on teach their children that they should be proud of their country and very proud of  who they are.  Their textbooks ignore or de-emphasize or  put the best spin on embarrassing parts of their history  while emphasizing  those facts which makes them look best. That’s important because  when I interviewed people from other countries who had made breakthroughs in their field many of them said they did it to show that their country was great.  Our researchers and engineers without a belief in their country will not have the same motivation.  So  unfortunately our leadership in science is probably coming to an end.

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Uniform and Weight

Dear Mr. Molloy:

 

Six months ago our company decided to put our employees in uniforms. The uniform people said that putting them in uniforms would make them feel like a team and illicit better cooperation.  I think, that’s hogwash.

 

I am one of 8 supervisors who work on the line. We have been given uniforms in the company’s colors that are only slightly different from those worn by the men on the line. We wear the same slacks but the workers wear golf shirts while we wear dress shirts Three of the senior managers have been given sports jackets In the company’s colors with large logos on the back identical to  new logos on the shirts.

 

I have a meeting next week at which the other managers and I will be asked to comment on the uniforms and  their impact. I don’t think they work but I’d like your opinion to back me up before I say anything,

                                                                              Name and Address Withheld

Dear Supervisor:

 

Obviously someone high up in your company agreed to this test, so be very careful even if you’re right you may end up making a mistake. I suggest you put your objections in the form of questions. Ask the uniform manufacturer how they know that introducing these uniforms will eventually lead to better team spirit.

 

If a company chooses the right uniforms and has a program for creating “Team Spirit” uniforms can be a good management tool. However, most often putting employees in the company’s colors is a mistake.  Company colors and logos can and should be used to identify and advertise the company and its products or services. Employees who interact with customers should wear colors and designs  since in your case the employees are not going to be seen by the public or your clients putting them in  company colors Is a poor idea. At least one third of the time uniforms and company colors send negative messages to everyone but those who design them.

 

I sound as if I  dislike uniform companies, I do not. I occasionally do designs for them.   Nevertheless, counting on them to  produce uniforms that send positive messages is naive to put it mildly. Most  have no idea, how to do that, although they all claim to.

 

Good luck!

Dear Mr. Molloy:

 

I am a woman 5 feet 4 and weigh 189 pounds. Don’t tell me I’m too heavy, I know that. In fact that’s why I’m  writing.

 

I have been working for a bank since I graduated from high school 15 years ago.  In that time, I’ve been married and divorced and I’m now raising my son on my own. That is why I went at night  to school and earned a degree in finance and have just earned an MBA from an online university. Although I took several courses on campus it wasn’t until I went for my diploma that one of the instructors took me aside and told me that my weight would be a problem if I wish to move into management. When I asked him why someone had not mentioned that before he said it was because I didn’t want to get sued He went on to say if I repeated what he told me he would  deny he ever said it.

 

I am sure he’s right but since I’ve tried to  diet a number of times unsuccessfully, I must know are there any outfits suitable for business that will make it possible for me to move into management without losing weight.

                                                                                    Name and Address Withheld

Dear Single Mom:

 

I really admire your ambition and hard work, that is why I hate to tell you that no matter how you dress, you cannot cover up that much weight. In addition, I have to add that unless you lose weight you’re probably not going to make it into management or at least into top management. Banks have so many jobs with high-sounding titles that don’t pay very well, in theory you can make it but in fact you won’t.

 

When I first started writing I used an old-fashioned typewriter and kept my research In traditional manila folders. Believe it or not I still have most of those  folders in storage, That is why when your letter arrived  I went looking for one of  my earliest studies. Over thirty years ago I researched how to diet when you’re in business.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it but I will and I will write one or two blogs on the subject. While the study seems dated, it’s not because I’m sure two things haven’t changed, human beings and losing weight.

 

I do remember several things uncovered by that research. First, when you go on a diet you must stick to it for at least 30 days.  That will dramatically increase your chances of being successful. If you quit before the 30 days it’s like starting all over.  Second, if you exercise even moderately you will lose quicker.  Third,If when you cheat on your diet, and most of us do, you tell yourself it’s all over and go back to eating sweets, pasta etc. you will put  back on the weight. Fourth and finally, even if you diet successfully, unless you decide to go back on your diet if you gain a specific number of pounds, before you  realize it you’ll be  heavy again.

 

Your first step should be to see a doctor, preferably  one who specializes in weight loss. Not only can he tell you whether your inability to lose weight is or is not due to a medical problem, he can put you on a diet or suggest one.

 

Good luck!

 

P.S.I have the same problem and since I am about to finish my popularity book I will be starting my, traditional pre book tour diet next week .

 

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SELLING WHEN YOU ARE GRAY ( A DOUBLE-BLOG )

 

Dear Mr. Molloy:

 

I am a 52-year-old executive in a marketing firm. I have worked for this company for the last 24 years and over that time developed a reputation as one of the more creative executives of the organization. I did so by developing marketing programs for a large corporation which was so successful, that one is being used as an example of good marketing in masters programs at several universities.

 

Nevertheless, I face a major problem. Three weeks ago I made a presentation to the executives of one of the largest computer companies in the world. In the end I sold the program but it took a great deal of effort and there is no reason that should have been the case. In the past when I made similar presentations the reaction of most clients was that I was interesting and innovative, even when they did not buy the proposal. I definitely did not receive that type of reaction from either that client or a second client I met one week later. I felt like I was 24 and starting over again, they questioned the most fundamental things about my presentation.

 

I’ve been a fan of yours for many years and decided to research my problem. I have several engineers in my department and I gathered them together and asked if I changed my presentation in the last year. Four of my most senior engineers said they saw no difference. Three disagreed, they said I lost some of my enthusiasm and the youngest member of the group said since I had changed from salt and pepper to gray that made me look older. I’m in excellent shape and have a young face. After some discussion the consensus was that I didn’t dress as well as I did a few years ago and I should upgrade my wardrobe. They said I also chose the wrong colors because I’m very fair and sometimes with my gray hair and white shirts I often look washed out. Almost everyone agreed that sometimes I looked bland.

 

I would like your input and your advice. Particularly about the type of clothing I should wear when making a presentation. I would also like advice on how I can improve my image as I age. Please don’t tell me to dye my hair, I’m never going to do that. My wife dyes her hair and it is a constant job.

 

Names and Addresses Withheld

 

 

Dear Salesmen:

 

I ran across your letters while researching problems faced by managers as they get into their 50s and 60s. When I receive several letters on the same subject I usually answer the one that encompasses most of the questions. In this case it is impossible because actually as your letters demonstrate looking older creates different problems in different industries. Although each question requires its own answer I think we can for the sake of this question divide the business world into those who dress traditionally and those who dress casually. That is why I’m writing this blog on a Monday of the second week because it covers two subjects and is twice as long as a normal blog but cannot be separated because they are closely related.

 

I talked to several of the men and women who wrote to me about the subject and came to the conclusion that while doing research is usually a way of solving problems it does not work in yours or similar cases. The idea of the person in charge asking those who work for him to give honest feedback on anything he or she does is just plain silly. Just think about it, if you are asked by your boss to give him feedback on his dress and image your main concern would be your career not his. As a result, your answer would be to put it politely diplomatic, you certainly wouldn’t say anything that might annoy or upset him. While I am flattered that my friends would follow my approach to solving problems, I suggest if you asked your subordinates to comment on your image you ignore their answers.

 

If a man in his 50s or 60s wished to be seen as an authority figure he should stick to traditional blue and gray suits. The only thing I would add today is if they are appropriate in your business, since today many of the industries that insisted on traditional dress in the past now have adopted casual dress codes. If you work for a traditional company in a traditional industry and dress suitably I suggest that you give your wardrobe a bit more panache when you’re giving a presentation. Keep in mind, you must present a consistent image or you will lose credibility. Even if you work in a traditional business where you’re expected to dress traditionally never wear a white shirt when speaking, blue or blue pinstripe will make you more effective. Avoid end on end blue shirts for reasons I cannot explain our recent research showed that they do not work well on speakers.

 

Your refusal to dye your hair is a common reaction. However, it doesn’t solve the problem. Our research shows if you have gray hair people do not think you are as able as someone whose gray hair is dyed. Gray hair certainly makes you look older and as a result you are treated differently. Because my hair turned gray in my early 30s my trips to Home Depot were typical of how most people react to a man with gray hair. I regularly shopped in that store picking up bags of mulch, rocks and so forth. When my hair was gray and that was most of the time I parked right in front of the door and loaded my car. However, when I dyed my hair I was invariably told to move my car. The person in charge of the loading area assumed that I was able to carry those bags down to my vehicle. Not only did the employee in the parking area respond to me differently when I was gray, so apparently did TV audiences. I found very early in my career that if I dyed my hair I had greater credibility with the audience in the studio and the audience at home and as a result when I dyed my hair I sold more books.

 

However, I must point out that dying your hair only sends a positive message if you do it correctly and maintain it. You will be better received if you choose a color which is identical to or similar to the one you had when you were young. That makes it less likely it will look artificial. If you never dyed your hair before you might consider going to a salon and have an expert do it. Although most of these establishments have been designed for women there are some that cater to both men and women. I’m sure you will feel more at home in one of them.

 

You also wanted to know how you could be effective with high-tech people. With that group looking old or out of date created serious problems even for managing engineers. When we questioned engineering managers, we were surprised to hear that they often face similar problems to yours when they hit their 40s, 50s and 60s. Their main complaint was they spent much of their valuable time answering what they considered dumb questions. Their expertise was either questioned or ignored by some of the young engineers who worked for them.

 

This actually created a Catch-22 situation. If they gave in and dressed more like their subordinates they were often treated as equals not as more experienced, better qualified engineers. When they continued to wear casual executive attire which is standard in many high-tech companies they maintained their authority but lost some of their technical expertise in the eyes of some subordinates. Nevertheless, the vast majority of managing engineers decided that looking like they were in charge helped them manage their people better.

 

Their complaints fell into two categories. While engineers are supposed to solve problems on their own many young engineers apparently waste their time reinventing the wheel. These managers complained that time and again they found young engineers wasted time and money solving problems that had been resolved years earlier. Another habit of young engineers that wasted time and money was when a manager told them to do something they expected him to explain why he made his decision. Most managers thought that was a waste of time.

 

One gentleman who had a Masters degree in electrical engineering from MIT and an MBA from Harvard was so annoyed by this problem he gathered his team together and said the following. When I tell you to xxxx ,don’t question it, just squat and strain. He went on to explain that many of the young engineers while they understood the technicalities of problems usually had not worked out a cost benefits analysis. He explained he made that statement because his boss actually came to him and said a young engineer had come up with a superior way of solving a problem that existed for years. He quickly explained that while that was true, using his solution would cost 13% more to produce the same product. His boss immediately backed off but he was offended that the young engineer’s suggestion was even considered.

 

 

 

The most significant problems however are faced by those who come from the outside as consultants to sell solutions to nontechnical problems to technicians. They found unless they looked like techies their advice was often not taken seriously or questioned by people who knew little to nothing about the subject under discussion.

 

 

In most cases when you’re selling to high-tech people it is appropriate to dress as if you are one of their executives. This is the opinion of most successful salespeople. However, there is a substantial group who follow my advice, if you normally wear a suit  when you arrive wear a suit but before you start to sell take off your jacket and tie. When you leave, put them back on.  They believe it adds to their authority and the research backs them up in the majority of cases. Since it doesn’t back them up in all cases I think the decision has to be made by the salesperson based on their past experience with that company.

 

Of course if you are in a field, eg. accounting or law, where everybody expects you to wear a traditional suit, you should. Even techies will think less of you if you do not.

 

As you can see selling to high-tech people is tricky. No one with any common sense can ignore how techies react to the messages sent by salespeople since they impact a substantial percentage of the purchases in business today. It is an area I intend to continue to look at and I will report to you regularly in this blog on what I find.

 

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