It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Are patterned stockings unprofessional?
I am at my first professional job after college and have been in this position for about a year and a half. Today when I walked in the lunch room to get some hot water for tea, I heard a guy say “ohhhh, sexy stockings” as I walked through the door he was facing. I’ve never seen him before, but we’re a corporate office and regularly have field employees visiting, so I think that’s who he was.
At first I thought I had misheard him, but the table he was at burst out laughing. They whispered some comments I couldn’t make out, and then the office manager who was sitting at the table laughingly said, “You need to watch what you say and how loudly you say it.” I was really embarrassed and pretended not to hear. I got my tea and got out of there as quickly as I could.
No one here as ever said anything to me about how I dress except comments like “cute dress,” etc. I wear a lot of knee-length dresses and with them stockings of various designs and colors. Especially being young, I want to find the balance between dressing professionally and dressing in a style I like. I had to stop myself from writing the word cute, because although that’s what I thought, it doesn’t really sound professional when I write it out. Anyway, I’ve attached a picture of the stockings/tights. Are they unprofessional? Are there any standard rules on solid stockings are more professional then ones with designs or patterns?
Well, first, that guy was way out of line. “Sexy” is not commentary that should ever be offered about a coworker. It’s wildly inappropriate and gross. Hopefully, the people who laughed after his comment were laughing in shock at how ridiculously inappropriate he was, but regardless, please know that his comment wasn’t okay at work.
Now, as for patterned stockings … it really depends on the office and the pattern. There are definitely offices where the stockings in the picture you sent would be too outside of professional norms, but there are others where they’d be fine. More generally, there are offices where relatively conservative patterns like ribbing or diamonds are fine but other patterns (like fishnet or lace) aren’t. So this is a thing where you need to know your own office and its norms. If you’re unsure, you can probably get a better sense if you make a point of watching what other women wear, and/or you could ask someone slightly senior to you (or very senior to you, for that matter) whose judgment you trust and who’s generally respected in your workplace.
As for colored tights, non-neutral colors will generally read as “young,” which isn’t always the most helpful thing to reinforce when you are in fact young.
2. Manager offered to let me expense my dog-boarding costs when I travel
I work for a very generous company, and have a fantastic boss. Lucky for me, my job only requires travel a couple of times per year. I have two dogs that I put into board/daycare when I travel, which generally works out to about $400 for each week that I am gone. Over the last few years, my boss has asked me why I don’t expense the dog boarding since I am not a frequent traveler. I always respond by saying that if I had non-hairy kids, I would have to pay for daycare for them so I don’t think this is any different. However, a coworker really questioned me about this, since it is not “part of the job” to travel, and thinks I should take him up on his offer to cover the expense. What are your thoughts on expensing care for the kids for the occasional work trip – not only for pets but for human children? Any other managers have any experience with this?
I actually don’t think those are the right questions. Your manager has told you directly that you should expense the dog boarding. So you should expense the dog boarding.
If you want to have a theoretical discussion of whether this is something that employers routinely offer, we can do that. But in your particular case, there’s no compelling argument for turning down an expense reimbursement that your employer is freely offering and encouraging you to use. You should use it.
More generally, no, this isn’t a super common benefit. It’s probably more common for pets than for kids, to the extent that it exists at all. But lots of employers offer uncommon benefits, and the fact that they’re uncommon isn’t a reason not to use them.
3. How do people recover from scandal?
Recently, there was a lot of media coverage in my city about the head of a nonprofit who did something against the mission of the organization. It was egregious enough to spur a public petition to have her fired. The comments on the petition indicated that she had instituted questionable policies that led to staff and volunteers quitting and had fired some staff so that she could hire her friends. The media never said whether those allegations were true, but after the board met on Friday, she issued a statement that she was resigning.
This person was very publicly degraded for her actions and was likely left with no choice but to leave the organization. My question is, how would someone in this situation recover professionally? Is that even possible?
It depends on the specifics of what she was accused of, whether it was true or not (and whether she can present a credible “other side of the story”), and how it intersects with the main work she does. What I mean by that last part is that if, for example, her life’s work was fighting animal cruelty and it turned out that she was running a secret dog-fighting ring, then no, she’s probably never working in that field again.
But people do generally continue to be employed after scandal. It’s not always in their original field, and it’s not always doing the type of work they would have chosen (often in much lower-profile positions doing work behind-the-scenes because they might be irredeemable as a public figure or spokesperson but still have other usable talents). But at least from what I’ve seen, they usually they do manage to piece a life back together.
4. How to list freelance experience on a resume
I have a question about how to best list freelance experience on my resume. I was a freelance designer and design assistant for five years after I graduated college (everyone in my field worked on a freelance basis, in case that matters). After five years, I decided I wanted more structure and work-life balance, so I moved into an administrative role at a large company in a completely different industry. I’ve now been in this role for three years and am looking to pursue other administrative opportunities in a more creative environment.
I’m concerned about future employers thinking I’m flighty or a job hopper based on my prior freelance experience (most of these gigs lasted anywhere from two months to two years). Would it make sense to list all five years of my freelance work under one title with start and end dates for that period of time? (For example, Freelance Teapot Designer, May 2008-February 2013.) If so, can I also list my overall accomplishments beneath this one title? All of my freelance projects generally followed the same process and required the same skills (maintaining budget of varying sizes, coordinating vendor schedules to ensure deadlines were met, producing presentations for management team, etc.) Or is it important for me to outline specific jobs, and if so, do I need to include individual dates for each one?
Grouping them all under one overall freelance heading is the perfect way to do, and then you can list all your accomplishments from that time period there. You don’t need to list every specific freelance job you held during that period or individual dates for them — but if it strengthens your resume (it may or may not), you could include one bullet point that says something like this:
* Clients included Teapots International, Texas Rice Sculpture Tournament, Northwest Llama-gram Society, and more
5. Update: My company wants me to return part of a gift from a client
Here’s an update from the letter-writer whose company wanted her to return amusement park tickets from a client.
Both you and some of the commenters hit the nail on the head with your insight that my problem with returning two of the tickets to my client, as the compliance officer recommended, was tied into the larger issue of me feeling generally unappreciated by my company, which is absolutely true.
You also pointed out that the way the compliance officer phrased her response — i.e. as a recommendation rather than a mandate — left some room for interpretation. I re-read the compliance plan once again and found a clause that stated an acceptable alternative to returning a gift would be to share the gift among co-workers. So I ended up giving two of the tickets to a co-worker who also worked on the project with me, and he was surprised and delighted. (Which made me feel really good!)
I then emailed the compliance officer, thanking her for her recommendation and letting her know that I had shared the gift with a coworker, a solution that prevented us from appearing ungracious to the client while also keeping both of us under the gift limit set forth by the policy. I got no further response from her, so I think the matter is closed.