we don’t want a grandson back in the family business, banning sleeveless tops, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. We don’t want my grandson to return to the family business

When you have a “family business” and have other employees, it creates a mass of interaction emotions. We have a small office. My son runs the business my late husband and I started. I work with him. We have two sales employees. We all get along well.

Enter the grandson. At 21 years old, he has completed one year of college and has no interest in going back, so his dad placed him in the office temporarily to work during a peak work time.

A year has passed and the two salespeople and I were told that my grandson was available to help again. The three of us expressed the opinion that we’d rather work a little harder and a little longer than have him come back. He’s a very personable, likeable, capable, neat person. But when assigned a task, we found that we had to constantly nag him or remind him to get it done and then often had to resort to doing it ourselves because he hadn’t followed through.

Were we right in vetoing his coming back to work with us? And why is he not embarrassed by this rejection?

Sure sounds like you were right. If he doesn’t actually do the work you need without nagging, it doesn’t make any sense to bring him back on board, at least not unless he demonstrates that he’s able and willing to do better. He had a shot, and he messed up. In a non-family business, he wouldn’t get another chance. In a family business, it’s possible that he could in the future, but he needs to give you reason to think that he grasps what the problems were last time and won’t repeat them. (And frankly, I’d argue you’re doing him a favor of not overlooking this stuff; it’s going to help his future quality of life if he learns this lesson quickly.)

As for why he’s not embarrassed — I’d guess for the same reason that it happened in the first place: he doesn’t yet have the work ethic or maturity to quite understand what it means to have a job and people depending on your work.

2. My office has banned sleeveless tops

I have had my current job for seven months, and it was announced today that sleeveless tops are not appropriate for the office.

I am furious over this! I’ve worked in a few offices over my 12-year receptionist/administrative assistant career, but this is the first time I’ve ever come across this. I can understand short skirts, sheer fabrics, leggings, flip-flops, low-cut necklines, facial tattoos, and unkempt beards being inappropriate for the workplace, but what exactly makes the mere absence of sleeves “inappropriate”?

I have a few sleeveless tops, and by tops, I don’t mean tank tops or tops with spaghetti straps. All of mine are cut up to the collarbone in front, the arm hole comes all the way up to the armpit, the chest and back are completely covered, no bra strap shows at all, and these tops are not tight in any way, shape or form. What the heck is the problem with that? I have yet to hear a good reason for this.

I feel this is an antiquated view on dress based on personal biases and hangups. I cannot believe that in 2015, this still exists! Can you please explain to me why employers consider this inappropriate???

Indeed I can, because I’m someone who doesn’t like to see sleeveless tops in the workplace, or more accurately, tops that expose your armpits when you raise your arms (which not all sleeveless tops do but far too many are guilty of). I believe with all my soul that exposed armpits don’t belong at work.

Different workplaces have different standards on this; there are certainly plenty where sleeveless tops are acceptable (although interestingly, only for women; I’ve never seen a professional workplace that allowed it for men). But it’s very, very common to prohibit them, so your office isn’t doing something outrageous or weird here.

3. My boss said my coworker’s culture is the reason she’s unhelpful

I work with a woman who hardly talks to anyone (she is a manager) and doesn’t respond to emails, and other staff complain she isn’t helpful. I know she frustrates our boss because he has told me so. He gets very frustrated with her as well, but then he dismisses it as being because of her her culture (she is Native American). Since when is an individual’s culture to not do their job and not be willing to help? Is this a valid reason not to address issues with her?

What the hell? No. What a racist and gross thing for him say and think. He’s doing a disservice to her, her colleagues, and Native Americans.

He should be giving her straightforward feedback about what she needs to be doing differently, not letting problems fester while he badmouths her behind her back.

Culture can play a role in different approaches to work — but in a situation where someone isn’t meeting reasonable expectations (whether cultural differences are playing a role or not), the way to handle that is by helping them understand what those expectations are, not just sitting by while they perform badly and not stepping in to coach them.

4. My boss keeps pressuring me to work more hours and do work outside our agreement

I’ve been at my job for three years, and my boss expects me to be her superwoman. I work in her home, taking care of her special needs son. My job requires I take care of him and do light housework. But I do more than that. I practically take care of everyone in the house and clean/mop the whole house.

I work 40 hours a week and have Saturday and Sunday’s off. But lately my boss has been wanting me to give up my free time so that I can take care of her family while she does other things. I’ve told her no, because when will I have my own free time? Just recently, a friend of hers had her fourth child, and she and her husband want to have a date night and my boss suggested me. I told her no when the same question was asked last year, but they will not listen. How do I tell her nicely that I’m not interested and that I also don’t appreciate having to do her housework?

About the requests you to do additional work outside of your regular hours: “I’m not available outside my regular hours for you because of other commitments. Sorry I can’t help!” If she presses: “I’m really not available beyond the regular hours we’ve already agreed to. You’ve been asking me for additional hours more frequently lately, so I want to make sure that we’re on the same page that I’m not able to take work outside of my regular schedule.”

About the added housework: If you’ve let it go on for a while, it might be harder to put a stop to it now. But you could try saying something like, “When I came on, we agreed that I’d take care of Xavier and do light housework, like X, Y, and Z. I was willing to pitch in on other housework when you were in a pinch, but I’ve realized that it’s become the norm and I want to get back to our original agreement, which would mean not doing things like mopping the floors or doing the rest of the family’s laundry. Can we return to our agreement agreement on that?”

5. If my last day is a Tuesday, do I have to be paid for the full week?

I have recently given my company notice that I will end my employment on October 30. I also said to them that I understand that if they want to let me go sooner. I just ask that they don’t tell me on Friday afternoon that that will be my last day — that they give me a week’s notice so I can make arrangements with my next employer. If they let me go on say, a Tuesday, do they have to pay me for the full week? I work in Missouri, and I am an exempt salaried employee.

No, they only have to pay you through whatever you last day is. So if your last day is a Tuesday, they’d pay you just for two days that week. You might be getting confused by the requirement that exempt employees’ pay not be docked if they work any part of a week — but there’s an exception in the law for the first and last week of employment, if the person starts or leaves mid-way through the week.

{ 631 comments… read them below }

  1. Pipes*

    On the sleeveless top thing: we have a yearly work conference in a very warm locale. Huge company. Evening parties all week. Dress varies widely, it’s “business casual” I’ve seen people in jeans, flip flops, sneakers, t shirts (company related, but still a t shirt, not even a Polo). I tend to wear professional sleeveless tops, nice black pants, and carry a nice jacket I can put on.

    Yea or nay in this situation?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      As in all things dress code, it depends on your company. Look at what people senior to you are doing. If they’re doing it, it’s probably fine.

      But please, for the love of all things holy, make sure there are no visible armpits.

      1. Ella*

        How do you feel Alison about open-toes shoes? I have the same strong aversion to toes in the workplace, even though I know many offices (including mine!) think it’s fine.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m fine with open-toed shoes, although I’m also totally fine with offices making the call to prohibit them and can understand why they might want to.

          1. The Jester Formerly of Carman Hall*

            Wow, it’s been given the Carrot Top Seal of Sartorial Approval, so it must be OK!!!

        2. Daisy Steiner*

          Ugh, I totally agree! I used to work at a very formally dressed Government job – no sleeveless tops, trousers must be accompanied by a jacket, etc. And yet there was no rule about bare toes! I hated to see them peeping out of strappy sandals, or even peep-toe shoes.

          My own personal rules for workplace dressing are: no armpits, no toes, no bare skin above the knee (if the skirt is short I wear pantyhose).

          Toes just squick me out.

          1. Retail Lifer*

            I don’t like toes in the workplace, either, but I’d rather see bare toes than toes with pantyhose. Ugh. Pantyhose exist for what you use them for, not for kind of covering your toes.

            1. NotherName*

              I was taught that you should never ever wear hose with shoes that expose your toes. And if you do wear those kinds of shoes, you should paint your nails.

              But I prefer shoes that cover my toes. I have a tendency to walk into things…

        3. K.A.*

          My feet are so wide I HAVE to wear open-toe shoes if I’m wearing nice shoes, like heels. Have some consideration for the rest of us.

          And please don’t tell me to find extra wide closed-toe heels. They’re very difficult to find in my town, cost more than I can afford and often have to be ordered online only to not fit right. Then I have to send them back and try again and again. That adds up to a lot of shipping costs.

          Must be nice to have more convenient and low-cost options. Not everybody does.

          1. Aunt Jamesina*

            Zappos and Nordstrom both have a selection of wide shoes and have free shipping and returns!

            1. TootsNYC*

              I feel your pain! I had so much trouble when I was a kid.

              But our options are bigger than ever before.
              and, Payless is carrying wide shoes now; if you have a Payless near you, you can get styles&sizes they don’t happen to have in stock at the store by having thems hipped to the store. And you can return them there.

              Also: consider saving up so you can buy some really -good- classic shoes, bcs they’ll last a while.
              (I also *always* wore sneakers or similar when I was walking to and from work; my work shoes =only= went on my feet once I got to my office. It makes them last so much longer!)

            2. Happy Lurker*

              Naturalizer online too. Finally found a pair of reasonable wide riding boots through them.

              1. Mabel*

                OK, not to change the subject too much, but can I please find a pair of boots with a very wide width that don’t also have a wide boot shaft?! I cannot find any boots that fit my very wide feet and my not-wide lower legs.

                1. Becky B*

                  Try auditionshoes.com; they’ll list if the boot shaft is regular or wide. David Tate brand makes both, and you can find them on Auditions, or Zappos. You can also try WideWidths.com.

          2. LH*

            As a fellow bearer of wide feet, I am sympathetic. Have you tried Payless? They have locations all over the country and a number of affordable wide sized options for closed-toe heels. I like their Comfort Plus brand, will run you about $20 for a pair.

            1. K.A.*

              Payless usually doesn’t have anything that fit me well or have a wide enough heel that I don’t feel like I’m going to fall in. Then again, I’m not in a big city and our shops tend not to have as much of a selection as larger areas. Also, I have a lot of foot pain, so the shoe *has* to be comfortable and support my wide feet as well.

              The only nice shoes that are wide enough for my feet that I can find in stores within a 45-min drive are open-toe. Just saying.

        4. Mary in Texas*

          I once read in a magazine that for professional shoes, they can be open in the front or back, but not both. I’ve remembered this rule and it’s served me well. So no sandals or flip-flops, but as long as either the toes are covered or the heel, then it’s okay. Personally, I love open toed wedges. Very professional and comfortable.

      2. Anony-turtle in a half shell!*

        I don’t know why, but armpit hair squicks me out no matter who it’s on. I really have no clue why it bothers me so much, because it is the only body hair that does. I wish people just didn’t have armpit hair, although I know that I just have to live with it. (That said, I also don’t think people should have to shave their armpits to please me, but I am okay with a no-armpit workplace, just in case.)

        Everyone thinks I’m weird, but I’m okay with that. ;-)

        1. thelazyb*

          Are you my sister?!
          Although she does think everyone should shave their pits to please her, so probably not :-)

          1. Anony-turtle in a half shell!*

            I don’t know if I’ve ever even discussed this with my own sister, actually. I don’t make my husband shave his armpit hair for me (and, nope, never asked him to either), and I live with him, so I just deal with my dislike quietly. ;-) He saw what I was writing when I wrote the original comment, and he just laughed at me and walked away.

            It always comes up at the weirdest times, though, so some friends and former coworkers (who are now friends) know due to situational weirdness (like armpits coming up in conversation). I don’t usually talk about it unless it comes up in conversation somehow.

            1. Merry and Bright*

              Not sure I’ve discussed the topic directly with mine either. But I know her views all the same. It’s one of her hobby horses :)

            2. Episkey*

              I’ve actually banned my husband from wearing sleeveless tops (around the house, he would never attempt to wear one to work) because the armpit hair just squicks me right out!

        2. Tara*

          I am this way… with all body hair. I love the heat, but summer makes me miserable because I have to see the hairy legs of all of my guy friends and try to convince myself that it is completely irrational to hold it against them.

        3. Mookie*

          If it’s dyed, does that alter your visceral reaction at all? I’m kind of fond of the trend towards dying pits glow-in-the-dark or neon colors. Sometimes drawing attention to something (that in certain circles feels) questionable works to rid the taboo.

        4. K.*

          I don’t like armpit hair on anyone either – mine are shaved year-round. I don’t ask men I date to shave, but my preference usually comes up at some point. I have a gay male friend who actively enjoys armpit hair on men and I’m just like ” … We’ll agree to disagree.”

          1. Dovahkiin*

            hahahaha I actively enjoy armpit hair (and body hair). I used to shave my pits and legs, but I stopped shaving my pits and I’m working up the courage to stop shaving my legs (social programming is strong). My wife doesn’t shave anything and I love it. She’s like a cute lil chipmunk, but also like….drop dead gorgeous and a total computer genius.

        5. Elizabeth West*

          I don’t care if people have armpit hair, as long as it doesn’t reek. This is coming from someone who shaves hers, but I’ve been doing it since I was a teenager and I’m not at all sure I could handle the prickles while it grows out.

        6. Winter is Coming*

          My 16 year old son has THE WORST armpit hair…it even sticks out the bottom of a short sleeve shirt if he raises his arms too high. And he’s only 16!! Should I tell him to trim it? He thinks it’s funny to lift his arms up to get my goat.

        7. SimontheGrey*

          I used to be like this, only with chest hair. I mean, I still don’t like a mat of chest hair poking out, but my husband has it and I wouldn’t make him shave it. I don’t prefer it sticking out of a shirt but existing doesn’t bother me as much as it once did.

        8. UsedToDoSupport*

          I’m more grossed out by long hair — longer than shoulder length is just icky. Especially with folks (not just women!) who flip it. It’s gross to be hit in the face by someone’s hair! The last time it happened to me, I was in an elevator with the woman and she hit me twice. I had a terrible cold and I admit, it’s entirely likely her flipping behavior caught some unfortunate germs.

      3. Marzipan*

        I’m curious how you feel about cap sleeves, then? Because then the top isn’t what anyone would really think of as sleeveless, but you could still see the wearer’s armpits…

          1. Marzipan*

            Which is interesting, because that’s not what the dress-code says. I mean, it would be perfectly possible to write a ‘no visible armpits’ dress code, but companies generally don’t, so I wonder whether the focus is different for other people objecting to sleeveless tops than it is for you?

            1. frequentflyer*

              Is the “no visible armpits” thing really that common? Like, 100% of my formal tops are sleeveless, 90% of my dresses are sleeveless and they’re all perfectly decent-looking. I don’t really need to raise my arms at work though… and the office is cold so half the time I wear a cardigan -imagines reaching for a file on the topmost shelf-

              Oh and obviously every woman who goes sleeveless at my office shaves. Am I wrong to think that’s a given?

                1. A Minion*

                  You don’t shave? I’m sad that you’ve announced this when I didn’t wear my pearls. Now I can’t clutch them. My whole day is ruined by armpit hair.

                2. Dr. Johnny Fever*

                  I don’t either. And I’ve worn the occasional sleeveless top. I’ve worn cropped pants, and jeans without socks, too!

                  I’ve found that hairy or not, my work is still the same quality. :)

                3. TheLazyB (UK)*

                  A Minion – instead of *sharp intake of breath* I came so close to saying *clutches pearls*. I wish I had, just for you :D

              1. Hairy Pits*

                “Oh and obviously every woman who goes sleeveless at my office shaves. Am I wrong to think that’s a given?”


              2. Oryx*

                Yes, that’s an incorrect assumption to make. Lots of women don’t shave their underarms and wear sleeveless tops.

              3. INTP*

                Not a given. Many women don’t shave, and many more shave sometimes but not every single time they wear a sleeveless top. (And some are like me, who due to light skin and dark hair, will have visible stubble even immediately after shaving.)

                1. Bagworm*

                  I’m the same way and am permanently mystified (and somewhat jealous) of folks who just look like they’ve never had armpit hair. Of course, I also forgot to shave just one armpit last week (which my partner thought was absolutely hilarious) so I can’t really be counted on any way. (It was a weird week.)

                2. The Other Alice*

                  Yeah, I’m like this. At this point I just shave when I’m going to formal things but in everyday life I tend to sport some underarm fuzz. I also wear sleeveless tops, and I can see I might want to invest in some with sleeves just in case!

                3. afiendishthingy*

                  I am sadly a fair skinned dark haired person.Doesn’t stop me from wearing sleeveless shirts though.

                4. L*

                  I have dark hair and light skin, and an epilator is my best friend. Epilating is somewhat painful the first couple times, but there are no visible dark roots!

              4. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

                I have only seen the “no visible armpits” rule in food service where the reasoning is you don’t want to pass your bare underarm past someone’s face. That I agree with.

                1. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

                  Kelly L., you could be right but the “armpit to the face” reason it what I was given by multiple managers.. perhaps because they didn’t want to say “sweat drips!” (though I feel if that were a real concern they’d have the chefs in full body suits because their faces…)

                  Mpls example makes sense too. Just like there are places where open-toed shoe bans are about safety and not preference (or jewelry bans or whathaveyou) there are places where sleeveless shirt bans make a ton of sense. I don’t think your standard office is that place.

                2. Mpls*

                  Right, but it applied to the entire campus, whether or not your ever set foot in manufacturing (which had to gown up anyway) and were only office staff.

              5. Allison*

                I haven’t encountered it anywhere I’ve worked, closest was a “no tank tops” rule at FirstJob, but not all sleeveless tops are “tank” tops. I get that not everyone likes to see armpits, but I disagree that they need to be hidden from view in all offices, and I’m certainly not going to stop wearing sleeveless stuff out to restaurants and fancy events!

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  But just to be clear, no one is asking you to stop — just recognizing that “no sleeveless tops” is a common enough dress code requirement (it’s not in every office, but it’s certainly in many) that the OP’s outrage is misplaced.

                2. Allison*

                  I know no one here has explicitly asked me to stop, but I have encountered comments here (in other threads) from people who really, really don’t like it when women wear sleeveless dresses in restaurants because seeing their armpits grosses them out so much they lose their appetite, and the world would be a better place if us gross armpit-showing women would cover up already!

              6. Another Anon*

                You are wrong. I’m a woman who doesn’t shave her armpits, and I wear sleeveless tops to work regularly in the summer. (My office is casual so sleeveless tops aren’t a problem.)

                1. Emily K*

                  Same here. I shave….haphazardly and at random. When the whim strikes me in the shower. Which is sort of my approach to all beauty standards. I’ve never been arsed enough to maintain some sort of illusion that I naturally conform to them by rigorously following all the rules all the time, but I’ve also never objected enough to any of them that I don’t ever do them. Beauty routines are often just time and money that I would enjoy more spending them on other things.

                  I recently told a friend that my position on wrinkle cream was, “Well, if it was like, free in public bathrooms the way soap and sometimes lotion are, I might dab some on here and there. But to actually spend money on it? Not high enough on my priority list.”

                  That’s basically my position on most beauty items.

                2. Kelly L.*

                  @Emily K, solidarity fistbump. That’s how I feel about a lot of things too. Eyebrow plucking! I’ll pluck my eyebrows a little if I happen to glance at them and see a stray hair I don’t like. And then not think about it for another month.

                3. Honeybee*

                  Emily K, you and are I kindred spirits. That’s how I approach beauty standards, too. I randomly decided this week that I want to get my eyebrows waxed, but I haven’t had them done in like 2 years. I shave whenever. I’m a mammal. I have body hair. It’s okay.

                4. afiendishthingy*

                  I shave my armpits, but I shave my legs haphazardly and infrequently, and go bare-legged all summer. My leg hair is very fine and not very dark, and I can’t bring myself to care much.

              7. SimontheGrey*

                My best friend doesn’t shave regularly. Nor do I.

                I mean, I shave my pits but almost never shave my legs (it itches growing back in and I have very fine pale leg hair, plus I wear pants 99% of the time). I figure if my husband doesn’t mind, why should anyone else.

          2. KT*

            Agreed-armpits are the factor for me. No sleeveless, no cap sleeves, just no. Blegh. In any office I’ve worked at, sleeveless is just a no go unless covered with a cardigan or blazer.

          3. AnotherAlison*

            This whole convo is blowing my mind. Are there really sleeveless tops that DO NOT show your armpits? Sleeveless tops have always been a problem for me, fit-wise, anyway. To get one that’s close enough to my arms to not show my bra (never mind my pits), I have to get an XS, which is usually to tight elsewhere. I have a few and have had some I even wore to work over the years, but none in my current closet.

            Plus, if your arm holes are that close fitting, don’t you get deodorant and sweat on the shirt?

            1. Afiendishingy*

              Yeah, I’m confused about how a top could be sleeveless and not expose one’s armpits also.

              I feel for you OP, I love my pretty sleeveless work shirts and dresses.

                1. Marzipan*

                  Yep, that was my point. If the idea is really to hide armpits, then a no-sleeveless-tops rule doesn’t actually cover everything. Literally!

            2. Dr. Johnny Fever*

              Most sleeveless tops I find don’t just show the armpit but some generous sideboob as well. I’m OK with armpits and armpit hair but please keep sideboob away from me. I can’t deal.

            3. NotherName*

              I think there’s a difference. I have sleeveless and cap-sleeved tops with pretty generous arm holes (never thought about the armpit thing, because I don’t really raise my arms at work in front of people). However, I also own a number of sheath dresses, which are often sleeveless, but the shoulders go to the beginning of my arm, and the armhole is smaller. (They’re definitely more tailored than my loose-fitting shirts.) I pretty much always have a cardigan or shrug handy when I wear any of these items to work, so I would meet anyone’s requirement for covering.

              And that’s what I’d recommend to the OP. I have a feeling that she’s concerned about potentially being too warm or having to buy a lot of new clothes – light shrugs and cardigans are a pretty easy way to make something fit a dress code.

          4. JBean*

            Agreed. Armpits don’t gross me out, but an old boss at a restaurant job in university once said “armpits are not professional” and that has stuck with me into my office career! If a top shows armpits, I put on a cardigan while in the office.

        1. Daisy Steiner*

          I feel the same as Alison about armpits. It drives me batty how many perfectly delightful work shirts out there only come with cap sleeves!

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Oh, I HATE those. They’re not really sleeves. They look like they belong on a little girl’s shirt. I buy t-shirts and polos in the men’s department rather than wear cap sleeves. UGH.

          1. Chameleon*

            I love cap sleeves, because I have broad shoulders and normal short sleeves always make me feel mannish. Cap sleeves give a nice balance of femininity to my shirts.

            (Also, I have to say I find the intense aversion to armpits kind of bizarre. It’s like being squicked out by knees or under-chins.)

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I feel like the cap sleeves accentuate my shoulders, like they’re too big for my shirt and are bursting out of the sleeves. Plus they don’t cover my tattoos, and that’s a whole other can of worms for office attire.

              Armpits don’t bother me much either, unless they’re stinky. :)

            2. afiendishthingy*

              I know. I find dress codes that require sleeves annoying but not too out of the ordinary, but I had no idea so many people were so disturbed by armpits.

        3. blueiphone*

          Oh God, I’m convinced cap sleeves were forged by Lucifer himself, when he was also making colored chalk*

          I swear cap sleeves find the most unflattering part of a person’s arm/shoulder and highlight it, regardless of body type.

          *subtle Simpsons joke; I have no actual qualms about colored chalk.

      4. KD*

        My boss’ boss’ boss’ boss’ (not a very flat organizational structure huh?) wears sleeveless shirts but she always carries a jacket to put on when she is customer facing. I’ve adopted the same scheme for my attire simply because it is impossible to find nice women’s tops or dresses with sleeves where I live. (Its perpetual summer here. Plus I hate shopping so I’m easily deterred in regards to clothing) I envy the men folk for their straight forward work attire standards.

        Of course my department’s secretary of 7 years shows up in track suits and flip flops. So I’m not even sure my organization has a dress code.

        1. UKAnon*

          You could always pick up a man’s suit to wear to work – I mean, you’re just dressing to get where you want to be and following higher ups, right? ;)

        2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          Almost everything I own is sleeveless, year round, ’cause I have heat and weird claustrophobia issues. Maybe cap sleeves, but that’s as far down the arm as we’re going to go!

          I also always have a jacket or cardigan and wear that 99% of the time I’m walking anywhere or meeting anywhere but, if I get hot at my desk, that’s off and I’ll try not to reach for packages when Alison is in the cube.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

            oh and open toes as far into the season as I can possibly stretch it, which, when you are also claustrophobic about your feet, can be really really really far.

            1. Cathy*

              YES! One of the biggest benefits of moving from Michigan to Tennessee is the fact I can wear sandals from March to October – and some years I can stretch that out a little bit :) My feet despise shoes; and seeing as they are rather wide, it’s hard to find shoes that will fit that don’t cost a bloody fortune.

              1. Jules*

                Soooooo glad I’m not the only one! My toes love to be liberated and hang out in the breeze! When the weather is too cold for open toes, I’ll often swap for ballet flats over bare feet and slide them off discreetly under my desk.

                Ditto on the sleeveless tops – 90% of my wardrobe these days, because I’m sharing office space with a bunch of Italians who have the heat on all year. I do, however, always carry a cardi and will try (for Alison’s sake) to remember to put it on before reaching for things. (Though I will also say that I am hyper-vigilant about under-arm grooming….)

                1. Carmen Sandiego*

                  I too am in the Deep South and open-toed shoes/sandals are the norm here. We just make sure that our feet are pedicured. :)

            2. JMegan*

              I am also pro-toes! I’m just wearing socks for the first time today, actually. And although I know they’re inevitable, and I suppose October is a reasonable compromise, I’d still rather be in sandals.

            3. JB (not in Houston)*

              Yes! At some point after wearing closed shoes, I start to feel like my feet are suffocating. All I can think about at that point is taking off my shoes so my feet can breath. But a few years ago, I developed Raynaud’s so in the wintertime (and in the summer if the A/C is running a lot), I have to wear closed toed shoes most of the time. I hate it, although it did somehow increase the amount of time I can comfortably keep my feet enclosed.

            4. AJS*

              I don’t have that issue with my toes, but I do with my fingers. I never wear gloves unless frostbite is a real possibility.

              1. NotherName*

                Yes! I wish muffs were no longer only acceptable for little girls – I remember how wonderful it was to have something that kept my hands warm but let my fingers feel unrestricted. (Also, the muffs we always got had a little pocket in them, and I feel women’s dress clothes/accessories need more pockets…)

            5. Mabel*

              Wow! All this time, I thought you were a really cool man (I guess you still could be…). Anyway, please take that as a compliment because I’m always glad to read your comments. It’s great to read about how you run your company using common sense, a commitment to fairness, and treating employees well, while expecting their best.

          2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*


            Have many, different, jackets or cardigans! :-) It’s the look > skirt, sleeveless top, jacket, or sleeveless dress, jacket.

          3. la Contessa*

            This is basically what I do–I’m always wearing a sleeveless shell, but I also always have a blazer. I have some full skirt- or pantsuits, but since I’ve start thrifting, I’ve moved toward some neutral pants and skirts with mix and match blazers. The blazer comes off in the office when it’s hot, though. I’ll leave it off to go to the printer and back, but it goes right back on if I have to go talk to someone (or if someone comes into my office to talk).

            No open toes for me, though. I am a stickler for wearing formal clothing to court, and women showing up to court in open-toe shoes (or sandals!) is one of my pet peeves. I don’t even wear my slingbacks to court. Cover your whole foot in front of the judge! (I know that’s ranty, but it’s just one of those Things for me)

            1. Karyn*

              People wear sandals to court?! I’m a law grad who’s not practicing and I know that’s a no-go.

              As for me and my pits, I have a tattoo on my upper arm (a cupcake) that I have to keep covered anyway so I’m always in a cardigan.

              1. la Contessa*

                Yes, I’ve been seeing it all summer! It drives me up the wall. And they pair the sandals with sundresses! If you want to wear a nice sheath dress with a blazer, no problem, that’s usually business attire. But a sundress? Sigh.

                1. Karyn*

                  You should see the bankruptcy clients my mother has. The stuff they show up to court wearing is amazing. One lady wore PAJAMAS.

              2. the gold digger*

                I went to court to appeal a ticket and wore a suit and heels. I was shocked to see other people who were trying to GET OUT OF TICKETS wearing sweats and t-shirts. People! You want something from someone who is wearing a very formal uniform. Pretend like this is important.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  That irritates me too. I love what Judge Judy says to plaintiffs or defendants who show up wearing skimpy clothes–“Where did you think you were coming, a tea dance?!”

                2. the gold digger*

                  Mabel, yes. I did. :) I even brought my own photos and my own toy cars to reconstruct the accident. I got the ticket dismissed and the insurance company went after the guy who hit me, saying there was no way I could have been at fault.

                  Victory was so, so sweet – and I was dressed to celebrate it.

          4. Michelle*

            Me, too. It’s a heat issue for me and I always have a cardigan , jacket or sweater to put on when I leave my desk. I also find those sleeveless shells with matching cardigan make having a matching set quite easy!

        3. mockingbird2081*

          You might like this. I just heard of a new trend, that personally I hope catches on, it is that women pick a great power outfit perhaps two that they wear to work all the time. Men can get away with the same pants and shirts and only change their ties most of the time. This trend is a woman picking a great pair of pants, a great shirt and only changing the accessories and maybe the shoes. I am currently looking for my two ‘power’ outfits. I hate that dressing for business for a woman is so much more expensive and harder than it is for men. I love being a woman but I wish my outfits could be as easy as a mans.

          1. nk*

            Interesting; I hadn’t heard of this, but I love it. Women have a lot more latitude when it comes to dressing for the office, but I think it makes it easy for us to fall into the trap of dressing a little more casually than men (at least in my experience). The men in all the offices I’ve worked in wear dress pants and a nice collared shirt and always look really sharp. With women, it’s much more varied – myself included. I’ve been thinking lately of just having a signature look for myself to avoid letting my work wardrobe slip.

            1. Beezus*

              I love the “signature look” idea. I tend to reach for the same looks and the same colors over and over, and I’ve been beating myself up for being in a rut. I’m going to stop doing that right now and decide that I have a signature look instead, lol!

              1. Honeybee*

                My problem is that I love variety in theory but in practice I love the simplicity of reaching for the same thing and not really thinking about my work wardrobe that much. I think I’m going to do a variation where I wear pretty much the same thing every day (collared shirt, dark jeans, nice shoes) but vary the pieces themselves (prints vs. solids on top; different cuts of jeans; ballet flats vs. boots). Makes shopping easier too.

          2. the gold digger*

            I started working with almost all men (engineers) over a year ago. I challenged myself to go a year without buying work clothes.

            1. I am cheap.
            2. Men don’t notice clothes

            I wear the same thing every week – I have a black skirt, two orange skirts, an orange sweater, few white shirts, and two dresses. And about four pairs of black Ferragamos. It’s what I wear and nobody cares. Or, if they do, they have never said anything.

          3. Kyrielle*

            I am not a fan of accessories, but I’m working on getting several pairs of pants in two neutrals each (I have kids: I cannot assume they will stay reasonably clean for reuse), and then getting shirts that work with one or both and only changing out the shirts. (This is complicated by the fact that the line of pants that fit me well and I like are presently not available in the colors I want in the style I want. Come on, winter lineup, have my charcoal grey….)

            1. Philly*

              The only dress pants that look good on me come in only black and gray. I’d kill for some navy blue or *gasp* red!

              1. Kyrielle*

                I can live with blue or red, but I want to wear colorful shirts and not have to worry about what they go with, and dark grey and brown are both very good colors on me, generally good neutrals, and one or the other goes with pretty much anything I might want to wear shirt-wise. Since I want to reduce to two colors for ease of use, that was how it worked out.

                And then there’s this line’s “spring” colors (because that’s when I was *first* shopping for this goal…ouch!) which are all pastel. Any pair of pants that makes me look like I ought to be stuffed head-first in an Easter basket…yeah, no.

          4. Hurricane Wakeen*

            Female attorney here and I do this! I have several pairs of nice slacks in neutral colors, and I think I have pretty much every color of Banana Republic long-sleeved button-downs they’ve made in the past 2 years. It’s easy, formal enough for meetings, and all I have to do for court is throw on a jacket. The only downside is ironing.

            Now if only they could make casual women’s blazers in full sleeve lengths, I’d be set. Seriously, what is up with all those 3/4 sleeve blazers??

              1. Joline*

                I think any full-sleeve sweater I own ends up with stretched wrist holes because I’ll push them up to 3/4 length.

            1. DMC*

              Fellow female attorney here….Because of us shorties :) I love 3/4 length sleeves because then I don’t have to hem (but petites don’t really fit me well in other areas — shoulders are usually off).

              1. NotherName*


                Full-length sleeve can make short women look like they’re playing dress-up in their mother’s clothes.

              2. Renee*

                I’m average height but I seem to have t-rex arms, so I liked the 3/4 sleeves for the same reason. I’ve now transitioned to in house, and my only dress code requirement is closed-toed shoes. I still have my suit though — straight-leg jeans, dressy t-shirt, cardigan, nice jewelry. Ten years of jacket wearing have made me feel really uncomfortable without the cardigan, even in the heat of summer.

              3. Anx*

                At first I thought they were a little odd feeling, but I love being able to wash my hands up over my wrists and not worry about dragging my sleeves over anything.

            2. Becky B*

              White House Black Market has a range of both pro and casual-looking blazers with full sleeve lengths. At least some of them seem casual to me (my casual-radar may not extend beyond myself).

        4. Hlyssande*

          Yes, this! In plus sizes it’s almost impossible to find business appropriate clothing that doesn’t have some form of cap sleeve or sleevelessness, even in winter! In Minnesota! I hate how ‘winter’ lines all seem to be sleeveless.


          1. Kelly L.*

            Yep! I think it’s a plot to make us spend even more because now we “have” to buy a cardigan (either because we’re cold, because there’s a dress code, or because we’re “supposed” to feel bad about our arms).

      5. Merry and Bright*

        Aah. I will have to stop reading AAM on public transport at this rate. The smiling and laughing are getting me puzzled looks :)

      6. Robin B*

        That drives me nuts even with tv anchor women. They don’t need blazers these days but why so many sleeveless, low cut tops? Bleh.

        1. NotherName*

          Our local newswomen seem very unsure about how they should dress. Are they going to a party? Picking up the kids after work? Interviewing for a job? Doing a favor by wearing their friend’s experimental dress design? Nobody knows, but I do know that if my boyfriend bursts out with, “What on earth is she wearing?!” there’s something up with an anchorwoman’s clothing. (For the record, he does not care at all about fashion, so it’s a pretty good litmus test.)

    2. LeRainDrop*

      A lawyer in biglaw here, where our dress code is business casual, and I would vote “yea” in the circumstances you describe.

      1. Hotstreak*

        I do wish we had a work-appropriate equivalent to open toed shoes & skirts in the summer (nice sandals and shorts, maybe??). After pay parity perhaps the feminism movement can focus on something like this.

        1. Yolo*

          In my fantasy “business casual’ office, there’s much more gender neutrality/parity – so men can wear open toed sandals, kilts, cropped trousers, and sleeveless shirts (all at the same level of formality as women) and have long hair. Just as women, they need to be tidy and well-groomed (pedicures but not necessarily coloured nail-polish, make-up is optional). I’ve been debating whether all armpits would be shaved, but legs are definitely optional. And women could wear the same pants/shirt option with comfortable shoes, no make-up and short hair without comment if they so chose. It’s fascinating to me how our society still discourages men from adopting more traditionally female clothing, but it’s mostly okay for women to adopt male clothing.

          1. Philly*

            It’s okay for women to want to look like men, because men are the best, so why wouldn’t you want to look like them? Women are lesser than, so no self-respecting man wants to look like a woman. /sarcasm

          2. Biff*

            I have never worked in an office where a kilt would get the side eye, and I really hope I never do. Once in a while I just have to bust out the utilikilt.

            1. Mabel*

              I have a male friend whom I have never seen in pants. He wears kilts and work boots every day, but in the winter, his socks get longer. :)

  2. Stephanie*

    #2: I had this debate tonight while I was getting ready. We’re in the middle of a heat wave and I have to go out on an un air conditioned warehouse floor regularly at work. But my company’s pretty conservative. So I almost went with the tank top and decided against it.

    #3: Ack, that’s horrible. It sounds like he’s trying to say she’s some stereotype of a stoic native, which…gah. She just sounds like she’s a poor communicator, which is present in every race.

    1. Jeanne*

      As a thought, maybe he did discuss communication with the coworker. She may have replied that it was part of her culture and it was racist to make her change. At that point, many managers will be scared of lawsuits and back off. Even though it is not racist to ask her to communicate properly.

      1. Three Thousand*

        I thought he’d been watching too much Northern Exposure , but possibly. The Native people I work with are from several different nations, and I’m pretty sure most of them would find such a statement ridiculous and possibly offensive, but I don’t want to speak for anyone else.

        1. QualityControlFreak*

          I am (American Indian) and it is (ridiculous and offensive). My culture discourages direct eye contact. I got over it. Because, you know, I don’t work for my tribe.

          1. NotMe*

            My reaction to #3 was OMG! As a Native American, I find this so ridiculously racist I find it hard to believe. What is wrong with people?

            Yes, some cultures do have different social norms. But there are work expectations that we all have to live by.

          2. TootsNYC*

            Also–I would imagine that there are ways to communicate the info your team needs effectively, even without making eye contact.

            1. Chinook*

              “I would imagine that there are ways to communicate the info your team needs effectively, even without making eye contact.”

              My first 6 years I was one of the few white girls in my area (the pre-school was owned by the local Cree band and most of the grade 1’s took Cree instead of French class) and I grew up with direct eye contact making me uncomfortable (but nobody else in my family feels this way because their first years were in communities with a white majority). I have learned to compensate by looking at people’s nose’s or foreheads because not making face contact is weird.

              As for the OP’s boss – he is an ignorant bigot who is probably being snubbed/ignored by the OP’s coworker because she has enough of that attitude.

            2. QualityControlFreak*

              There are indeed, but the dominant culture in my workplace does value eye contact, and deliberately avoiding it can make coworkers and customers uncomfortable, which doesn’t help communication. I’ve been doing it for so long now it seems natural to me. To me the statement looks like an excuse not to manage, because cultural sensitivity it ain’t! ;)

      2. AnotherFed*

        I have seen similar things happen – where it’s not that the manager is racist, it’s that the manager is white and the employee is not, so the employee cries racist when the manager gives performance feedback on issues, no matter how well documented. Because we’re government, every claim has to be investigated through our full EEO process before anyone even gets to come back and say that the problem is the employee’s performance. After that, there’s reams and reams and reams of documentation to actually fire the poor performer because it’s hard anyway, but it’s next to impossible when there might be whistleblower protections (or even the threat of a lawsuit over it). I can totally see that being communicated as “it’s cultural.”

        1. F.*

          We’re a private corporation and had this happen to us, too. So what if we win the lawsuit? The attorney fees would bankrupt us in very sort order!

        2. Anna*

          Yes, there are jerks, but those exact situations are pretty uncommon and are often used as “proof” it’s probably not racism, but someone playing the race card, which is an incredibly stupid concept.

          1. AnotherFed*

            I’m certainly not saying there aren’t plenty of valid EEO complaints, or that managers in that situation shouldn’t handle it a better way than this letter. It’s just that sometimes the process goes too far in the employees’ favor, which makes people frustrated and unable to resolve the true performance issues in a timely manner, and that in turn can lead to poorly expressed explanations. Sometimes motive matters to the situation.

            1. Honeybee*

              Sure, but as far as individual impact goes, it’s safer not to potentially put someone out of a job when the firing might be bogus than it is to leave someone without income for weeks or months only to find out that later they were improperly fired.

  3. sophiabrooks*

    All I can say about sleeveless tops is that I was against armpits. Then there was peri-menopause. I do have a cardigan I wear when I see people.

    1. Jeanne*

      I understand your problem. You have a cardigan when needed. There are many cute sweaters or jackets, short or long sleeved, that the OP can wear with her sleeveless tops.

      I’m a little concerned OP is furious. It’s a common dress code restriction, especially if you in any way interact with clients/customers. Is it really going to be that much of a hardship to not wear sleeveless tops? Annoying? Maybe. Impossible? Certainly not.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, the outrage is confusing to me, since it’s really not an outrageous or uncommon thing (although I do get that it sucks to have your dress code suddenly become more restrictive than what you’re used to). The only thing I can think of that would outrage me in a dress code would be a pantyhose requirement.

        1. Tara*

          I think dress codes can be perceived as part of a system of sexism, body-shaming, and slut-shaming. I’m not saying that that’s valid, but I know when I read a page-long description of what is and is not acceptable for female employees, I have a hard time not reading it as “Your body is so sexual to us that we need you to comply to these 8000 regulations to ensure that no one *gets the wrong idea*”, with a side of “But try to look attractive enough to be taken seriously”. Again, I know that’s NOT the case, but it can come across that way especially beside a code of “Men: business casual, no denim or t-shirts”.

          1. Tara*

            Addendum: I’m not trying to start a debate on dress codes. Just offering one perspective on where some of the seemingly weird outrage may be coming from.

            1. MK*

              I don’t think it’s outrage about sexism, sincei I doubt male employees are allowed to wear sleeveless tops. And, while I understand what you are saying about having more extensive dress code for women, the reality is that it’s easier to specify it for men. If you don’t want sleeveless tops and you specify “business casual, no denims or t-shirts”, no men would come to work in a sleeveless shirt, while women might.

              1. UKAnon*

                But it shouldn’t be easier to specify for men – women should have just as easy access to professional clothes.

                I think the point is women in any work environment have to daily go through “that skirt’s too long, that’s too short, that top shows off cleavage, that one hides cleavage but clings to my breasts, that Cardigan’s too tight, those shoes are too high, those are too casual…” Men, on the other hand, have trouser, shirt, fine. They don’t have to agonise over pin stripe or cotten, or whether that shirt’s too tight and showing off their tremendous arm muscles will leave them being harassed all day.

                1. Mookie*

                  Right. Also, unless they can afford a tailor, folk are buying work uniform-type clothes off-the-rack. Industrialized / mass-produced clothes for women are designed to highlight secondary sexual characteristics — making it a reasonable but expensive and frustrating chore to then hide those features the clothes want to highlight in order to conform to dress codes — and are doing so in an “idealized” rather than realistic way, so most women won’t live up to the mannequins these clothes look good on, mannequins with perky breasts and no cellulite and white women’s torsos and hips and at a height and weight few women possess (meaning that for some women there are a whole category of skirts that will never be long enough unless they’re maxis, and then those’ll hit the calf and feel peculiar). Plus, there are rarely working pockets and they don’t last as long and they cost about 130% as much. I’ve twice interviewed in the past few years for office jobs where dress codes forbade women from wearing men’s trousers or shirts, which automatically put me out of the running.

                2. Mookie*

                  Also, size charts are all over the place and hip and waist ratios can be, and often are, laughable.

                  These and other roadblocks are a reality for most women, and while dress codes are absolutely understandable (though in practice sometimes infantilizing) and definitely designed to curb discrimination and unfairness, they do disproportionately target, address, and seek to control women’s options, and it’d be easier to navigate them if they were rooted in the real world where pay discrepancies are real and the standards by which we judge male and female professionalism through appearance and by markers of class are vastly different. Ideally, adult dress codes should be governed more by OSHA than by passing conventions about what’s polite or courteous. Armpits might be rude by some standards, but that kind of rude doesn’t discriminate, devalue, oppress, or risk anyone’s safety, it doesn’t target anyone, it doesn’t demean anything, and it probably sweats and stinks a lot less if it’s allowed a bit of air during the warmer months.

                3. Nashira*

                  @Mookie – no menswear? I’d be screwed. Just over half of my work wardrobe is men’s shirts or pants, in my size, because I can’t easily get polos or button ups or *pants* sized for s 5’10” person with arm muscles.

                  It’d be a good excuse to buy from Saint Harridan I suppose. It’s cut for female bodies but wondrously masculine…

                4. LBK*

                  But it shouldn’t be easier to specify for men – women should have just as easy access to professional clothes.

                  But the range of typically-worn clothing for men is a lot smaller to begin with, so there’s less need to narrow it down. Women have at least double the amount of options, so when you’re trying to define a certain dress code, you have to include more restrictions on the side that has fewer existing cultural “restrictions” to begin within. I don’t see how you could give a specific dress code that doesn’t inherently require defining more for women than for men; you don’t usually need to specify that men shouldn’t wear short skirts to the office.

                5. The Strand*

                  And, if women followed men’s short and sweet dress code – wore just pants and code-safe oxford shirts or polos – they would receive criticism for not dressing in a feminine manner.

                6. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Agreeing with LBK here. A dress code could say “just wear dress pants and a button-down shirt” and most men wouldn’t need to change anything. For most women, that would majorly constrain what they wore, although would be a perfectly appropriate way for them to dress (issues with button-downs for the busty aside). The range of potential workplace clothes for women is much broader.

                7. Kyrielle*

                  LBK – agree, in general, though I believe that style of thinking has led to a show-up-in-kilts protest at at least one school.

                  Honestly, I wonder if the OP is facing – because this is a *change* in dress code – loss of several formerly-good shirt options and not enough money to easily get to where they have “enough” shirts in the rotation again (because women are also sometimes noted if they wear the same thing day after day, and although I think that’s ridiculous it’s still real in some circles/companies/places).

                8. LBK*

                  I absolutely agree about the double standard for repeating outfits and appreciate my male privilege in that regard. We switched over to allowing polo shirts a few months ago and I only have 4 – when it’s 85 degrees and humid for 3 months, you can bet you’re going to see those same 4 polo shirts every week and I’ve never been called on it (and one of them is a bright teal, so it’s not like it’s not obvious that I’m wearing the same one).

          2. LeahS*

            This was my first thought. I don’t think there’s any implied sexism in a dress code banning armpit peek-a-boo either, but my first thought was that maybe OP does? I hope that’s not wild speculation on my part!

            I think that sometimes dress codes can trigger a knee-jerk reaction, justified or not, for women.

            A dress code is a completely normal part of the professional world, but whenever I hear that term I immediately think of jr high/high school and how it was impossible to find anything to wear because I was 5’9 at 13 freaking years old and seriously no shorts passed the fingertip test and no shirts passes the “stretch your arms all the way up above your head” test.

            Not that I’m not totally on board with the no sleeveless tops policy because, ugh, armpits are not my thing.

            Plus, it’s doubtful that any of the men in the office were wearing sleeveless shirts, so I suppose the OP could be feeling that only the women were targeted, though there is clearly no double standard here.

          3. Not Today Satan*

            My company’s dress code actually requires that we rare “appropriate undergarments”–which I can only guess refers to bras. I wear a bra every day, but it pisses me off so much.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              Well, we had to update the dress code after that intern, Barb, from Barden University….

            2. nk*

              I wonder if it refers to undershirts for men too? Some men’s dress shirts can be worn without undershirts, but others are pretty sheer.

              1. HB*

                My old company (big 4 accounting) did specify undershirts for men. I believe there was a conversation about whether crew-neck or v-neck was appropriate, though I didn’t follow with much interest as I’m female.

            3. JMegan*

              I had that phrase in a dress code once too. It was nine pages long, for slightly-above minimum wage work in a book store. It also specified things like fingernail length, number of rings and earrings, and appropriate hairstyles.

              The managers (lovely people!) actually pushed back on it, pointing out to the owner that she didn’t pay the part-timers enough to meet the standards she had set out. Ultimately it didn’t work, and the dress code remained, but I’m still very glad they tried.

              1. Bagworm*

                One of my favorite places I’ve worked was a bank. While they didn’t have a nine page long dress code, it was business attire (and fairly conservative). One of the reasons I liked it so much was that they offered a loan for up to $500 interest-free to purchase work clothes (with a one-year (negotiable) payback). It was really important for me because it was my first office job and I didn’t have the appropriate clothes or the resources to get them.

            4. MaryMary*

              The company I interned for had a dress code that said “appropriate undergarments must be worn at all times.” I make a joke about surprise inspections (creepy!) and was told that section of the dress code would only be addressed if it was an issue. Which it had been in the past. One woman came to work obviously and distractingly braless and protested that the dress code did not say she had to wear a bra to work.

              1. NotherName*

                I think that’s a common thing in dress codes where you can get (or have already gotten) some unexpected surprises…

          4. steve g*

            Come on “slut shaming” is a pretty drastic description to a normal dress code. That term has a meaning and it’s not cool to throw it around to make someone change an otherwise normal dress code just because you don’t like it. Slut shaming is about shaming the victim of a sexual assault, saying it was their fault – it’s NOT about a boss making an utterly reasonable request, of both sexes. This is what happens with phrases like this – they start out with lots of impact, but then start getting used to describe ever more mundane circumstances until they have no meaning.

            And your point is pretty confusing – you think the ONLY point dress codes exist are to cover up women – that the the “8000 rules” have nothing to do with the owner/management wanting to give off a certain vibe to visitors and customers, perhaps wants their employees not to look badly dressed and thus underpaid….doesnt want people showing up in gym clothes after a workout, doesn’t want people coming in in t shirts when the competition wears dress shirts, and uses the dress code as shorthand “for don’t come in looking like a slob?”

            1. Oryx*

              No, slut shaming is not just about shaming the victim of sexual assault. That is one small example of it, but as a practice slut shaming goes far beyond just targeting one specific group. So, yes, if a dress code is written in such a way as to stop women from dressing a certain way because of perceived sexualization of the female workforce then it can indeed be catagorized as slut shamed.

              And, to be perfectly frank, judging by your user name you are a man. As such I’d just caution you against telling a woman what is and is not slut shaming. I guarantee we are far better at identifying it on our own and we don’t appreciate being told that we’re just “throwing a term around” when it’s something we suffer on a regular basis.

              1. steve g*

                I’m sorry but you don’t have to be a woman to note that a term is being thrown around. It doesn’t belong in a discussion about work dress codes. Imagine saying it outloud in the office “I think the ban on sleeveless shirts is extremely sexist because it is slut shaming,” and everyone is going to think your off your rocker and/or never worked in an office before.

                1. Oryx*

                  I didn’t say you had to be a woman to note a term is being thrown around. I did, however, say that it’s probably not a good idea for a man to mansplain slut shaming to women — especially when said man has an incorrect idea of what slut shaming actually is.

              2. Steve G*

                @ AAM, I saw your comment below, but Oryx, it is very condescending to tell me I don’t know what I am talking about and I am “mansplaining” something. No, I was explaining my view. “mainsplaining” means being “condescending and patronizing.” I was definitely being neither. I was actually being respectful to people who’ve actually been “slut shamed” because when the word was actually first used to describe women who were raped and blamed for it because of their conduct and dress. That’s what the word meant. If people want to use it for other things, that is their prerogative, but others may not understand what they mean. Telling someone not to wear a tanktop does not come close to being a victim of an assault. I thought that distinction was important. That does NOT equate “mansplaining.”

                And for all of the talk on sexism, how the heck is THAT word not utterly and grossly sexist? Imagine if I said someone was “womansplaining” something to me? I would get 1000 comments telling me I was wrong. I don’t get how we keep talking about equality in the workplace, but then keep inadvertently reinforcing division – new types of division, but division nonetheless, by using terms like “mansplaining”………

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  While I don’t particularly love the term, the whole point of “mansplaining” is to describe an instance where a man is insistent that he knows better than a woman does, even when the woman or women are talking about their own personal experiences. Because that’s linked to much larger patterns of systemic sexism in our society, there isn’t an opposite version of the term (women doing it to men); that would be an entirely different thing, as it would exist outside that systemic bias. Systematic, institutionalized bias is a requirement to label something sexist or racist, which is why “imagine if this were reversed” arguments don’t work in these sorts of contexts.

                  In any case, though, I’m asking you again to please not tell women here that they’re wrong in their discussions of sexism.

                2. Steve G*

                  I am just going to refrain from participating in these sorts of discussions. I hate it myself when I end up in “arguments” with people here. That’s not the way I am in real life, a lot of things just come across differently in print. I’m just gonna focus on the discussions about certain work topics that pertain to me. And personally, I love certain topics, but I am totally not into the deconstructing-workplaces-we-know-nothing about discussions. Just not my thing.

                  I came to this site in 2010 when I was briefly unemployed and read it for like 6 hours in one day in the pits of the depression that came with my layoff and I loved the discussions on finding a job, and getting promoting, and managing well, and being a new manager, etc…..and it was the first time I used the internet for job advice…I’m just going to stick to those parts of the site that I originally came for!

            2. steve g*

              I think what really bothers me about comments like this is that your assuming the boss is coming from a bad place. As a senior contributor (with only one subordinate) in a VERY busy growing company, I work very closely with top management and the people that come to complain about earphones, breaks, petty stuff other people do, and dress (though dress hasn’t happened yet) come across as out of touch and not ready for growth yet to them (as per their own words). Maybe that is their conclusion because many of the people are close to entry level…..but if an employee never brings up new ideas, but takes up the cause of “Jane talks too much” or “it’s hard to work without music”….it doesn’t make them look particularly focused on the actual work. If they are a key contributor, then maybe the message would be taken seriously. Just food for thought while deciding whether to make a thing about some of these smaller work rules.

              1. Oryx*

                I’m not assuming anything. I was addressing your statement that slut shaming is all about shaming victims of sexual abuse.

                1. Oryx*

                  This. The men who tell women to smile more aren’t “coming from a bad place” — still doesn’t make it okay.

              2. Kat M2*

                “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” In any discussion about power and privilege, it would be extremely helpful if everyone just thought of this statement first.

                1. steve g*

                  Mmmm except this isn’t a discussion about privilege AT ALL, so not sure why that’s relevant. This is a dress code applied to all workers equally. The only privilege in a work dress code is the privilege to work at a particular place and portray that company’s culture appropriately.

                  Whenever I make comments about “hey there is another solution” everyone comments that I have no clue what I’m talking about. I never ever said sexism doesn’t exist in some places in some ways, but as a general rule….if there is a really simple explanation for something, why is there the urge to then deconstruct OP workplaces we no nothing about to uncover perceived or real, specific or structural sexism, at the expense of other solutions.

                  And let’s face it, telling an OP “gotta be sexism” doesn’t help. That doesn’t give them a plan of action. It probably just makes them feel helpless and angry. In this case, a discussion on workplace dress norms would probably be more beneficial to the OP…..

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Certainly issues of privilege can come with dress codes; look at the employers that require women to wear makeup and nail polish, for example (they do exist, although they’re not the norm).

                  But Steve, just as if a white commenter kept suggesting that people of color were wrong to call out racism or privilege issues, I’d ask them to stop doing that and to instead listen/seek to understand, I’m going to ask you do the same when it comes to gender issues. It’s reasonable to say, “I don’t understand why it seems that way to you — can you help me understand your perspective?” But it’s not reasonable to tell the group who’s dealing with the problem that they’re not experiencing what they say they are, or that you know better than they do how they’re impacted and what would be most useful to them, and I want to ask you to stop doing that here.

                3. LBK*

                  I think privilege certainly applies to this conversation inasmuch as men have a much easier time with balancing dress codes with societal expectations for appearance, so a man who’s lived with that privilege all his life may not take into account the challenge presented by something seemingly so simple as changing the dress code. If I’m told “the dress code is professional,” that means I put on a suit and tie. For a woman, that could mean a wild variety of things, and if she chooses wrong she’s likely to be subject to more scrutiny than if I wear the wrong color shoes for my suit or pick a tie that’s a little too flashy for my office.

                  The other thing to consider is that by nature, dress codes put more restrictions on women than men because women have more options to begin with (as I discussed elsewhere). Thus, it’s easy to go down a rabbit hole of over-specifying – you start with something as simple as not wearing short skirts and you end up dictating nail polish color, all in the name of trying to establish guidelines for a professional image. It’s worth checking yourself as you make these policies to see where the line is between being specific and being unbalanced in restricting how women should dress.

                  Finally, you’re right that there are certainly people who seek out sexism everywhere, and it can be tiresome. But there’s also a case to be made for questioning potentially sexist motives in places where there’s evidence they might exist or where they commonly present themselves. The things that are critical to remember are a) sexism doesn’t have to be intentional to be present, and b) pointing out unintentional sexism isn’t a condemnation, although I know it can feel like it is sometimes. It’s a call to do better and to be more aware. It’s a reminder to ensure you’re considering the way people in demographics other than your own experience things differently from how you might (which is all that’s meant by the somewhat infamous “check your privilege”).

          5. Ann Furthermore*

            I think the pages long list of what is and is not acceptable has nothing to do with a woman’s body being too sexual and everything to do with people (of both genders) having absolutely zero common sense about what is or is not appropriate office attire.

            Years ago the company I worked for at the time announced casual Friday and everyone was very happy. Then on Friday a woman in our department showed up in super short cut-offs and a skimpy Harley Davidson tank top. Her supervisor had to have a talk with her. She (the supervisor) was a friend of mine. We were out for drinks a week or so later, and she said she couldn’t believe this employee didn’t have enough sense to know that get-up was not acceptable office attire.

            1. Hlyssande*

              Casual Fridays are awesome and I miss having them (we lost them when we moved to this office complex a few years back), but if your company didn’t also lay out guidelines for what was appropriate, it really doesn’t surprise me that someone took it too far. Definite lack of judgement on her part, though.

            2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

              I too have had to have the conversation that work casual is very different from home on the weekends casual with employees. Because I worked with college students I often find myself having these conversations.

              My favorite was having to explain the difference between a tunic and a dress.

              1. Karyn*

                I’ve worn tunics with cigarette pants and felt okay. I would not feel okay wearing them with opaque tights or leggings. At least, not to the office.

                Dresses almost always get leggings underneath them, particularly in the cooler months. I’m cold, damnit!

                1. Anna*

                  See, I think a long tunic with leggings is acceptable (although not necessarily what I would wear). What is not acceptable is “leggings as pants” which to me is if you’re wearing a top that you would also wear with jeans, pants, and does not come down past your butt, then you should not wear leggings with that.

                2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

                  This was a tunic worn as a dress…no leggings, no tights…

                  I have also had to have the leggings are not pants conversation with a student employee. She had paired them with a blazer and looked adorable, but the blazer stopped at the waist leaving everything exposed.

                3. Bagworm*

                  I am admittedly completely out of touch with fashion but I have no idea what cigarette pants are. Can you explain? (Just curious.)

          6. Apollo Warbucks*

            Being male I’ve got a different perspective about this and different set of factors influencing my thinking but, my view is that the more perspective dress code for women is caused by the shear amount of choice available in women’s fashion. Women have a lot more freedom in their professional dress than men, there is no way I could find any work appropriate clothing that didn’t cover my arms or legs. The most skin you’ll see on me in the office is my arms below the elbow.

            I needed to wear some open toed shoes in the office because of an injury and was told to “hurry up and get back into normal shoes” when women all around the office were wearing a wide range of sandals and other types open shoes. My office is like a furnace most of the time and the women are wearing much less clothing than men. The general feeling amongst the men is that it is far to hot yet the only option we have is roll up our shirt sleeves and maybe undo a button on our shirts, if we can ditch the tie we’re expected to wear.

            Would you be in favour of restricting a female dress code so that the only option was trousers with either a shirt or blouse or freeing men up to wear shorts and sleeveless tops? because that’s the only way there’ll be parity with dress codes.

            1. IndieGir*

              Thank-you for saying this. I find all these “dress codes are sexist” conversations so frustrating because they ignore the fact that men basically wear a uniform and women have a huge range of freedom in what they can wear to the office (which, as a woman, I admit I’m grateful for!) Men don’t need an 8,000 item code to tell them what not to wear because they have a three item code of what they are allowed to wear: suit, tie, and shirt. Maybe five items if you get business casual, to include khakis and polo shirts.

              1. Carmen Sandiego*

                Depends on the industry. I work in a creative field and the dress code is business casual to outright casual. Men wear jeans, brightly colored pants, fun patterned shirts, stylish shoes — so there’s potential there to go outside the typical professional boundaries.

            2. Nashira*

              I would be, but I’m a crazy believer in gender parity. No sleeveless tops without auxiliary sleeves available, but men should be allowed to wear formalish shorts a la golf wear.

              Just not in ridiculous eyesearing plaids, pleeeeease

              1. Kelly L.*

                Yep. I think the Professional Dude Summer Outfit (a polo and khaki shorts, I’ve seen it a lot on general passersby) is fine for a business casual office.

                1. The IT Manager*

                  I disagree, but I also think women should not be wearing shorts in a business casual environment either.

                  Shorts are not business casual for either sex, IMO.

                2. Kelly L.*

                  I think any gender should be able to wear shorts of roughly knee-length and in a work-pants-type material. But I don’t run the world. :)

                3. LBK*

                  It’s just interesting to me that short-length skirts are usually considered professional enough for an office, but shorts aren’t. Having a seam in the middle instead of being open makes that much of a difference to how formal they are?

                4. LBK*

                  That’s an excellent question. I have no idea where those fall on the casual/professional scale. I don’t even know if I could identify a skort vs a skirt on sight.

            3. De (Germany)*

              “Would you be in favour of restricting a female dress code so that the only option was trousers with either a shirt or blouse or freeing men up to wear shorts and sleeveless tops? ”

              Yes. And preferably the second one. There is nothing wrong with men’s arms or legs.

            4. AnonAnalyst*

              Yeah, for the most part I also agree that most of the reason that there’s so many more rules around women’s dress in the workplace is because women have many, many more options than men. I for one would be fine with relaxing men’s dress codes in the office as well to allow more flexibility.

              However, I will also say that I think where some of the frustration comes in for women is that there can seemingly be no way to win at this, as some other commenters have noted. I find that most professional or work-appropriate clothes just don’t seem office appropriate on me, no matter how I try to combine or layer them (when I can even find anything that fits properly, which is a whole ‘nother issue). I have a a pretty curvy figure, and I feel like almost anything I wear just looks obscene in the workplace. I can’t wear anything cut below collarbone level because it shows too much cleavage, or anything even remotely fitted because I end up feeling like it ends up looking too sexy for work on my body. My work uniform at this point is long, loose-fitting cardigans and sweaters, and boxy jackets with loose-fitting or wide-leg pants. It’s not at all flattering (and often makes me feel like instead of too sexy, people are viewing me as being sloppy), but those are the only things that I feel like are acceptable for me to wear to work.

              It sucks to feel like your body shape makes you appear inherently unprofessional, and like you’re being taken less seriously, at all times no matter what you’re wearing, which is where I think some of these concerns/complaints are coming from.

              1. Case of the Mondays*

                Can you afford tailoring? You can buy clothes that are big enough to look professional on your breasts and hips and have them taken in at the waist so they don’t look boxy and sloppy. I frequently do that or I buy a boxier blazer and wear it over the slightly too fitted dress so I look like I still have a figure but it isn’t clear how “flattering” the underlying dress is.

                1. AnonAnalyst*

                  I can, and I agree that this helps somewhat. I often do end up wearing things that are more fitted but then feeling like I have to cover up some, hence the cardigans and jackets. It doesn’t help that I work in what has historically been a male-dominated industry so I’m often the lone woman in most of the meetings I attend, which always makes me feel more conspicuous and thus more like I need to make it less visible so as to not stand out more (which I admit is probably not a totally accurate perception, but it’s what I’ve ended up working with to try to be seen as a competent professional in my own right).

              2. NotherName*

                I know the feeling. Something that looks modest on most women does not necessarily look modest on a woman with curves. Also, if clothing isn’t fitted enough, the curves are hidden but make me look like I’m pregnant or carrying around an extra 15 lbs.

                Lately, I have found some dresses that are cut so that they de-emphasize my curves without looking like I’m trying to hide them – but finding them does take time, and they are a bit pricier.

            5. LBK*

              Agreed; there’s less to clarify for men because there’s rarely a question of what’s appropriate. If male attire normally included things like skirts and potentially low-cut tops, I could see the guidelines being more necessary, but I don’t think you need to specify how long pants have to be. There’s pretty much one length.

                1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

                  I had to have a conversation about this with a male employee. I think my exact words were it was appropriate on the Jersey shore, is not appropriate in the office.

                  It was also the only time I had equal level employees complain about attire. One of my female employees complained that the amount of chest she could see made her uncomfortable.

              1. Jules*

                Man, all these comments make me love our dress code: “When dressed appropriately for work, you should look out of place on a beach or at the gym. Please dress more formally when meeting clients. Also, no footwear that goes ‘thwap’. Ever. ”

                The irony being that I had to get a dress-code exemption for even a dress code this relaxed when I tore up my foot badly on holiday and couldn’t wear anything but flip flops for three months.

                1. JMegan*

                  That is a *great* dress code. It sets the tone (out of place at the beach/ more formal with clients), but without going into tons of nitpicky detail. Trust people to act with good judgement most of the time, and for the occasional person who doesn’t “get” it, then you talk with them individually. Perfect.

                2. The Expendable Redshirt*

                  My work place has a policy of “No ripped jeans. No pajama outfits. No tattoos on your forehead.” Direct quote from the CEO.

                  Yesterday I wore green dress with a Cats-Under-an-Umbrellas pattern. No lie. It’s awesome here. Shoes that go ‘thwap’ likely wouldn’t work, but sandals and bare sleeves are common.

            6. UKAnon*

              I think I would probably be in favour of the more restrictive version just because it takes all of the stress out of it (well, most of it. Cleavage will always be a problem til the fashion industry gets its act together) – grass is always greener? I’m easy about men wearing what they want, anyhow, so the same cond is a-ok by me too.

            7. Sunflower*

              I agree with this. I feel pretty terrible for men on hot days. I usually wear a sleeveless top and a skirt and throw a cardigan on one i get into the office and cool down. I really don’t know how men can handle long pants and shirts on those days.

                1. IrishInCA*

                  I wore an Irish kilt (solid color, not plaid) for my wedding. At the reception, this very question was asked/shouted. My response “Nothing, everything under my kilt is in fine working order!”

                  My bride blushed, becomingly.

            8. Anx*

              Whenever the AC debates come up about office temperature, I see a lot of people bemoaning women for dressing impractically for the cold summer office. But they are dressing practically for the weather, which cannot be controlled, unlike an office thermostat, dress code, or fashion norms. I do feel badly for men who feel compelled by societal norms or official dress codes to be even warmer, when they most likely run warmer internally.

              I fully support relaxing dress codes to become more practical. My toes are all banged up from going numb from the thermal shock of going into and out of the office (I also have my glasses actually fogging up). The thing is, I don’t even work in a formal office! It’s just controlled remotely from more formal departments. If I find a way to look professional with bare legs and easy layering, why shouldn’t I?

              And I would totally support anything that loosens dress codes to support comfort while also upholding a sense of decorum or professionalism.

          7. nk*

            While that certainly may be true in some cases, I think it has more to do with the fact that women’s work clothes are just a lot more varied than men’s work clothes (and I’m a woman, FWIW). I think that adds a lot of complexity to women’s dress codes. Of course, I don’t think dress codes necessarily need to be broken down by gender lines – “no sleeveless tops” and even “no low cut tops” works across the board. But the baseline for women is to allow more skin to show (e.g. skirts), so I don’t think it’s inappropriate to have some guidelines as to where the lines are.

            1. NotherName*

              I’d have to go back and look at it, but our dress code has not been specific to gender since before I worked here. For example, there are rules about skirt length, but nothing that says a man can’t wear a skirt. Rules about shirts are just about types of shirt, etc. No shorts, ever (now it didn’t used to be this way – and I support this idea). Capris are allowed, and a man could wear them if he wanted to (I’ve never seen one do so here). So, we do have rules about what are considered traditional women’s clothing, but no rules about who can and can’t wear it.

          8. TootsNYC*

            Part of the detail on women’s clothing in dress codes is that women’s clothing just has so very many more styles and options; it’s more complex.

            Men don’t usually have to worry about spaghetti straps and skirt lengths or bra straps.

        2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          I would be outraged by something super-gendered. Or by new restrictions that genuinely meant buying a lot of new expensive clothes (“All employees must wear bespoke authentic kilts. You may not wear the same tartan more than twice a fortnight.”)

          1. Merry and Bright*

            The kilts directive would make an awesome AAM letter. Please let there be an office somewhere that does this…

          2. JL*

            That would make the office so much more interesting though! I’d be all for a ridiculous dress code like this!

          3. LeahS*

            Oh, man. If they phrased it that way I’d be way too busy being amused to be outraged! That’s hysterical.

          4. blackcat*

            In my old work place, the dress code was SUPER gendered. And men got the short end of the stick, because it was a hot climate where we had outdoor duties (teachers supervise lunch!). Women were allowed to wear basically anything “professional”, save shorts, so most of us rocked dresses/skirts during the hot months (As a science teacher, I dreaded lab days on hot days, because long pants + close toed shoes HAD to be the rule). There was no restriction on skirt length, though basically everyone was sensible.

            Men had to wear *long-sleeved* shirts with ties, long pants (business attire), and close-toed shoes. And they would often glare at my coworker who often wore a comfortable denim skirt, sandals, and cap-sleeved button down in the hot months.

            I found it very odd. Most of the men found it infuriating. I think the justification was that there is a very clear standard for what counts as “business” attire for men, and the school stuck to it. Rather than make lots of complicated rules for women, they just didn’t make any at all. And the administration (all male) never had outdoor duties, so probably didn’t “get” the complaints about standard business attire.

        3. Z*

          I would be mad because a policy like that would eliminate like 70% of the clothing available to me on the market (and theoretically in my closet). I’m not even kidding. I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but here in Australia, a very significant portion of the clothing that’s designed for young female professionals is sleeveless. Sleeveless blouses, sleeveless shell tops, sleeveless other things I don’t know the name of. If it’s not sleeveless, it has the type of sleeves that absolutely leave the underarm visible (i.e. cover the shoulder and nothing else). Things that do have sleeves tend to be of the completely shapeless tent-like variety and don’t look very smart or professional.

          Basically it’s kind of like if you had a dress code that said no shoes with elevated heels. You practically can’t get women’s shoes that are dressy and don’t have heels.

          I’m afraid I don’t understand women’s fashion at all.

          1. Lindrine*

            I’m in the same boat here in the Southern U.S. Women’s clothing can be so trendy, even where you would not expect. If you can’t really shop online, and mostly shop in stores, all you will find in most rural areas like mine are sleeveless tops or tops with sleeves but in horrible sweat inducing fabrics. I usually wear some type of jacket or sleeved sweater in the office. I don’t want to expose my arm pits either, but fashion trends leave me little choice and I look horrible in button downs unless I add a button.

            Shoes – ugh. When gladiators became popular, they were almost the only shoes I could find.

            1. Anx*

              I live in a city of 80000 that is filled with retail stores. But I have been keeping my eye open for full-coverage shoes (harder than you’d think) and plain, somewhat dressier, non-sheer t shirts. Shockingly difficult.

              I’m planning on shopping when I go back home to a real metro area with more options.

              Also, try finding cotton dress socks.

          2. Biff*

            I had noticed this last year around Christmas while reading the only available bathroom mag — my mother’s “InStyle” — even the winter collections had a lot of sleeveless options. My mother is one of those women who is constantly freezing to death, and no wonder.

          3. Just Visiting*

            I’ve never had a problem acquiring heel-free women’s dress shoes. There are FEWER of them for sure, but if all you want is basic black, that is easily had.

        4. The Cosmic Avenger*

          My feeling is that the OP 1) has an additional restriction, which is always difficult if it’s not explained in a way that the employee understands the reasoning, and 2) the OP might have a lot of sleeveless tops, and now feels that they have few or no acceptable work tops, and is worried about having to buy a lot of new work clothes. That’s especially galling when you’ve bought a lot of work clothes based on the requirements your employer sets forth, and then they change it.

          1. Afiendishingy*

            Yeah I bet #2 is a big factor. If my workplace suddenly came out with this rule I would have to replace a ton of my summer work wardrobe, and I would be pretty frustrated about that.

            1. Biff*

              Back in 1998 or 1999, I was visiting family on the East Coast. To my uncle’s delight, his workplace had instituted a ‘sportswear’ dress code that freed him from three-piece suits save for certain events. He culled the herd of anything that wasn’t quite in style or didn’t fit just so. I think he took his collection down from over 40 or maybe even 50 — he had suits in just about every weight — to about 10-15. About 6 months later, the company decided that the sportswear dresscode wasn’t working, and boom…. he had to go buy a bunch of new suits. I can’t even imagine the cost. I know it hurt. The thing I’m illustrating here is that once they’ve made one major change that hits you in the pocketbook, the smart folks anticipate another. Especially when people have smaller places, it might not be feasible to hang onto the old wardrobe for when things change.

              I’ll be honest, right now if my office instituted any major dress code change, I’d be up a creek without a paddle and I’m not sure it would be unreasonable to consider leaving instead of investing in a whole new wardrobe, including shoes and matching outerwear. (I don’t think you can really show up to work in a suit or suit equivalent and still be rocking the ski coat.)

              1. NotherName*

                Where I live outerwear in winter is based way more on warmth than on visual appeal/professionalism. I love my long wool coat, but I wouldn’t blink an eye on someone who wore a down coat all winter. (The danger of hypothermia/frostbites trumps all.)

        5. Not Karen*

          OldJob had a pantyhose requirement. I wasn’t the only one who ignored it without consequences.

          1. Lena*

            An old job had ‘if legs are visible, they must be hair-free and tanned’.

            I wore trousers all the time…

            1. Arielle*

              I wonder if you could make a discrimination argument against that requirement, although I’m not sure if “ghostly pale” is a protected class. :)

              1. NotherName*

                I’ve been asked if my bare, naturally nearly hairless legs were white tights, so I could probably squeak by on this requirement…

        6. Chriama*

          I’ve heard about the great pantyhose debate so please delete this if you think it might send the conversation down that rabbit hole, but would you be against such a requirement if it was coupled with a ‘no legs showing’ requirement for both men and women? For example, no one can wear shorts/capris, but if women choose to wear skirts or dresses then they must wear pantyhose?

          1. Us, Too*

            I’d only be OK with this if men were also allowed to wear pantyhose to meet the requirement. :D

        7. AW*

          I’m betting this is a “straw the broke the camel’s back” situation. This could be just the latest in a string of annoying, seemingly petty changes and the OP’s just fed up.

        8. Bostonian*

          Specific lines in a dress code don’t outrage me, nor does having a dress code in the first place. But I get pretty annoyed at how difficult it is to dress professionally as a woman. I think most of my annoyance is actually at clothing manufacturers, but a change in dress code might make me angry at the world even if the specifics were totally reasonable. Why, oh, why, do they make so many capri dress pants, to the point that it can be hard to find normal pants in stores in the summer? Why are so many shirts so sheer that they aren’t office-appropriate unless you’re planning to wear 3 layers? Why is everything sleeveless? What’s up with 3/4 sleeve blazers? Why are so many otherwise professional-looking shirts so low-cut? Why does everything need to be dry cleaned?

          I’m 5’5″ (i.e. totally average height) and usually wear a size 6, so I have the full range of stores available to me and I still feel like I’m stuck in a game that’s been rigged against me. For women who are very tall or very short or who weight more than average, it’s all much worse.

          1. Jeanne*

            Amen. It is so hard to find anything if you’re not a perfect size. You are a great size. But so much is so ugly these days! Or just not flattering to 95% of the population. Add in the whole non-standardized size thing and it’s a complete nightmare.

        9. Chicken*

          I’d rather have a pantyhose requirement than a no-sleeveless-tops requirement, honestly. I overheat really easily, and sleeveless tops really help – I’m much more comfortable (temperature wise) on a hot day in jeans, closed toed shoes, and a sleeveless top than I am in, say, sandals, skirt, and short sleeved shirt. Probably 80% of my work tops are sleeveless, so I’d be pretty upset if the dress code changed to ban them!

          (I work in a casual to business casual office – lots of jeans, sandals, sleeveless shirts; some tshirts, sneakers; no shorts, ripped jeans, spaghetti strap tops.)

        10. Jen S. 2.0*

          A pantyhose requirement (**shudder**) would just let me know that I can’t work there.

          We all have choices.

      2. BRR*

        This comes up every once in a while. I can see how it’s aggravating for multiple reasons, but such strong language seems a bit extreme. To me this is pretty reasonable. A situation where you might not agree but you should be able to see the other side’s point. It’s like if I (a man as the name is ambiguous) had rules reguardig polos or ties in the office.

      3. Nina*

        Same, and I say this as someone who likes wearing sleeveless tops. But I can absolutely see why a manager would veto them.

      4. AMT*

        I don’t know, I’d be fairly outraged too…most of my wardrobe is sleeveless/short sleeve, I have maybe two long-sleeved tops that I rarely wear. I get hot super super easily – in the winter most of my office is in long-sleeves with cardigans and sweaters and plenty of women walk around wrapped up in pashminas too, blasting the heat in their offices… I am in a cube and can’t control the temperature where I am, and I am always boiling. The last time I wore a sweater to work I nearly passed out from overheating (I have since donated all my sweaters, they obviously don’t agree with me). But too many layers or even 3/4 sleeves and I am a sweaty gross mess. I have purposely avoided workplaces that were very formal; a suit every day is absolutely not something I am capable of doing, it would kill me!

      5. Eden*

        Maybe the OP feels specifically targeted by the new policy (is she the only one who wears them?), or even believes her wardrobe may be the cause? That would make it personal, and I could understand the outrage a bit better.

    2. UKAnon*

      Yeah, I think without any other context this goes under “annoying but deal with it”. I mean, I’d be peeved at having to re-buy half my professional wardrobe, but that isn’t the fault of the policy.

      1. fposte*

        You don’t even need to replace it–you just buy some things to wear over the sleeveless stuff.

        1. UKAnon*

          That’s still money spent, though. When your professional wardrobe is 4-5 years old because you haven’t been able to afford clothes si nce, any “replacement” will be irksome.

          1. fposte*

            I’m not saying it won’t cost–I’m just pointing out that rebuying half your wardrobe isn’t necessary. In the US, three Old Navy short-sleeve sweaters will do it, presuming you don’t already own any cardigans for spring and fall that you can bring in; I suspect in the UK Primark would be happy to hook you up for a low cost.

            I also think that it would be really useful to add this to the professional education we wish kids would have when preparing for the workforce. “Lots of places don’t like short skirts, sleeveless shirts, denim, or open-toed shoes, so your professional wardrobe money should go first to clothing that would be acceptable in those places.”

        2. JenGray*

          This is exactly what I thought. I have sleeveless tops but don’t wear them unless I wear something over them. I have never been big on showing my shoulders/arms to anyone. I think that I might have an issue if I was located in an area where the temp stays 80 degrees or above and worked in a building without air conditioning. I could understand being mad if in that situation, had been wearing sleeveless tops and then being told that I couldn’t. But in that case the issue is bigger than the dress code it would have to do more with the working conditions.

    3. Callie*

      I wear sleeveless tops because I’m always hot. Also, I lift weights and I have some biceps. A sleeveless top + light cardigan is much more comfortable on my upper arms than most sleeved blouses.

  4. Ryechick*

    What’s wrong with exposed armpits in the office? As long as it’s not a tank top or spaghetti strap top, what’s the actual problem? Especially if it’s business casual and you’re not expected to wear pant suits everyday. A good third of my wardrobe is made up of professional, stylish, sleeveless tops. Whereas I have some workers that dress too casual and yet they do that wearing sleeved tops.

    1. Daisy Steiner*

      Speaking personally, to me it’s a very intimate body part – not in a sexual way, just very personal, something like showing the belly button. So not always inappropriate, by any means, I just prefer not to be confronted with them in the workplace.

    2. Violetta*

      Yeah I’m failing to see what’s so horribe about seeing someone’s armpit. Is my inner elbow also offensive?

      Half of my summer professional wardrobe is sleeveless tops and dresses. I work in a conservative industry and my department manager is notorious for pointing out clothing he does not approve of, but this has never been a problem. I also don’t walk around work with my hands up in the air all the time, so maybe that’s it.

      1. Afiendishingy*

        “I also don’t walk around work with my hands up in the air all the time, so maybe that’s it.”

        Yeah this is the thing that makes it weird to me. Maybe you get a glimpse when I’m getting something down off a high shelf, but it’s not like anyone has to stare at them for hours.

        I would be pretty bummed if my workplace adopted this dress code, but I also know it to be pretty typical in more conservative industries.

        What are the most ridiculous dress codes you’ve been subjected to, commenters? I worked in a place where skirts had to touch the knee when you were standing and earrings could be no bigger than a quarter. Surprisingly it was not a Catholic girls school in the 50s, it was a call center.

        1. Kelly L.*

          I’ve mentioned this before, but wearing a lab coat to cashier (not to be a pharmacist or tech) in a pharmacy. They got so dirty, and confused the heck out of the customers.

        2. A Girl Named Red*

          I’ve never worked anywhere with outright ridiculous dress codes, but there were a few strange ones. The Wal-Mart where I worked as a teenager did not allow pants to hit *at* the knee– they had to hit right above or right below. I also worked in a warehouse (but in the office portion) where I was required to wear company-branded polo shirts that the company paid for. However, they refused to purchase proper sizes, so my XS self often wore a men’s size XL polo. It was basically a sad, baggy dress.

        3. Jeanne*

          I never had a ridiculous dress code. Just an absolutely ridiculous uniform provided at a fast food job.

      2. Kala August*

        I completely agree with you Violetta! And OP said she’s never had that rule before in her career, so to her it’s NOT common. I can understand her outrage. If you’re working in an office, just how often are you going to be exposed to someone’s pit? I don’t think being sleeveless should raise such hackles.

    3. dancer*

      I agree as well! I didn’t realise armpits upset so many people. I have trouble finding shirts that fit both my torso and my arms, so most of my work shirts are sleeveless.

      1. Dew E. Decimal*

        Sleeves can definitely be a right pain to fit. I suspect that (and likely manufacturing costs) is why sleeveless tops and dresses are so popular in off the rack fashion right now. If you check out some place like Banana Republic, likely easily half or more of their “work” dresses are sleeveless, even into the winter – it’s one less thing to fit for with a sleeve. I won’t even order a dress with a sleeve, to be honest. As a librarian I have a stock pile of cardigans to cover up when it’s cold, but I’m not squeamish about an arm pit, especially when it seems so many clothes out there for work are designed this way.

        1. dancer*

          Yup, that’s pretty much it. If it’s not sleevless, I buy it on sale so I can factor in the tailoring costs. :) It’s amazing how clothing manufacturers design their clothes to the “average” person, but then the clothes rarely end up fitting correctly for anyone.

          1. Hellanon*

            Yep. I live in sleeveless tops year round – the ones for winter are merino wool and cashmere, the ones for summer are cotton. I am broad shouldered and my arms are long, which makes finding anything with fitted sleeves tricky, plus my jackets and cardigans all fit better over sleeveless tops. Fortunately my workplace runs to sleeveless shift dresses for upper management in the summer, so the question of “appropriate” doesn’t come up. We just won’t invite Alison to tea…

        2. Eliza Jane*

          That is exactly true, based on my reading about fashion. Sleeves are incredibly hard to fit properly and have look decent, so even while women are asking for sleeves, designers looooove the sleeveless look.

            1. TootsNYC*

              They fit better, too!
              And I believe (from looking at tons of pictures of real weddings, in my previous job) that they’re more flattering to heavy women than bunchy fabric is.

      2. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

        Yes, I wear mostly long-sleeved tops all year round because I work in a refrigerator, but so many are tight through the arms and shoulders that I expose my mid-riff if I lift my hands over my head! I’m not a large person, but I guess I have broader shoulders than the industry-standard women because sizing up doesn’t usually solve either problem (they get wider but not longer… oh to have a short torso)

        1. dancer*

          Haha, a short torso doesn’t help either! Armholes and necklines end way too low on me. I think it’s safe to say, mass-produced clothing doesn’t make anyone happy.

          1. Dana*

            I think it’s safe to say, mass-produced clothing doesn’t make anyone happy.

            Can we put this on billboards?? Or mail it to clothing designers in envelopes full of glitter?

        2. Amy UK*

          I have disproportionately small shoulders and everything that isn’t a round neckline looks indecent on me. I’ve had standard T-shirts described as ‘low cut’.

          At least when one of your features is dispoportionately large, you can just buy a bigger size. It won’t look great, but it is at least clothing that you can get on your body. Having features which are disproportionately smaller is a nightmare.

      3. Sunshine Brite*

        Agreed! I have broad shoulders and dress clothes are the absolute worst that aren’t sleeveless.

      4. TootsNYC*

        yeah, sleeves can be a pain to fit, as Dew E. Decimal points out.

        I’ve ended up rejecting so many tops w/ sleeves because they pull funny, or the sleeve isn’t generous enough.

        However, I’ve also rejected plenty of sleeveless tops because the armholes are WAY too big. So I don’t know that the percentage of “tops that fit” is different for either category.

        But it is amazing to me how many slightly dressy tops are sleeveless; it’s not that easy to find short-sleeved tops!
        And if you end up having to wear a sweater or jacket because it’s cold, then tops w/ sleeves can be a paint.

        1. Anx*


          I tend to wear long, thin, casual t shirts (although I wish they had a more conservative neckline…nothing sexy or provocative, just wide and awkward, but it was the best I could find in my budget) so I can layer more easily. Almost like an undershirt or a base layer.

          Or I wear something sleeveless. I can’t wear button downs to work any more because I just can’t layer over them well. And my office is usually at least 20 degrees colder than the outdoors.

    4. AdAgencyChick*

      Agreed. I wouldn’t be “outraged” in the event that my company instituted such a policy, but I’d be annoyed for sure, and puzzled as to why they felt it was necessary.

      In the meantime, I will continue to be grateful that I work in an industry with mostly-casual dress.

    5. Chocolate lover*

      I’m with you. I wear dressy sleeveless tops to work 75 % of the year. It can be difficulty to find nice short sleeve shirts, and I overheat easily and sweat profusely at the same time, so long sleeves are miserable. And everyone can see the sweat dripping down my red face. That’s more uncomfortable to me and more embarrassing than a sleeveless shirt.

      I do keep a sweater and jacket in my office for those times it’s really necessary.

      1. Hellanon*

        Short sleeves feel less-than-sophisticated to me too, maybe because all my short-sleeved shirts are cotton tees I wear around the house, and I always feel lumpy in short-sleeved polos. Many more stylish options in sleeveless cuts, generally…

    6. Lanya (aka Camp Director Kim)*

      I don’t have a problem with armpits or toes. We’ve all got ’em. But I guess there is something that weirds everyone out. My friend has this weird thing about thighs. Someone else I know doesn’t like the backs of knees.

    7. Eliza Jane*

      Mine was, too, for a long time. It feels like 60% of the female “professional” attire where I am is sleeveless in the summer. I used to pair them with a jacket, because that was something I could get away with in my old office, but in my new job, a jacket is way too formal and people look at me funny. So I invested in cardigans. But when I get overheated, I’ll take them off.

      I get frustrated when people compare “men’s uniforms” to “women’s uniforms,” because the stuff we’re offered is so freaking ridiculous, especially if your body shape is not standard. Every time I go shopping, I’m spending something like 4 hours hoping to find 3-4 items that a) don’t gape at the buttons, b) aren’t sheer to the point of showing freckles underneath, c) don’t gape at the buttons, d) don’t hang on me like a sack, and e) don’t cost $120.

      In contrast, my BF goes to the store and buys a stack of sealed collared shirts, and his work is done. 3 minutes in and out.

        1. Eliza Jane*

          Yeah, I’ve done this… it helps some, but not enough. I still tend to look like my anatomy is about to make a bid for freedom. ;)

          1. Case of the Mondays*

            That’s a great line that I might have to steal some time. Now the lawyer in me is wondering about the personal liability if a button shot off and poked someone’s eye out. :)

      1. Eliza Jane*

        Don’t gape at the buttons showed up there twice, and I missed “Don’t have necklines low enough that you can see my bra.”

      2. Chalupa Batman*

        I have one button up shirt that has an extra button right in the gape zone. Game changer. It probably won’t work for major gaps, but for a shirt that just gapes when you move a certain way, squeezing in an extra button could be a fairly easy DIY fix.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I’ve been known to stitch those shirts shut at the gape zone.
          As long as they’ll pull over my head with the other buttons open, I’m good!

    8. JB (not in Houston)*

      Yeah, I don’t get it either. I mean, I get it in that I totally understand that different people feel squicked out by different things. But I’ve never thought about armpits being that personal or provocative or disgusting. And I’ve never worked in an office where we had our hands over our heads very often, anyway–though obviously there are jobs where you would. I don’t think banning sleeveless tops is so crazy that I’d be outraged over my boss doing it–if for no other reason that for some people, if you say sleeveless tops are ok, they will wear tank tops and spaghetti strap cami type tops, which are too casual. But I personally don’t think that a cashmere or silk shell that doesn’t show my bra or cleavage is too casual for the office.

      TL;DR: I wouldn’t be outraged by an office ban on sleeveless tops, but I personally don’t think uncovered armpits are unprofessional.

      1. Happy Lurker*

        JB, you hit the nail on the head (at least I think so).
        We had to put in a ban at our office too. For exactly the reason you stated. We had people wearing practically nothing (short shorts and spaghetti strap tanks). Once the ban was put in place some people went bonkers. Thankfully they all left and we have people that know how to dress for an office and not a bar!

  5. Knitting Cat Lady*

    Okay, I’m running against a cultural wall here.

    What is so bad about showing arm pits or bra straps?

    In summer I see both at work.

    1. LeRainDrop*

      Bras are underwear. They’re supposed to stay under your visible clothing. Not seen. Would you think it’s okay to have a thong or panties peeking out over the top of your pants?

      1. CMT*

        The problem is that only half of the population has to wear them, and it can be difficult sometimes to find clothing, especially for warm weather, that adequately covers them. (Even clothing with sleeves. Some things are just cut weird.) Even though they’re “underwear”, people can handle dealing with the occasional visible bra strap.

      2. Tara*

        But… I mean, this is a completely arbitrary convention. Like, seriously, this is a lot of fuss to make sure no one ever has a clue that someone might be hiding a nipple under there. Bra straps are a pain to hide, and to fuss about them because it’s traditional just seems silly.

        Also, I see men’s boxers sticking out from their pants constantly.

        1. Kelly L.*

          In business settings?

          I think there’s a difference between business or business-casual looks, and straight-up casual looks, and the rules can be different.

    2. Myrin*

      I feel the same (then again, if I remember correctly, you and I are from the same country so there really might be a cultural barrier here) although I have to admit I’ve never particularly thought about it (armpits are sometimes weirdly wrinkly and/or sweaty, but so are the whole bodies of some people, so…). Someone above mentioned seeing armpits as a more intimate (not sexual) body part and I think I can get behind that reason. Don’t know if that is the reason other people don’t like the armpit thing, though.

  6. snuck*

    #4 would you please PLEASE come work for me? :/

    I think someone willing to do the work you’ve been doing for several years deserves a medal, and all manner of appreciation and love and respect. Don’t let this employer ever make you feel otherwise.

    I get it, people who do the work you do are generally kind and caring people who are happy to help… and families with special needs members are often over stretched and worn thin and ask a bit extra… but forty hours a week is LOADS of help (I get three hours a fortnight of respite, and I had to fight hard for that). You have absolutely no need to give up a moment of your spare time.

    You could say to your employer “I really appreciate the confidence and trust you have in me, it warms my heart to know you can recommend me to your friends – it shows how much your appreciate my work. I do want to say though, this work is taxing and tiring, and I want to be in tip top condition for working with you and your son who I love dearly, so I won’t ever take on outside work for others, I need to rest and look after myself in my down hours and I can’t see that changing. I’ll let you know if I ever feel like changing this.”

    As for the doing extra housework… how has it crept into the schedule and can you creep it back out? Without knowing anything about the child you are caring for… is there some community activities or home therapy work you should/could be doing with him instead that would be ‘more valuable’. And what is the going rate for a housekeeper in your location (vs a babysitter vs a therapy assistant vs a special needs carer – because they are all different and come with different rates of pay)… is your employer being fair? If not… maybe approach your employer about that.

    Another thing could be to quietly talk to some agencies in your area about other employment options, not because you definitely plan to bail, but to help you understand what the market is like and what your options are if your employer doesn’t want to meet your halfway on this.

      1. snuck*

        I have a special needs son. If I was to recommend someone to someone else it was because I *knew* I could trust them, it’s high praise to be recommended to a third party. And I know how hard it must be for the OP … because these kids are hard work at times.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          True, I get this. But I used to HATE when families I babysat for did this without checking with me first. It’s weird how often they would just give people my phone number without asking if I was interested. I learned the hard way not to babysit for people I had never met, regardless of how great I was told they were.

          1. snuck*

            Yeah … I would never give another person’s number to anyone else without permission. Even friends… I’d ask first. That’s a basic courtesy.

    1. Xarcady*

      Another thing you could try to cut down on the amount of housework you are doing is to point out that the more housework you do, the less time you have to take care of the child. “I’m finding that I’m not spending enough time doing X and Y and Z because of the increased laundry load and the grocery shopping and the waxing of the floors every week. I’d like to cut those out and refocus my attention on taking care of your child.”

      And everything snuck said. I think you have a lot more value than you realize.

      (My nephew is special needs and I assure you that my brother and sister-in-law do not ask his carers to do anything other than care for him. They treat the carers as the professionals they are, who are doing a valuable and necessary job. Not as house help.)

      1. Artemesia*

        I feel that the heavy housework part of this is quite outrageous. I would strongly urge the OP to check out other options for employment in this field, so that she can negotiate this back out of her job with confidence. She signed on to care for this child and light housework generally means, getting his lunch, cleaning up after, doing a little straightening up etc. To be doing heavy cleaning and laundry for the household is abusing her position especially if there hasn’t been considerable remuneration for this work.

        1. Ezri*

          Especially if she’s not getting paid for it. Housecleaning and childcare are two separate services with separate rates, so OP’s boss needs to be compensating her for both or hiring someone else to do the chores.

        2. Dee Keeve*

          It is very outrageous, every Monday Wednesday and Friday the house has to be vacuumed, and mopped on Friday. I think it is downright lazy and disgusting for them to have someone to come in and play maid, when they are supposed to be there as a provider for their child. I’ve talked to her several times about it not being my job to do these things and she’s a simply gets upset for a little while and brushes them off as if I said nothing. She even had other employees around the time that I was there and they all left her. Also since I’ve been there I’ve never really had a set schedule it was always a new time almost every couple of months. She even had me come in at five in the morning to eight in the morning to put her child on the bus, fix breakfast for the whole family, clean and then I can leave until the evening shift.

          1. snuck*

            Yeah no. That’s not being a carer for a disabled child Dee, that’s being a housekeeper. Seriously. You deserve better.

            Are you paid by an agency? It seems you are from your comments? If that’s the case go back and talk to them… and if you want to ask for a different assignment somewhere else. They won’t want to lose a good employee like you, and you are right – the level of housekeeping you are doing is crazy. My respite worker has offered to clean – and we can get cleaning under respite – but it’s from a different bucket of money (I am in Australia, it’s very probably different here) and I cannot ask them to clean when they are there for child care etc…. the budget for cleaning is different, and because I myself am not disabled I am not eligible for it.

            This person is milking the system and you don’t have to be part of that. If you are there for the child you should be leaving when that child gets on the bus surely? Talk to your agency if you can, lay it all out, including what you’ve said here, and ask them to advise you. If they don’t solve this for you then talk to other agencies and find a new one to work for.

            Or you can continue as you are, if you like it well enough, but I suspect you don’t or you wouldn’t be writing in about it yeah?

            Ugh. It’s not fair or right. You are in the right here.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      I bet the boss keeps asking #4 to work outside hours because, each time, she probably thinks OP is just not free that particular day, and doesn’t realize that she actually wants to categorically keep your weekends and nights free for herself. This is a great response for doing that.

      I do worry that if OP makes the housework discussion about doing the best for the kid, if the parents are perfectly happy with the amount of attention their child is getting (and they probably are, if they’re recommending her to friends), they may respond with, “Oh, that’s all right. Junior loves you! Just keep doing what you’re doing.”

      In OP’s shoes, I would definitely start quietly looking around, as you suggest, to make myself aware of my full market value, especially if there hasn’t been a raise in those three years that came with the extra housework duties. Then OP can approach the conversation from a position of strength, knowing that her current arrangement is worth $Y, whereas she is making only $X. I suspect the parents won’t want to lose her if she’s been working so well for them for 3 years, and will either agree to ratchet back the responsibilities or offer her a raise.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Yeah, I agree and I don’t think she even needs an excuse – a “this is not what we agreed to when I started” should suffice. I babysat a lot when I was younger and I drew the line at housework. I’ll cook for the kids and clean up the dishes from what they ate and from any mess we made while playing, but hell no would I dust or vacuum or do laundry or clean up after the parents. So many moms would start out easy-going and then demand more and more from me after I worked for them a while.

    3. Afiendishingy*

      Can you look for work at an agency that provides respite and home-based therapy? I supervise home-based staff in this field, and we’re pretty strict about boundaries. Even going through an agency it’s pretty difficult to maintain appropriate boundaries when you’re in a person’s home so much; I feel like it would be nigh impossible when you’re employed directly by the family. You must be pretty attached at this point, and I don’t know how pay/benefits would compare if you switched settings. But unfortunately I’m not sure you can preserve an amicable working relationship AND get the boundaries you need in your current situation; depends on how reasonable your boss is. Worth a shot, but I would start looking at other options. Good luck!

      1. Dee Keeve*

        Yes, I’ve searched for other agencies and they pretty much all pay the same thing and some of the parents are expecting the same. I hate the work that I do and when I tell my boss that it is not in the agreement, she gets upset and starts having a fit and takes her anger out on me because I refused to do the work that she wants me to do. It is not my job and I let her know but she seems to not realize that I am not there for her but for her son, also she has friends that always praise me for being there to help out the family and says that she really appreciates me and the help that I give the family and that she seems a lot less stressed now that I’m there and I get so offended because I know that she is going overboard with her power as my employer, and feels that my world has to stop for her when I have plans of my own.

        1. afiendishthingy*

          In my agency we wouldn’t let respite workers mop the floors – some of our families might want it but they’re not getting it. You’re sure it would be the same with an agency? We’re funded by medicaid and there are strict regulations on what duties employees in certain roles can perform.

        2. afiendishthingy*

          Particularly, if you’re going through an agency the parents don’t have this much power because the employees don’t work for them, they work for the agency. Families can lose the services if they repeatedly try to misuse them. So sure, there are parents who want staff to do way too much for them, but we shut it down. We don’t let employees work over 40 hours a week unless there’s some crazy emergency. If the family has a problem with the staff and we as the supervisors know the issue is with the family and not the employee, we will take the employee out and put them somewhere where they won’t be treated this way. You need to get out of there, OP, you’re experienced and you can do better.

    4. Erin*

      Love this, especially the emphasis on how flattered and honored the OP is that her employer feels she can recommend them to someone else.

    5. Dee Keeve*

      I get paid $11.70/hr, and I fell that it isn’t enough. I don’t wanna sound like a b*tch or some lazy person. But I come in and work 8 hrs a day, take care of her son and his personal needs, sometimes cook for her and her other children (there are 3 more). While she take this to Bible Study, after school activities, grocery shopping etc. she is a housewife and homeschools the others. She is up everyday at 5 a.m. But she feels that she doesn’t have enough time in the day to take care of home and waits until I get there to take care of the hard stuff. Which I see is unfair, especially after the Director of the EFMP told her j am not allowed to help with any household chores unless it pertains to her son and she still does not follow their guidelines because she “is too busy and could really use my help.”

      1. QualityControlFreak*

        “I’m sorry, as I’ve told you before, that won’t be possible.” Negotiate a schedule and stick to it. (Write it down and date it.) Simply don’t do the extra cleaning. Do the job you were hired for. If she gets upset, it’s her problem, not yours.

      2. afiendishthingy*

        ah, you are working through an agency? They need to shut this down. Next time she asks you should remind her you’re not allowed. And tell the director (or whoever), every time. But mostly, get out of there.

      3. afiendishthingy*

        Also… I have to say, if I were the supervisor, and I found out this were still happening after conversations with everyone about how it’s not allowed, I would mostly be irritated with the family, but I would also be a little upset with the employee for continuing to allow it! (If you HAVE made it clear to your supervisor that the mom still asks you to do these chores, disregard… That’s the supervisor’s fault for not making it clear to the mother that she will lose services if she doesn’t abide by policies.) Seriously, stop doing it, say you’re not allowed, and tell your supervisor EVERY TIME. I know I just wrote that in my last comment. I just really mean it. :)

  7. snuck*

    #1 I think you’ve made a good call… does your son understand why you aren’t keen to have his child back and do they agree with it generally? That would make it easier.

    I think you are doing something valuable for your grandson – he is going to learn from this somewhere along the line… maybe think about what sorts of things you need to see him doing outside of work that will show you he’s learning his lesson and keep an eye out for those?

    1. Myrin*

      I agree – I think the OP’s stance is highly admirable and sadly something I don’t actually see that often.

    2. Meh*

      Personally I find myself wondering if the grandson even wanted to be there in the first place. I know if I were forced to work for a family company if I wanted to pursue other endeavors I wouldn’t give it my all and I would not be “embarrassed” if my grandparents didn’t want me back.

      Now if the grandson wanted to work there, and wasn’t pressured into the family business, his behavior is indicative of a greater work ethic/maturity issue but I don’t think we have enough info here to know one way or the other.

      1. Charityb*

        I strongly suspect that the dad sent him there in an effort to teach him those job skills and instill that work ethic in him, and that worked here about as well as it usually does (not at all).

        Instead of treating it like a professional job, he treated it as a boring, annoying chore to be put off as much as possible. He’s not embarassed to not be invited back; he’s probably relieved.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I bet he treated it exactly the way he treats stuff like putting his laundry away at home. And his homework.

          He views it at something the grownups are making him do, and his role is to avoid it or fight against it (using passive aggression if he needs to).

          I’l be honest–I panic sometimes about what my son is going to be like as an employee, because DH and I haven’t been that great at making him follow through on the tasks we’ve given him. And homework is something he puts off until it’s way late.

          Also, I’d never, ever, ever have him work for me, because every single parental dynamic would absolutely click into place.

          1. Charityb*

            I can relate to that!

            I think the fact that there is that parental/familial dynamic might be part of the problem though for the Op’s grandson. It’s hard for people — especially inexperienced people — to compartmentalize people. It would be like if one of his school friends was his supervisor at another job; it would be hard for him to treat that person like a supervisor at work and like just one of the guys when he sees him socially. It’s probably the same with his dad and grandma; he’s used to seeing them as those roles and it’s hard for him to cut over to seeing them as his managers.

            This goes double if it’s his first job ever. It might really help if he worked for someone else at least for a short time though.

      2. Chameleon*

        My thought as well. If he was doing it out of familial duty or expectations, he probably wasn’t motivated to do his best job. Let him have his own life and tell Dad to move on.

  8. Betsy*

    #3 Adding to Alison’s comments: sure, culture can affect the way you work – but so can many things. People’s personalities are dynamic, regardless of what their ethnic origins are. That boss strikes me as pretty ignorant.

    1. LeahS*

      Absolutely. There’s a difference between being culturally aware/sensitive and attributing certain personality traits to an individual’s ethnicity. Alison hit the nail on the head with “racist and gross”.

  9. Kathlynn*

    If number 1 weren’t a family member I wouldn’t suggest this, but check to see if your grandson fits the definition for ADHD. I have a hard time starting, stopping, and switching tasks. It got blamed on everything but that, until recently. I’m just good at “faking it to make it”, and when I read the symptoms, I’m going down the list and basically checking every item off, because I experience them.
    Which means I’ve a lot of insidious thoughts to unlearn, from the painful words said to me by teachers, friends and family. (everyone, please remove things like “you just need to try harder” from your vocabulary (or reduce it’s/their usage), and try “what’s stopping you from doing it” or “is there anything we/I can do, to make it [easier] for you to [task]”) My least favorite was “try is not a word” and “only say ‘I can/will’ “

    1. Vorthys*

      I respect your opinion, but really think you’re misguided here. ADHD and lack of good work ethic can present the same, I know that from my own experiences, but that does not mean that lack of good work ethic doesn’t exist.

      I know how it feels when you’re first diagnosed. Suddenly, you see it everywhere and you want to help people see that, too. It’s not necessarily constructive on the internet, especially when you’re not directly talking to the grown man involved and whose habits you don’t know well.

      1. TL -*

        Yes. One of my brothers was lazy and one had ADHD. One figured out how to work when it became apparent that he needed a paycheck to live and one needed professional help no matter to succeed. The difference between the two was not easily seen by the outside observer.

      2. Kathlynn*

        I never said that all poor work ethics are ADHD. Or that people can’t have poor work ethics. I just said to check out a very possible diagnosis before the relative judges the grandson.

    2. The Strand*

      I don’t think that it’s necessarily a bad thing for people to suggest it in context, several letters that have come in have been very relevant about ADHD. They feel that the grandson is capable but not able to get work done. Maybe it’s maturity, lack of experience, but indeed, maybe it’s ADHD or ADD. With a family member you’re working with it becomes more relevant.

      I think the first time I considered the idea that my spouse had ADHD was a decade ago, reading about some behaviors described online in a similar advice column. But, I think if someone had specifically suggested, “This is how ADHD can manifest, this is how you could check it out”, we could have saved a lot of time and energy, especially before grad school (when it really became apparent, and the final diagnosis occurred).

  10. Three Thousand*

    #1 I think you would be doing your grandson a huge favor not letting him work for you again. Being shielded from the consequences of his behavior will cause him a great deal of unhappiness later in life when it stops happening. It’s a lot easier to grow up and change at 21 than it will be in 10 or 15 years. A hard, natural consequence like your own family not wanting you to work for them can do a lot to open someone’s eyes and motivate them to change in a way that nagging and arguing just won’t.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      Agree. I recently read an essay that suggests one of the reasons college kids are so lacking in resilience, besides helicopter parenting, is that the many hours spent playing video games reinforces the idea that when you screw up, you always get a do-over. Learning that that is not the case would be a valuable lesson.

      1. Lanya (aka Camp Director Kim)*

        If that’s true, then we’re talking college kids since the late ’70’s, because that’s when the Atari came out and “do-overs” were not just in arcades anymore. But I agree that helicopter parenting is a part of it, absolutely. And also this whole thing in schools where the kids are always winners and nobody is a loser. Everyone gets an award just for being a person. That is the kind of thing that is setting our kids up for failure.

        1. Mike C.*

          Yet no one says a thing when they pass out participation medals to everyone who completes a long run.

          1. Lanya (aka Camp Director Kim)*

            Yes…because they did the run, which is hard work and requires effort whether you win or not. Kids are getting participation medals after putting forth zero to no effort in team settings. It’s not the same thing.

            1. Mike C.*

              It’s exactly the same thing. You participate == you get the medal. Except when we’re talking about people under a certain age it’s used as a bludgeon to show how terrible they are.

              1. Kelly L.*

                This. And who’s to say the little kid who’s terrible at T-ball isn’t putting forth effort? She could be trying her butt off and just still stink at it.

          2. AnotherAlison*

            Um, I do. Tons of people do. Not to side track this, but I’m doing my first marathon in two weeks. I’ve done so many half-marathons I’ve lost count. I didn’t think this would be a big deal, but it is f&cking hard. I’ve finished two long training runs questioning whether I would make it to my house/car without having to lay down on the side of the road in sight of my house/car. It’s so much more work than a half, some of which I’ve shown up and finished with no training miles under my belt.

            So, I’m a little peeved that the race is now handing out 5k finisher medals. I mean, it’s bad enough that I will get a finisher medal for my 4:40 marathon (I hope!). . .it takes me twice as long as the winners. But for most people *finishing* a 5k is not a big athletic undertaking. Most people can walk this in under an hour. While I am excited to get THIS medal because I put a lot of work into it, I do think that the medal-for-everything epidemic that has spread through the running community is not great. I’d rather NOT get a medal than see healthy people getting these for showing up and walking slowly for 3.1 miles. All told, if I really wanted to work hard, I could get an age group medal in a smaller local 5k race (because the field is bad, not because I’m good). That could be a better goal than slogging through a marathon.

            1. Mpls*

              You know, for someone who has never run any distance, much less 5k, doing the training to complete a 5k and then completing a 5k *IS* a big undertaking. Just because it’s easy, by comparison, doesn’t mean it doesn’t represent a lot of work for that person. I’m not saying everyone should be getting medals, because finishing should be it’s own reward, but I’m not understanding your disgruntlement with how other people are being rewarded.

              1. ElCee*

                It was harder for me to go from couch to 5k than from 5k to half marathon. One of the best things about running is that (unless you are an elite) it is a purely individual sport. Many people seem to lose sight of that fact.

                1. Tinker*

                  Somehow, I failed to get the memo as a kid about how you run in a way that is at all sustainable for long distances. Result, among other things, a lot of long and terrible Presidential Fitness Tests in elementary school where I came in not only last but solidly in the worst category of results, to the point that I couldn’t even really see “bad” from where I was at. I ran my first continuous mile after the age of 30, and I have to admit that I teared up a bit when I did it – even though it wasn’t as “legitimate” an accomplishment as winning some running time medal thing, or even as difficult for me as the first week of Couch to 5k.

              2. Heather*

                This. I didn’t start running until I was 17 and I have always been really slow, to the point that I only do the bigger 5Ks because being the last person to cross the finish line is not a good feeling. If I finish under 40 minutes it’s an achievement. So please don’t dismiss that as “not a big athletic undertaking.” It’s similar to if I said that graduating college isn’t much of an achievement because it wasn’t very difficult for me.

            2. JAM*

              I’m glad to hear that you have worked hard at running. When I got my 5K finisher medal, I was pretty proud. I had overcome cancer and lung damage, knee injuries, kidney issues, and several years of practice to get there. Outside I look healthy but for me that was one of the signs that maybe I could be healthy again.

              I get that for you a 5K would be a warmup but not everyone has the same level of health or ability and to some people, that medal for finishing represents a lot of time and hard work too. Try to think about the fact that we’re all fighting battles and challenging ourselves and sometimes a medal to honor that feels good. Now I have a few medals and I’m proud of them all because they show I keep trying and won’t settle. I hardly think that’s coddling.

      2. Nashira*

        I really don’t think that essay holds up. Not every kid gamed, and not every game allowed saves or resets. Not every kid confuses games w/ reality. To be honest, one could say the same thing about playing solitaire with playing cards.

        1. Natalie*

          And what are we basing the supposition that college students lack resilience on, precisely? Do we have actual data on this or just anecdotes.

      3. Ezri*

        I don’t really go for this argument. Video games have been around for a while now, but they keep being used to explain why ‘kids these days’ have so many problems. Video game use tends to be a symptom or an irritant of a larger problem, not the problem itself.

        In my experience, lack of resilience is more commonly associated with a lack of obstacles rather than the idea that obstacles don’t matter. Those kids aren’t assuming they’ll get a ‘do over’ because they generally don’t see failure coming.

        1. Isben Takes Tea*

          Yes! This.

          And a lot of us who grew up with early home video games learned from failures, because there was no “save” function. You bet we learned from failure when we had to play the same levels over and over again to get past one tricky part!

          You could just as easily say those who grew up on word processors don’t learn from mistakes because we have a backspace and ctrl-z function, but that is clearly not universal, either.

      4. Shan*

        Everyone I grew up with played video games – even my father and his generation – so I think it would be a stretch to say that specifically video games cause lack of resilience. I definitely think it has more to do with helicopter parenting.

        I’m a young adult now, and I’m still friends with some people from my childhood. Looking back, it seems that the people who have had issues in adulthood were also the most babied and protected growing up. My brother-in-law is on year 6 of college and still isn’t sure he’s going to finish…growing up, his mom would keep a schedule of all his assignments and did everything for him. One of my best friends dropped out of college twice and now he can’t find a job…growing up, he was the “overprotected kid” who was hardly allowed to hang out with friends outside of school. Another close friend has moved back home after college and is on year 3 of being jobless…her mom was involved in everything in high school and was at the school almost everyday.

        The funny part is, these kids did way better in high school than me and my other friends, who were expected to have responsibility for ourselves and were allowed to get out there and screw up. But in handling life in general, they are now struggling. It’s all anecdotal, but I can’t help but notice the pattern.

      5. Tinker*

        Doesn’t that amount to saying that Kids These Days are lacking in resilience because they’re being taught that failure is not necessarily a disaster and that the appropriate response to a lack of immediate success is to make further attempts until one succeeds? That seems like rather an… odd… conclusion. Particularly since it would also indicate, for instance, that learning to play a musical instrument is corrosive to one’s resilience.

        1. Charityb*

          I actually think that learning to accept failure, pick yourself back up, and try again and again until you succeed is a good lesson, not a damaging one. If anything, I think that the idea that you only have one shot at doing something and if it doesn’t go perfectly the very first time you try it you might as well give up is more damaging.

          It encourages paralyzing indecision and endless dithering, which I actually find more irritating on a personal level than someone who merely makes a lot of mistakes.

          1. Tinker*

            Funny thing, I actually had kind of a bad run of “paralyzing indecision and endless dithering” a while back, that I recognized as having gotten excessive partly by the way it showed up in how I was playing a video game and that I fixed by practicing better mental approaches TO said video game. Hence in part my being less than impressed.

        2. Nashira*

          Excellent point. I have a high willingness to beat my head against programming kata until they work, and I credit that primarily to playing games like Nethack and raiding in World of Warcraft. Raids are nothing more than getting with your buddies and beating your head against a problem to solve, after all. You all die, hit the gentleperson’s room, and try again.

      6. LBK*

        I completely disagree with this conclusion. If you spend hours playing a game only to die and be faced with the realization that you have to redo everything you just did, you come away learning the lesson that you should be thoughtful and cautious and do things right the first time, otherwise you’re just going to fail and have to do it all over again. The number of times I tried to go up against the Elite Four with a bad team only to be repeatedly wiped out and lose half my money…that frustration imprints on you very vividly as a child.

      7. More Cake, Please*

        “Do overs” ARE learning! You come back and try the level/battle/whatever again with a new tactic, or you change weapons/tools, or you know to tap the buttons a bit faster, whatever it takes to get back through! Now if you play a game, die and then walk away in disgust to never touch it again… that’s a lack of resilience in my book.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      Agreed. My husband has a business, and we have an 18 year old son. The long-stated policy has been that he won’t work for my husband (if he ever wants to) until he has worked somewhere else for a while.

      1. The Strand*

        Great idea. That should be drummed into the head of every kid whose family owns a business – “You have to earn your way into our company!”

      2. Cobol*

        That seems like a good rule. I don’t doubt that the grandson is not a good worker, but I’m having the trouble not seeing the grandma in a worse light.

        The “embarrassed” line is super telling. She’s trying to send a message that he’s a bad person, not a that he’s a bad worker.

        1. Myrin*

          I don’t know. It’s not exactly unheard of to be embarrassed about being a bad worker, is it? I saw it as Grandma would be embarrassed if her own family didn’t want her in the family business and wondering why that isn’t the case for the grandson – I don’t really see the connection to perceiving him as a bad person.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Hmmm, that’s not how I read it at all. I think she’s saying that it’s embarrassing to have a job say “no, we don’t want him back,” and triply so when it’s your own family and thus they’d be assumed to be willing to take you back.

          1. Charityb*

            True, but I’m wondering how she’s gauging embarassment. Not everyone wears their emotions on their sleeves, and I can totally see the grandson being really down on himself in private but not letting that necessarily show in front of grandma. I’ve known people who took on this “I don’t care about anything” attitude as kind of like an emotional shield to avoid disappointment; if you don’t really try, you can’t really fail, right?

            Grandson may actually be embarassed at how poorly performed he did at work but he may not want to acknowledge that in front of Grandma or reflect on it where she can see.

      3. Hellanon*

        Wise choice. In a previous job, I taught in a vocational school that trained kids for a really specialized industry that ran heavily to family businesses, and in any given class, about half the students knew they would be going into their family businesses. In some cases, the kids went straight into the family biz – sometimes it worked well, but if Junior spent his school career sleeping through lectures & manipulating his lab partner into doing his gem identification for him, it was a good sign that he’d do the same thing when it came to the office. The smart ones (kids & families both) insisted the kids spend at least a couple of years years working for other people first.

  11. techfool*

    Flesh looks less naked and vulnerable when it’s taut. But who wants to police that? So probably safest to ban sleeveless tops for everyone but, tbh, I don’t care what anyone else wears.
    It depends on the office/culture. I’m sure many places object to pants on women, short skirts, peep toes, no ties, no collars, logos, uncovered hair etc.
    I know a woman who looks like Jessica Rabbit/Betty Boop. The only way she can look non-sexy is to wear a box.

    1. Kelly L.*

      I don’t think your first sentence is even true–and I agree with the second. Let’s not police that.

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      “Flesh looks less naked and vulnerable when it’s taut”

      Yeah you absolute can not police that with out some sort of subjective judgement about someone’s appearance and that is all types of gross.

    3. Case of the Mondays*

      While I don’t like the phrasing here, I think there is certainly a double standard where sleeveless business attire on women with toned arms (Michelle Obama) is seen as professional while the same outfit is seen as casual on someone less fit (Rosie O’Donnell). It is a wrong double standard and likely in part subconscious.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, that.

        Also necklines and breast size. As long as all that’s showing is skin over bone, most people probably wouldn’t have a problem with a lower neckline.

        1. Manders*

          Yes, that’s part of the reason why it’s so hard to make dress code rules by banning specific items of clothing–my coworkers and I could all wear exactly the same shirt in an appropriate size, and some of us would look professional while others would not.

      2. Kelly L.*

        True. I think it can work the opposite way too, though, with the fashionable body type being seen as more sexual/more naked. There was an article a few years ago where an artist photoshopped a bunch of classic paintings (think Botticelli Venus and the like) so that the women were now thin by current fashion standards, and a lot of the comments suggested that the art was now pr0n, NSFW, vulgar, etc., when they hadn’t even given the nudity a second thought in the original versions–possibly because it didn’t look like the pron they were used to, or just because it had that aura of “classic” about it, even though it was seen as erotic in its own time.

        So basically, women can’t win. :(

  12. The Devil Wears Prada*

    Outrage over sleevless top ban? wow.
    I work in an office that has a strong business dress “culture”. There might be a dress code written down somewhere but we don’t need it – everyone in the office reinforces it. We are not in the fashion business but conversations about what you are wearing is a daily occurrence and typically part of a standard greeting. Hi Bob, nice shirt! new tie? Don’t you look nice. Where did you get those shoes? This often proceeded or followed by a quick up and down look and a facial expression indicating approval or disapproval (not kidding!)
    If you are wearing something deemed inappropriate by office standards – you will know about it. If someone wore a sleeveless shirt they would probably hear (after the disapproving look) Wow, don’t you look summery today. Aren’t you freezing? Nobody told me it was casual dress today. Oh, I wish i could wear sleeveless, but I have a hang up about my arms. Maybe you should put your jacket on, that room is cold. The person will never wear a sleeveless shirt to the office again – and if they do the comments will continue and the person will be subtly “ostracized” until they conform. It is just the way it is.

    1. UKAnon*

      That sounds like a really horrid place to work. Tbh, as long as all dangly bits are ensconced I’m much concerned with a person’s, y’know, work.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Ah, the Ensconced Dangly Bits. I saw them at Lollapalooza in 2004. Their first album “Wakeen Clocking In” was good, but their seasonal album “Holy Hannukah Balls” just didn’t do it for me.

    2. Kelly L.*

      Ew, that sounds pretty passive-aggressive, and I’m sure there are some people who just wouldn’t even get the hints. Someone might go “Oh, I wish I could wear sleeveless, hangup about arms, etc.” and the sleeveless-shirt-wearer’s just thinking “Welp, good thing I’m happy with my arms” and doesn’t realize she’s received a reprimand. Somebody ought to actually codify that stuff if it’s an actual rule.

      1. afiendishthingy*

        Yeah, ew. I probably wouldn’t wear a sleeveless top in an office where nobody else did, but if someone in my current office said that to me? I MIGHT manage not to roll my eyes at them. Too obviously. Hang-ups about your arms? Sounds like a whole lot of your problem. Personally I have cute freckles and a bunch of cute Worthington Essential Sleeveless Blouses.

    3. Nashira*

      As someone with trouble understanding social cues for Reasons, this sounds like an utter nightmare to me. I like rules. I like written down rules that I can refer back to and, if necessary, print off to take work clothes shopping with me. Having people give me “hints” about my outfit would lead to me spending hours each night trying to decode them – not kidding.

      If you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go cuddle the office dress code that half my workplace rules-lawyers. (“They’re not flip-flops, they’re thong sandals with patterned thongs.” type stuff.)

      1. Allison*

        Yeah, me too. This is why passive-aggressive people drive me bananas, because I will go crazy trying to figure out if they were trying to subtly send me a message or whether I’m just crazy.

    4. Artemesia*

      Do you work in the South because that is a terrific description of how things are managed routinely there. Bless their hearts.

      1. LeighTX*

        I’ve lived in the South all my life and have never worked in a place this passive-aggressive! If I had a problem with how one of my employees dressed, I’d tell them so–nicely and politely, mind you, but directly.

    5. Allison*

      I dealt with this at my first job! If someone didn’t like my dress, they wouldn’t take me aside and say “that’s a nice dress, but not really office appropriate because of reasons,” they’d stare at me and say “that’s a really nice dress, Allison” in a somber, disapproving tone. I also sat near young women who’s say things like “oh my god, did you see what she was wearing??” like we were in high school.

      It was a young office where many of us were in our first jobs, and I know I made a lot of mistakes with my work wardrobe because I simply didn’t have a lot of real “work” clothes yet and often tried to make do with what I did have – as I’m sure most other people did there. It would have been really great if the higher-ups had been more honest and up-front with us when our attire wasn’t up to snuff. Sure, it wouldn’t have felt great if someone didn’t like my favorite dress, but it would have really helped in the long run.

      1. afiendishthingy*

        “they’d stare at me and say “that’s a really nice dress, Allison” in a somber, disapproving tone.”

        What the hell???? Who are these people? Never mind, don’t care, just glad they don’t work in my office.

    6. Owl*

      That sounds like a terrible place to work. I’d hate to be obviously and loudly judged on my appearance every day.

    7. Nerdling*

      Your user name is incredibly appropriate for this comment, and your office sounds as though it’s filled with people who are too immature to function in a non-dysfunctional office where this sort of ridiculous behavior would be stamped out.

  13. Guera*

    You know what gets me about some of those who wear sleeveless shirts? When they complain about being cold in the office. I came from Old Job where lots of women would wear sleeveless shirts while those of us who were client facing had on suits and they would whine about being cold. For that reason, plus the armpit thing, I don’t like sleeveless shirts or blouses in the office.

    1. Robin B*

      Agreed. We have employees who will wear tank tops and blast a portable heater under their desk.

    2. AnotherHRPro*

      This is totally true. I work with a woman who is ALWAYS cold. She complains about it non-stop and will drape a blanket around her all day long all while wearing a shear sleeveless shirt. How about a little common sense?

    3. Sue Wilson*

      People actually vary where they are cold. Some people’s arms won’t be cold, but their head and legs will. I’m wearing a sweater turtleneck top, with a undershirt underneath, and my hands are freezing. No amount of “No sleeveless tops” will help me.

  14. FD*

    #1- I think, generally speaking, people are less likely to be emotionally invested into something that’s handed to them instead of something they had to go after. There’s a good chance your grandson will benefit greatly from needing to apply for a job instead of having one offered to him without going through the process.

  15. Nicole*

    I understand the ban on sleeveless tops, a business definitely has that right. But it’s interesting to me how anti-armpit people are. I work in a very laid back setting with no real dress code & a freedom to express yourself in your dress and that meant during the humid summer most girls wore sleeveless dresses/tops without sleeves to work and I never thought twice about armpits.

    1. Allison*

      I don’t think it’s that common, I think people who think armpits should always be covered are pretty outspoken when the topic comes up, and people who see no issue with them never feel like they need to say anything.

    2. Fuzzyfuzz*

      Yeah, think it’s a ‘thing’ that anti-armpit people need to get over. I have a ‘thing’ with man-buns (a thread a while back). I hate them and think they look stupid and unprofessional. But that’s my ‘thing,’ and I understand that objectively they’re no less professional than any other hairstyle and that not everyone agrees with me. If I was responsible for writing my office dress code, I definitely wouldn’t include a ‘no man buns’ clause for that reason either, because it’s MY personal thing.

    3. afiendishthingy*

      It never even occurred to me that “no sleeveless tops” policies were about armpits. I studied abroad in Cuzco in college and we were told ahead of time not to wear sleeveless shirts as they were considered immodest by most – which was fine, when in Rome and all – but I’ve always just assumed it was because that they somehow equated exposed shoulders with loose morals.

  16. I am now a llama*

    Years ago, I found these shrugs at target that I wear over sleeveless shirts since I don’t like showing too much of my arms at work. They’re half length sleeves and are short length (basically end halfway down my back). That can be an option.

    By the way, I haven’t been able to find them anywhere anymore. Can anyone suggest a place where I can buy some that aren’t sweater material?

    1. la Contessa*

      It sounds like you’re talking about a bolero? The one I have that isn’t sweater material came from Torrid, but it’s several years old, so it may not be there anymore. I would try Macy’s or a department store like that. I see them near the party dresses sometimes. They also sometimes come with sleeveless dresses as a set.

        1. la Contessa*

          OMG, the one I got from Torrid was like $40 for half a shirt >_> I would have bought more at the time if it weren’t for the price.

          1. AW*

            Torrid still has them and yes they’re disgustingly expensive.

            I could go off on how being plus size really limits your wardrobe but that’s a rant for another time.

    2. Nashira*

      I recently bought a thin sweater like that at Target, but I don’t believe they had any in a non-knit fabric.

    3. xarcady*

      I saw some at Macy’s this summer. They were a cotton knit, not a heavy sweater knit, but like a thick t-shirt material.

    4. Becky B*

      I love those! I’d like to say I have some from Target and Kohl’s (trying to remember for sure), with varying sleeve lengths from short all the way down to full-length. Some are open, some button, and a couple of them tie. Only one is sweater material, and that one is an awesomely fuzzy white crocheted knit. :)

  17. NickelandDime*

    I don’t get too hung up on dress codes. Most offices have the air conditioning on ARCTIC BLAST anyway, so you always need a sweater. That being said I have a sleeveless dress on today and left my cardigan at home. I do have a sweater here to wear if I leave my office. I understand AAM’s stance on pits. I really do.

    I got dinged on this early in my career. I wore a nice outfit with a sweater with somewhat thin straps. Or I thought it was nice. And my manager acknowledged it was pretty and asked me where I got it, and then told me not to wear it to work anymore. I’ve been conscious about that ever since because no one had ever dinged me for dress code before.

    I’ve also worked in an office where they didn’t like women wearing open toe shoes. At first I was like, but…we live in a warm climate. I thought it was strange. But their real issue wasn’t necessarily open toe shoes, it was that people would have chewed up, Fred Flintstone feet/toes in open toe shoes. And they didn’t want to get into discussions about pedicures or even just cleaning the dirt from under your toenails with people, so they just banned open toe shoes.

    I just don’t think for me, it’s important enough to fight town hall about. I just follow their little dress codes and go home.

    1. Erin*

      That happened to me once too – wore spaghetti straps to a new (retail) job and my boss was like, “That is nice, you really cute, you have to put another shirt on.”

      As much as I disagree with this dress code, I agree with you that it’s just not worth fighting that battle.

      1. NickelandDime*

        Right. I think what’s not being discussed here is that getting into battles with the Powers That Be over things like dress code can affect people’s perception of your professionalism. They start to wonder why you’re getting so hung up on this, and why your work isn’t more important to you. There are so many things to worry about at work, I don’t think getting hung up on dress code is wise. You may have to buy some new clothes. No one ever said there aren’t costs associated with working (lunch, gas, car repairs, etc.).

        1. Erin*

          Agreed – I feel like there might be a *really important* issue at some point you’ll have to bring up to the Powers That Be, and they’ll take you more seriously if you haven’t been previously complaining about petty things.

  18. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

    Is it possible that sleeveless tops were banned wholesale when the problem might be more specific? That might be something to look into, OP. For example, perhaps someone was wearing a tight cotton tank as a shirt, and management didn’t realize that it is possible to delineate between a workout tank and a sleeveless blouse. I wear sleeveless blouses (and carry a cardigan to pop on when I’m not just sitting alone in my office), but would absolutely object to workout tanks as too casual. You’ll have to approach this with curiosity and helpfulness if you bring it up, but perhaps there is middle ground where you could help craft a code that zeroes in on the types of tops that don’t work.

    I also want to say that there may be something regional to this. I’m in the south and I see lawyers, elected officials, and other “fancy” people in sleeveless blouses all the time.

    1. Sparrow*

      I was wondering the same thing about the overall sleeveless ban being in result to others wearing not so appropriate sleeveless tops. If that’s the case, it would be great if management could address the specific issue.

    2. VintageLydia USA*

      Yup. My aunt in Florida would wear full suits in the courtroom but just around her office (which was in the courthouse, by the way) she would be a lot more casual. Still office appropriate, and she’d have a blazer hanging around if she needed to have an unexpected meeting, but I definitely saw her in sleeveless blouses.

      My mother in Southern Virginia works for an agency that deals with financial institutions (as in, she goes to those locations. She doesn’t have an office she goes to.) She wears suits to work because she’s representing the US Government but always with a sleeveless shell and I know she takes the blazer off once she’s settled in. This is year round.

  19. amaranth16*

    Wow. I’m very surprised and disappointed by the anti-sleeveless-top sentiment, which seems completely retrograde to me. I feel like it’s dressed up enough enough for Michelle Obama at the DNC, it’s dressed enough for an office. I certainly feel way more professional in a conservatively-cut sleeveless blouse than I feel with massive sweat stains in a long-sleeved button down.

    1. BigLawLady*

      Same. It’s interesting how the majority of very formal dresses and gowns for women are sleeveless and even strapless. But dear god if we need an armpit in the workplace for 5 seconds. The large majority of shells and tops made to wear under sweaters or suit jackets are sleeveless or have very short sleeves. There is no WAY I am wearing a long sleeved top under a suit jacket. I work in Big Law and we’re a very conservative bunch. I showed this article to some coworkers and we’re having a good laugh. This kind of dress code is absurd.

      1. dancer*

        Right, but you’re wearing a jacket or sweater over the top, no? I think the ban would be on the top without the jacket or sweater.

        1. Sparrow*

          That was my thought as well. I have a lot of sleeveless tops, but I’m usually wearing a cardigan because I get cold easily.
          As far as visible armpits, I sitat my desk all day working on the computer. The only way anyone would see my underarms is if I lifted my arms up to stretch. Even if I’m moving around the office, my arms are usually down.

      2. AW*

        It’s interesting how the majority of very formal dresses and gowns for women are sleeveless and even strapless.

        I’m pretty sure a formal gown isn’t appropriate office wear either.

        1. AnotherHRPro*

          Great point. This isn’t about “being dressy”. It is about dressing professionally (however your company has defined professional).

        2. ITChick*

          I don’t think that was the point. I think it was that why is a super formal event a place where armpits apparently are not taboo, but in the office place it is. Why is it “gross” in one place and not the other?

          1. LBK*

            I don’t think formal is on the same continuum as professional, though. The scale forks at some point (right after business casual, I’d say) and the expectations can no longer be compared between social dress codes and work dress codes. There’s things about each version of “more dressy” that wouldn’t be appropriate on the other. For example, the dressiest thing a man could probably wear into the office would be a suit; it would be really weird to show up in a tux, because that’s on the social event side of the scale.

    2. Erin*

      Here here on the sweat stains. Sigh. It’s so hard to find clothes that fit decently, are reasonably priced, and I’m not going to visibly sweat through them.

      I should have put this in my initial comment – but a rule like this makes me wonder if maybe a male higher up in the organization feels like he won’t be able to concentrate, or worse control himself, around women who are baring too much skin at work. “Well I’ve banned low cut tops and short skirts, but by God, their shoulders are still showing!”

      I don’t know, that seems more plausible to me than the armpit thing. No offense whatsoever to Alison, and I certainly could be wrong, but I’ve never heard of that as a reasoning for this rule before, and I’m wondering if maybe it’s just an Alison pet peeve. Again, maybe not, but it seems much more plausible to me that it’s a sex related thing, like covering up your chest and thighs.

      1. Retail Lifer*

        But you never see guys in sleeveless tops.

        I don’t know that WANT to see a guy in a sleeveless dress shirt, but since it’s not even an option for men, I wonder if that’s why most offices also take away the option for women.

        1. LBK*

          Dress codes aren’t about equalizing expectations by gender according to existing cultural standards, though, otherwise women wouldn’t be allowed to wear dresses, skirts, heels, etc. (since those are culturally not an option for men just as much as sleeveless button downs are). I think it’s more about within certain frameworks of attire for each gender, what makes constitutes the professional image that the company wants to convey (which ultimately is arbitrary, but “covering things that the majority of people would be squicked out to see in a business setting” sounds like a decent starting point for trying to be objective).

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I had an ex who would wear Western shirts with snaps to work and he cut the sleeves off. I hemmed quite a few of them for him. Of course, he worked in a warehouse. It’s quite a casual look for guys, usually worn with jeans.

          I can’t really picture men wearing sleeveless shirts with dress pants or khakis. Short-sleeved polos would be acceptable for both sexes–they look less casual than t-shirts and are still comfy (I’m wearing one right now, in fact). For women, however, they still make them with little teeny tiny weeny cap sleeves. Ugh. As I said earlier, I just go to the men’s department to buy shirts with actual sleeves–they fit my broad shoulders better anyway.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        So many office dress codes ban sleeveless tops that I don’t think it’s just my pet peeve (although the intensity with which I dislike visible armpits is very much a personal pet peeve, which I’ve tried to make clear).

        1. Erin*

          One of many reasons why I enjoy this blog – I find out about workplace norms and procedures I previously had no clue about.

    3. Dew E. Decimal*

      Haha, good enough for Michelle Obama, good enough for me! She always looks completely amazing and I’ve never been distracted her underarms!

    4. LBK*

      I actually think First Lady isn’t a position that requires particularly conservative attire, especially with the more fashion-forward image Michelle has cultivated. Dress code for public figures is less restrictive in some ways than what you’d wear in an office since there’s other considerations to make about looking good for appearances and photos and there’s more emphasis on conveying a certain personality. In the office, it’s less about your personal image and more about what the company as a whole wants to convey.

  20. Allison*

    Here’s the thing, I wear a lot of sleeveless tops and dresses. Not because I have some weird need to show off my shoulders or armpits, but because a lot of women’s clothing these days is sleeveless, and since I don’t work in an office or industry where sleeves are required I don’t feel the need to go too far out of my way to only buy stuff with sleeves. Honestly, I think short-sleeved garments are more flattering on me than sleeveless stuff in general. But because every office I’ve ever worked in has been freezing cold most of the time, no one sees my armpits or shoulders anyway because I almost always have a cardigan or blazer on over my dress.

    The idea that your shoulders must be covered at all times it by no means a universal workplace standard. Some people feel that sleeveless tops aren’t okay, some people are fine with them. I totally understand why some offices don’t allow sleeveless tops and dresses, and it’s their prerogative to say “hey, we don’t want people wearing sleeveless tops anymore.” It would probably inconvenience people to some degree, especially new employees, or if they implement a new rule then everyone has to make some adjustments, but that’s what you do, you adjust. Being outraged isn’t really an appropriate reaction. If it’s honestly a problem and you don’t think it’s an industry standard, then by all means, find a new job.

    I do think that when you change the dress code you should give people warning that new rules are going to go into effect, so people have time to buy new clothes, and if possible you could direct people to stores that are having sales right now, maybe even host a clothing collection drive and reward people who donate their old work clothes with $5 Macy’s gift cards or something, in order to help ease the transition. If I got an e-mail Friday telling me that 50% of my wardrobe would be against the rules starting Monday, I’d be mad.

    OP, I can’t tell if your office has always had a rule about sleeveless tops or if they’re just never liked them and until now it was an unspoken rule, that’s now being made more clear. If it’s never been a real “rule,” I’d tell my boss that I didn’t know sleeveless tops were considered inappropriate here but I’ll try my best to adjust my work wardrobe accordingly.

    1. Retail Lifer*

      You’re right. For some reason, a whole lot of women’s professional-looking tops and dresses are sleeveless. I have a couple of solid color cardigans that I wear over pretty much everything.

      You don’t see sleeveless men’s dress shirts, though. I wonder if this is just a way to have a fair dress code for both sexes by banning them for everyone.

      1. Allison*

        I think it’s because sleeves are hard, and since fabric costs money, sleeveless tops and dresses are both easier and cheaper to make than stuff with sleeves. Plus, the more sleeveless stuff we buy, the more cardigans we’ll need!

        1. AW*

          Plus, the more sleeveless stuff we buy, the more cardigans we’ll need!

          This is exactly it. It’s also why a ton of stuff is sheer; so you have to buy camisoles and tanks to go under them.

          Then they started making *those* sheer too. :/

    2. Mockingjay*

      “a lot of women’s clothing these days is sleeveless.”

      True. I have a horrible time finding dresses or tops with sleeves, and those that do have them, don’t fit. Middle-age arms (even though I go to the gym so mine are somewhat toned) are thicker, so most blazers and sweaters constrict my biceps. As a result, I wear mostly sleeveless sheath dresses, with the same tired black cardigan (sleeves are stretched enough to fit) thrown on as needed.

      Too, I live in the coastal deep South. Summer here lasts about 6 months, in terms of sweltering temperatures. We dress for the weather here, and sleeveless is the norm. This is in contrast to the DC area, in which I grew up. What works in the South would be frowned upon there. In my early DC working days, I would have never have gone sleeveless.

      Maybe it’s just location, location, location that drives office dress norms.

  21. amaranth16*

    I also have to say, I’m honestly pretty shocked by the tone of some of the comments today. Personally, I think it’s way more inappropriate to insist that some body parts are gross or intimate, or that some body types are inappropriate, than it is to display feet or armpits or wobbly flesh. I’m really disappointed.

    1. ITChick*

      This. Thank you. If a place I worked started making dress codes this specific, that would honestly be a reason for me to leave. I worked somewhere like that once. It’s a really slippery slope into sexist dress code land.

    2. fposte*

      Gross, maybe (though I think it’s pretty common for people to be grossed out by bare feet, so I don’t think it’s all that offensive as a general response). But you think it’s inappropriate for people to note that some body parts are considered intimate? Does that mean you don’t think any body parts are considered intimate? Because that would be really weird to me.

      1. MJH*

        There are a lot of comments in this thread that read like “Bodies are gross! Ew, toes. Ew, armpits. Ew, unexercised arms! Ew, body hair.” Like, I realize that people have weird things that squick them out, but your coworkers have bodies. They are not gross. I don’t want to have to worry that someone is hating on a part of my body from across the room.

        I am also pretty disappointed by this entire conversation.

        1. LBK*

          I think there’s a stark difference between shaming a body type and just not preferring to see a particular body part, especially if that preference isn’t specific to a body type or a gender. I really can’t think of a reason you’d need to defend against the idea of feet being kinda gross; who is that hurting? Who are we protecting? It kinda feels like this is an illogical blanket extension of not shaming specific people for the visibility of their body. As ITChick says, we all have bodies; we all have feet, so I’m not following the need to feel so brazen about your particular feet being on display.

          1. LBK*

            (And as I said elsewhere, I don’t see how this argument logically extends to genitals; are you arguing that we should be able to go to work naked, because it’s just a body and we all have one?)

            1. ITChick*

              Yeah it’s like how women should be allowed to breastfeed in public spaces but that doesn’t mean it’s cool for dudes to walk around with their dicks out.

              1. LBK*

                I’m still not sure I follow that logic as it applies to the conversation occurring here; the argument for public breastfeeding presumably being that it’s a natural and necessary task, what part is necessary about having bare feet or armpits? There isn’t a biological imperative at play there.

                1. Anonasaurus Rex*

                  What? What is necessary is they are parts of the human body that nearly everyone has. There is nothing inherently gross about them, only that some areas of our society have decided they are gross inappropriate, and not with any consistency either. I had never heard of banning sleeveless shirts and didn’t think such a thing would exist outside of the most conservative of offices. I did a relatively informal and probably not at all scientific poll of one my LinkedIn groups and out of about 200 people, 32 work at a place that specifies no sandals or open toed shoes as part of their dress code and no one had heard of banning sleeveless tops or that you can’t show your whole arm or armpit.

                2. LBK*

                  But I’m still not understanding where you draw the line between “armpits/feet are part of the human body that everyone has so no need to be grossed out” and requiring clothing, period. I assume you would agree that it’s acceptable to require that people aren’t topless at work. What’s the logical argument that supports that but doesn’t support asking people to cover their armpits or toes? Both lines are arbitrary based on your personal comfort level.

      2. amaranth16*

        No, of course. Yes, genitals are obviously intimate. But someone above referred to armpits as intimate. That just seems like a wild overstatement to me.

  22. Jady*

    I’ve been working in IT for about 7 years now. I’ve never heard of any rule like the sleeveless shirts, nor at any of my husband’s jobs (also IT).

    As someone who has about 90% of my wardrobe being sleeveless, that’s something that would trigger a job search for me. I’m with the OP.

  23. Althea*

    The no-sleeveless rule would bother me a lot, too. I have a big chest, small waist. No off-the rack clothing is designed to fit my chest. If it fits my chest, it hangs around my waist and has an incredible amount of sleeve fabric hanging or bunching. The ONLY off-the rack items that tend to fit are ones without the sleeves sewn in. I own several dresses, like Joneswear separates, without sleeves, that come up to the neck and have small arm holes. I’m sure the armpit is visible if I stretch, though. If you look closely, you can see that the fabric in front pulls a little funny because my chest is at least one cup size larger than designed, but it works. I have some shirts that are “flexible” in a similar way.

    I think what bothers me about the rule is that it automatically makes dressing for work several times more expensive for people with a consistent fit problem like me. “You must get all of your work clothes tailored” is what the rule says to me. I also have very few long sleeve things that aren’t sweaters, for the same reason.

    And for what purpose? AAM, you didn’t actually answer the question. Why is an armpit – which I imagine is actually visible a tiny portion of the day when a person reaches for something up high – a problem? Is it distracting to coworkers, like tight clothes or cleavage that makes someone think about sex? No…

    I honestly can’t think of a single *logical* reason to impose the cost on the worker. I feel like it is arbitrarily something you don’t like. And while a boss can impose arbitrary rules based on what they do or don’t like, most of the other clothing items actually don’t impose extra cost on anybody. I could buy close-toe shoes for the same price as open ones. The same is not true of sleeves.

    1. dancer*

      I agree with you about the hassle and expense of finding well-fitting clothing, and that there’s nothing wrong with showing some pit, but I think the ban against sleeveless tops is common enough in dress codes that it seems off to be outraged.

      Also, spending more on clothes is just the price some of us have to pay; it’s not fair, but I don’t think we can expect the world to be completely fair. For example, I can (and do) wear relatively deep v-neck tops without showing any cleavage, making them work appropriate for me. But if my sister were to wear the same shirt, it would not be considered appropriate because of the amount of cleavage visible. On the other hand, I can’t find cheap bras that fit. It’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

      1. Althea*

        I honestly can’t think of a single other dress code requirement that would raise the price of some people’s outfits more than others. V-necks can be found at the same price as other necks. Nobody’s changing the bra requirements based on their personal preferences of whether they are grossed out by a body part. It’s hard to find shoes that fit because you’re a size 3? THAT is the way the cookie crumbles. It’s hard to find shoes that fit because your boss requires a magenta shoe AND you’re a size 3? That’s an entirely different kettle of fish. The magenta thing is both arbitrary and extra-punishing for people with unique fit issues.

        1. dancer*

          My argument is that wearing a bra period is costing me significantly more… And I can’t think of a single office job where going bra-less is appropriate. Look I understand it’s more expensive for you; I’m in the same situation and not just about underwear. But in this case, I think making a fuss about something that is not an extraordinary request is going to make that person look out of touch.

          1. Althea*

            A bra is a basic clothing item like a shirt or shoes. Nobody is saying braless or topless or shoeless is an option. Can you think of any example where a requirement to purchase an expensive shoe and not a cheap one? An expensive bra and not a cheap one? No work rule limits you to purchase the expensive item (or to get a cheap one tailored). That’s a body type issue. I could imagine a rule that everyone must wear pants (not skirts) being more expensive for short people, but I’ve not encountered a workplace where that was the case unless it was a safety issue.

            1. fposte*

              But that’s shifting the goalposts. You were stating it’s inappropriate because of the disparate cost impact, and dancer is pointing out another expectation has a disparate cost impact. (And of course braless is an option–why wouldn’t it be? Plenty of workplaces don’t police bra-wearing.) You’re also making it sound like people are being required never to wear their sleeveless tops rather than just wearing something over them, which is what most women do in the workplace anyway.

              You want to make a regional argument, like you’re in Florida and workplace norms are sleeveless year-round, that’s one thing. But the sleeveless requirement in other places isn’t uniquely burdensome or uniquely unfair, even if it’s the one that really gets under your skin (if you’ll pardon the expression :-)).

              1. dancer*

                Realistically is braless an option though? I think we’ve seen letters or comments on the subject in the past, and I remember the consensus being “You must wear one”.

                I wish I didn’t have to… Curse all wires and padding :)

                1. fposte*

                  Do I? Oh, hell, yes. Does everybody? Will my A-cup colleagues’ bralessness under a cabled sweater and camisole even be noticed? I’d bet no.

                  I think the bralessness rule is really that “If people can tell when you go braless, you have to wear a bra.”

                2. Sue Wilson*

                  Yes it’s absolutely an option. If no intimates are visible, what is someone going to say?

    2. fposte*

      Because clothing rules aren’t based in logic, try though people might to argue that there’s safety or health needs to cover our tops or wear shoes; they’re based on culture. It’s not that “these things make people think about sex and therefore require coverage”–most people think about sex plenty without seeing cleavage, and most people concerned about office cleavage aren’t getting immediately aroused at its sight.

      This is how culture works. That doesn’t mean you can’t push back and say it’s illogical of your co-worker to be annoyed that you have your feet up on your shared desk or that you like to use moist wipes on your armpits in the middle of your office. It *is* illogical. That doesn’t mean the same thing as “ridiculous” or “unfair,” though, any more than it’s ridiculous or unfair to require people to write their company press releases in something other than text-speak.

      1. Althea*

        I think you can absolutely push back. Arbitrary rules based on ephemeral “culture” are one thing. Arbitrary rules that are based on ephemeral “culture” AND cost some people more than others are not fair. Imagine asking everyone in a company to commute by car, even when public transit is cheaper for some than others? When there is no reason to need the cars at work? The rule is pointless and costly for some but not others. That’s why it’s upsetting.

        1. fposte*

          I can’t think of a single rule, arbitrary, or non-arbitrary, that doesn’t cost some people more than others, though, so I don’t think that’s solid ground to stand on. You want to talk about offices where men have to wear suits and ties and women can wear dresses? I’m short so can’t buy pants without paying to get them hemmed. As dancer says, that’s just how it goes; it’s not my job’s fault, and they don’t need to accommodate me for that.

          I also think the “costly” thing is a bit of a red herring. People of all sizes, shapes, and budgets wear stuff with sleeves on them all over the country for considerable portions of the year. I’m a big fan of tailoring, but most people don’t do it and they get along just fine. I get that if you already have a wardrobe based on sleeveless items, you’ll incur some cost to change it, but 1) sleeveless really isn’t the workplace default so that’s not a great foundation work wardrobe and 2) that’s not your work’s fault.

          1. Althea*

            The suits, perhaps. It’s rather difficult to compare that, though, as a man can have 3 suits with a myriad of cheap shirts, while a woman will generally need a fully changed outfit each day. Though, I don’t agree with offices of men-only in suits. It should be everyone in suits.

            And with pants, do you work somewhere that you must wear them? I could see a rule enforcing pant-wearing as costly for short people or tall people to some extent. I suppose men have this requirement 90% of the time. It is similar, but it’s a bit different in scale. Hemming pants is quite cheap, as alterations go. Re-constructing a top to fit is not.

            Are you honestly trying to say you would not be upset by a pointless rule that raises your clothing cost by a large amount? Seriously. It’s not a justifiable rule. I spend my days on justifying things in budgets. This would not pass muster. “Some boss doesn’t like the way armpits look so this budget line is 25% higher than it needs to be” wouldn’t pass muster in a budget justification for a business – so why is it okay to impose on the employee’s budget?

            1. fposte*

              Somebody focused enough on fashion to feel the need to wear completely different items of clothing every day and spend 25% more to deal with this rule is not somebody who’s so restricted in budget that I feel the need to worry about them.

              You get a white SS cardigan and a black SS cardigan at Wal-mart or Old Navy or wherever (assuming you have no family or roommates from which you can borrow stuff) for fifteen bucks apiece and you toss them on over your existing clothes, and then you replace them in three to five years. This does not have to be the wardrobe overhaul you’re making it out to be. That’s what I think is a disproportionate upset–it’s catastrophizing a situation as if it required a massive upheaval, and it really doesn’t.

              If this were a situation like the OP of yore who couldn’t afford non-jeans in a workplace that levied a fine on jeans-wearers, that would be another matter; I’d suggest you talk to your manager about your limited budget and see what you could do to work out the problem in the meantime (maybe somebody in the company would be willing to loan or donate a sweater, for example). But you seem torn between arguing cost and principle and basing both of them in logic that doesn’t really support your arguments. Could this be a PITA for somebody? Absolutely. So could lots of work things, and I agree that some things are worth pushing back on. But I don’t see this common requirement as one of them, and even if you did want to push back, I think getting worked up is counterproductive.

  24. Erin*

    #2 – Wow, Alison’s armpit comment is something I never would have thought of. Now I will.

    Look, I do agree with you 100% – if bra straps and everything else is covered, it should be fine. I actually sweat a lot, I don’t know why, and am grateful for professional sleeveless tops in the summer to avoid pit stains at work (which would undoubtedly look unprofessional).

    This rule sucks, but it is what it is. It’s just one of those workplace norm things you have to adjust to. They have every right to enforce whatever silly dress code they want, and you have to decide how much of a deal breaker that is or not in terms of your looking for other employment.

    Personal anecdote: I used to work in a super casual environment where I wore jeans with holes in the knees, the only ones I had that fit me well. I rarely spend money on clothes and was not working full time at the time. Someone *from an entirely different business* on the property asked my boss to ask me to stop wearing those jeans. My boss made it clear to me he didn’t care what I wore, but he felt obligated to comply. I wanted to call the guy and say, “If you’d like to buy me a new pair of jeans, I think that’s great – this is my size, thanks.” But yeah, I complied, life went on.

  25. Scott*

    You want to wear sleeveless tops and skirts and open toe shoes? Then you better not be the ones complaining about how the office is too cold and how its sexist that we don’t turn it up to suit your “needs”.

    1. frequentflyer*

      Don’t jump to conclusions and please don’t stereotype people. I wear sleeveless tops and skirts all the time in my arctic office and sometimes I forget my blazer/cardigan but I survive cos I’m pretty fit and my muscles generate enough heat to keep me warm. -shrug- My secretary/interns sometimes ask me “omg how do you survive in this cold office dressed like that”. I used to think they were concerned for me, but after reading negative comments like yours, I almost think they may be passive-aggressively hinting that I’m not dressed appropriately. (?!)

      1. Scott*

        Not sure how your special snowflake situation relates to offices with people that underdress then complain about the cold, when men have no choice but to wear long pants, closed shoes, and sleeves. You can always add more layers to warm up, but if the office is too warm, its impossible to cool yourself down.

          1. Scott*

            Sorry Frequentflyer :( I know you think it has nothing to do with thermostat wars, but I think it does. If you wear less, bring a sweater in case its too cold for your liking. Its a pretty common problem, everywhere I’ve worked. I know not everyone is affected the same way. I wish as a man I could wear shorts, flip-flops, and a sleeveless T-shirt and call it professional, , but as Allison mentioned, no such professional wear exists for men. I think a company enforcing a dress code that lessens gender inequality is a step forward for women in the workplace.

        1. Not me*

          I’m sorry you saw a woman wear a tank top and complain about being cold once, or something?

          Please stop dragging the rest of us into it.

          1. LBK*

            I’m assuming this is in reference to the viral study that was going around a few months ago tying temperature preferences to gender and suggesting something along the lines of “women generally prefer it warmer in the office and male dominated environments forcing the temperature to be cranked down inherently causing gender divides in productivity since women are too cold to focus.” I may be misremembering that conclusion, though.

            1. Not me*

              This is about an article a woman wrote around that time, but it didn’t mention the study (IIRC?). I don’t think it was from Thought Catologue but it read like a Thought Catalogue article.

              1. LBK*

                Oh, maybe I just assumed it was a study – I think that’s the article I was referring to (I kind of assumed it was clickbait nonsense and didn’t read it).

    2. Jean*

      Please be gentle–and let’s avoid the thermostat wars! People are never all going to agree on an appropriate-for-everyone office temperature. As the departing office manager said in her good-bye memo (at a long-ago job of mine), “Be kind to each other and dress in layers.” Simple words but powerful advice.

    3. Not me*

      I really don’t know how you’re reading all of that into one letter. I don’t know why OP would want to wear those things if her office were too cold for it. I don’t know why you think OP has anything to do with that dumb clickbait article.

      I can’t speak for OP, but I know the thermostat is controlled by someone more than twice my size who doesn’t even work on this floor, and dress accordingly.

  26. Retail Lifer*

    No sleevless tops ia a pretty common thing, even in casual workplaces. I worked at a place that allowed us to wear hoodies and t-shirts to work, but they stopped short at allowing sleevless tops. For the record, we could also wear jeans, capri pants, and shorts of a particular length there. I don’t know what the big thing against shoulders was, but even in that environment they were forbidden.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      We can wear capris but not shorts, except in summer where they solicit charity donations in June-August that allow you to wear shorts and flip-flops (now I want to call them “thwap-thwaps”, LOL) for a set amount. You get a sticker that goes on your badge showing you’re legal.

      We have free shorts/thwap-thwap Fridays during that time too. But honestly, I don’t even wear capris because it’s freezing in here all the time, especially on my end of the cube farm. I tried it and nope. I keep a blanket in my footrest and a cardigan in my cube in case I forget one.

  27. Minister of Snark*

    Re #4

    It seems that your employer has to come to think of you as a very useful household item. Your time is a commodity for her to dispose of as she sees fit. She’s even trying to loan you out. I would wait until the house is quiet and the kids are busy and ask to sit down with your boss.

    “Boss, I really enjoy caring for your son, but I’ve noticed a pattern over the last few months of you asking me to work extra hours and perform extra household tasks. I can’t work any more hours than we have already discussed. I can’t work (weekends, Fridays, whatever your usual scheduled days off). I am willing to perform A, B, and C tasks (that you have already agreed to) but I will not continue to do X, Y, and Z tasks that you have assigned to me over the last few months. And I definitely can’t work for your friends as a babysitter. My time off is valuable to me. I really want to continue working here, but if this is a problem, I can begin looking for another placement immediately.”

    This may sound sort of scorched earth, but honestly, I think I would start looking for another job. Once someone starts seeing your time and energy as something that belongs to them, your working relationship is on a quick downhill slope. Really? She doesn’t understand why you wouldn’t want to spend your off hours doing more of the same work? She doesn’t see why you wouldn’t want to fill up your weekends with more babysitting instead doing your own housework, errands, hobbies or, God forbid, relaxing? You’re an employee. You’re not a relative “doing her a favor” and you’re not a tool to be used for her convenience.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Yes, a good nanny is worth his/her weight in gold and OP does not need to put up with this! Depending on her relationship with the son, I would seriously consider moving on.

    2. TootsNYC*

      “It seems that your employer has to come to think of you as a very useful household item. Your time is a commodity for her to dispose of as she sees fit. She’s even trying to loan you out. “

      This is it, in a nutshell. So nicely stated.

    3. TootsNYC*

      Oh, and…I used to think the commandments against coveting were sort of silly and picayune. I sort of wondered why they were in there, to be honest.

      Then, in recent years, I’ve realized this this…

      Once someone starts seeing your time and energy as something that belongs to them, your working relationship is on a quick downhill slope.

      …is coveting.

      And it’s very damaging. When people start to treat you like an object they control; when they start to act as though things that are yours are theirs to command–that’s coveting. And it’s very, very damaging.

      It erodes the links between people in ways other stuff doesn’t.

    4. neverjaunty*

      Yes, this. Some people especially have a tendency to assume that if you work a ‘service’ job, it must be that you truly enjoy the work, not that it’s a job like any other. Shut this down hard.

  28. Michelle*

    #3- As a person who has strong and deep Native American roots on both sides of my family, I find the manager’s position insulting and disgusting.

    If you have a problem with a person’s work, you should speak to that person and put that person on PIP, if necessary, and if they do not improve, terminate them. Simply saying “oh she’s that way because she is Native American” is racist. Native Americans are a protected class and if I heard him say something like that, I would go to HR and report him.

    The fact she is part of a protected class is probably the reason he hasn’t done anything, maybe fearing a lawsuit. However, if he can demonstrate that she is simply a bad worker and has documented proof that they met about her issues and gave timelines for improvement, he could legally terminate on the grounds she is not meeting the expectations of the position. But he has screwed himself over by making racist statements.

    If she is using her status as a member of a protected class to simply get paid without working, shame on her.

    1. neverjaunty*

      Two Minute Pedant: national origin and race are the protected classes under federal and state anti-discrimination laws, not particular national origins or racial groups. (While there’s absolutely way more racism against Native Americans than white people, if the OP’s boss said ‘I can’t make Sally do anything, you know how those white folk are’ it would be equally illegal.)

      BUT, you are 100% correct. Boss is either a racist idiot OR lazy and using racism as an excuse for his failure to manage, and it’s also completely true that a well-run workplace should not fear firing a bad employee out of fear of lawsuits.

      1. Michelle*

        This is the information I was going on:
        Protected Classes Title VII prohibits discrimination on account of:
        Race or Color: This category includes blacks, whites, persons of Latino or Asian origin or descent, and indigenous Americans (Eskimos, Native Hawaiians, Native Americans).

        1. Michelle*

          …and this is the website I pulled that info from:

          Alison- can you confirm or refute that Native Americans are a protected class under Title VII? I’m not arguing with neverjaunty, I’m actually just curious now, as I always thought Native Americans were a protected class.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Race, ethnicity, and national origin are protected classes. You can’t discriminate on the basis of any of those, whether it’s because the person is Native, white, or anything else. So yes, what neverjaunty is saying is exactly correct. It’s the same thing the source you’re quoting from is saying too.

            It’s like the same way sex is a protected class — the law doesn’t just ban discrimination against women; it bans discrimination against men too. You can’t make employment decisions on the basis of any of the protected characteristics: race, sex, religion, national original, disability, age (over 40), etc.

            1. Michelle*

              Ok, got it now. I was interpreting it a different way. I guess my mind wasn’t working properly yesterday.

          2. LBK*

            “Protected class” refers to a trait as a whole being an illegal basis for decision-making, not specific presentations of that trait. The protected class isn’t Native American or black or Asian – it’s race. Likewise, the protected class isn’t women – it’s gender. Everyone is covered under title VII because everyone has a race, gender, etc. It’s not just minorities that are protected.

  29. Karyn*

    As the holder of two jobs, one office and one retail, I can tell you that I much prefer my retail uniform to having to pick out clothes every day. I like knowing EXACTLY what to wear to work every time I’m in there. Hint: it’s a black smock that looks like a Star Trek uniform and leggings. I sell fancy makeup. The best part: I am allowed to show all the tattoos I want outside of the uniform. So my wrist tat isn’t an issue there.

    At my office, obviously, things are stricter. Business casual most days, though I do keep a jacket at my cube in case clients wander up to my floor. I will wear professional shoes (flats or heels) when I’m walking around, but I DO kick my shoes off under my desk and wear a pair of slippers instead. I also generally keep a sweater at my desk because it is fricking freezing all the time.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I agree with the uniform thing–at Exjob, we had the option to purchase button-down shirts with our logo embroidered on them. I loved it because all I had to do in the morning was make sure I had on clean trousers. The shirts were all blue and went with everything.

      I’ve heard of people making a uniform, similar to what the gold digger stated upthread, for work and I’m so tempted to do this. Scarves and jewelry can provide some variety. I tend to wear the same things anyway; the thought of decluttering my closet in this manner is making me happy. :)

  30. Phantom*

    On the topic of culture:
    I once had the misfortune of being the team lead of a team where the QA person closed tickets without testing any time he didn’t understand the requirements of the ticket. His manager insisted that the problem was that asking for help was not a part of his culture (Middle Eastern) and that the rest of the team needed to compensate by better anticipating what might confuse him and making the tickets clearer. It didn’t help that he had a hard time with English or that he didn’t have the experience that he had claimed to have when he applied for the job. I had many conversations with the QA person where I tried to explain that if he didn’t understand something, that was fine and that another team member would be happy to clarify it. He would nod and say he understood and go right back to doing what he’d been doing. I also asked the rest of the team to try to add more details to the tickets, and they did, but that didn’t help much either.

    Eventually, he was moved off of my team and into a position where he worked directly with his manager. A few weeks later, he was quietly fired.

    In my opinion, it can be useful to understand when a person’s culture makes them more inclined to act a certain way. (Malcolm Gladwell’s talk about airlines in Outliers comes to mind.) Understanding why someone struggles with a certain task, whether it is is a cultural bias or some other limitation, is a good first step in helping that person to improve. But, it should never be an excuse for failure to fix the problem.

  31. HRish Dude*

    I picked #3 in my fantasy AAM league this morning, so I think I lost.

    Considering how many companies actually have cultural competency training, it blows me away that someone could make a comment like that. Let’s not even get into the fact that not only are not all Native Americans the same, not all tribes are the same. Many are drastically different from each other in terms of culture and beliefs.

    1. fposte*

      “I picked #3 in my fantasy AAM league this morning, so I think I lost.”

      Heh. We could probably get quite the betting pool going, too.

    2. dancer*

      As in getting the most comments? I would have picked the clothes one. People tend to take that sort of thing personally. I think most people will agree that #3’s boss was out of line.

        1. Not me*

          Add weight and religion.

          Someday I want to see a post about all five of these. Someday. 1,000+ comments.

          1. dancer*

            Oh god yes. The comment section on those subjects in the last couple weeks have been, uh… enthusiastic.

          2. Stephanie*

            “Hi AAM, my coworker wears a large spaghetti strainer full of moldy spaghetti on her head. She’ll noisily snack out the strainer all day. She says it’s because she’s a disciple of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Additionally, she’s quite overweight and the spaghetti sometimes falls down her shirt. My boss told her she had to remove the strainer. Is this legal?”

          3. HRish Dude*

            Tattoos seem to get people to because there’s always one or two people who are ADAMANTLY anti.

    3. LQ*

      I had #1, but I was also super interested in what people would say about #3 so I’m right there with you on the loosing team.

      I think a lot fewer places than you think have cultural competency training, and even weirder, I think that people who had been through a training like that would be more likely to say something like this. Which is very unfortunate.

    4. LBK*

      I wonder if it’s specifically because it’s about Native American stereotypes, which I’d say most people can’t describe as vividly or identify as easily as for other races. I certainly can’t pick out which alleged trait of Native Americans the manager would be associating with the coworker, unless it’s just vague “otherness” of being from a different culture.

      1. NotMe*

        I wonder about this as well. I have found many people don’t “count” Native Americans because so many people are about 1/64th Native American. I’ve actually been told things like, “you don’t look all that Native American”, “everyone has some Native American in them”, “I thought you were a real minority; like Chinese or something.”

            1. Philly*

              My grandfather was supposedly 75% Cherokee but there’s no way to really know because he was left on a neighbor’s doorstep when he was a few months old, and his father skipped town (his mother died in childbirth). There are no records. I’d really like to know if it’s true!

    5. Elizabeth West*

      Agreed, and as Michelle said upthread, the boss screwed himself by saying this. Now that he’s put it out there, any action he takes could be construed as discriminatory.

    6. Lizzy*

      Count me in as someone who thought #3 would be the most commented on question. Even with all the cultural training implemented by organizations nowadays, I am still overwhelmed by the amount of racial and downright racist stories people tell about their workplace environment. I would have thought more commentators were going to chip in similar stories, especially those who have dealt with small/family companies where it is easier to get away with these shocking attitudes.

    7. Chinook*

      “Considering how many companies actually have cultural competency training, it blows me away that someone could make a comment like that. Let’s not even get into the fact that not only are not all Native Americans the same, not all tribes are the same. Many are drastically different from each other in terms of culture and beliefs”

      But I think some of the cultural competency training gives Native Americans short shrift and/or is lead by people who have no clue how complicated an issue it is. My company deals first hand with First Nations (we work on their land) and most of the people here only know enough to know they don’t know enough to comment on any issues. Many people seem them as one monolithic cultural group, not realizing the subtle and not so subtle differences or that they don’t all have the same political opinions (if they did, then BC wouldn’t currently have land claims for 110% of the land in the province because the various tribes can’t even agree on where there territory is).

      It also doesn’t help that modern culture (with the exception of some more indy type mediums or native own broadcasters) doesn’t show any “modern Indians” unless they fall into a few different types that include “stoic elder,” “gay urbanite,” “drunk bum,” or “mystic windego.”

  32. Ollie*

    I live in South Florida, and I’m both confused and amused at the comments saying that banning sleeveless tops and open-toed shoes is reasonable. In my office, women wear sleeveless shirts and strappy sandals all the time, and no one bats an eye. Depending on the outfit, you actually get MORE comments if you’re wearing sleeves: “Oh my gosh, aren’t you burning up in that???” It’s really a double-standard, though, because most of the men in my office wear long sleeves and khakis. I am really confused at some of the commenters getting grossed out over toes and armpits and body hair. Personally, if you’re going to be grossed out by someone else’s body, that’s your problem, and just look away? I don’t want to sound snotty here, but I really don’t understand why some of the commenters think making mean comments about other people’s bodies are okay.

    1. Erin*

      It is indeed baffling sometimes why people get concerned over what other people are wearing. Mind your own business! =P But professional dress codes are a reality, rightly or wrongly, and the norms and rules for them will vary from workplace to workplace. It just makes sense yours is more lax being in South Florida.

      1. Ollie*

        Yeah, I guess I was so surprised because I have never heard of an office banning sleeveless tops for women before! But considering I’ve lived in Florida most of my life, it makes sense, haha.

    2. Kristine*

      Well, I worked in Washington, DC during the very hot and humid summer of 2010, and representing the Smithsonian we were not allowed bare arms, either. Women threw a light sweater or blazer over their tank or strap tops, and it was fine. I really don’t like to see – I’m sorry – the often unsightly spread of young ladies’ unexercised arms today. It looks slovenly in my view. Also, men are not allowed to show their arms up to the armpit – why the double standard?

      1. Ollie*

        I don’t agree with the double standard at all. I don’t see why khaki shorts can’t be acceptable for men (and for women, too, I suppose!). Maybe there will be a professional-looking sleeveless cut for men someday, too.

        And “unexercised arms” can show even with sleeves. Plus, people’s bodies aren’t inherently slovenly; that’s easing into fat-shaming. I have unexercised arms, and I happen to like them. :)

        1. Kristine*

          Oh, come now. Choice of clothes are what can be slovenly or not. Don’t move the goalposts.
          Khaki shorts, in a museum or a library? Really? I wouldn’t.

          1. LBK*

            Are you talking about as an employee or a guest? Because I’ve definitely worn khaki shorts to both of those places…and either way, I don’t think I’d have an issue with a museum guide wearing shorts. Those places tend to be cold, though, so I’m not sure they’d want to!

          2. Nina*

            I see people dressed casual in museums all the time, especially in the summer when there are loads of tourists. Never thought anything of it.

            And museums and galleries are designed to have people walking around, so I can understand that some would choose comfort over style.

          3. Elizabeth West*

            Would you find the arms less slovenly if they were thin and toned? If the answer is yes, then your comment indeed edges into fat-shaming. Do you understand the “wow” now?

            If it’s no, then I don’t know why you even brought it up. But I agree that the dress code seems fair if both men and women can’t wear sleeveless tops.

            1. Kristine*

              I find it inappropriately revealing even when they are thin and toned. In my opinion, it’s TOO much skin, and distracting – and frankly, rather careless. My HR director agrees with me. The OP used the word “livid” about this policy change, but the change seems reasonable to me. Throw on a sweater.
              Incidentally, I am thin and toned, and cover my upper arms always. Also, I work in administration, not the public side of the museum and my library (two different jobs), and it’s not my job to look like a patron or a visitor wearing khakis – it’s my job to look like a professional.

                1. Kristine*

                  Because I noticed it on me, first! And made a change: invested in good quality blazers and sweaters, began layering, AND changed my personal life, lifted weights, and lost 45 pounds. Being that as it may, I’m not baring my arms again – I don’t think it’s classy. People get older, and their opinions change.
                  So, I guess I “fat-shamed” myself first. Well, I’ve certainly learned a new buzzword.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                I see your point about too much skin, and I concede it. Museums and libraries can be rather formal workplaces–you would of course want to maintain an image of knowledgeable professionalism.

                But “often unsightly spread of young ladies’ unexercised arms today [looks slovenly]” has nothing to do with whether exposed upper arms are too much skin and everything to do with “I don’t like looking at fat people.” How you choose to express your opinions matters. I think your point could have been made without that statement.

                Nobody moved the goalposts; I think maybe you kicked blindly.

                1. Kristine*

                  What does “fat” or waistlines have to do with arms? Thin people can have untoned arms (as I did), and big people (like my dance instructors) can have toned arms that I tried to strive for. I see that my comment provoked some hard feelings, but please don’t make a false equivalence that is not there.

    3. Not me*

      Yeah, I agree. At least where I live we seem to have agreed everyone can wear short sleeves. Hot weather really shuts down this kind of argument.

    4. AW*

      I really don’t understand why some of the commenters think making mean comments about other people’s bodies are okay.

      There’s a difference between saying that you don’t like seeing toes in general and telling a specific person that their toes are gross.

      1. Ollie*

        But not liking toes in general…is that the sandal-wearer’s problem or the toe-hater’s problem? Eh, this is probably getting too far off topic.

    5. Lily in NYC*

      South Florida offices are so much more casual than any other place I’ve been. Even fancy law firms. It’s just different there.

    6. LBK*

      Personally, if you’re going to be grossed out by someone else’s body, that’s your problem, and just look away?

      I don’t know that that argument really carries through, though, otherwise there’d be little argument against public nudity. This is also in a office setting, where looking away isn’t generally an option – you can’t conduct a meeting with your eyes averted to the ceiling the whole time because you don’t want to see your coworkers’ armpits.

      1. Cat like that*

        Why are you staring at your coworker’s armpits during a meeting? Shouldn’t you be focused on the content of the meeting?

        I also have a hard time believing armpits are really THAT distracting. Will people now be expected to cover other “distracting” things on their body like large moles and prominent ears?

        1. Ollie*

          Exactly, thank you. There’s a huge difference between public nudity and armpits. Armpits aren’t sexual, as they shouldn’t be.

        2. LBK*

          I’m confused here – how are you looking at a person’s face without their armpits being in your field of vision? Usually you have to look at someone when they’re speaking in a meeting.

          1. Cat like that*

            Maybe I go to weird meetings, but I usually am taking notes in meetings or looking at a presentation for a majority of the time. When I do look at someone’s face I might see their armpit in my peripheral but that’s not distracting enough to register with me.

            If we have to ban distracting items from the office I would start with the open floor plan, the people who listen to music without headphones, and the super loud coffee maker before I wage a war on exposed armpits.

            1. LBK*

              My meetings tend to be more discussion-based where I’m almost always looking at someone else sitting around the table as they speak. I do think there’s also a difference between annoyance and visual, visceral disgust. I don’t personally have any issue with it so I can’t speak for others as to how distracting it would be to have someone’s armpits on display, though – maybe I’m overstating it.

              I am certainly on board with banning music not being played through headphones, perhaps by Congressional act – dear cool dude on the train, not everyone in this car wants to hear your song blasted through the speakers strapped to your backpack.

          2. afiendishthingy*

            I don’t think of it as really looking at someone’s armpits if they’re not holding their arms straight up the whole time.

            1. I am armpit hear me roar*

              Agreed. Unless I’m walking around with my hands clasped behind my head I would find it strange if you complained about seeing my armpits.

              In truth, I tend to prefer sleeves, but if I want to wear sleeveless I will. Nothing has ever been said to me to the contrary about it.

      2. Philly*

        Generally the only time I see someone’s armpit when they’re in a sleeveless shirt is if their arm is extended above their head. Is everyone in your meetings raising both arms like a first grader who can’t wait to be called on?

    7. Florida*

      I’m with you, Ollie. People even wear sleeveless tops and strappy shoes in the winter. I remember there used to be a bank in town that required women to wear panty hose. If you saw a woman wearing panty hose, you knew immediately that she worked at the bank because they were the only people who wore them.

  33. AnonLady*

    All these armpit debates are making me happy I work somewhere with an EXTREMELY lax dress code. Our only rules are no sweatpants and no strapless items. Flip-flops, spaghetti straps, ripped jeans, etc are all fine (I personally don’t wear these things but see many people who do). Today I’m wearing a cropped sweater (not midriff bearing) and Nikes. I don’t know if most other software companies are more conservative, but around here as long as you get your work done and show stellar results then they don’t care what you’re wearing.

    1. Ollie*

      My fiance works for a video game startup (oh lord) and wears cargo shorts and ratty tshirts to work everyday. He’s the most professional employee there…everyone else likes to wear basketball shorts and flip flops. Ah, video game companies.

      1. Manders*

        Yes, I work in a big tech city. I was complaining the other day that my office is too conservative for me to dye my hair bright blue. Meanwhile, my friends on the east coast are trying to find a way to wear suits on the subway without getting sweaty and rumpled…

    2. SL #2*

      I think I miss that the most about the tech industry. I couldn’t ever make myself wear flip-flops or graphic tees to work, but I loved being able to wear a hoodie and colored denim and Toms or sneakers.

    3. Philly*

      Yep, my last “office job” was full of people wearing oversized hoodies, ratty cargo shorts and pajama pants.

  34. boop*

    Ooh. Some of us wear a lot of sleeveless shirts because of hyperhydrosis. Cue sweat stains and BO in that office!

  35. Jay*

    #5: Related question that I’ve been wondering about. If you are an exempt employee with 10 days of PTO for a year and you take off an eleventh day (and are not fired for not showing up to work), do you still have to be paid for that day? How does that fit into the “pay you for the whole week” rule?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The law actually says that deductions can’t be made for absences “occasioned by the employer or by the operating requirements of the business” when the employee is ready, willing, and able to work. So in that case, I believe they could in fact deduct that day.

  36. Manders*

    I admit, I’ve never heard of an office that banned sleeveless shirts! I think this must be a industry-specific or maybe a regional thing–I live in an area where jeans are considered business casual, and I moved from one where the summers are sweltering. I’d imagine that rules would be different in, say, a conservative law office on the east coast.

    I’m happy to be able to wear sleeveless and cap sleeve work shirts, since I have very broad shoulders and a broad chest. It’s hard to find buttondown shirts, polos, or sleeved blouses that don’t hang oddly on me.

  37. Mena*

    #2: from my earliest years in the office, I’ve disliked seeing a lot of skin in a professional environment. This means short skirts, sleeveless tops, really anything that shows an excess of skin. I find it unprofessional. My office is quite casual and there really are no rules at all. I cringe when I see bare arms or anything that shows thighs (shorts, skirt, etc.).

  38. Kelly D.*

    The office environment here is very VERY casual. Pretty much anything goes which doesn’t bother anyone. However the head of our local office at times will stretch out his arms above his head, raising his shirt above his pant line, thus exposing his very unattractive midsection. Not a pretty sight.

    1. Philly*

      Are there… attractive midsections? It’s just skin. Or is this one of those things I just don’t get, like how people thunk butts are cute?

        1. Philly*

          Not at all. Unless it’s a corgi butt. On humans, faces are the only things I find cute. I don’t understand how a butt could be cute.

  39. Curious Minds Must Know*

    #2, I agree that this is a ridiculous policy. As long as bra straps and cleavage are covered up, who cares? I think it’s weird that armpits are deemed more “intimate” or worse than your upper arms. However, from what friends have told me, this type of dress code is not unusual in more conservative environments. (I work in IT at a granola university, where the dress code is “Is it clean? Does it cover the important bits? Are any images/text G-rated? You’re fine.”)

    Personally, I would not want to work in a place that banned sleeveless tops; not only are all my work clothes sleeveless, I get overheated when the thermostat is over 74-75. Even 3/4 length sleeves make me miserable.

    …actually, I have a question for AAM readers. How would you ask in an interview what the dress code is if you have weirdly specific dealbreakers like mine?

    1. afiendishthingy*

      I don’t think I ever would. You could ask questions about the culture, you might hope to get a tour and see enough people that you could get an idea of what most people wear, but I think it would come off pretty strange to ask about the dress code in an interview.

      1. Biff*

        I don’t think so — I usually ask about the dresscode before I even come in for an interview.

  40. jen*

    yeah, i have to chime in and say the armpit hate is ridiculous. that is totally a personal preference thing and has nothing to do with anything that could possibly affect the workplace environment. it is NOT a common policy. if you can admit that toes are ok with you but armpits are not, then you also have to admit that the whole thing is arbitrary.

    (also – armpits are gross, but massive sweatstains under full sleeves are cool? yeah, ok there. )

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You may not have encountered it, but it’s a very common policy (look at all the commenters in this thread saying they’re used to that policy).

      I agree that my dislike of armpits is a personal preference. And I also agree that everything about dress codes is arbitrary if you look at it hard enough, because they’re based entirely on cultural norms, which are often weird and arbitrary. But that doesn’t make it unreasonable for offices to have dress codes that more or less in line with those norms. Those norms may change at some point, but for now, offices aren’t crazy to include this fairly common tenet in their policies.

      1. I am armpit hear me roar*

        Someone needs to tell Ann Taylor about the armpit thing. Because if I can’t wear sleeveless tops and dresses at work then 80% of my work attire is inappropriate. Granted, 6 months of the year I wear a jacket over these types of items because it’s cold. And frankly in the office it’s cold so I wear cardigans a lot.
        I wore a sleeveless top today. I didn’t walk around with my arms behind my head like hey everybody look at my extremely scandalous armpits.
        Methinks this is just another way to sexualize women’s bodies.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t see how it’s sexualizing women’s bodies, when it’s generally taken as a given that it would be inappropriate to see men in sleeveless outfits at work. The issue is the amount of skin showing, for men or women.

          1. I am armpit hear me roar*

            I think it’s just a norm. I have tons of sleeveless work sheaths that I wear on a regular basis.
            I’m the only woman under 45 in our office (and there are only 3 other women). They tend to wear slacks/sweaters and dress more casually than I do because they all have more admin-type roles and I am senior to them in the hierarchy — though let me tell you those ladies run the place! — but maybe it’s a bit of an age thing?
            Though, part of me is wondering if maybe no one has said anything to me about it and they’re secretly scandalized but all think it would be more inappropriate on their part to point it out that they find it inappropriate? Like, once I noticed my fly was down… when I got home… at the end of the day. It had been HOURS since I’d used the restroom and I’d conversed with multiple men who are all old enough to be my father and not one of them said anything. And it was like GAPING open, so I know that people noticed it! Talk about an elephant in the room.

          2. I am armpit hear me roar*

            To second, it’s generally a given that men don’t wear things that show their armpits except at the gym/beach/pool either. My husband doesn’t own any sleeveless shirts (with the exception of old tshirts that are torn for wearing to the gym). Culturally speaking, women wear a lot of sleeveless things in their personal lives.
            The shirt I wore yesterday that was sleeveless was a silk blouse that buttoned almost all the way up, and had like stuff coming out of the neck to a high collar. (sounds weird but it’s quite cute I get compliments on it a lot). But it was sleeveless.

  41. jen*

    Cultural norms for women’s business wear do include sleeveless shells as a very, vey common element. so, it’s still kind of crazy.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I can’t wear them–I feel like if I do any sweating, it’s into my jacket, which is harder to clean than a shirt. Plus, what if I have to take it off? Give me sleeves!

    1. OP#2*

      Hello! I’m the writer of letter #2. I see that my letter has generated a lot of response.

      I just want to take a moment to clarify some things:
      -I work in Los Angeles (in case you were wondering).
      -The examples I gave in my letter were rules I’ve encountered in previous office jobs I’ve had.
      -My current job does not specify what is and is not appropriate office attire. All the employee manual says is “clothing must be neat and clean and in good taste”.

      To those of you who empathize with me (Althea, jen, Curious Minds Must Know, jady, afiendishthingy… and others not named here) thank you very much for your understanding. It is nice to know that I’m not alone.

  42. Philly*

    I’d like to ban open toed shoes, but only for people whose second toe is longer than their big toe.

  43. LunaMoon*

    #2 I LOVE everything Hairy except on women. I disagree with banning short sleeves. Summers are hot, work environments have a vast range, but if you must, take a sheer light weight cover over and VIOLA! problem solved. However, there is a place and time for propriety and over exposed hairiness or over exposed anything isn’t for a work/professional environment. When men with fungus toes wear Birkenstock and shorts with hairy legs, I gross out. When women decide to use my cabinets for a jungle gym with unshaven arm pits, I let them know there is jungle gym 2 buildings down with monkey bars. To even muster up witty come backs for this behavior is knowing your playing on the adolescent field of life and these people are in their 30-40’s. That truly is the scary thought, that they will be running our world.

  44. Kala August*

    OP#2- wow, that dress code policy is really vague! If they have such a problem with sleeveless tops they should have written that in the policy. That’s really frustrating. I also question it being a norm because I’ve never heard of it either. You’re definitely not alone in this. It’s a ridiculous and disappointing rule, because I’ve seen a lot of sleeveless tops and dresses on women that look very professional. But there isn’t really much you can do about it. People do have their hangups on this issue as this thread shows. One problem I see is that this dress code policy is so vague that they could do something like this again in the future and that’s not good. People need to be able to concentrate on their work and not worry if some part of their wardrobe is suddenly going to be banned. If it happens again, you’ll have to decide if the job is worth it.

    1. OP#2*

      Disappointing! That’s exactly it! Its disappointing to me that adults this day in age would cringe at the sight of bare arms. That sort of reaction I think is way off. And so many of the comments here are disappointing and not even remotely convincing. I’ve asked a few friends of mine about this and they all think this policy is absurd (to put it mildly). Plus none have heard of it before. One even said “Is this the 1950’s?” Even my own mother, who is a very old-fashioned southern woman, disagrees with it!

      While I was on my lunch break today, I passed a woman who was dressed in a sleeveless blue top with a ruffled collar, belted at the waist, black slacks, and black heels and you could tell she was a professional. Nothing about her outfit could have been viewed as casual or lacking class. I wish I had taken a picture!

      If my managers really wants us to be conservative, then they should have banned short skirts and open-toes shoes and sandals, but they didn’t. Those things are still being worn in the office! Disappointing.

  45. Middle Name Jane*

    #2–can’t stand sleeveless tops. Doesn’t matter how toned your arms are or how nice the shirt is. I get icked out by sleeveless tops/dresses. I don’t want to see someone’s armpits if they raise their arms to reach for something or whatever.

    Open toed shoes for women are okay in my opinion only if the toes are painted in a tasteful color. And for God’s sake, what is with women getting French manicures (pedicures) on their toes? Ew. Put some color on the toes. Shave the hair on your big toe. Make your feet look nice if you’re going to wear open toed shoes to work.

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