Casual Fridays are about more than dress and style, and in some cases are tied to office politics and coworker viewpoints.
The ‘perk’ of Casual Fridays is certainly not an uncommon workplace ideal. In some offices, however, this seemingly optional measure is taken quite seriously. Having recently started a new job, I quickly found that out the hard way when four people — each with a tone of marked irritation — made a point to inform me: “You know we do Casual Fridays, right?”
Take It Easy, Baby
Of course, I am well aware of this “policy,” and I do value a relaxed atmosphere. The thing is, I actually feel comfortable in “dress clothes.”
Keeping in mind that old tenet to ‘dress for the event,’ I will opt for a long-sleeve, button-up shirt over a golf shirt any day of the week. This doesn’t mean I hold some sort of vendetta against any clothing. Given the option, however, and whether at work or play, I will always choose my dress shirt and slacks over a golf shirt and jeans. It is simply a personal preference.
With Us or Against Us
Over the weekend, I replayed the rather hostile confrontations in my mind, searching for answers as to how this intended “casual” day could take such a sour turn. I came to realize that the issue goes far beyond jeans, sneakers, and really any type of clothing at all. It likely stems from hurt feelings and misinterpretation.
No one wants or deserves to be belittled, or made to feel somehow inferior to another. From the very first days of our lives, humans are hard-wired to seek out approval and inclusion. As children, we look for parental approval. As adults, most of us seek to encourage pleasant accord with friends, family, and co-workers.
When someone or something threatens that harmony, the tendency is to go into “defense mode.” The trouble is, this measure works (or doesn’t work!) both ways. So while co-workers may have viewed my choice not to participate in Casual Friday as some sort of antagonistic display of superiority, their own aggressive reactions lead me to believe that they were somehow displeased with my professional or personal performance (or both).
As a show of compromise, and also a sort of social experiment, this week I will break down and “contribute” to Casual Friday with jeans and a golf shirt. Wish me luck.
by Mr. Grunbau
Employment and Enterprise
Residential Life Magazine