intern is wearing leggings as pants, is it okay not to correct some mistakes, and more

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

1. My intern is wearing leggings as pants

I have taken on a very capable, intelligent intern for the semester in an academic setting. I did mention before agreeing to take on this intern that she would need to dress business casual. Several times I have noted that she has arrived at work in skin-tight leggings and tops that do not cover bottoms and hips. Tight-fitting or revealing clothing is not considered appropriate in our organization, but apparently they are acceptable at my intern’s other employer in another field. Our region and profession can be somewhat conservative on attire. I am not much older than the intern and I agree with the dress code.

Should I say something to her about the leggings or leave it alone since her internship is almost up? I stress that she is not in trouble or anything–I know I am more at fault for inaction from the beginning but I do like her and want to see her be successful.

Normally I would say that yes, you absolutely should speak up — primarily because she needs to comply with your company’s dress code but also because interns are in learning mode, and as someone managing an intern, giving feedback on this kind of thing with the territory. But telling her at the very end of her internship is a little like telling someone that they have food in their teeth at the end of their big presentation, rather than at the start of it; she’s likely to feel embarrassed that she’s been dressing this way the whole time and no one told her.

But I still think you should say something, because leggings that aren’t accompanied by a butt-covering top aren’t appropriate for most offices, and you’ll be doing her a favor by letting her know before she moves on to her next job. I would say it this way: “Hey, I keep meaning to tell you this. I noticed you wore leggings to work the other day. With our dress code, you can wear leggings if you’re wearing them with a skirt or dress or a very long top, but you can’t really use them interchangeably with pants. That’s pretty typical of a lot of office dress codes. It’s not a big deal that you didn’t know, but I wanted to give you a heads-up so you know for the future!” (By framing it as something you noticed once, not something you’ve been noticing over and over, I think you’ll help this feel less awkward.)

And for the record, I don’t think that rule is especially conservative; it’s a pretty common rule of business dress.

2. Is it okay not to correct some mistakes?

I started a new job several months ago doing financial-related work. I inherited some “problem” clients from my predecessor (I was warned the clients were “a huge mess” because they’re so disorganized and frequently turn in documentation that’s incomplete, wrong, or duplicated). There isn’t a manual for my job, so while I was given training and instructions, I’m also learning a lot through experience. Being new and working with problem clients, I’ve obviously made mistakes, and I correct my mistakes when I realize something went wrong.

My issue is that for a few of my mistakes, I didn’t realize I should have handled something differently until months later when I encountered the same exact situation again and had gained more knowledge about it.

One of my coworkers told me that since so much time has passed, I should let the mistakes go and move on because correcting the mistakes would be a huge hassle (things would have to be reversed and redone, and multiple people might need to be contacted or involved). They said no one will realize I made the mistakes unless it comes up in an audit, and then I should just play the “I was new and didn’t know better” card. Apparently this is what they did when they were new.

I like for things to be as correct as possible, so just leaving mistakes has been bothering me. (And I guess it’s ethically wrong to leave known mistakes uncorrected?) But my coworker’s suggestion is really appealing. Is it okay to just let the mistakes go? Or would that make me a horrible employee?

It really depends on the nature of the mistakes and what their impact will be. For example, if the mistakes resulted in someone being over-billed and losing money, or filing incorrect tax returns, or anything else where there’s a real impact that they’d be unhappy to know about, you should go back and correct them. But there are other cases where it might not be a big deal, like if you assigned an improper budgeting code for something that only cost a few dollars.

The thing to do, though, is to ask your boss. If your coworker is right that you don’t really need to go back and correct things, your boss will tell you that. And if it turns out that you do, it’ll be a good thing that you didn’t listen to your coworker. Either way, checking with your boss is the ethical and conscientious thing to do. And your boss isn’t likely to be surprised to learn that a new person made mistakes, especially a new person who’s learning as she goes on difficult clients. To the contrary, she’s likely to appreciate that you realized the mistakes eventually and are raising the question with her rather than just burying them.

3. Talking about accomplishments when my job doesn’t really have any

I work as a direct care provider, in a non managerial or supervisor role. I just follow doctors orders. Lately, while looking for new employment, Human Resources asks in the interview (before meeting with the department heads) to describe my accomplishments in my present position. Truth is, I have none. I just take a patient list, give the therapy, move on to the next. This is how my present company has been doing it forever. They have been resistant to change, such as writing protocols, etc. I have tried to change policies but I haven’t been able to accomplish anything because of management. We are expected to do what we are told. Obviously these HR people have no clue what my job actually entails! How do I answer this?

What’s the difference between the way you did the job and the way someone mediocre would have done the job? That’s what you want to try to capture. For example, were you highly accurate? Do you have a comforting bedside manner? Did you receive praise from patients or doctors? That’s the kind of thing that can be framed as accomplishments in a role that doesn’t have easy measures. More on this here and here.

4. Turning down former employees’ offers to volunteer

We have had a good handful of employees leave in the last few years for various reasons. We hold a large, very impactful conference each year as part of our mission work. The former employees sometimes want to volunteer at this conference, but for various reasons we do not want them to volunteer with us. We have plenty of volunteer help, and having them come back in so soon is awkward for present employees, along with other reasons.

I am trying to put together some professional wording to send to them when they inquire about volunteering, but I am kind of at a loss. Any advice?

“We’re all set for volunteers this year, but thank you for offering!”

Or “we’re trying to bring in volunteers who haven’t worked with us before as a way of broadening our reach, but thank you so much for offering.”

(I’m taking you at your word that you have good reasons for not wanting to use the former employees, but is it really that awkward for current employees? I wouldn’t think it would be unless people left under odd circumstances.)

5. My company fired me for taking a phone that wasn’t mine

I saw a cell phone at the bottom of the staircase at the company I work for and took it. I got fired for taking company property. Can that happen?

Yes, of course. You took something that you knew wasn’t yours, which your company rightfully considers stealing.

{ 794 comments… read them below }

  1. OrganizedChaos*

    RE: OP1’s issue – I have a similar issue but it is more like the employees just flat out ignore the dress code and wear spandex and gym clothes, mainly because its like pulling teeth at my company to get anything enforced. I honestly wish that some of the employees at my company had been given a “heads-up” early in their career and think that AAM has an awesome suggestion.

    1. lawsuited*

      I agree that being taught about professional dress early in working life is important. I had an assistant in her 40s who wore leggings, swimsuit tops and flipflops to work, and it was difficult to convince her that it wasn’t appropriate because she’d been dressing like that at work for 20 years and no one had said anything.

    2. Jessesgirl72*

      The OP says that the intern’s clothes are apparently appropriate for the intern’s other job in another field. I find it equally likely that her clothing isn’t appropriate there either, but like the OP, her Manager is unwilling to broach the subject with her.

      Or I know that my husband is in charge of the interns for his department, and I’m not sure he would know some of the subtle differences between when leggings might be acceptable and when they aren’t, if he even noticed what an intern was wearing at all. I could be wrong, but I don’t think it even occurs to him to guide them in that way. Maybe the intern’s other Manager is like that.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        I just asked him what he’d do. He said he’d notice and would let the intern know, but in the case of a female intern, would do so through HR, as the only safe way he feels he could admit to noticing a woman’s clothing in the workplace.

        1. Katie the Senual Wristed Fed*

          As one of the few woman managers (I know, I know), I usually get tasked with the job of telling the women when they’re dressed inappropriately. I’ve gotten really good at it. I don’t even bat an eye anymore. “Hi there! I Just wanted to let you know that this is a more formal atmosphere than you might be used to, and leggings don’t work as pants. Thanks!”

          1. Lemon Zinger*

            That’s a great line, especially when delivered with a smile. I was a little too grouchy when I told my new coworker that white jeans aren’t considered business casual, and I felt bad.

            1. Kimberlee, Esq*

              Are regular jeans business casual? I would generally say so, and thus I would consider white jeans to be. Am I missing something?

              1. Turtle Candle*

                Jeans were not considered business casual at all at one workplace I worked at. They were at another, but only if they were black or very dark blue.

                (This is one of the reasons it’s really good to spell out the dress code. Similarly, one workplace that was ‘business casual’ required button shirts; another allowed polos and sweaters. Business casual is a very vague term….)

                1. TrainerGirl*

                  I work for Silicon Valley tech company, but our office is on the East Coast, so when I first started working there, it was hard to know what to do. I’d Skype with my coworkers at HQ, and they’d be wearing hoodies and sloppy jeans, but no one in our office does that. It’s fine to wear jeans, as long as you wear a button-down/collared shirt or sweater with them. Definitely no flip flops. The jeans are okay as long as you keep the rest of your clothes a bit dressier.

              2. Melissa*

                I’m in the Pacific Northwest – mentioning that because we’re usually considered more casual than the east coast. My office is business casual. Besides the obvious stuff about not showing too much skin, jeans are the ONE clothing item that is strictly not okay.

                1. Not Yet Looking*

                  I’ve frankly NEVER understood why offices have such a hate on jeans. I understand saying no to ripped, frayed, torn, or discolored jeans, but nice black demin? Why is that so wrong?

          2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

            Yup…I hate seeing some of the male managers numbers flash on my caller ID because I know they want me to come deal with a dress code violation.

            The worst was trying to explain to someone that if the pockets fell below the hem of your cut-off shorts, they were entirely too short, even for casual dress.

            1. Katie the Senual Wristed Fed*

              I had one who showed up wearing a sparkly halter top – basically club wear.

              I told her that it wouldn’t work and she tried to argue with me. No, actually, this isn’t a discussion.

      2. Roscoe*

        As a guy, I admit I’m stumped. I mean it seems weird that a long shirt over leggings is ok, but a regular shirt isn’t. I mean its still a shirt right? So its seems like an arbitrary rule. Kind of like in high school where it was like the skirt had to be longer than your finger tips or something.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But it’s not arbitrary. It’s because a shirt that doesn’t cover your butt in leggings leaves you way more exposed than is appropriate for most workplaces (because they’re so skin-tight).

          1. Cleopatra Jones*

            Not only skin tight but I’ve definitely seen some leggings that were see-through. I think a lot of people are lulled into a false sense of coverage when their leggings are black or a dark color. Unfortunately, the wrong lighting may mean that you are only wearing your panties in a public space. It’s way too much of a risk for work. If you want to wear that for you night life, by all means, but definitely not work appropriate.

          2. DQ*

            The easy way I’ve explained it is “leggings are an appropriate alternative to tights or hose, not pants”.

            1. TrainerGirl*

              I love that! I definitely couldn’t ever wear leggings with a short top, because although I’m a size 6, I’m very ample in the hips/butt/thigh area and I’d feel like all my goodies were out on display. I do wear jeggings on Fridays, but always with a long top. I see skinnier women wear them with short tops, but I don’t dare do that. My office is mostly guys, and it feels like I work in a frat house as is, so I definitely don’t want to throw out any meat to the wolves.

          3. Not Rebee*

            So many leggings are actually see through! The material is thin, and stretchy, but when it stretches too much (and unless you want baggy leggings, it’s basically going to stretch too much unless you have very thick leggings) they are totally see through. In the best case scenario, I guess, all you can see is the contrast around the seams and if they’re wearing dark underwear maybe it’s not such a bad thing but worst case scenario you can see the pattern on someone’s panties through leggings. In a public and social setting, maybe it doesn’t matter that you can tell what underwear someone is wearing, but at work, that’s simply not appropriate. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been mentally scarred by this kind of stuff. Having a long shirt makes this a non-issue, regardless of how thick your leggings might be, so it’s a good general rule of thumb to always wear a longer shirt that covers your butt.

          4. Elliot*

            Is the outline of legs thing just for women? I’m getting self conscious now. I’m a guy, but I work in a casual environment and have a thing for tight jeans. I thought they were OK if the crotch was covered by something on top. I’m going to have to reevaluate my entire wardrobe!

            1. Emi.*

              I don’t think it’s just for women, but people are more likely to make a thing out of it for women, which is kind of unfair.

            2. MaggiePi*

              Even the tightest skinny jeans I’ve ever seen do not compare to leggings. It’s a combination of the thinness of material, the transparency, and the tightness.

              1. ket*

                But the tightest leather or plastic pants (on men) certainly *do* compare to leggings…. you have to see it to believe it, but you’ll believe it!

        2. Jessesgirl72*

          Neither of those rules are arbitrary. It’s all about making sure that nothing is exposed that shouldn’t be.

          1. jm*

            I work in a school district and a lot of the teachers are women in the 25-40 range. Our dress code allows leggings under dresses or skirts, but not with tunics or long tops.
            I had a hilarious conversation with a male principal about exactly what leggings are (compared to tights or pantyhose) and exactly what sort of garment should be worn over leggings to adhere to the dress code. I ended up just sending him a picture with one “yes” outfit and one “no” outfit.

            1. memyselfandi*

              When I was a child “leggings” were snow pants that were worn under dresses. They were made of heavy wool and had metal zippers at the bottoms of the leg (so they could be zipped over your boots) and the metal zippers would freeze making it difficult to remove them when we got to school There were tears. And, yes, I am old.

    3. Roscoe*

      I also think that “professional attire” is a very vague term that means different things in different offices. I’ve worked a number of places and business casual has meant anything (for me) from khakis and a button down, to jeans and a polo. So I think these things really need to be spelled out and enforced early on when people start.

      1. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

        My company’s policy states that if you are wearing leggings or tights, the hem of your top/skirt/dress can be no shorter than 2 inches above your knees. While I roll my eyes at the idea that my manager can come at me with a ruler and measure the distance between my hem and my knees, I appreciate that it’s explicitly spelled out.

          1. BPT*

            As someone who is 5 feet tall, it’s one of the very few ways my height benefits my clothing choices. Things that are too short on others are just right on me.

            1. SJ*

              Yeah. I’m 5’10, so I have the opposite problem! Plus I tend to like things a little short anyway. I like my legs. :)

        1. insert name here*

          This seems utterly reasonable. The fact that people need to be told not to wear shorter stuff than that boggles my mind.

      2. Ama*

        I splurged on one nice workwear purchase recently which means I now get catalogs from a ton of retailers that specialize in women’s workwear and I’ve noticed an increase in items marketed as workwear (even from retailers that are selling designer labels) that would not pass muster even at my fairly unfussy business casual office. Knit pants that are just barely looser than leggings seem to be one of the items that retailers are pushing as business casual even though to me they don’t even look very businessy on the model. So I could see how someone could get confused if they aren’t getting clear signals from their workplace.

        1. iseeshiny*

          Yeah, I still feel weird about those pull-on ponte “skinny pants” they’re selling right now. Because they just seem like high quality, thick leggings to me. I want to wear them because they’re in style and I like to wear pretty, on-trend clothes, and I’ve even seen and liked them on other people, but I just can’t bring myself to wear them to work with a regular hip-length blouse.

          1. Manders*

            I actually really like those, since I’ve got some weird proportions that mean non-stretchy pants are usually falling off my hips or dragging on the ground. I do a weird routine in the dressing room before I buy them though, with lots of bending and squatting in front of the mirror to make sure my panties don’t show through and my pants aren’t slipping off my butt when I bend over.

            I also work in an area where business casual is *very* casual. My office doesn’t allow jeans, and that’s considered unusually strict.

          2. Episkey*

            I wear those all the time. I wear regular leggings too, though. I do make sure the business is covered, but I love leggings and wear them to work often.

        2. BPT*

          I think it’s also indicative of how far clothing quality has fallen. Most companies don’t even line pants or skirts or dresses anymore, use thin, flimsy material for tops that you have to layer in order to be appropriate, and clothing that pulls apart at the seams within a week of wearing it. So I think a lot of clothing companies are pushing for a more casual look because the more casual it is, the more you can get away with cheaping out on products.

          1. Manders*

            I think you’re right on the money. I honestly have *no idea* how to make most of the blouses I see in store work-appropriate. I’d need a whole wardrobe of camisoles to wear under them.

            1. Clever Name*

              This is pretty much what I do. I have a giant stock of knit tank tops from Target in neutral colors (white, navy, black, grey, and a few other colors) and I wear them under all of my shells and blouses. Sheer tops aren’t new, though. Women of my mother’s and grandmother’s generation were just more used to wearing slips, camisoles, and other foundation garments.

            2. Aurion*

              This is why I only wear structured button-downs/blouses (is there a difference between the two terms?), the type you can take an iron to. Won’t win me any fashion points, but at least it’s business appropriate everywhere.

              1. Manders*

                I love structured button-downs, but I have a hard time finding ones that don’t have the boob gap problem.

                There was a brief period where peplum tops were in style, and even the cheap ones were made with thick fabric since they weren’t meant to be worn with camisoles. I’ve been hitting up thrift stores and hoarding them.

                1. Novocastriart*

                  Contact corporate/work wear uniform shops – most I’ve dealt with seem to accomodate small orders of logo-less shirts etc. I’ve had great success getting shirts to accommodate a large bust at these shops.

                2. Novocastriart*

                  Hit submit too soon – many of these shirts are well priced, well made, and with an inside butten, where the boob-gap would normally happen!

                3. MaggiePi*

                  Oh, yes, the boob gap! I wish my mom would realize this happens with EVERY button down shirt she wears. (I’m in my 30’s and this problem has continued for at least 15 years.) Oh mom :-/

              2. bryeny*

                Button-down is actually a style of collar, not a shirt style — though lately you’d be hard pressed to discern that by reading much of what’s written about clothing. A button-down shirt has buttonholes on the points of the collar and little buttons on the front of the shirt so you can keep the points of the collar from curling up.

                Button-front is a term I see used for the kind of shirt or blouse you’re talking about.

            3. Elizabeth West*

              I have some of those things from Walmart that clip onto your bra. They’re like cami fronts. They are great for wearing under low-cut blouses and are cheap. They’re an as-seen-on-TV item.

              In winter, I wear a turtleneck under the same blouse. But it is so annoying that clothing manufacturers cut blouses so LOW. It’s really hard to find anything appropriate.

      3. Happy Lurker*

        Reminds me of a battle I had 10 years ago over tank tops versus sleeveless tops.
        No, I don’t want to see your bra straps and no, spaghetti straps are not sleeveless tops. Yes, you can wear whatever you want, just put a jacket on in the office.

      4. Tyrannosaurus Regina*

        Same. I temped at an office that was “business casual” and forbade jeans, but women wore leggings as pants (albeit usually with longish tops) all the time. I mean, I don’t personally care one way or the other but I didn’t think it was a weird inconsistency.

    4. Bonky*

      I am relieved that I work in the tech industry in the UK, where we’re very dressed-down: I’m four months pregnant at the moment and already quite huge, and the only thing I can bear wearing on my lower half is pregnancy leggings (I find the sort of pregnancy trouser with a very low waist that sits under the bump appallingly uncomfortable, even when they have a jersey band to pull up over that). Dress code is one of the reasons I chose a career in this industry; I’m very happy dressing up now and again for functions, some meetings, conferences and the like; but my day-to-day is comfortable and casual, and it’s a joy.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq*

        Yaaaassss I work in tech/media and tbh it would be a hard sell to recruit me for any company that even enforces business casual. Once you divorce the idea that someone’s professional worth is related to what they wear, and just let people be `comfortable` life is just so much better. I hope the trend continues to go this way; I don’t have a problem with people wearing leggings as pants or crop tops or whatever it is they want to wear. I feel bad that so many people have to be so uncomfortable for so much of their time. :(

  2. Marisol*

    #3 – I don’t know what Alison would think of this, but my strategy on performance reviews where I have to “sell” myself and list accomplishments is to refer to very concrete, measurable things, such as “processed $200,000 worth of expense reports with 100 percent accuracy; coordinated 41 trips to pitch new business, including the one that led to successful account xyz…” if I did a bunch of stuff and did it well, it’s an accomplishment, even if it is not an innovation. And anything I did in support of my bosses success is also worth noting. My boss may have made the pitch which got us the new business from the clients in Switzerland, but who coordinated all the catering to such exacting standards that it was easy for him to shine? Me. So maybe just making a list of all the stuff you do, whether it’s “impressive” or not, and all the things you bosses have succeeded in that you might have had a hand in would be a good starting point.

    1. Coco*

      Everything I’ve read on this website regarding accomplishments would definitely agree with listing any concrete, measurable things! The problem is a lot of jobs don’t have quantifiable metrics of success, so it can be tougher to explain. For instance, in my job, I pride myself on making sure my program is organized and runs smoothly. I never let a client call slip through the cracks, I schedule things far in advance, and I communicate regularly with my volunteers — things that my predecessor failed at. It’s hard to phrase that as a bunch of accomplishments or one unified accomplishment.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You turned around a complex program that had been in disarray and kept it running smoothly, resulting in (whatever your program achieves); ensured 25 (or however many) volunteers received regular, personalized communications that resulted in a high level of volunteer engagement with low turnover (or whatever); and maintained a consistently high level of responsiveness to client that garnered you praise from both clients and managers (or whatever).

        1. Office Manager*

          This is my first time commenting! (I’m a lurker on here forever, AAM is the first thing I read in the morning.) I have a question: how do you do this without throwing your current or previous employer under the bus, so to speak? I’ve done this sort of “turnaround” and I expect it happens a lot. But if they call for references, I worry that it’s going to sound like, “so, she took your crappy business model/lax supervision/awful HR department and made improvements to x, y, z?” I think if I were the employER, I might be taken aback somewhat, even if those things were true, especially if they reflect poorly on me as a manager. How do I articulate and quantify my achievements without making the organization sound bad?

          1. MissGirl*

            Every company has processes or products that need improvement on. Technology and abilities are constantly changing. Companies know this. They don’t hire someone to maintain the status quo; they hire someone to bring in fresh ideas. There isn’t an automatic assumption that you fixed a crappy thing as much as what YOU did to improve and innovate. Don’t overthink this.

            For instance at my last job, I focused on putting processes in place to improve our output and reduce time. My managers loved me and hated to see me go. However, when I quit, they hired someone with a new set of skills I didn’t have. They didn’t need her to do what I did; that was done. They wanted to see what she could do with a more creative and design approach for the product. On her resume, she would talk about the improvements she will make but that isn’t to say I left the position in a crappy state.

          2. Joseph*

            For describing turnaround situations, I think the keys are to:
            (a) describe the problem in a way that doesn’t throw blame on a particular person. So rather than the phrasing “my predecessor did not communicate sufficiently”, you instead refer to it as “previously there had been problems with volunteer communication”.
            (b) emphasize your role in fixing it and how awesomely your new system works now rather than dwelling on how bad it was previously. Obviously, you do need to explain the background as to what was wrong in the first place, but the main thrust of your answer should be focused on your response, not on the previous mistakes.

          3. Purest Green*

            Every workplace has things that can be improved. It doesn’t make them look bad for you to highlight how you’ve helped. It’s more that you (1) identified a problem, (2) had the knowledge/skills to fix that problem, (3) and then were able to do so successfully. Plenty of people can do step one, some people are at step 2, but few people can follow through with step 3. (And in my opinion, getting to step 3 and making improvements is a sign of a good workplace.)

            1. Browser*

              Sure, every workplace has things that can be improved. But that doesn’t mean an employee is given the leeway or freedom to improve them – a lot of places still operate under the principle “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – and if it is broke, well too bad because we have always done it this way.”

              Have you never worked a job where you were actively *discouraged* from making suggestions or changes? It’s hard to feel accomplished when all you do in your job is exactly what your boss tells you to do, and nothing more.

              1. Purest Green*

                I have absolutely been discouraged from making changes at a job, hence my comment about making improvements being a sign of a good workplace. I don’t really understand your seeming frustration with my comment.

          4. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Agreeing with everyone else’s advice here, but I’d also add that the key is to describe it dispassionately — so it’s not “they were a disaster when I got there” but rather a factual report of what you changed (cleaned up a backlog, implemented structures to prevent X, rebuilt trust with frustrated volunteers, or so forth).

            1. Frustrated Social Worker*

              I think responses to #3 are missing something- this person is a direct service provider that does not oversee anyone, does not train anyone and will not be able to list typical accomplishments normally seen on this site. Lets say a person is a foster care social worker. You can say you managed a caseload of 20 youth and other tasks you were responsible for but often times that’s it. You can’t improve on anything. Can’t say cut down on placement disruptions, but often you haven’t. If you were a working with terminally ill patients you can’t say survival rates improved- because often they didn’t. And in those types of workplaces there is no room for major changes and if you ask about doing something a different way too much they will discourage you from asking.

          5. TootsNYC*

            Presumably they hired you in order to MAKE those improvements, so saying that you created order out of chaos isn’t throwing the employer under the bus. They were smart enough to hire you and enable you to do those things.

      2. Marisol*

        Just start making a list and brainstorm from that. You’re ruling ideas out before you’ve started. Instead of seeing the big picture like “making sure my program is organized,” take a granular perspective, breaking things down into their constituent parts. Pretend to be a very literal-minded person and write specific tasks down that you do at your job, and then use that list to spend time thinking about how those tasks contributed positively to your company. I think this may be more of a creativity problem than anything else.

    2. Jeanne*

      The numbers thing can be helpful. The tough thing is that you feel a little beaten down when management is so against innovation and goals. List everything you do, no matter how mundane. Then try to think about how those things helped your patient or your company. For ex, if you’re a nurse’s aide, preventing bed sores by turning patients may seem routine but these days it makes a difference, not just to the patient, but to the way funding is approved and facilities are rated. If you’re a physical therapist, how many patients did you graduate this year? How did find a way to help the most difficult (resistant to doing the therapies) patient you dealt with? Once you find those positive things, that’s what you’ll talk about. Good luck!

  3. Ant*

    #4 We make it a policy at our organization that former employees wait a year before coming back to volunteer. When people come back too soon, it is difficult for the new person who has taken their job to feel like they own the job. It is also tricky for veteran employees who feel like the former employee should still be privy to workplace confidences when that is no longer the case. Usually a year away is enough to break old relationship patterns.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ah, these are good points. If those are the OP’s reasons, she could say something straightforward like, “We’re so glad you want to volunteer. We ask former employees to wait a year before returning as volunteers, because we’ve found it’s easier for everyone to adjust to the new relationship if there’s a break. But definitely get in touch with us next year.”

    2. Jeanne*

      I was also picturing the volunteer telling the new worker they’re doing the job wrong. That’s not up to the volunteer to determine. I understand the need for some time apart.

      1. Murphy*

        I actually had the opposite problem, volunteering at a place where I used to work. There was a new volunteer who kept telling ME that I was doing things wrong! I was handling a dog that was labeled “Staff only” but the staff told me what was up with the dog and told me they mind me taking care of it. There was another dog that one staff member had told me that I could take care of, and another had told this volunteer that she could take care of, and when I got to it first, she got annoyed with me. There were a few other things, so finally I had to say that I used to work here and staff knows what I’m doing and finally she left me alone.

        But I did have some other occasional volunteers talking to me like I still worked there, even though I wasn’t wearing a staff shirt anymore, so I can understand the need for a break as well.

        1. SilentFever*

          It probably came across a little confusing to the volunteers that in some respects you could act like staff, and in others you needed to act like a volunteer, I guess. If you had a dog which was labelled ‘staff only’ then I’d presume that even if you used to be staff previously, you weren’t technically allowed to handle him/her as a volunteer. Maybe some people thought you were staff when they spoke to you as such, or maybe they just spoke to you as someone with much more experience than them (which you have) and it felt as though you were being treated as staff.

          New volunteers can be pretty rule conscious so as not to mess up, it seems positive to me that they felt able to challenge what they felt was wrongdoing (handling the dog), even though they didn’t know that you’d been asked to :)

    3. Al Lo*

      That’s a really great blanket policy. I went out for drinks last night with two women who previously held my job. They’re both still involved in my organization (both in other, significantly-smaller contract staff roles now), but they’ve been out of the job long enough that things have changed a lot and I’ve been in my job long enough that I have real ownership of my position and department, so there isn’t that clash. At this point, we’re great collaborators and friends, and it was a lot of fun to go out and share war stories about our department over the years. In my first year, though, I heard more than one comparison to the person who was in my job immediately prior to me (who was on mat leave for my first year, and then came back on a very limited contract), and those instances (although thankfully not constant) were enough to make me feel kind of insecure; let alone working directly with her.

      On the flip side, my husband was on staff at the church my family has attended since my parents were married, and when he left his job there, we switched churches, because there was just too much baggage with people’s expectations of staff/former staff/key volunteers, and with our own relationships with certain individuals and with the staff structure. However, 25 years earlier, my dad left his staff role and took on a very, very similar volunteer position that he stayed in successfully for another 20 years, and my parents still volunteer in very significant ways. Different relationships, different people, different results.

    4. Jen P*

      good policy! Yes, we are a small nonprofit and confidences of industry information we have or how we would like to proceed with business plans and programs, customer information & confidentiality, personality conflicts, etc. all play a role in not wanting former employees to volunteer. The policy of a year is a good idea though…

    5. Elliot*

      I recently resigned from a direct care position and I’m hoping to volunteer immediately. I think this rule is dependent on what the organization’s work is like. In adult care, there’s no reason why someone who left on good terms shouldn’t come back and spend time with tenants immediately. If a lot of people are resigning and asking to volunteer instead, it makes me wonder if there’s something going on with the way the organization is run. My organization is in the same situation; over 50% of our staff has resigned and most volunteer. We left because the wages are too low, the new ED calls us stupid and recently assigned previously flexible employees really odd set schedules that are impossible for us to work, and we are all lacking the resources to be successful in our positions. The first thought that came to my mind, probably because I’m bitter about my own situation, is that management wants to punish ex employees by separating them from the cause they’re passionate about. But that’s what’s happening in my workplace, and quite a stretch to apply here. I echo Alison’s advice to consider why they shouldn’t volunteer.

  4. Asian J*

    #1 If I was the intern, I would have really appreciate being told that the way I dress is not acceptable rather than you not mentioning anything. Gosh if someone told me at the end of the internship, I cant imagine what the other coworkers has said about me.

    #5 Did you expect anything else to happen? ._.

    1. Engineer Woman*

      Agree with both.

      Much better to let the intern know about the typical style of dress at your workplace, even though it’s close to the end of the internship. In fact, you might also suggest for any future jobs that she look and mimic the casualness of dress by other coworkers. Some place are totally okay with T-shirt, jeans and sneakers whereas others are definitely business casual if not full-on business attire. You don’t want to be the most casual, especially early in your career.

      For #5: It sounds like you only got fired – it seems within reason they could have reported to the police for theft. To be honest, this LW scares me – that there are people who really think taking something that isn’t theirs is acceptable. (Note: had LW provided more info in line of “I picked it up at noon intending to turn it into the security office, stuck it in my pocket but had meetings etc, but by 3pm, someone had reviewed video footage of my taking the phone and I was fired on the spot despite explaining I was going to turn it into lost-and-found” then it’d be different)

      1. Blueismyfavorite*

        Yeah, that person is really lucky the police weren’t called. In my state grand theft is anything over $300, which most smart phones are. I’m working with a client right now who has a grand theft charge for stealing a cell phone. OP #5 is lucky to just be fired.

      2. Anonhippopotamus*

        The difference between wearing leggings and a t-shirt, jeans and sneakers, is that one outfit consists of pants and the other does not. You cannot go to work pantsless no matter wear you work.

        1. Sas*

          Some pants that are leggings are actually pants. So, wrong. Think ponti, ponty? panty. That’s not right. h a

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            You’re thinking of ponte. But it’s not just the fabric, it’s the cut. There are ponte leggings that are leggings, not pants, and should never be worn as pants.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            Leggings. Are. Not. Pants.

            Anyone who tells you otherwise is fooling themselves (and probably flashing a lot of panty line). I’ve been around and around about this with my friends who have kids and can’t figure out why their daughters aren’t allowed to wear leggings with just shirts to school. Most of them agree that they would not find it acceptable to wear leggings that aren’t covered by something over the hips/backside, and all of their school dress codes clearly state that shirts must be worn with pants or skirts, so why they can’t put two and two together is beyond me. Leggings are thick tights, and you don’t wear tights without actual clothing over them.

            1. Amy the Rev*

              Ehhh. You wouldn’t wear thick tights under a tunic that ends just past your bum, though, but leggings under a bum-covering tunic could be appropriate. Same goes for dresses that would be too short to wear thick tights under- wearing leggings under said dress would make it more office-friendly. Wouldn’t wear thick tights and a T shirt out and about, but leggings and a T shirt wouldnt get me any stares at the grocery store. I wouldn’t argue that leggings are ‘pants’ as they’re thought of in the business world (though a semantic linguist would probably argue that they are a type of pant), but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that leggings are thick tights. They’re an intermediary!!

            2. Annette*

              I work for a large university in a warm area of the US. College age women wear leggings of all varieties as pants all the time on campus, without long shirts. I would guess most of the leggings are being sold as athletic wear, but they are certainly being worn to class with tank tops as street wear.

              Transitioning from “okay and casual on campus” to “appropriate and less casual for the work place” is a common challenge for young people and I’m sure most of them would appreciate guidance from their employers.

              1. fposte*

                Yes, exactly. And it may be that leggings as pants/tights as pants will be acceptable in workplaces down the line, but right now it’s like pajamas outside–you may see it all over colleges, but it’s not going to serve you well in the workplace.

              2. Turtle Candle*

                Yeah, you can get away with much, much more casual clothes on (most) college campuses, and it can be hard to know exactly where the line is. I mean, when I was going to college, people wore basically pajamas to class, or those super short velour shorts with “JUICY” written across the butt. I didn’t, but I wore fairly tight jeans and very tight, low-cut t-shirts or tank tops with the built-in bra shelf thingy rather than a proper bra. And I knew that pajamas/Juicy shorts/tight t-shirts/tank tops were not work appropriate, but it took me a few days to realize that while jeans were okay at my workplace, suuuuuper tight jeans (of the kind where it’s not real denim, it’s denim-textured/thickness but partly stretchy? not sure what that fabric is) really wasn’t. One very smart, very conscientious new hire (straight out of college) that we had recently nevertheless didn’t realize that her clubbing dresses (very pretty, but short and tight) weren’t work appropriate: to her they were ‘dressed up’ clothes, compared to a lot of stuff she saw on campus they were not especially revealing, and the distinction between work dressy and club dressy wasn’t apparent to her until she started working and comparing herself to the other women in the office.

                So I could see someone not getting right away that leggings (especially if fairly thick-fabricked and high quality) are often not appropriate without a dress or skirt or long tunic over them.

                1. Turtle Candle*

                  (By which I mean, I agree that it’s worthwhile to give explicit guidance, since this stuff may seem obvious once you’ve been working for a few years but is much less so when you’re transitioning from ‘people wear pajamas to class.’)

              3. Erica B*

                I work at a university in the northeast US, and leggings as pants is what young women are wearing for pants. I have an undergrad who work s for me (we’re in an engineering lab) where it’s a tiny group of us, and she is not dealing with public. She wears leggings here and it’s not a big deal. She often comes in right before or after she heads to the gym.

                most work places however, wearing leggings as pants seems weird. I don’t wear leggings for pants. I don’t really wear leggings as I like my clothes to be loose fitting

              4. Property Manager*

                “I would guess most of the leggings are being sold as athletic wear, but they are certainly being worn to class with tank tops as street wear.”

                I think you hit the nail on the head.

                Linguistically, leggings ARE pants. Leggings ARE NOT slacks. If you wear suiting to work, you are wearing slacks, no?

                Of course, there are various types of “leggings” on the market. I’m inclined to agree that most are indeed athletic wear, while some are casual, and others are just beefed up tights. Beefed up tights are not pants, they are tights. Athletic wear leggings are athletic pants. Personally, I am a big fan of athletic wear … but generally you don’t wear athletic wear to the office.

            3. Rebecca in Dallas*

              YES! Leggings are hosiery, not pants. Ask yourself if you would wear the outfit if instead of leggings, you were wearing tights. If the answer is no, put on some dang pants.

              1. myswtghst*

                This is more or less how we explain leggings in our dress code to new employees – if you took the leggings off, would your outfit still be work-appropriate? If not, you need to either put on a longer top or actual pants.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  That’s a really good way to explain it because it helps the person decide on their own, instead of waiting for inputs from others.

            4. Trig*

              I went to elementary school in the 90’s. Leggings and a t-shirt were totally acceptable clothing for kids then. Pink or purple ones with those elastic saddle foot straps were especially popular.

              But what’s acceptable at public school or even university isn’t necessarily so in the office.

            5. Jesmlet*

              If they are thick enough to not be see through and you can’t see a panty line, IMO they’re just very stretchy pants. Most leggings don’t fit those criteria but the rare ones that do are fine.

            6. INFJ*

              Anyone who tells you otherwise is fooling themselves (and probably flashing a lot of panty line).

              What about if they’re wearing a thong? *shudders*

            1. fposte*

              Ponte is just a kind of knit fabric. Whether a knit is appropriate as the top layer for work depends on its cut and what it covers. You can have a voluminous ponte dress with a hemline below the knees or a bodycon dress cut to show buttcrack. No prizes for guessing which one would not be work appropriate :-).

              1. Emi.*

                Oh, I just meant “What about ponte dresses? They’re obviously not panties, so that doesn’t work as a rule of thumb.” :)

            2. BPT*

              For a thick A-line dress, I think it’s fine. I think it gets to be more like leggings when you have a ponte sheath or figure hugging dress. To me, sheath dresses need structure to work.

          3. Purest Green*

            I have some ponte pants. And while they have snaps and pockets and the fabric is thick and opaque, they still aren’t dress slacks, jeans, or anything I’d feel comfortable in if my bottom weren’t covered.

        2. blackcat*

          Well, even if you want to consider leggings pants, they are more revealing than most pants. It’s sort of like how very short shorts aren’t appropriate for work. Yes, they are “pants” but they are too revealing. Just like a shirt that’s cut down to your belly button may be a shirt, but it’s not something you should wear in the workplace.

          1. Koko*

            Agree with this. I wear certain leggings as pants (outside of work) because they are a type of pants. A shirt doesn’t stop being a shirt just because it’s form-fitting, and neither do pants, and how do you say thin denim-elastic skinny jeans are pants while leggings that are often even sturdier/thicker fabric aren’t? This whole “leggings aren’t pants” shtick just seems like one of those things associated with young women that are trendy to hate on, like pumpkin spice lattes and Ugg boots. But it doesn’t mean leggings are a work-appropriate type of pants.

            1. MsCHX*

              As someone mentioned upthread, they’re 20+ year ee wears leggings to work. No one is “hating” on young women.

              Are leggings pants in a LITERAL sense? Sure. It’s not about defining what leggings are. Leggings are NOT appropriate for work in most corporate settings. They are not appropriate “pants”. They are much closer to tights than trousers and should be treated as such – meaning layered under long tops/tunics/sweaters/cardigans or under a dress. Not worn on their own with a regular length top.

              No, a top doesn’t stop being a top because it’s form fitting. But a J-Lo esque top that’s cut down to the belly button is a *top*, but it is not a top that is appropriate for work. So think of leggings like belly flashing J-Lo wear.

              1. Natalie*

                There are at least a few people in this thread saying leggings are underwear and hating on young women for thus going outside in their underwear. I think most people don’t disagree with what you’re saying about work attire. It’s the broader “leggings as pants are always inappropriate regardless of where you are” that is being defended.

                1. Artemesia*

                  ‘hating’ oh puhleeze. There are things called leggings that are more like pants i.e. thicker and not as revealing as tights. Tights are underwear unless you are on a ballet stage. Thinking women shouldn’t be in public with their butt showing is not ‘hating’ on young women.

                2. Natalie*

                  I’m sorry it bothers you so much Artemesia, but it’s pretty typical for young women to scandalize their elders with their fashion choices. I’m not sure why today’s young women would be any different.

                3. Anon for this*

                  That comment on Artemesia’s age wasn’t necessary.

                  Besides, I’m 25, and I don’t really want to see anyone’s butt in that much detail at work. I assume nobody wants to see mine. Leggings are casual or gym clothes, they do not count as pants for work.

                4. Anna*

                  I wear leggings and I’m in my early 40s. I work with young people between 16 and 24 teaching them business norms and professionalism. Our mantra is leggings are not pants. With tunics, under skirts or dresses, that is fine (at our location, our satellite location says no leggings at all). I think the fashion for younger women is to wear them as pants and that is probably an evolution of skinny jeans, jeggings, what-have-you. But it’s not appropriate in an office setting and since we’re trying to teach them they need to aim high in dress until they learn the culture of their worksite, we can’t let them wear the leggings with their butts showing.

                5. Natalie*

                  @ Anon, I actually wasn’t intending to comment on her age specifically (I have no idea what her age is), but I can see how it could have read that way. For the very young women that are usually setting these fashion trends, anyone over 25 *is* their elder.

            2. Elly*

              I don’t think a lot of people realize how thick leggings can be. I mean footless tights are definitely not pants. But leggings aren’t just footless tights.

              That being said, I don’t think they’re appropriate in most businesses, the same way gym or beach wear isn’t.

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                It’s not that a lot of people don’t realize how thick leggings can be. It’s that people are aware that even thick leggings are pretty revealing.

                1. Sas*

                  But, that comment is rife with contention. “It’s that people are aware that even thick leggings are pretty revealing.” As if low cut tops and curve hugging tops aren’t. Or, dresses for that matter. What of that? And, those are worn at many work offices. Nope, I think that leggings could be appropriate in some situations.

                2. fposte*

                  @Sas–that’s why these are customs and not laws of nature. What body parts are okay to show/define, how much, and what it means if you break those rules are wildly variable across time and place (and also the rest of your clothing).

                  Whether you talk about it as leggings or not, whether you think it’s fair in an office where some cleavage is appropriate, “no butt and crotch-defining clothing” is a common enough office rule that it’s advantageous to be aware of it and to understand whether pushing it is going to be worth it to you.

        3. Lily in NYC*

          “You cannot go to work pantsless no matter wear you work”
          How dare you!
          CEO of Bare Butt Enterprises

        4. Marillenbaum*

          I would just like to give a shoutout to office yoga pants: they are cut to look like office slacks, but are made out of yoga pants fabric and have a stretchy waistband. They are part of my grad-student arsenal to look professional without having to iron or dry clean.

          1. Anonymousaurus Rex*

            I just bought two pairs of these and am waiting eagerly for their delivery. I’m concerned they won’t be a professional-looking as promised. Glad to hear you like them!

      3. SophieChotek*

        Yes this was my thought also. (Did I miss the part where the OP intended to turn it in, but forgot/got busy, etc.) But written so starkly with little other explanation was…odd, to say the least.

        1. Sas*

          The LW might not have put thought into how they were saying it. As in “Hey, I got asked to leave after I took a phone.” They did get asked to leave and they ‘took’ a phone.

        2. Pierre*

          It’s surprising that some people think that because it was lost there by someone and it’s unattended, it’s ok to take it.

          Spoiler: it’s not.

      4. Junior Dev*

        “In fact, you might also suggest for any future jobs that she look and mimic the casualness of dress by other coworkers.”

        Only possible issue I can see with this is if you’re in the gender minority in your workplace. I’m a woman in tech and my style tends pretty tomboyish, so it’s not hard for me to default to what the guys are wearing, but I’ve heard from women who prefer dresses and are confused by trying to match the formality level of an otherwise all-male workplace. (I’m trying to wear more dresses but I often feel out of place when I do.)

        If there are other people of your gender in your role it’s a bit easier, although you still have to account for differences in personal style, body shape etc.

      5. Tequila Mockingbird*

        “To be honest, this LW scares me – that there are people who really think taking something that isn’t theirs is acceptable.”

        Yes! A decade ago, when I was at Burning Man (I KNOW, I KNOW), I got into a conversation with some random hippie who bragged that he’d “found” a digital camera out on the playa the previous year, and kept it. I was horrified – Didn’t he seek out security and turn it in? (no) Didn’t he check the “lost items” forum on the Burning Man website? (no) Did he make ANY effort to track down the owner through the hundreds of photos on it? (no) He just stared at me blankly and said he didn’t know where the security booth was, didn’t know there was a lost&found website, etc… so he honestly thought that his ignorance made it perfectly OK to “keep” an expensive camera with hundreds of lost photos on it.

        When I think of all the expensive and sentimental things I’ve lost in my life, it makes me angry that there are jerks like this in the world. :(

    2. Coco*

      Yes, please let the intern know! I would be mortified if I were unknowingly looking unprofessional for any length of time, even after my first day. If you tell her now, she can at least show up for the last week/weeks in professional attire and improve her image at the organization.

      1. Artemesia*

        True this. But seriously a grown woman really thinks wearing tights with her butt exposed is acceptable dress in the workplace (or on the street for that matter)? She didn’t notice that no one else was wearing underwear as outerwear? Of course this should have been called to her attention the first time she dressed this way, but it might also be useful to point out to her that much can be learned about a workplace and its norms by looking and listening.

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          “underwear as outerwear”

          This is too harsh, in my opinion. You may or may not agree that it’s a flattering fashion, but you can’t deny that this is a current fashion especially among younger (e.g. college-aged) women. Also, if the intern is significantly younger than the rest of the people working there, she may have thought of differences between her dress and others as age-related rather than being a difference in professionalism.

          Yes, you can pick up a lot by observing others – but I don’t think it’s quite fair to expect interns to pick up everything by osmosis. This is why mentors exist.

          1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

            But it can be underwear as outerwear. It depends on how thin the leggings are. My eyes about fell out of my head on Monday when one of our employees wore “might as well be naked” leggings with a regular top.

            I’m not a prude or a stickler. Our dress code doesn’t address leggings (written before leggings were A Thing) and we pretty much never have dress code issues because common sense prevails.

            I love this young woman. She’s so good at her job and such a nice person, no one wants to say a thing to her. It’s a pattern but Monday was off the hook. She could not possibly have looked at her back in a mirror before she walked out the door. Add to it that the leggings were about the same color as her skin tone? omg it was a sight.

            It’ll probably get brought up in our management meeting next week and we’ll draw straws for who has to say something to her.

            Not. Fun.

            ! :-(

            1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

              The drawing straws part, I’ll probably come up short. :-(

              She’s on a small, elite team and her direct manager is 100% remote, having moved to the left coast a year ago. Her direct manager’s manager has pretty much zero responsibility for what the elite team does or interaction with the employee. I’m the manager’s manger’s manager, on paper, if there’s paper that big what the hell happened to our small company, but I interact with the elite team daily.

              I’m going to lose. :-(

              But how much would that suck if your boss’s boss’s boss pulled you in to tell you that you look naked? GAH.

              (We’ll figure it out. This is just stressing me out atm.)

              1. NW Mossy*

                “I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but your leggings are pretty sheer from the back and we can see a bit more than you’re probably intending to show us. That doesn’t work for our environment, so I wanted to give you a heads-up so that you can make adjustments.”

                If needed, you could throw in a “We really love having you here and the quality of your work is excellent” as a softener if she seems concerned that she’s at risk of something bad happening.

                1. Hermione*

                  I don’t think pointing out to her what you did or did not see is necessary here – it’s embarrassing and feels icky to think that someone was looking regardless of what I was wearing.

                  A simple “Hey Susie, I wanted to bring to your attention that we don’t consider leggings-worn-as-pants as appropriate for our office. From today on, they should only be worn with dresses as tights” will suffice without passing judgment on her fashion choices or making her feel like the whole office has been staring at her backside instead of working.

                2. Not So NewReader*

                  Agreeing with Hermione, here.

                  Either tell them right when they walk in the door or wait until a different day. Don’t let them go through part of the day and then say it’s a problem. Likewise, if you wait until a different day. keep the explanation simple, “We can’t wear leggings here.”

                  No need to say, “we all now know the style, pattern and size and manufacturer of your underwear now.”

                  TBH, some people do not care if others know the style, pattern and size and manufacturer of their underwear, they think they are stylish, modern, fitting in or whatever. If you want to be sure to make your point, your best bet is to just reference the dress code OR tell them to copy what they see most others doing.

                  I tried telling a friend softly that they needed a shirt that covered more body parts (boobs, belly, butt). I was too soft. A boss from a different department came through and told her she looked like a beached whale. (toxic boss)
                  When I found my friend she was crying. “You tried to tell me and I did not listen.” Aw, crap.

                  Moral of my story here, if you see it and say something AND the situation does NOT improve, say it again with a stronger set of words. Don’t wait until the toxic people decide to explain this, go right back in on the conversation.

                  If I had to do again, I would have said “Friend, this is just you and me talking. You know we work with some idiots. One of those idiots will say something to you about it and this will get bad, very fast.”

              2. Artemesia*

                I was the most senior manager in my department who was a woman so I got tasked with dealing with staff who dressed inappropriately — hated it and didn’t even always agree with the boss but had to do it. It is so entirely awkward a conversation to have.

              3. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*


                Yeah, that’s why we’ll have to talk it out in the management meeting. We don’t have a no leggings rule currently, and it would affect 100 employees (okay minus the men) if we make one.

                The only issue that I know of is with this particular employee. For all I know, five other people wear leggings without long tops occasionally and because I can’t see all of the all of the everything (everything!!) that I saw on Monday, I’ve never even noticed.

            2. Anonhippopotamus*

              Leggings have been a thing since the 80’s, but in the 80’s women had the decency to cover their asses with a long sweater, shorts or a skirt.

              1. TL -*

                Wasn’t there a trend in the 60s or 70s for jeans with clear plastic seats?

                And while leggings as pants may not be professional I don’t think that makes them inherently indecent. I wear yoga pants that are about as thick as most leggings with t-shirts casually, and I certainly don’t think it’s indecent.

                1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

                  How about hot pants? Which, I’m sure nobody wore into an office in 1975 but 14 year old me was basically naked running about in hot pants. They were skin tight and not a bit different from underwear and I shudder to think about all that was outlined.

                  I’m not all “these kids today!”, just keep the nearly naked out of the office pls kthxby.

                2. Emi.*

                  Well, in the sixties you had the advent of miniskirts, which lecherous men turned into an occasion to make a hobby out of “girl watching” at the office, which led to fashion magazines recommending that you bring a scarf to work and drape it over your knees when you sit down, and also brought us dress codes that said “You can wear miniskirts in the office but only if your undies match.”

                3. Artemesia*

                  okay — I lived as an adult through the 60s and 70s and I have NEVER seen clear plastic seated jeans. Not saying they don’t exist — just that it was never a trend. And hot pants were a thing in the press but people were not wearing them at work or school.

          2. Anonhippopotamus*

            Yes, we all recognize that not wearing pants is a current fashion among young women. It doesn’t change the fact that tights do not constitute pants.

              1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

                No, tights are opaque. Stockings are sheer. I wear opaque tights every day of my life. :-)

                (now how’s that for a semantics contribution to further the conversation??? My nerd girl is showing. Sorry. Work calls, I won’t be defining things further)

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  UK vs US thing? I believe that the thing we call “pantyhose” or “stockings” in the US is called “tights” in the UK.

                2. Emi.*

                  Huh—to me, the stockings/not-stockings distinction is entirely about shape: stockings are for one leg; tights and pantyhose are one piece for both legs, with a panty-part. Where opacity comes into it is in pantyhose versus tights.

                3. Venus Supreme*

                  I think Rusty Shackelford is right- I’ve spent significant time in both the UK and US and it was really confusing for me to try and find opaque “tights” in London! Everything was sheer. I personally use tights/stockings/pantyhose interchangeably, and call sheer pantyhose “sheers.”

                4. Anna*

                  Tights are usually opaque, but for me the difference is whether or not they have feet. And usually my leggings are still made from a slightly thicker material than my tights. I know when I put on tights under a dress and when I put on leggings. They don’t have the same texture or thickness.

                  No matter how you slice it, I don’t think leggings are underwear by any stretch of the imagination.

              2. Elly*

                Leggings are definitely not tights, but I don’t think opacity is the difference. For me the difference is leggings have an inner seam. Tights do not. Leggings are also made from a thicker fabric.

                1. Agile Phalanges*

                  Just to confuse things, in the horse world, there are breeches and there are [riding] tights. Breeches have belt loops and often a zipper, whereas riding tights are basically leggings with different seams–they have a waistband but often just fabric, no elastic, but no belt loops or zipper. If you’re lucky, you find ones with a pocket on the outer thigh for your cell phone. I strictly wear riding tights, because they’re cheaper, and I don’t need the structure or fanciness of real breeches since I don’t show. Riding tights come in all weights from super thin with breathable fabric for summer to thick and fleece-lined for winter–I wore my winter riding tights skiing as my only layer except undies, in 20-degree windy weather, and was fine, even sitting still on the chairlift.

                2. fposte*

                  @AgilePhalanges–I would say that sports tights in general are a whole ‘nother world that only serve to confuse things. But then I speak as somebody who sometimes rode in sweatpants (instructor’s suggestion, and they worked very nicely in the cold).

              3. M from NY*

                Part of the problem is way too many wear tights that they think are leggings. Just yesterday I saw someone on the street with what were clearly tights as I could describe her underwear due to the sheerness of the material. Its hard to describe because some tights are thick but there is a difference in the denseness of the material in what are suppossed to be leggings. When you see it its obvious but many get embarrassed and flip if you say something. I don’t envy OP. Leggings aren’t a problem when they are actually leggings.

              4. LBK*

                I always thought the concern with leggings-as-pants was more about how form-fitting they are than whether they’re sheer or opaque? Even if you can’t see through them, I’d think you would be getting a lot more information about someone’s body that you probably need in the office.

                1. fposte*

                  I think they’re both relevant. Basically it’s about the level of viewing–whether it’s because your butt and genitals are clearly visible through the non-opaque clothing or clearly defined by the clingy clothing, it’s likely to be a work problem, and that’s regardless of whether you’re wearing pants, tights, leggings, or chain mail.

          3. Bwmn*

            I have to say, this notion that anything is “obvious” in the sense of what leggings are or are not I do think is unfair.

            Over the past ten years with the combination of the popularity of leggings and “athleisure” wear – what counts as “leggings as underwear” vs tight pants just isn’t as clear. I have a pair of pants that were sold as leggings – but the fabric is utterly similar to other dress trousers and while fitted they’re pretty fairly different from a yoga pant fit. But, based on the store’s name – they’re a “legging”. As AAM has said many times, the point of student workers/interns is for the mentoring experience. And an attitude that something is obvious usually does more disservice to the interns by people not speaking up about problems.

        2. T3k*

          There was this girl about my age (post college) that I worked with at my last job and who was related to the owner. Let’s just say she better never end up in a position where she has to work outside the family business because she wore very questionable things (leggings as pants with a crop top being one such outfit).

          1. Woman of a Certain Age*

            There was a woman that I worked with several jobs ago. She was in her mid-60s. She was smart as a whip, knew her stuff and consistently turned out high quality work. Admittedly she had a good figure, but she’d come to work in the darnest things that also included leggings with a crop top, and another time leggings with a tube top. She also had a beehive hairdo. (This was in an insurance office.)

            I went out with her after work a couple of times and she was always certain that men were checking us out. (I don’t think they were.)

              1. Chelsea*

                You wouldn’t believe some of the outfits in this vein on women and (and sometimes their daughters) in my mom’s assisted living facility. Yikes! Plus caked on makeup.

                1. Shazbot*

                  And the sad part is, I’m betting a big part of why they look that way is that no one in their lives (not parents/guardians, not siblings, not friends, not bosses) ever told them it didn’t look good or wasn’t appropriate. *That* is what no guidance looks like.

            1. Jeanne*

              Oh, they were checking you out. Not for the right reasons though. It’s hard to look away from a train wreck.

            2. Koko*

              This is kind of amazing, TBH. I fantasize about the day that I am either old enough or senior enough to just do whatever TF I want with brazen confidence without anyone saying anything to me. I’d wear leggings to work as pants, refuse to answer my phone and tell everyone to email me, and tell long rambling stories about my cats in important meetings.

              1. J.F.*

                Someone once wore a sheer top to the place my spouse and I worked. His response was “AAAAAH!”. I think her boss ha a few words with her.

                (This was in 2003, so…. kids all these and those days, really.)

            3. the gold digger*

              The two key things I learned from Stacey and Clinton:

              1. Wear clothes that fit
              2. Wear clothes that are age appropriate

              Crop tops and tube tops are appropriate for teenage girls. They are never appropriate for anyone at work at an insurance office.

              1. Jadelyn*

                Yes to #1, a big huge NOPE to #2. I refuse to be pigeonholed by my age, which is really only a thing that happens with women, if you’ll notice, and likewise I refuse to participate in pressuring people to wear things they don’t like or don’t feel like they look good in (or not wear the things that they DO like and feel like they look good in) just because of their age. Crop tops and tube tops aren’t work-appropriate in an office setting, no – but that’s got nothing to do with age and everything to do with professionalism.

                1. Anna*

                  Yeah, “age appropriate” is another way to tell women how to behave. The way I dress literally harms nobody, so mind your own business.

                2. Emi.*

                  For a long time, “age-appropriate” included “Only middle-aged ladies get to wear this suit because only they have earned this kind of sophistication.” So it hasn’t always been the kind of middle-aged-lady-hating it so often becomes now.

                3. Vancouver Reader*

                  I think the gold digger’s point about age appropriate is not to pigeonhole people based on age, but as an adult, you probably don’t want to be wandering around too many places in a pink tutu and red runners, like, say a 5 year old might because it’s cute on a 5 year old.

                4. Emma*

                  It’s not only a thing that happens with women, and it’s entirely appropriate to tell people to wear clothes that match their supposed maturity. Sorry, but if you dress like a teenage hooker I am not going to take you at all seriously or think you have the least bit of gray matter in your damn head. Dress that way if you want, cry sexism all you like, but don’t expect anyone to appreciate it.

            4. Artemesia*

              they were probably ‘checking her out’ and taking cell phone shots in order to ridicule her on line. Yowza.

              1. Anna*

                And that has nothing to do with how the woman was dressed, it has to do with them being assholes.

                That said…tube tops with leggings are not really “insurance company appropriate.”

        3. Patrick*

          It’s perfectly acceptable where I work (25,000+ employee international company.) Our industry might be an outlier in terms of how liberal we are with dress codes but I think it illustrates that you shouldn’t assume this intern is trying to flout the rules by being willfully obtuse.

          1. Busytrap*

            Yup. This. I feel like half of these folks on this thread would be clutching their pearls if they saw how I was dressed today — opaque leggings (with little pockets on the bum like they’re “real” pants), t-shirt, Toms. T-shirt doesn’t cover my bum, but there’s no VPL. And I’m wearing this because, as a director and the company’s GC, I figure I should be dressed a bit sharper than my other coworkers. And I am definitely not in my 20’s or at an early stage in my career. :)

            1. LBK*

              This is so, so industry- and company-dependent, though. I wouldn’t clutch my pearls at that outfit out on the street, but I work for a very old and traditional finance firm. If you wore that outfit here you might as well have walked in naked. It sounds like the OP’s company is similarly more conservative with the dress code, so let’s not treat her or anyone else who’s side-eyeing leggings at work like they’re just being stuffy prudes.

              1. LBK*

                (Oh – and we actually do have a newer department here that’s kind of like a mini-tech startup within our organization. They’re the only people in the building whose dress code allows for jeans and it was definitely very jarring to see them walking around when they first opened up.)

              2. Nervous Accountant*

                This is one reason why I LOVE my company and where I work. Business casual dress code, and I’ve seen everything–leggings as pants, and more traditional BC wear. me personally? At one point I would never have worn leggings (not tights/pantyhose but actual opaque thick leggings) without a dress but I’m less conscious of it now, so….yeah. My bigger concern is trying to avoid showing too much clevage despite tank tops/camisoles but..uh..yeah

              3. Busytrap*

                Oh! I don’t disagree with that at all. I understand that there would have been serious side-eye at the conservative law firm I escaped from before I came here. And I myself would likely have clutched said pearls.

                So be clear, I’m not questioning the OP’s assertion that it’s not appropriate at her workplace. What I am rolling my eyes at is the insistence from some on this thread that opaque leggings/stretch pants/athleisure/riding pants are NEVER appropriate to be worn outside, let alone in a work setting. :) Apologies if that didn’t come across clearly!

          1. Lass*

            ^ This. The language has changed from when I was a teenager, when footless tights were leggings and what are today called leggings were known as “stretch pants”. Leggings are usually (but not always) thick enough that you can’t see one’s underwear color through them, though they do tend to be quite tight.

              1. Shazbot*

                Stirrups AND those little fold-up cuffs with patterns on them.

                When I see people wearing leggings *wrong* (fabric too thin, camel toe, just unflattering, etc.) I remind myself that in the late 80s I wore metallic turquoise leggings with a long shirt knotted on one side and a banana clip hairdo. There are all shades of wrong in the world, and I am not innocent.

                1. AnitaJ*

                  Yeah, I had purple plaid Keds that I’d wear with my fringed puffy denim jacket. That….that says it all, doesn’t it?

              2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

                I loved those! My grandma used to buy me these adorable patterned leggings that came with a coordinating shirt and I loved the stirrups.

          2. Anonhippopotamus*

            Yes they are different from tights, but they are not pants. So unless you would find it acceptable to wear tights/pantyhose/whatever you call them in your region without a skirt or dress, than you can’t do the same with leggings just because they are a little big thicker.

            1. Natalie*

              No one is suggesting that they are acceptable business attire, just explaining that it’s a far sight different from someone showing up with no bottoms on at all.

              1. Artemesia*

                I see tights worn as ‘leggings’ every day; I don’t think most people make much of a distinction when they decide to put their butt and crotch on display.

                1. Jadelyn*

                  Is there some reason you’re being really crude and demeaning about other people’s fashion choices? Fine, you feel like leggings are automatically the same thing as tights, could never possibly be considered pants, and are “underwear”. That’s your opinion. But there’s no call for comments about people “decid[ing] to put their butt and crotch on display”. That’s just rude and uncalled-for.

                2. Fortitude Jones*

                  @Jadelyn and not true given the various comments here that have said there are leggings out there that don’t show either of those things.

                3. Jessie*

                  Agree with Jadelyn. This just seems hostile. Because we are talking about fashion choices I really don’t get it. We’re not talking about saving the world. We’re talking about what we wear to go grocery shopping. Hostility is strange in this context.

                4. Emma*

                  But that’s the entire problem with some of these leggings, which many people seem to want to glide right over. Y’all are acting like no leggings are ever inappropriate, and willfully ignoring that most are. Artemesia’s pointing out very clearly exactly what the damn problem is.

              2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

                I sew and one of my favorite pattern company’s makes a legging pattern called “peglegs.”

                I’m laughing thinking about everyone in the groups reaction to this thread…we are definitely leggings as pants people :) And their outfits always look adorable….especially the patterned leggings.

        4. Xarcady*

          At the local mall, you can see women of all ages sporting leggings and a short top that does not even begin to cover their hips. It’s an acceptable fashion, at least for everyday wear. Not one I’d wear, admittedly.

          At work, most women who wear leggings wear them under a skirt or dress for more warmth in the winter. Or at least with a long, heavy sweater over them.

          It’s the “leggings” that are so sheer you can tell someone is wearing her Days-Of-The-Week underwear on the wrong day that really need the cover-up, and there are more of them out there than I care to witness.

          1. Pineapple Incident*

            Oof yes, this. It’s like in nursing- white scrub pants are only cool if I can’t see your spotted pink underwear through them. Too many people make this mistake- basically if you have to check the lighting to see if your underwear shows, wear something else.

            1. Emi.*

              I was warned about this before my first karate tournament–if you buy a lightweight gi, you better be wearing near-skin-colored undies.

            2. Maxwell Edison*

              LOL. This reminds me of when my sister learned the hard way that you shouldn’t wear polka-dot underwear under a light-colored skirt, especially if you’re going on a theme park rapids ride.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                {ponders why anyone would wear a light-colored skirt on a rapids ride, regardless of their underwear situation}

            3. Jadelyn*

              A bunch of girls at my high school used this to deliberate advantage when the band director (who was a gross old perv) was refusing to buy new shirts even though the girls were complaining that the ones we had were too sheer, especially under stage lighting for performances, and we were really uncomfortable in them. So we got together and for our next performance, everyone wore their brightest colored bras – neon pink, emerald green, leopard-print, just all kinds of colors. You could see them clear as day, it got the parents complaining, and since the band director couldn’t exactly regulate our underwear for performances, he ended up buying the new shirts.

        5. Liane*

          It reads like she might have learned this was okay at work from her other job. The OP says that mode is acceptable there…

          Incidentally the manufacturing company I did a temp gig at, had to explicitly ban leggings/tights with tops shorter than mid-thigh. Higher-ups explained that they were getting tired of having this conversation:
          Female floor employee: The guys are staring at me/talking about my looks! Make them stop!
          Manager: Uh, maybe it’s because your booty is showing?
          (I hope they were just trying to be funny in the Updated Handbook meeting)

          1. Violet Fox*

            So the solution to a woman being harassed is to tell the woman to do differently, and to dress with the male gaze in-mind instead of telling the men not to harass her? Sigh.

            1. Lass*

              Yes, you can require your employees to dress professionally but you can also require them to not harass each other or talk about each other’s looks.

              1. Observer*

                True. But when someone wears a sign that says “look at me”, it’s a lot harder to stop people from looking at you.

                No one was asking these women to put on a burka, or even stop wearing nicely fitting clothes, including pants. Just stop wearing clothes that say “Hey, look!”

                1. Lass*

                  There are women for whom anything less than a burqa would be a “Hey, look!” outfit. That is the problem. If a woman happens to have large breasts or a large butt or whatever, all regular clothes (yes, even properly sized and fitted clothes) are going to fit in a way that makes some people feel entitled to look or remark. “She was asking for it” comes to mind.

                2. Jadelyn*

                  The “sign” is in your, or whoever’s, mind. Unless she is literally wearing a shirt that says “look at me”, clothing is not an invitation. Period.

                  As someone who has been chided for a freaking LONG-SLEEVED TURTLENECK which someone thought looked “inappropriate” on me because I have very very large breasts (I never did figure out what I was supposed to do to make a long-sleeved turtleneck somehow more work-appropriate?), I absolutely refuse to stand by while someone ascribes a “look at me” message to someone’s clothing. *Your brain* (or whoever’s) is saying “look at her”, her clothes aren’t saying anything.

                3. Observer*

                  Please. Let’s get real – clothes ARE by an large intended to send a message. Playing coy or ignoring that is the way to get into trouble.

                  More to the point is that this idea that because SOME people read stuff into non-verbal clues that isn’t there, so we should never be allowed to read non-verbal messages is simply ridiculous. It’s ridiculous, because it can (and often does) lead to significant problems.

                  There is a difference between a turtleneck that doesn’t hide the fact that you have large breasts, no matter how inappropriate someone might think they are, and any item of clothing that leaves nothing to the imagination or even a shirt that actually shows your cleavage.

                4. Emi.*

                  Side note: on a large-breasted woman, lower necklines usually call less attention to the breasts, because the collarbone and the neckline itself provide something else to attract the eye. (I’m saying this because I wish I’d figured this out sooner, so if anyone is in past-me’s situation, there you go.)

                5. SimontheGreyWarden*

                  @Emi – I don’t know where you carry the weight in your chest but there’s no neckline beyond scoop-neck just at the collarbone on a loose shirt that looks even moderately appropriate on me, but the wording of “lower necklines” sounds like you mean lower than collarbone; maybe it’s because I’m also really short.

            2. Emma*

              Oh, come on. If you slap text across your breasts and someone reads it, you can’t complain that people stared at your tits. If you wear bottoms so sheer that everyone can see your underwear, you don’t get to complain that people notice the trainwreck. I’d bet my ass that plenty of women also were staring at these female employees, but the employees in question only complained because they noticed a man staring.

              I find it amazing how many people understand the idea that if you wear something noticeable it might get commented on or stared at (you wear a statement necklace, it’ll get noticed; you decide to paint half your face purple, you’ll get comments, etc.), until suddenly it’s a guy staring at something a woman wore across her butt or boobs.

              1. Emilia Bedelia*

                But at the same time, conversations about other people’s bodies are not appropriate for the workplace. If someone were wearing a loose fitting, calf length dress, it would be inappropriate for a man to comment on the woman’s figure. The fact that she is wearing something tight or whatever does not make it acceptable for someone to comment on her appearance at work. If a manager wants to tell someone that they are not dressed appropriately, that’s one thing, but other people making inappropriate comments is an entirely different problem.

              2. Koko*

                It’s usually pretty obvious whether someone is reading text on your shirt or ogling your breasts. The two behaviors do not really look the same. I don’t mind someone looking in the direction of my breasts because there’s something written on my shirt. I mind someone then using the fact that there’s text on my shirt as an excuse to continue staring because that’s rude.

                This concerns me not least because of how commonly service workers have to wear shirts with text on the chest. We do not all have free license to ogle service workers’ breasts just because it says “JIMMY JOHNS – FREAKY FAST” across the front of their shirt.

                And no, the solution isn’t that women should never wear shirts with text on them. It’s that men with a cretin’s level of social skills should learn some freakin’ manners.

          2. Kate*

            Agreed!!! Women who wear tops with text right over their chest and then complain because people are staring at their chests drive me crazy!!!

          1. Lass*

            Agree. If someone were wearing tight leather pants, I doubt anyone would call those underwear. Was Olivia Newton-John wearing long underwear at the end of “Grease”? Still maybe not professional for work, but definitely pants.

            1. MsCHX*

              I doubt you could see the outline of someone’s butt cheeks through leather pants – even if they are really tight.

                1. Lass*

                  There is literally a close-up of John Travolta staring at her ass in the movie when she’s in those pants.

                2. Koko*

                  I wonder if she’s meaning the crack part of the outline. But to that I would say, the type of leggings I consider to be pants give me a unibutt, the same way a sports bra gives a uniboob. They definitely don’t sink into the crack.

              1. fposte*

                I just did a google search on “leather pants from behind.” The results fit like butt condoms.

                Which takes me back to my earlier point, that just because something *is* pants doesn’t mean that it’s work appropriate either.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                I think she said they sewed them on her. Within the last year or so they did a show with her and the pants. She can’t fit in them any more. Gosh, they were tiny.

          2. Browneyedgirl*

            So much this!! I’m not a huge leggings person, but I recently bought a pair. Someone above compared modern leggings to stretch pants and that’s exactly what these are. They are definitely opaque and definitely pants. In fact, I’d argue that they show less than the current skinny jeans trend.

          3. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

            I don’t want to get caught up in the underwear semantics, but the issue with some leggings isn’t just “skin tight”, it’s sheer. Thin leggings can be sheer. It’s then semantics to say “if it’s sheer, is it underwear”, because that’ll depend on how you define underwear.

            A skin tight skirt is a skin tight skirt, not underwear. Skin tight pants are skin tight pants, not underwear. Sheer leggings vary from pantyhose not by much.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                I disagree. Leggings and trousers do not fit the same way. Even tight trousers are less form-fitting than leggings.

                1. Lass*

                  I’ve seen plenty of people in leggings where I haven’t seen any butt dimples. Like I said, it depends on the leggings. There are way too thin ones that you can see through and there are others that are sturdy enough to vacuum pack in cellulite in much the way tight jeans do.

                2. Rusty Shackelford*

                  @Lass, I was talking about trousers, not jeans. Skin-tight jeans are made of heavier fabric and are not as revealing as skin-tight leggings. And if you do manage to find skin-tight denim bottoms that can fit as closely and reveal as much of your personal contours as skin-tight leggings would, you probably should consider them denim leggings and wear them appropriately. :)

                3. Lass*

                  I just walked behind someone on the sidewalk wearing black and white pixie pants and I have to say, I’m seeing just as much of her “personal contours” as I’ve seen of women in thick leggings. But no one would say this woman isn’t wearing pants.

                4. lawsuited*

                  +1 All leggings I’ve seen show the wearer’s personal anatomy, whereas trousers, even if skin-tight, disguise the crotch with a fly or closure of some sort. And really, it’s seeing the outline of a co-worker’s genitals that makes me uncomfortable, not the outline of their leg or butt.

                5. Koko*

                  To echo others, I have denim-elastic skinny jeans that reveal more than my high-waisted ponte leggings.

                6. Lass*

                  @lawsuited Where are you finding those magical trousers? I have trousers that disguise my lower stomach with a closure, but they’re all pretty well seamed right up the business like leggings are.

                7. Lass*

                  @lawsuited This is TMI, but the way my body is built, I pretty much have to wear dress pants that have a saggy baggy crotch or else I’ve got camel toe. There are plenty of women out there who do not have my anatomical situation who can find dress pants and leggings that don’t give them camel toe. It’s about finding the right leggings. Are there people out there who don’t bother putting the effort into finding the right size/material of leggings? Certainly. Just as there are people who don’t bother putting the effort into finding the right size/material of dress pants. I’ve seen just as much camel toe with dress pants as I’ve seen with leggings. Not all dress pants magically hide that area.

            1. Blue Anne*

              There are many, many leggings which are not sheer. With the current trend towards sheer fabrics you’re just as likely to have that problem with a blouse. (I have had to pass up SO many otherwise nice blouses because of this.) If someone is going to work in sheer clothing when they shouldn’t, it’s because they haven’t checked the mirror before they left, not because of the type of clothing they’re wearing.

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  Yes, that’s a very good definition. There’s also the one Elly gave above, where tights never have an inner seam, and leggings do. (Or are there seamless leggings out there?)

                2. Lore*

                  Hmm. I have fleece lined tights and sweater tights though that wouldn’t run but definitely are not pants.

                3. AnotherAlison*

                  Actually, I did get a run in a pair of $5 leggings I got at Marshalls. It’s not unheard of. I wear them under dresses anyway, so NBD, but they’re definitely not sheer. Can’t even see normally VPL underwear under them.

                4. Lore*

                  @Emi., I think they’re Hue tights. They’re really thick knit.

                  The downside is they don’t have a lot of Lycra in them so they can get saggy around the waist/hips, but the knit part seems to last forever.

                5. KellyK*

                  Ooh, that’s a good test! It’s probably humanly possible to get a run in *any* knit fabric, but pretty unlikely for everything other than the nylon that tights/pantyhose/stockings are made of.

        6. Tacotime*

          There is a distinct difference between leggings and tights. I wear leggings all the time in my personal life with short tops and it looks fine. At work I wear them with bum covering shirts mostly to hide the lululemon label. The fact that one may see someone’s panty line and *gasp* see that they wear underwear is just too much to care about. Stop looking that closely at people’s bodies. It’s no different to me than the 21 year old girl in my office that wears skin tight skirts and tops but still looks professional. So you can see the outlines of someone’s body. So what! It’s not the same as a gratuitous amount of flesh showing.

        7. Non-Prophet*

          I agree 100% with those saying that leggings shouldn’t be worn in the workplace without something covering your tush. But I can see why the opinion that “leggings arent suitable standalone pants” might be confusing to someone new to the workforce. I know plenty of intelligent, observant young women who wear leggings on the weekends, with tops that stop at/above the hip. Not sure if they also wear these leggings to the office. Can I see anything I shouldn’t? No, provided the leggings are good quality and the right size. Honestly, the leggings these women wear look a lot like my yoga pants, which I wear out in public all the time (only when running errands straight after I’ve worked out. I don’t wear yoga pants as street clothes in other circumstances). I hope people at the grocery store, dry cleaners, bank, etc aren’t scandalized by my attire…but truthfully, I don’t really care if they are.

          I’m not saying either is acceptable in the workplace. They aren’t. But I can see where the confusion comes from…particularly if the office dress code is perceived as being casual.

    3. Sas*

      # 5, Totally disagree. The employee (ex-employee) could have found the phone and any number of things could have been the case. Whether or not they were for this situation, we ALL need to learn about people doing things, and not taking the harshest extreme of reactions. The person could have thought of taking the phone to a cell company or someone else that could find the owner, could have known the owner and recognized the phone, any number of other things. It was the end of the day? Could the person have meant to take the phone back to work the next day. This is ridiculous. Barf on this management style. Something begs me to think that this management style has turnover. For example, (time or wage theft.) Uhhhhhh Asked to leave on the spot with no explanation, Uhh, disgusting. Oh sure, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with paying a college graduate minimum wage to bust their hump?

      1. Cyrus*

        Sure, any number of things COULD have been the case, true. The story is very vague. But given the details we have (guy took phone he found… and that’s it), it looks like theft, and the company reacted as if that was the case. If he actually knew who the owner was and meant to turn it over to them, it probably wouldn’t have been theft, and the company shouldn’t have treated it like theft, but also the OP should have said so. Same for most other scenarios.

        Also, don’t read too much into this. The guy asked “can this happen?” presumably meaning “is this legal.” The answer is “yes, of course.” It’s definitely legal to fire someone in these circumstances, unless a contract or something is relevant. If it was all a big misunderstanding, then he shouldn’t have been fired, but the company is still within their rights. And, again, he didn’t say so.

        1. Artemesia*

          I’m thinking if he didn’t intend to steal the phone he would have written “I found a phone in the stairwell and didn’t know to whom it belonged and was planning to post a note about it on the employee bulletin board but they fired me for stealing it.” The OP says he ‘took the phone’ not that he wasn’t given a chance to turn it in or explain.

      2. Observer*

        “could have”. But based on what the LW wrote, there is no reason to believe that any of these scenarios actually happened.

        1. DellT398*

          I feel like there’s a debate about this every couple of months. Don’t y’all get tired arguing over this?

  5. Purple Dragon*

    #5 – Phone
    Is there some back story missing ? I can see if you picked it up on your way out and were going to turn it in when you arrived the next day and weren’t given a chance, or you tried to hand it in but there was no-one there at the time but did at the next opportunity or something like that considering being fired unfair.
    But if you just thought – Score! and pocketed it and never tried to turn it in then yep – that’s theft by finding and not only a fireable offence but a chargeable offence.

    1. Purple Dragon*

      Please excuse my mangling of the English language. It’s been a long day ! Hopefully my meaning is clear.

      1. Lexicat*

        Your English is entirely clear. I agree, unless OP5 left out significant backstory, I’m not getting their surprise over being fired.

    2. Rebecca*

      I was thinking the same thing. Free cell phones don’t just appear out of thin air, and the correct action would be to turn it in to security or a manager, or at least let someone/anyone know – hey, I found an iPhone in the stairwell. Someone was looking for that phone, guaranteed.

      I agree that being fired for not turning it in immediately if there was literally no one to turn it in to, as in, the OP was the last one out of the building that day, would be very unfair, but I suspect there is much more to this story.

      1. Temperance*

        I think LW would have spelled it out if she had been holding the phone until she found someone to turn it over to.

        1. INFJ*

          Good point. Someone who’s been treated unfairly will usually explain those kinds of circumstances. (And those who THINK they’ve been treated unfairly will give all kinds of wacko excuses of circumstances.)

      2. Wheezy Weasel*

        Not to mention a cell phone is one of the only lost objects that comes with a built-in way to communicate with the owner and finder, assuming it is charged and still in service. My wife and I found a flip phone last year and hung onto it for an hour until the owner called, then met up to return it. We also left a few messages for their contacts saying that it had been lost, which likely prompted the owner to call. But if it was going to be more than a few hours, I wouldn’t want to have it for fear of being accused of theft.

    3. Sam Stabeler*

      pretty much, though if you intended to turn it in- or to trace the original owner- I might not have fired them. (the first time, anyway)

    4. Joseph*

      “But if you just thought – Score! and pocketed it and never tried to turn it in then yep – that’s theft by finding and not only a fireable offence but a chargeable offence.”
      In fact, in most (all?) US states, if you find valuable property that was accidentally lost, you’re required to turn it into the authorities, who hold onto it for a set number of days before it’s legally yours.

      1. Captain Radish*

        I had to read that entry a couple times to verify I didn’t miss anything. Unless the OP left out some rather pertinent information, he or she is royally lacking in common sense.

      2. NoLongerMsCleo*

        So you are saying finder’s keepers isn’t a thing?
        Seriously though, I really hope there is more to this story and not just I found a cellphone and took it. It also wouldn’t (shouldn’t) matter if it was a company cell or a personal cell. Taking any property that isn’t yours is definitely fireable as well as unethical and illegal. I really hope it was something along the lines that have been mentioned before of holding onto it until he was able to turn it back in the following day or something like that.

        1. INFJ*

          Based on how many items I “lost” at my last job, there are plenty of people out there who think “finders keepers” is a thing.

    5. LQ*

      Yeah, I’ve picked up a few sad lost phones. Most of them I was able to at least get a message to the person, or answer the phone when they had someone call and then direct them where to pick it up. One took a while because I had to find a charger for it, charge it up and then wait for someone to call. If it was in my work building I’d turn it in to the front desk where there is a lost and found.

      I think there has to be more because I’d consider leaving a lost phone on the ground worse than picking it up and trying to return it.

      So yeah, I want to know more. Took as in took to take home and use and be yours? Or took as in took off the floor and to return to lost and found or owner?

      1. Newby*

        I have found lost phones twice. Once was in a building that had a security office so I turned it in there. The other one, I was able to call “Home” and tell them that I had found there phone and arrange to get it back (the phone was not locked). Both of times I did this immediately upon finding the phone. I don’t know why you would take it home unless you meant to keep it unless there were a weird set of circumstances.

        1. LQ*

          Honestly, most of the time I’ve found them it has been in winter. So taking them home is the couple blocks to get inside and warm my hands. I’ve always left it at the front desk of my building for people to pick up when needed. And I’ve never had someone be able to come get it in minutes, it’s usually been hours. There was one winter I think I found 4 or 5. It was a brutally cold winter so I think people were carrying them strangely and loosing them more. In buildings with security that is always the easiest thing to do. (Or even if it is close to a building with security.)

        2. LQ*

          Oh and if the phone is locked you have to just wait for someone to call, so taking it phone is perfectly reasonable for that.

        3. Marillenbaum*

          And you are a thoroughly decent person, Newby! I once left my phone at a restaurant because I am a space case. I was on the train home when I realized I didn’t have it, then had to jump off the train and run back to the restaurant. Fortunately for me, I went back and saw my waiter, who immediately says “I have your phone; it’s back in the kitchen” and returned it to me. Definitely made sure to find the shift manager and sing his praises to the heavens, because it was a new phone and my mother would have murdered me had I lost it.

        4. Aurion*

          Yeah, I feel like if the intention was to return the phone, you would be able to even if the circumstances were weird. I once returned a phone that a third-party security officer had found (so I wasn’t even the one to find it!). The intern who had lost it was supposed to pick it up from the security officer (who did not have an office; he was external patrol only), but she never showed up. I guess the security guy gave it to me because he thought I had a better chance of returning it than he did (I think hired security change sites a lot?).

          I’d never met the intern, but I recalled her email about the phone from a few days ago. I locked the phone in my locker, sent her an email (we were on different shifts, plus I had no idea where in the building she worked), and turned the phone into reception the next day. We were not allowed to have our phones with us on the job, so I didn’t pick up when she called, and I didn’t want to take it home.

          If OP#5 wanted to return the phone, she could. Even if she picked up a random phone off the street and the data was scrambled (I’ve seen it happen, it fell in the snow), the mobile company could identify the user by the SIM card I’m pretty sure. With no intention of returning what was a company phone on company premises…yeah, that’s pretty bad.

        5. Anja*

          The one time I found a phone I took it home. But it was walking home after a hockey game and I found it on the side of the road in the rain. Both sides of the road were residential so I’d have no idea where the person went, there was no business to drop it off at, and it was locked.

          I took it home and waited until someone called. It was the kid who lost it calling from his grandfather’s phone. Returned it to him. Hopefully the kid was a bit more conscientious about his stuff going forward.

    6. AnonAnalyst*

      I hope there is some backstory missing to number 5. If not, I too am confused as to why this is even a question for the OP. I think it is a pretty common employer policy that stealing on company premises is a fireable offense.

      1. NaoNao*

        I think the OP (although I can’t be sure, it’s just my speculation) is thinking “This pickup of a lost/abandoned phone is not related to my job, it’s not forbidden by the employee handbook, and isn’t company property, so why is the company taking this hard line about me picking up a lost/abandoned phone? Who cares?”
        That’s my guess.
        A lot of people seem to have what I would characterize as “odd” thought patterns that seem to deviate strongly from common sense. My ex for example would take decommissioned computers home from his job and give/sell them. His line of reasoning was “Hey, I work super long hours for no overtime, and they told me to “get rid” of these!”

    7. Turtle Candle*

      Yeah, I wondered if it was a “I picked it up meaning to turn it in, didn’t get a chance to do so right away because [the main office where I’d need to turn it in was closed, I had an important client meeting, whatever], and they fired me even though I’d only held onto it for a few hours and full intended to turn it in” thing. It’d still be legal to fire them, but I’d have sympathy there.

      If it’s just “free phone! *grab*” then significantly less so.

    8. EE Lady*

      Tangent about losing cell phones – my husband dropped his on the trail once. We called it from my phone and this guy picked up and wanted $50 in order to give it back. We talked him down to $20 and made the switch. I was so angry! It would have been even worse if he just didn’t answer and kept it!

      1. Candi*

        I read about a woman that happened to. He wanted $100. The woman agreed -then called the police as soon as she hung up. An undercover went with her and busted the guy.

        Apparently extorting money to return property is a very illegal thing.

  6. Coco*

    In my fairly casual office (think polo/button-up/blouse + jeans/slacks), I wear leggings under dresses. That is typically okay, yes? If I didn’t wear the leggings, I’d just have bare legs. So it’s not the presence of leggings, it’s the absence of loose clothing around the butt/thigh area, correct?

    1. Stellaaaaa*

      I wear leggings under skirts/dresses every day in the office. I prefer them to tights. OP is describing the Lindsay Lohan model of wearing leggings as pants with a normal-length top that stops at the waist and that’s it.

      1. seejay*

        Are yoga pants underwear? Cause leggings are the same material, fit and style as yoga pants for the most part.

        1. Emma*

          Eh, underwear may be the wrong term, but a lot of athletic wear is pretty close to underwear and not really publicly acceptable outside of certain appropriate areas. I don’t know very many people who go wandering around at work in just a swimsuit, after all.

          1. seejay*

            Might be where I live but a *lot* of people wear yoga pants around as just pants in general.

            I personally don’t but that’s cause I have a booty butt so if I wear leggings, I better have a shirt covering that ass, and yoga pants I wear only when I’m doing yoga. I actually wore mountain bike shorts when riding in a marathon because spandex weirded me out so much (I also have monster cycling calves).

            Either way, my point being that leggings / yoga pants are a far stretch as underwear, unless they’re actually *see through*. They’re pretty popular fashion-wise in some circles (of which I do not travel, leggings are great for going under bike shorts when it’s cold usually but that’s it for me), but offices no, unless you’re wearing a long shirt/sweater or a skirt.

          2. CDM*

            I spent 7 years at OldJob wandering around in a swimsuit and flip-flops about 30% of my time.

            Ironically, about two years before I left, we received an email telling us that jeans were no longer acceptable work wear, but clean workout clothing was. So most of the PT staff wore leggings, shorts or sweats. A formal written dress code was promised to follow, but never materialized. This announcement went to the FT and significant PT staff, about 50, but not the 250 casual PT staff.

            Then we had the Senior Director of Teapot Membership cornering and berating employees in other departments who were never informed of the unwritten dress code for wearing jeans (instead of leggings or sweats) to their part time hourly jobs. Good times.

        2. TootsNYC*

          I think leggings that are as thick as yoga pants are pants. Leggings that are thinner are not really “pants”; more like super-powered tights.

          But yoga pants are not acceptable for work, and neither are any style of leggings.

      2. Kelly L.*

        Nope, I can’t get behind the idea of leggings being inappropriate under a whole entire dress.

        Leggings are less revealing than tights, pantyhose, or bare legs, and it’s appropriate to wear tights, pantyhose, and/or bare legs under dresses in most work settings. It’s not the leg part of leggings that causes controversy.

        It’s kind of a casual look, so that might not be OK in some settings, but that’s different from it being not OK for being “underwear.”

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Exactly. I don’t totally agree with Artemesia that it’s underwear; I think it’s like half a step up from tights. But the idea is that it’s not work-appropriate to wear something skin-tight like leggings with nothing covering your butt. So leggings with a long tunic, a dress, or a skirt are fine; it’s when they’re worn like pants with a shorter top that it’s an issue.

        1. Allie*

          As someone who is at least firmly a millennial, not really. In college leggings were huge and common but there was always a joke about people who wore leggings as pants. It was considered on par with wearing sweatpants to class. Although I also lived in Chicago and wearing leggings as pants would also mean your legs were freezing. On cold days people wear leggings under other pants to stay warm.

          1. seejay*

            I think it’s also really regional. Where I live, we don’t get a real winter and young women (of a certain ethnic background, hint they like Uggs and drink lots of pumpkin spice when it comes out) wear leggings as pants regularly. It’s not uncommon at all for me to see lots of them year round as regular clothing.

            I’m an old fart and don’t bother with such fashion. Sneakers and jeans if I’m feeling fancy is the best I can do on a good day. If I’m really raring, I might wear crazy striped tights and shorts while I’m doing groceries on my bike (I have a reputation to uphold as the local crazy cat lady).

            1. JMegan*

              The “certain ethnic background” comment was uncalled for. You could have made the same point by leaving it out, and just saying “young women wear leggings as pants regularly.”

            2. Fluke Skywalker*

              Young women wear uggs and drink pumpkin spice?! What?! No one has ever pointed this out, ever!

              Good grief. We get it, you’re old and don’t like young people.

            3. Collie*

              I took seejay’s comment as more of a jab at the jokes made of white girls (which, as a white girl, I think are hilarious when made by women, but not men) rather than an actual jab at white girls.

              1. JMegan*

                I understood the context, and I don’t think “white girl” jokes are any more appropriate than jokes about people of other races. I’m not going to derail the thread by commenting any further, but I do think it was important enough to call out.

                1. Trig*

                  I agree, and add my personal observation that I see women of many races wearing leggings as pants in casual settings.

              2. missj928*

                As a white girl in her mid-20s, I am 100% not offended. The stereotypes have to come from somewhere, though salted caramel is much better ;) With that being said, leggings as pants are casual, run to the supermarket on a Saturday morning, not work appropriate.

          2. Honeybee*

            I’m also a millennial. Of course leggings are pants. I think we can agree that they are not appropriate for most workplaces, but they can be both pants and be not appropriate for workplaces (just like sweat pants are both pants and probably not appropriate for most work places).

            1. Pwyll*

              Yeah, I agree with this. Leggings aren’t appropriate pants for work in most workplaces, just as jeans aren’t appropriate work pants in some workplaces, but they’re still pants.

            2. Allie*

              It depends on the leggings, too. Some are pretty indistinguishable from semi-opaque tights, some are more substantial. Even at my casual dress office ( I regularly wear jeans) I wouldn’t wear them except under a dress, skirt, or very long top (like tights).

            3. Turtle Candle*

              That’s where I come down, too. They aren’t work-appropriate pants in many workplaces, the same way that sweat pants or short shorts or cutoffs aren’t, but they’re worn as pants (without long shirts) so commonly in both major cities that I’ve lived in so often that I’d have to either define them as ‘not underwear’ or say that it’s suddenly become acceptable to wear underwear to the mall or the park. It seems more sensible to me to say that they are not-underwear than to say that it’s suddenly okay to wear underwear in public (but only one specific type of underwear–people aren’t wearing just their bras or panties to the mall).

              It’s perfectly possible to say that they’re not work appropriate most of the time without having to evoke ‘underpants in public!’

          3. Marillenbaum*

            I routinely wore sweats to class in college because I had an 8 AM, which meant I was rolling out of bed at 7:50 and walking to class. Typically, if I’m wearing yoga pants out of the house, I’ve also got on a massive hoodie and am running errands in between Netflix binges.

        2. BRR, ,*

          Even for those who consider leggings pants, there are still pants that aren’t appropriate for the office such as jeans and sweatpants.

          1. Violet Fox*

            Strange. I wear jeans to the office almost every day, so to many of my coworkers and so does my boss.

          2. Blue Anne*

            Yes. I wear leggings with t-shirts sometimes and I don’t really care whether anyone thinks they’re pants (fine, I’m rejecting the pants-industrial complex) but I still would never wear them that way to the office.

            1. Epsilon Delta*

              Now I want someone to crow at me that “Leggings aren’t pants” so I can tell them I reject the pants-industrial complex.

          3. The IT Manager*

            Bad analogy because jeans are inappropriate some places because “too casual” and legging are inappropriate because the are thin and skin tight and too exposing (in the same way a clubbing micro/mini skirt is also inappropriate for the business place).

            1. Lovemyjob...truly!*

              I used to work in a call center for a major insurance company. Every single group of new hires that came on the floor included at least one person who would be asked to dress more professionally. One of my co-workers used to wonder if the job posting referred to the company as Club Major Medical. For the record, the call center had a very casual dress code where jeans, sneakers, and t-shirts (no logo or picture on them) would fly. The outfits were very eye raising. One woman wore a skirt so short it was impossible to sit in it without exposing her rear end. I was nearby when our manager asked her to go home to change. Her response was “But it’s black and goes with my top!”

          4. AnotherAlison*

            This is my thinking. Let’s call leggings inappropriate pants. To me, it’s not the pants vs. underwear debate with leggings. Who cares what you call it? It’s the amount of but cheek and crotch you are showing.

            I have a pair of Target pants from the business wear section that are also completely inappropriate for me to wear to work. They are a stretchy dark gray with a zipper, button, and pockets, but size 2 pants, size 4 butt. . .

            1. Lass*

              Well, yes, of course. But not all leggings are thin and see through. They also make them in different sizes. If you’re trying to cram an L butt into S leggings, of course they won’t look right. But if you have L leggings in a thicker, opaque material, i think they would be fine. Perhaps still not office appropriate, if your office doesn’t want them, but not inappropriate for other activities.

              1. AnotherAlison*

                Oh absolutely fine to wear for other activities. I have some super-thick thermal running leggings. You can’t see any parts, but they’re still too tight to wear to work without a long top. (Not that I would wear them to work, because they’re a little shiny and have a UA logo on them and we’re biz casual.)

          5. BRR*

            Sorry, that was not clear at all (didn’t have coffee yet). I didn’t mean to suggest that jeans are inappropriate. Let me take another shot. Dress codes vary and some dress codes are on the more formal side (shout out to my last employer who required a tie every day) and it’s not about whether or not leggings are pants but they don’t fall into some offices’ dress codes at all in a similar way that jeans or sweatpants wouldn’t fall into some offices’ dress codes. Also not saying jeans and sweatpants are on the same level.

            1. Emi.*

              Out of curiosity, did the women at your last employer wear ties, or just the men? If it was just for men, what was considered a tie-equivalent level of dress for women? I’m new to the working world and trying to figure out how to convert between men’s and women’s dress codes.

              1. Judy*

                Back in the early 90s (the last dress code I had that required ties for men), the women were expected to wear those tied bow things or scarves.

                Scarves were square in those days, and you’d fold them diagonally and wear them either over one shoulder or around the neck.

                1. Emi.*

                  I’ve worn square scarves around my neck (although I struggle with not looking like a girl guide), but how do you wear them over one shoulder?

                2. Artemesia*

                  I am glad the trend has been to long scarves — I never learned to tie a square one without looking like I am about to rob a bank or that I am on the way to a Pioneers meeting.

              2. anonderella*

                I’ve never seen women style’s wear ties and not make the tie itself a huge fashion statement, but maybe it is possible; I don’t think those who wear men’s styles are thinking of their tie as a bow on their chest, like women’s styles seem to me to do.

                Re: converting between mens’s and women’s dress codes: try to emulate – and I don’t mean this sarcastically/as a dig/whatever at all; I LOVE Ellen – Ellen Degeneres’ style. I just googled her name + style, and I like some of the looks, though my personal style ranges all over feminine and not-so-feminine. But I like how she wears a lot of vests; they look comfy, warm but airy, and her overall image is so sharp.

                1. Emi.*

                  Some women’s military uniforms have ties, and they look very normal and official. (Navy dress blues have this weird collar tab, though, which all the ROTC girls at my school hated because it made them look like airline stewardesses if they took their jackets off.) So I bet it would be easier to pull off non-fashion-statement ties if you work with military officers a lot.

              3. BRR*

                The tie part was just for men. I’m not exactly sure what the equivalent would be for women. Hopefully someone else can contribute there. I feel like men’s dress comes closer to having defined tiers than women’s dress. Jeans ok, polo, tie, jacket etc.

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  It used to be that pantyhose were the moral equivalent of a tie – uncomfortable and ubiquitous. ;-) But my workplace gave up on requiring hose long before they dropped the tie requirement.

                2. Judy*

                  I haven’t worked at a place with tie requirements for men since 1991. But it’s just at this current company, where I’ve been since 2013 that it was ok to wear skirts without hose. (In fact the previous company explicitly in the dress code allowed women to wear Bermuda shorts as long as they wore tights or hose.)

              4. Jaydee*

                The exact specifics will vary by office and field, but I would generally say:

                Men: suit and tie
                Women: suit (pantsuit or skirt suit including jacket and appropriate scarf or jewelry if desired)

                Men: shirt and tie (jacket optional)
                Women: skirt or dress pants with dress shirt, blouse, or sweater OR a fairly professional dress (shift dress, wrap dress, etc. – see Talbots or J. Crew or Ann Taylor/Loft for examples)

                Corporate is a pretty good blog to follow for business fashion guidance. A lot of posters there are in more conservative fields like law and finance, but generally the advice covers a broad range of geography, fields, and price points.

          6. lawsuited*

            +1 I wear leggings most days I’m not at work, so I’m obviously in the “leggings are clothes” camp, but I never wear leggings to work because they are not work clothes.

          7. missj928*

            I work in a non-profit legal office and I can wear jeans if I’m not in court. No one cares as long as they’re not ratty or tattered.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m fine with people considering leggings to be pants, as long as they’re not using them that way in a business environment. Outside of that context, they are free to do what they want (and I think the pants/not-pants debate is largely theoretical because that kind of thing is going to be dictated by fashion way more than anything else).

        4. MsCHX*

          “2016 younger women” don’t get to dictate what is appropriate work wear because they like wearing it.

          My college-aged daughter wears pants everyday. Like jeans, khakis, etc. Thankfully.

        5. Anna*

          Not every fashion trend from my teens and 20s was okay in the office just because it was fashionable for young women at the time. I don’t think that’s a valid argument for what is happening. It’s more like if I showed up at my first job in a denim skirt and leggings underneath when I was 14 and was told that’s not work appropriate. Because it probably wasn’t. But it was fashionable and appropriate for school. Someone needed to let me know, because I was a learning human being figuring out how to be in a new setting.

        6. sam*

          Leggings by themselves are pants the way sweats or t-shirt pants are pants. Meaning that they’re casual/weekend/knock-around clothing.

          If your office has no dress code and people walk around in jeans and sweats, then you have very little grounds to chide someone for wearing leggings as “pants” (unless you can see through them – and yes, there are many leggings that people think are opaque that are..not. See the great lululemon see-thru yoga pant scandal of 2015)

          But at the same time, if your office has a dress code that is business casual or above, leggings, by themselves, are not appropriate. Just like sweatpants or jeans would not be appropriate. (As a thicker substitute for tights, they should be fine)

          And if you’d like to be really passive aggressive about letting people know that they shouldn’t wear leggings, you can always anonymously send them a link to this site:

      1. Newby*

        I always thought wearing leggings as pants was on par with mini skirts. They are clothing but not work appropriate and not something everyone would be comfortable wearing.

    3. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

      Leggings themselves aren’t shocking or problematic to me. Back in my day, I was a stirups pants gal (late 80’s), best trend ever, and I don’t see a difference other than stirups pants were more uniformly made of a thicker material and leggings material thickness is variable. Long tops + stirups pants, the best.

      As long as the butt and upper thighs are well covered, I think the leggings style ranges from adorable to at least neutral . If I ever lose my extra 30, I might join you guys.

      And put my hair in a beehive!

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Stirrup pants were not a single thing, though. In 4-6th grades, I had stirrup pants that were more like tight sweatpants with stirrups, and in 7th-8th grade, I went through a dressy phase where I had what would be described as business casual stirrup pants. . .they had zippers, buttons, and pockets, but were some sort of thick rayon stretch blend material. One was a JCPenney’s girls’ section item, the other was a Lerner’s NY item. You wore long tops with both types.

        1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

          I really really have to bug out and focus on work (it’s busy season!!) but can I just say that my stirrup pants were Lerner’s!! I LOVED THEM. They had a little bit of spandex in them but weren’t form fitting per se. Omg I wore them into the ground and well well well well past the time that stirrup pants were in. The fabric held up but the black eventually turned to deep brown from having been washed 1 zillion times.

          I want these pants again.

        2. Lass*

          I wore tops that ended at the tops of my hips with stirrup pants/stretch pants. I wore long tops or dresses/skirts with what we called leggings (footless tights).

    4. J.F.*

      I do the same, and I teach college students at one of the most conservative places in the country. Knee length skirt and leggings instead of tights, when it’s cold.

      1. Paige*

        Ha! Thanks for that. (It’s kind of hard reading some of the above elaborate “could have been this or that” scenarios, when really the OP was simply asking could he/she be fired for taking a cell phone that wasn’t his/hers. Period.)

    1. Aim Away from Face*

      If I found someone’s cell phone, I’d bust my butt to get it back to them because I know they’d probably be FREAKING OUT. To just go, “Hmm, free cell phone, cool!” is not something that would cross my mind.

      1. Lunchy*

        Seriously! I found an iPhone while walking into a grocery store, and I B-lined it for the customer service desk. In other situations I’ve texted “Mom” to say where I found it and where I turned it in. But pocket it? Never! (Besides, who knows where it’s been?)

        1. Koko*

          Yep, I’ve returned a few found smartphones over the past few years. One I found on the train so I opened their texts and sent a message to the person they had most recently been chatting with earlier that day, figuring that was probably a close friend (turned out to be her roommate). One I found in a burger joint bathroom, I was able to see their email address so I gave it to the staff at the counter but also emailed the phone’s owner to let them know where it was. People definitely don’t just give up and write it off as a loss when they lose their phone…they are looking for it and want it back!

          1. LQ*

            The hardest return I’ve ever made was to someone who didn’t speak english and the phone wasn’t set up in english. But I was able to get enough to direct them to my building. It was a phone with a fluffy pink case and the teenage girl gave me a big hug when I returned it, her dad looked super unhappy about it though. I like returning phones to their owners, people are always so grateful.

          2. SophieChotek*

            I agree. I also have returned phones, tried texting/calling last person, if I am nearby, returned to the police or even the phone-manufacture/service-provider. (Like if I find it in the middle of the street.)

            1. LCL*

              Me too. My first action is to try to notify the owner myself. I caused all kinds of grief when I returned a new flip phone to a teenage girl’s father. I had found the phone in a park, and father wanted to know who I was, how I got it, why the phone was in a park, etc.
              I have picked up a smart phone from a company facility and brought it back to our office-a call came in and I answered which clarified the phone belonged to someone in our work group and I explained why I was answering etc. I’m glad I didn’t get fired.
              I have also returned a found smart phone to the provider because I couldn’t crack it.

              1. Lore*

                I saw a guy drop his brand-new phone (it was a new iPhone model that had been on sale for like 3 days at that point) going into the subway once–tried calling after him but by the time I’d gotten my Metrocard out and swiped, I didn’t see which platform he went onto. The phone was locked and only about 15% charged, and I didn’t have the right charger. I was planning to take it in to Verizon, but then his wife called while I was on an aboveground part of the subway. I don’t know if I’ve ever spoken so quickly in my life–trying to explain who I was, why I had her husband’s phone, and that I needed her number pronto so I could call her back, all before we went back underground! (It all worked out–the battery died an hour later but by then they had my number. The man turned out to work in the building across the street from my office and he came by and picked it up Monday morning.) I later did some research and discovered that there are certain “tricks” you can play on Siri with a locked phone to get at the emergency or “home” number. Good to know if it ever happens again!

        2. AnonAnalyst*

          Yeah, I don’t understand this at all. I used to live in a city where restaurants would set up tables out on the sidewalk so people could have outside dining, and I saw an iPhone on an empty table when I was walking by one. I stopped, picked it up, and went in to find someone who worked there so I could leave it with them in case the customer came back looking for it. They actually thought it was really weird I brought it in, which was sort of discouraging, but I tried…

      2. lawsuited*

        Also, I think you have to be somewhat stolen-tech-savvy to know how a stolen phone could even be useful to you.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          But you don’t have to be very savvy to take it to a pawn shop or sell/give it to an equally dishonest but more tech savvy associate.

        2. Dana*

          Nah, there are lots of services that will unlock phones from their providers for you. Then just pop out the sim and do a hard reset.

          1. AnonAnalyst*

            But if the phone is reported stolen the IMEI will be blacklisted by the carrier, meaning you can’t activate it with that provider and others in their network. You can usually find another carrier where it won’t be blacklisted, but it’s not as easy as just buying someone’s unlocked used phone.

      3. cataloger*

        I left my phone in a taxi in an unfamiliar city earlier this year, so I’m very sensitive to the panic of having lost your phone!

        I work in a library, and recently somebody brought in a phone they’d found in the restroom. It was unlocked so I scrolled through the contacts to look for “Mom” or similar, and spotted my name! I called myself from that phone to see who showed up on caller ID, and found that it belonged to a co-worker in the library.

        1. Anna*

          In addition, the person who dropped the phone might have had their neck on the line for losing company property. So not only did OP5 take company property, they potentially put someone else at risk.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            This is a really good comment for the OP. This employee lost company property. Maybe she got written up or maybe they were on the verge of firing HER because this is the x time she has lost company property.

            When you find valuables, OP, it is wise to get another person involved ASAP. That could be security, police, management or anyone in a position of trust. And you see the reason right here with what happened to you.

            Maybe you did not realize it was company property. That is not really a good thing to say out loud. Because the more important point is that it IS a thing of value and you were not looking for the rightful owner.

            Think of it this way, if someone found your phone/wallet/car keys wouldn’t you hope that they would try to find you?

            1. catsAreCool*

              That’s what bugs me about this. I lost my flip phone once, called the number, and thank goodness someone answered – it had been turned into the lost and found. A smart phone would be more upsetting to lose.

  7. Stellaaaaa*

    OP1: Was any dress code discussed at all in the beginning of the internship? Unless they’re told otherwise, interns are going to dress for their internships the same way they’d dress for class. Besides, part of an internship is getting a handle on office culture. In my opinion, a non-judgmental conversation about dress codes and the concept of company culture should be part of the scope of this and future internships anyway.

    OP5: I think OP is thinking that since she didn’t steal a company phone (ie it was a personal cell phone that someone else dropped), the company has no standing to issue a punishment. But ummmmmmm it was still a theft of a coworker’s property that occurred on company premises so yep. I don’t see this as being too different from stealing a personal cell phone off of someone’s desk. You have no leg to stand on if you’re not decent or mature enough to return the phone to its owner or give it to your boss to deal with.

    1. Pineapple Incident*

      At my last internship, we had a page in the employee handbook we had to read that actually described what was meant by “business casual”- this office was toward the more casual end, but still would never have been cool with leggings as pants. They were okay with dresses sans tights/pantyhose leggings under dresses/long tops, banned flip flops (but other open-toe shoes okay) and jeans.

        1. fake coffee snob*

          right? I think explicit dress codes are awesomely helpful, especially when it’s an early job/internship. Takes the anxiety out of figuring out what is and isn’t appropriate.

          Then again, my current job is using explicit dress codes (with demonstration videos!) to try to get everyone to dress more casually, but since management still mostly dresses traditionally, there’s an unwritten expectation that everyone else should too. It’s been several years and jeans are still “encouraged”-but-stigmatized. Sigh…

        2. KellyK*

          Totally agree. People use “business casual” to mean anything from “dark-colored jeans, shoes that aren’t sneakers, and a polo shirt” to “khakis or dress slacks with a blouse or dress shirt, but men don’t have to wear ties or jackets.” Actually defining what you want to see is really helpful.

      1. KR*

        I’ve ended up having to do this for my new employees. So I printed out an article covering what business casual is typically with picture examples and then printed out our dress code with a “what does this mean for X department ” I wrote underneath since our expectations are a little different for inclement weather or projects that require a lot of walking/carrying/crawling/ect and some employees really need this spelled out for them

    2. Emilia Bedelia*

      This thread has just reminded me that in my college on-campus job that I went to after class, I literally never once considered that perhaps I shouldn’t wear leggings (I may have worn sweatpants once or twice, now that I think about it…). It wouldn’t have been an issue even if I had asked my boss about it, but I really just…never thought about it.
      I think leggings are almost as ubiquitous as jeans now, and are worn in basically the same settings. If jeans are acceptable, I can see why the intern would think that leggings are also fine. It’s really not a big deal to tell her that they aren’t appropriate, and I don’t think it’s too late.

      1. Jess*

        I once had a workstudy student who always always wore dress pants and a button down to the office. I just thought he was an oddly formal kid until once I ran into him on campus wearing jeans and a tshirt and almost didn’t recognize him. That’s when I realized that he went back to his dorm and changed into office clothes before coming to work, whereas all the other students I supervised just came in their casual going-to-lecture clothes.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      “The company has no standing….”

      This is also another good point. Companies are not democracies, nor are they courts of law.

      I think sometimes people are surprised by this. A boss can issue a decision and the situation is over. You can’t vote on it, and you can’t always appeal it. There are some accusations that are deal breakers from a company’s perspective, stealing is one of them.

  8. A. Non*

    OP1: Some cultures consider super-tight clothing to be acceptable – for them, modesty is about covering skin rather than concealing shape. In mainstream Western culture, showing skin (like shoulders, collar bones, knees, etc) is okay but clothing has to be reasonably loose over the torso and butt. It’s possible that the intern is modestly dressed for their background and hasn’t yet picked up that your workplace is different. That doesn’t change that you’d be doing her a favor to point it out. Just that she may have good reasons to think leggings are okay and may be surprised to hear otherwise.

      1. Jeanne*

        That seems like a pretty big assumption. As in anything, US born or not, some enter the workforce already having been taught about work behavior and professional dress and others don’t. I think when you hire interns you agree to teach them some of the basics.

      2. Annette*

        She’s aware of college campus norms, which are often extremely casual. I work on a campus and athletic leggings with tank tops are everyday wear.

        1. Emi.*

          Casual *and* flexible–when I was in school, I went to class in jeans. On one side of me was a girl in a tailored jacket, and on the other side was a girl in a hoodie and running shorts. No one cared.

      1. BarManager*

        Seriously, we get that you have some major personal issue with what others choose wear, but I hope you realize that your vehemence in this regard comes across as rather bizarre and out of step. Your tone implies that “this is so obvious, everyone knows this!” when in reality, you mostly just come across as sexist or very intent on policing women and what they choose to wear.

        1. PK*

          It surprises me that folks think leggings are business appropriate. It has nothing to do with policing wear and everything to do with business norms.

          1. Koko*

            I don’t think anyone in the comments section that I’ve seen has suggested they are business appropriate. People are saying they aren’t underwear. Lots of things that aren’t underwear aren’t business appropriate. Sweatpants, yoga pants, leather pants…none of them are business appropriate but they are pants, not underwear, and so are the type of leggings commonly worn without anything else covering the butt.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I actually haven’t seen anyone here arguing that leggings are business-appropriate without a skirt, dress, etc. over them. The debate has gotten sidetracked by the question of what’s appropriate outside of work, which is where you’re seeing them defended.

          3. Natalie*

            No one has actually made the argument that they are business appropriate. But there is a vast middle ground between “leggings are business appropriate” and “wearing leggings as pants is the same as being naked and everyone automagically knows better”.

          4. Morning Glory*

            “Leggings can never be worn as pants, EVER. Not in an office, not at school, not on the street, not at the gym, not at home if people will see you.” – Anonhippopotamus

            Anonhippopotamus was not just talking about leggings as pants in the office. Most every commenter here from what I have read agree that leggings as pants are not office-appropriate, but the above quote certainly is policing what women can wear. And yes, I do wear leggings to fitness classes sometimes.

    1. Jane D'oh!*

      Work environment can be an issue, too. I’m worked in fields in which tighter-that-usual business attire is okay, because loose clothing can be a safety hazard. Of course, these types of environments usually make that distinction clear via other methods, like prohibiting jewelry and loose hair as well.

    2. Chaordic one*

      This is true. I’ve run into young women with very conservative religious backgrounds wearing extremely short miniskirts, but it was O.K. because they were also wearing tights and their elders approved.

  9. abankyteller*

    3. I’ve run into this several times, but lucky they’ve all been customer-facing roles. I just highlight how customers liked me, and the references from those jobs say the same. Presumably the patients like you, so you’ll have that to talk about.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Great idea. OP, think about what the patients complimented you on. Bonus points if you had several people give you the same compliment. Be sure to use those compliments.

  10. NextStop*

    3 – What if there is no difference between how you did a job and how someone mediocre would have done it?

    1. Jeanne*

      Part of what you do in a job interview is make yourself sound good. Not lying but being enthusiastic and positive about what you do. They want to hear that you are interested in doing your job well, even if it wasn’t exciting.

      1. JMegan*

        I do this too. One of the ways I sell myself in cover letters and interviews is by saying how much I genuinely enjoy my job – it’s pretty esoteric and administrative, and a lot of people only understand enough about it to know that they would hate having to do it. So being able to say “I really like what I do, and because of that I’m good at getting people to work with me,” can go a long way.

    2. hbc*

      How about how someone worse than mediocre would do it? Never had a complaint lodged by a patient, perfect safety record regarding X and Y, picked up the job during the standard training and never required remedial work?

      It’s obviously better if it’s “got through the standard training in half the time” or some other version of excelling, but by mentioning how you simply met expectations, you’ll be reminding them of all the people who don’t.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Some of that is such a low bar though that you wouldn’t want to use it because it sort of highlights the mediocrity.

        If you were truly mediocre (meaning not very good, not just average), you might need to stick to focusing on duties/responsibilities (which frankly most people do anyway, which is why so many people have blah resumes) and try to overcome that via a great cover letter, interview skills, etc.

        1. Emi.*

          Doesn’t “perfect safety record” count as an achievement? Or only in high-risk jobs where it’s sort of accepted that things will hit the fan every so often?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Perfect safety record is good. It’s the other pieces there that are a low bar (picked up the job during the standard training, never required remedial work).

    3. Frustrated Social Worker*

      Yes this!!! I think people not in social services or direct care do not get how often there is no difference. Management shoots down any suggestions to innovate and improve and most of the time other providers are involved and can get in the way. I wish I had something helpful to add but some of the advice for a typical office job is just not applicable

      1. Tobias Funke*

        Yup! I always struggle with how to incorporate this. I don’t think “most of my clients didn’t violate probation while we were working together” is a great example because (a) some DO; and (b) I am uncomfortable being held solely responsible for outcomes of people’s actual literal lives.

    4. KellyK*

      Then you may be mediocre at your job (or your job is easy and there’s not much room to be awesome—that happens too). Either way, you might want to look at what you *can* do differently so that when you’re job hunting, you have accomplishments to brag about. In some jobs, there might not be anything, but it’s always worth considering.

    5. Lab Monkey*

      This is where I am. I do something like direct care and there’s just not much wiggle room to excel or be useless as far as quantifiable things go. Do I go out of my way to help my coworkers, volunteer to do things when it’s slow, and try to always offer a pleasant and easy time to our patients? Of course, but that’s standard – and except the last bit, it’s nothing I can really use to differentiate myself anyway. This job is terrible for so many reasons, and the part where it’s a sinkhole to escape is only one.

  11. memoryisram*

    #5: I feel like there has to be more to this, because of course you would be fired for theft….right?

    1. Xarcady*

      There is a small sub-set of the US population who still live by the “finders’ keepers” rule, even as adults.

      Friend of mine discovered this when her toddler spilled the contents of her handbag all over the place while she was shopping at a large discount store. A woman walking by picked up her wallet, which had slid a fair distance down the aisle, declared, “Finder’s keepers,” and started to walk away. Friend had to get store security involved to get the wallet back. (I wish I was was making this up. )

      So, yeah, I can believe that someone would spot an expensive tech item in a stairway and figure they could keep it. Not many people, but a few.

      1. Allison*


        I mean, I know some adults have that mentality, but to be so brazen about it to the person they were taking it from? That’s new to me. Wow.

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          Especially since it wasn’t even lost. She knew where it was – on the floor where it had been dropped. Does this person just pick up anything that somebody doesn’t actually have on their person and walk away with it?

          Is this like George Costanza thinking that umbrellas are free in coffeeshops?

          1. Allison*

            Maybe some people really figure it’s only “yours” when it’s physically in your possession, but when it gets away from you it’s literally fair game, regardless of how valuable it is.

            1. LQ*

              I’m very sure that these people if they dropped their wallets would flip ALL THE WAY OUT on someone else who picked their wallet up and said “finders keepers”. They know what is going on here. This isn’t a genuine belief and they aren’t shrugging their shoulders when someone steals their stuff because the thief came into their home and happened to find it just lying there on the coffee table.

              1. Emma*

                Exactly. They’re either hoping you’re dumb enough to somehow believe it’s a legit reason, or that you’re so shocked by their sheer brazenness that they get away with it. Though I do have to say, I’ve met at least one person who believes that if he declares something is now his, that’s all it takes to make it his.

                Of course, said person is my 5yo nephew, not a grown-ass woman.

                1. Elaine*

                  A neighbor kid grabbed my daughter’s ball and told her she had to share. They were 6 and 4 at the time. His mom set him straight pretty quickly, but apparently some people never learn that lesson.

      2. CMart*

        My husband’s brother subscribes to the “Finders’ Keepers” philosophy, or at the very least rationalizes his thievery when caught by invoking it. He lived with us for a while and a lot of our possessions ended up in his possession and any time we caught him the response was always along the lines of “I didn’t know I couldn’t take it” or “it was next to my stuff so I assumed it was mine” or “I thought it was up for grabs.”

        I’m still not sure if he really, truly doesn’t think he’s stealing when he takes things that aren’t his or if he just tries to play dumb to avoid getting in trouble.

        1. Newby*

          That logic only works if it is something like a bag of chips. I can’t believe someone would actually believe that they could take someone else’s possessions in their own home!

          1. Simms*

            The man my grandmother married was like that. He ransacked our basement while she was over helping my mom after she had my sister. Just dumped boxes out on the floor so he could rifle though the contents and we didn’t find out until after the basement had flooded. He always had a bad excuse ready as to why he felt he could do that too.

          2. Emma*

            Doesn’t even work for a bag of chips, imo. That’s the exact same logic my brother uses to steal my food – oh, it was right here, I didn’t realize it was yours (lies), I thought it was up for grabs. And sure, he does it for non-food stuff, too – especially things like money. There’s a reason I don’t let him in my house anymore.

        2. SJ*

          That’s insane! I’m picturing this dude, like, sticking your tea kettle inside his coat and then acting shocked when you tell him it’s not his to keep just because it happened to be in his vicinity.

          1. CMart*

            Honestly it really wasn’t dissimilar to that! My favorite was when he gave his girlfriend the TV stand in the bedroom he was staying in because it was “in ‘his’ room” and therefore he “thought it was his”.

              1. Emma*

                Complete, utter selfishness. I want, so it’s mine. The people I know like this, mostly my brother, aren’t kleptomaniacs – they don’t have to steal stuff. My brother, for example, goes to many places where he doesn’t take a damn thing, because he knows good and well he’d get in serious trouble for it.

                On the other hand, if he thinks he can get away with it or thinks you will be a good target for his excuses, watch your stuff. He steals shit from his friends all the time – but only certain friends, the ones most likely to forgive him “just this once.” He steals from our mother because he knows she’ll always just give him a talking-to and never actually put up any boundaries. He won’t steal from our grandpa because Grandpa damn well would call the cops on him, and he knows it.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                Shock value. People get shocked speechless.

                I loaned a tool of my late father’s to a family member. A year or two later, I asked for it back.

                I was told NO.

                I thought she was joking and would get it in a minute.

                She never dug it out. She still has it. It’s been 22 years.

                I never in a thousand years expected her to say no. I fully thought she would dig it out from where ever in a short bit.

                I don’t loan her tools any more. The tool itself is probably 25-30 dollars. It’s not the cost of the tool I was concerned about here. In the end, I decided that it was good that it happened with just that tool because I knew where things were at.

        3. KellyK*

          Unless you live on Krynn and he’s an actual kender, or he grew up in a commune that had no concept of personal property, he probably knows better.

          1. CMart*

            Yeah, I uncharitably/realistically operated under the assumption that he thought we were stupid and could get away with playing innocent.

        4. Paige*

          When we were in our 20s, my sister came to live in my apartment for a few months. She took one of my favorite bras. Just took it. I flat-out told her I wanted it back. She said, “It doesn’t look like you.” (Obviously, it was me/my taste — it literally was a bra I picked out and bought and wore.) She didn’t apologize. She never asked if she could have it. She just kept it. People are bizarre.

          1. Emma*

            My brother is the kind of thief who always has an excuse ready, but I had one teacher who wouldn’t even have an excuse, she’d just take stuff. You had a nice pen out? She’d casually wander by, pick it up, and pocket it, and if you asked for it back you’d get either a blank look or told off. If you ever let her borrow something, you’d never get it back, and she happily used school rules about teachers being allowed to confiscate things to her advantage. The only way to get shit back was to get the administrators involved, and even then you’d have to describe it in great detail, hope she could “find” it, and hope that it wasn’t something she could even remotely have claimed to have purchased herself.

            My best friend thinks I’m weirdly obsessive about putting my name on things, but between my brother, my father, and this teacher, I have good reason.

      3. cataloger*

        Her WALLET? Like not something generic and easily replaceable like a pen or a candy bar? Not that those are okay to just take, especially if you see their owner nearby, but wow. WOW!

      4. Turtle Candle*


        I can imagine someone finding a wallet in a store and quietly pocketing it–it would be wrong, but it’s easy enough to imagine. But actually announcing it to the owner of the item, to their face? Yikes.

    2. Kara*

      You’d think so. Except I (as the employer) once lost a Wrongful Termination suit when we fired an employee for stealing equipment from the warehouse. He claimed he was only “borrowing” the equipment and would have brought it back. But because we had no specific policy (at that time) that company property could not be borrowed by employees, we lost. He had no permission to “borrow” said equipment, had never asked to “borrow” said equipment, and was caught on tape loading directly into the trunk of his car. Yet, we lost, and had to pay him a settlement.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Seriously—at best this was conversion, at worst, threat. You don’t have to have a policy saying people can’t borrow company property in order to lawfully fire someone. It sounds like you were stuck with a really bad attorney :(

        (or did you settle before getting to trial? It was hard for me to understand from the description)

  12. Billy*

    For OP#3, most people list their job duties, with evidence they were performed well — for example “Tended to an average of X patients per shift while receiving fewer than average complaints [or none, or least complaints of my shift]”. Mention any awards or positive performance evaluations. If you received any thank-yous — especially in writing — that is something to mention. Was there ever a crisis you handled correctly? Honestly from the description I would expect your duties to involve life-or-death situations of making sure medication is at the correct dosage, responding promptly to allergic reactions, noticing and correcting other people’s mistakes before they cause problems, …

    1. Queen Anon*

      Those aren’the exactly accomplishments, though. That’s just doing one’s job. Some jobs truly don’t offer opportunities for accomplishments, which is so frustrating!

      1. Judy*

        If you look at it that way, everything is just doing your job.

        As Alison said, accomplishments are the things that you do that make you different from the average employee doing the same job.

      2. KellyK*

        If you’re highly motivated and competent, you will do things that other people think are awesome, and you think are no big deal. Doing your job *well* is an accomplishment.

        1. Queen Anon*

          The thing is, when I think of accomplishments, I think of examples I could use to back up a request for a raise. Doing my job well – no matter how well, no matter if I’m the best there is – would get the response “that’s what we’re paying you for” and “we wouldn’t be paying you to do an average job”. Accomplishments are things that go above and beyond, and not everyone has that opportunity in his or her job. I think that’s the issue the OP is coming up against. I know exactly what she’s talking about. I can tell myself that doing my job better than everyone else is an accomplishment, but to the people whose opinions actually matter, that’s, well, just doing my job.

      3. Billy*

        Let me use an example from WAAAAY back. My very first summer job was a cashier at a food hut at an amusement park (no not THAT one, a different one). So during an interview for my first ‘real’ job, the interviewer kind of half apologetically said “You might not be able to answer this one, but …” — the but was I did have an actual accomplishment:

        I say with full modesty that I was the best cashier for the afternoon shift in our hut. And I knew by reputation the best cashier for the morning shift. One day I arrived to find her in a poor mood because instead of giving her a break in the middle of the shift, she had worked all the way through her shift until I arrived to break her. It was my turn to be annoyed soon after as our manager told me to take a break as soon as she returned, meaning I was also in for a long shift. But this meant when our till was selected for a random audit (just before closing time), no one had touched it except for us two. A few days later during the shift change, the auditor actually tracked us down to congratulate us — our cash register had over $10,000 cash in it, and was off by 3cents. This was the best result he had seen in two years of daily auditing.

        Sure, you could argue that counting change correctly and such is “just doing our job” but that provided indisputable evidence that it was done well.

  13. CU*

    If you can take off your leggings and be dressed appropriately for the office, they’re acceptable in a business casual office. If not, wear different pants.

    1. Lass*

      Eh, I don’t buy this. Leggings with a tunic top would be perfectly office-appropriate where I work–just the tunic, not so much.

      1. CU*

        Most offices have rules about tight clothing and about skirt lengths. If the top you’re wearing isn’t long enough to meet the appropriate skirt length, then wearing skin tight pants doesn’t make it office appropriate.

        1. esra*

          I haven’t found that to be true in the offices I’ve worked in, which have generally been business casual. It’s very much how Lass put it, you can wear a shorter dress or tunic top, as long as you have tights/leggings/skinny pants underneath.

          1. CU*

            I wonder if it depends on the dress code. My office’s dress code specifically bans leggings and stretch pants unless they’re worn as tights. With that rule if it’s not appropriate without the leggings it’s not appropriate with the leggings.

    2. New Girl*

      I’m currently wearing a large grey knit sweater that hits below my hips, leggings and knee high boots. I think what I’m wearing is 100% appropriate for my business casual office but would be 100% inappropriate without the leggings.

      1. SJ*

        Same here! I’m 5’10 and a lover of shirt dresses, and I have several that would be long enough for work on shorter women but are too short on me (basically a mid-thigh tunic) without leggings or pants. I’m wearing one today underneath a sweater with thick leggings and knee-high boots. I look sharp as hell and totally appropriate for my office.

    3. Barney Barnaby*

      Leggings are halfway between pants and tights. Generally, you can wear something shorter than you would wear with tights, but it has to be longer than what you can wear with pants. Mid-thigh is fine in many business casual offices.

  14. Rebecca*

    #1 – for what it’s worth, I just started a new job. The dress code is business casual, with jeans allowed on Fridays. I was given the head’s up on dress code prior to my first day on the job, and on the very first day, I sat with an HR rep and we went over all the company’s policies, dress code included. They have a very specific list of acceptable vs not acceptable dress, so if I were the intern in question, I would have learned that wearing tights with a shorter shirt was not in line with my new office’s norms. I was also given the opportunity to ask questions and get clarification on other issues at that time.

    Perhaps moving forward, when you bring in new interns or employees, you could implement a similar procedure. That way, everything is clear from the beginning, as it appears norms from one office to another can be drastically different.

  15. :-D*

    For #1, I’m wondering if softening it as a “I noticed once” thing can actually muddy it more for the intern. She might’ve had one outfit last week that she thought was borderline OK, or the first time she wore it, and take the feedback as that top is the only one with an issue, the rest had been OK since no one had said something. No feedback is a type of feedback in itself. While it might be awkward, if I were the intern, I would want you to mention that most of the outfits were not OK. If you want to soften it, maybe say you personally were OK with it, just a heads up for future work in that field.

    1. Pudding*

      It can be so destructive to not give feedback when there is a clear problem. I sometimes wear yoga pants on casual Friday when my jeans are dirty, I assume it is fine because no one says anything. But for all I know they are all rolling their eyes at me and wondering why I’m not mysticlaly sensing their passive aggressiveness.

      1. Violet Fox*

        At the same time, with something like clothing issues it does not help to give that feedback weeks or months after the fact when the person getting the feedback might not even remember what outfit it was or which bit was the problem bit.

    2. Beezus*

      I think it depends on how often “several” times is. If it’s been 3 or 4 days over sa few months, it could be plausible that the OP didn’t notice the outfit on the other days, or only saw the intern seated. Describing what isn’t acceptable should be enough to clear that up. If it’s been 2-3 times a week over a few months, then I agree with you.

    3. Ms_Morlowe*

      LW could also say that her clothes might not pose a problem now since as an intern, everyone is aware she’s coming to terms with the workplace in general, but that they will cause a problem in future roles.

    1. :-D*

      I love the variety of questions. A lot of times I think “Oh, it’s not just me!” If someone doesn’t know how to handle something, it’s not petty to them.

    2. Cambridge Comma*

      I think it’s great to have a place to discuss minutiae anonymously with well informed commenters in a way that would be too detailed and weird to talk about with actual colleagues.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      This type of comment amazes me. What purpose could it possibly serve? You have the option not to read. Most of us here read and enjoy, whatever the topic. If you find a topic too petty for you, then… read a blog with a level of seriousness that you find appropriate.

      1. Marcela*

        I’m pretty sure they are trying to make us think that they are so important, they only deal with oh, so important problems like the meaning of life. Truth is, I can’t help to laugh, because if they were happy, they would have space for “small” issues.

    4. Engineer Woman*

      I’m hoping amy’s a victim of strange spell-check or that English is not her native language or something. Maybe she meant the variety or strangeness of questions / problems bring never fail to amaze me (I admit the person questioning his firing due to theft is a bit amazing).
      But to say the problems are petty? That is really unkind.

    5. Katie the Senual Wristed Fed*

      Then go back to saving orphans or whatever it is you do. It’s rude to be a seagull – swoop in and poop all over us, and then fly away.

    6. Hermione*

      This comment was petty, and is not the sort of comment that is generally tolerated here.

      Alison does a great job weighing in on how to handle business problems both big and small, and it’s unfair to characterize any of them as petty or to degrade someone for reaching out for advice.

    7. Amy the Rev*

      well that’s a rude thing to say! This may be too philosophical for a Wednesday morning (occupational hazard), but I find all the little minutae that come up in both the questions folks ask and the comments that readers leave give us a bit of a window INTO “the meaning of life”- folks trusting strangers to take them for their word and help them? Strangers offering sincere advice/help to folks they’ve never met before, with no hope for reward and (unless the OP comes into the comments) no thanks? Sounds like (one of the) meaning(s) of life to me!

    8. LA Gaucho*

      As if you haven’t eevvveerrr thought that an answer to a question submitted here was “get over it” or “sorry, you need to move on”. While a bit harsh, amy is correct.

      I agree with :-D that like the variety of questions answered on this site and yes…some of them can be read as trivial at times.

      No need to pile on amy, people.

      1. Rat in the Sugar*

        But Alison has asked us specifically not to make comments like amy did, because it may discourage people from writing in in the future.

        Though she’s also asked us not to pile onto a comment, sometimes that can happen when multiple people reply without refreshing the page to see if someone has commented already.

      2. Hermione*

        Regardless of my opinions on the triviality of questions asked, there’s a difference between what goes through my head and what comes out of my mouth (or keyboard, in this case). I don’t think her comment was necessary, helpful, nor kind, and I said as much.

        1. Lissa*

          Yeah, I am the first person to criticize a pileon, but that comment was not making any type of argument, or even bringing up a specific problem with one of the letters. It was just being generally mean, not adding to the discussion in any way.

      3. Turtle Candle*

        There’s a huge difference between thinking something and saying it. I think all kinds of rude and inappropriate things without them coming out of my mouth (or keyboard). I should think that would be obvious?

        1. EmmaLou*

          This. It’s those things that escape out that get me into trouble… Oh, for a backspace on my mouth…

      4. Not So NewReader*

        We are free to skip the questions that do not interest us. And that would allow people who are bothered by the question, to get relief from that bother.

        But this is what goes on here. Some times questions are or seem obvious and we talk about things that are obvious to others.

        Alison has asked us to be respectful others. Yes, it is true, we can say things like this here AND it is also true that Alison could decide to quit writing her blog.

        When people violate Alison’s rules, they usually assume she will keep writing anyway. The flaw in that logic is that she does not have to keep writing if she does not want to.

        If you find a question to be trivial and tedious then skip it. Not everyone grew up like you, nor did they have the same life experiences, so NO, not everyone knows the answer to that particular question.

        I have said it before, Alison, and I do mean it. I think you have done more here to help people find and KEEP their jobs than our government has done.

  16. Anonhippopotamus*

    Leggings can never be worn as pants, EVER. Not in an office, not at school, not on the street, not at the gym, not at home if people will see you. Wearing leggings as pants is the same as not wearing pants! You look like you didn’t put on pants, and nobody wants to see that much detail of your ass contour. Stop it!

    1. Violet Fox*

      Oh please. It’s 2016, not 1716. The body-shaming surrounding the whole leggings thing really isn’t helpful. They’re pants.

        1. Allypopx*

          Yeah I think Anonhippopotamus might have been a little harsh but it’s not body-shaming. There are expectations for dress in certain settings, and those expectations include having some body parts covered up.

          1. Koko*

            Yes…in certain settings. Hippo is saying you can’t even wear leggings as pants in your own home(!!) if you’re having company over. They are taking a pretty extreme view that seems to be a negative overreaction to the idea of the female body.

        2. Jerry Vandesic*

          I don’t think that view is universal. My wife has been pretty clear that she sees leggings as the modern equivalent of long underwear.

        3. Mike C.*

          But folks aren’t discussing “everything”. Unless you have examples of this person using body-shaming to describe “everything” then I think it would be more useful to the discussion to show why that term doesn’t apply here.

        4. Artemesia*

          This. And not every criticism is ‘hating on’ either. And having an opinion on appropriate dress or behavior is not ‘policing.’ Of course it is generally legal to wear a bikini walking down the street or pink tights that show every roll, crack and crevice — thinking this is gross is as acceptable as believing it is just fine.

          1. Sorin*

            > Leggings can never be worn as pants, EVER. Not in an office, not at school, not on the street, not at the gym, not at home if people will see you.

            Yep, no policing going on here.

      1. Peach*

        Yes, thank you. They’re marketed, sold, and worn as pants. Leggings have been pants since the 80s, it’s time to accept that leggings are a Thing. (also, I shouldn’t wear leggings to the gym? maybe I’m like totally out of it but what else would I wear to yoga or the gym? The majority of work out pants I ever see on anyone are leggings.)

        1. Marisol*

          Before leggings, it was a leotard and tights, e.g. Jane Fonda, in the gym. Leggings are a step up in modesty in that regard.

      2. MsCHX*

        Everything is not body shaming. Saying I would like to go to Target without seeing stranger’s asses and underwear isn’t bodyshaming.

        Anonhippopotamus I’m going to have to disagree with the “at-home” part though!!! LOL!!!!!

    2. Lass*

      There are many, many leggings I’ve seen on people that look like pants. It depends on the material, of course. Just because they don’t look like pants to you doesn’t mean they don’t look like pants to other people.

    3. Recruit-o-rama*

      This is cute. In an office setting whether or not they are appropriate is one discussion. They may or may not be depending on a variety of factors, I tend to lean “not” in most cases.

      On the street? Like when I go to Costco? Yup, I wear them all the time. The fact that self righteous modesty police might be judging me and looking at my butt is of zero concern to me. Aside from that, if I could read their judgy minds, I might cheerfully ask them if they think my commitments to the 30 day butt challenges I’ve been doing in the last year have been a worthwhile effort. I think they have been worthwhile, which is why I proudly and comfortably wear leggings on the regular. Fuddy duddies aside.

      I’m a big fan of being comfortable in the skin your in, minding your own business and treating people with non-judgemental kindness. I don’t care what you wear to Costco as long as you are not a aisle hog.

        1. the.kat*

          Don’t get me started on that! I swear they should hire aisle cops.

          “Sir, excuse me, Sir. You’re parked across an aisle. I’m going to need you to move on or I will ticket you and tow your cart.”

    4. Alton*

      Not even to the gym? Really? A lot of women’s athletic wear is basically leggings. In some activities, stretchy, tight clothes can be appropriate and afford the greatest range of motion. This is like objecting to people wearing swimsuits in the pool.

      1. A. Non*

        Leggings are the only acceptable clothing for aerial acrobatics. Everyone wears them, including the guys. You can’t wear loose sweats, because they’ll get tangled in the equipment. You have to have your legs covered or you’ll get really painful burns and abrasions. Thick leggings even give some protection from bruises. I often wear two pairs. Performance costumes may vary, but for training, leggings. So me and my leggings are going to keep right on going to the gym, thanks.

    5. blackcat*

      Uh, I wear lots of stuff that the gym that I wouldn’t really wear out. My options for working out comfortably (without fabric getting in the way) are leggings or short athletic shorts. I tend to go for shorts in a gym (because they’re cooler), but I feel WAY more modest/covered in my athletic leggings. Maybe it’s because I have thick ones (I run year round in Boston, so my leggings range from “kinda thick” to “it’s 0F why am I outside again?”), but covering my thighs/legs with a bit more ass contour makes me feel much more covered than slightly less ass contour but more skin.

      Also, in the summer, I will run/go to the gym and take my top off mid-workout. My sports bras are on the conservative side (covering way more than a bikini top, for example), and I 100% recognize that this is not socially acceptable in other contexts. But when working out, so long as essential bits are covered, comfort will always be more important to me than being appropriately modest by other people’s standards.

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Not at the gym and not at home? That is … not a common stance. I think it’s fine if you feel that way about leggings personally, but I don’t think you can reasonably imply this is a general rule because what you’re expressing here is a real outlier of a viewpoint.

      And when we start policing what people wear at home, we’re in pretty loony territory. (Although I’m hoping that was hyperbole for effect.)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I remember the same debates and the item of discussion was sweatpants. “They are pajamas!” “NO they are not!”

        Another biggie I remember was blue jeans. I was not allowed to have blue jeans when I was growing up. I could have other colors but not blue. Oh yeah and not black. Once I left home, the first thing I did was buy blue jeans. Oh well. My parents never wore jeans, even for yard work. Seeing “old” people in jeans now, is kind of cool, I think.

        The bottom line is that it does not matter what you call it or how you use it, if an employer says “do not wear it here”, the employer wins.
        In all other situations, people are going to wear what they want, not much different than me in my own jeans story.

    7. A. Nonymous*

      I think this comment is pretty off-base, honestly. Sure, you’d want to wear a long top/sweater over leggings in the office, but it’s common fashion these days. Leggings are safer to wear at the gym than loose baggy pants, I wouldn’t want to accidentally pull my pants into a machine or tangle up while I’m lifting. Leggings make sense on a long flight because you’re going to be sleeping. Leggings make sense when you just want to wear them and you feel good wearing them.

      Regardless of someone’s reason for wearing leggings, it’s their choice how to dress outside the office, no one else’s.

    8. TL -*

      Dude, if you’re coming to my place and it’s no-pants Tuesday, than it’s no-pants Tuesday and you need to deal.

      Also, grocery store, gym, Costco – as long as I’m within the laws of the city and health code, however I choose to dress is fine. I suggest you look away from the contours of my ass if you dislike it. I’m going to be honest – I’ve never stared at someone’s bottom in public long enough to really make out the details. It’s kinda rude.

      1. Amy the Rev*

        ” I’ve never stared at someone’s bottom in public long enough to really make out the details. It’s kinda rude.”

        ^^^ can I get an Amen?!

      2. Turtle Candle*

        Hah, yes, the ‘at home’ part cracked me up. I cannot imagine why anyone would care whether I am wearing leggings, a muu-muu, a sequined string bikini or a full Chewbacca costume while at home. (Bonus points if you’re dressed as Chewbacca wearing a sequined string bikini.)

        I say this as someone celebrating No-Pants Wednesday from home.

    9. Purest Green*

      Wearing leggings as pants is the same as not wearing pants!

      Today I learned that I’ve been indecently exposed in front of law enforcement and that it must not be a criminal offense anymore.

    10. Leatherwings*

      I’m going to keep wearing leggings to the grocery store, and none of your silent (or loud) judgement can stop me. What a ridiculous claim. If you don’t want to see my ass at the gym, don’t look.

    11. Newby*

      I think people can wear whatever they want at home, regardless of whether or not people can see them. If they get uncomfortable, they can leave.

    12. TheLazyB*

      I used to go to a club night where one woman wore a bra top made of crystals and another woman black tape over their nipples. But sure, leggings would’ve been a step too far.

      Those women rocked just for the record

      1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*


        Okay that, and a beehive.

        I think I have to age another 15 years to really pull that off though. That’s the “I’m old, I’m doing whatever the hell I want, screw you all” age.

        Meanwhile, the entire conversation thread here has made me want to go buy leggings and wear them to the grocery store, for serious. Do not tell me what I can’t do. :p

        1. Jessie*

          “You’re not the boss of me!”

          I’m totally running home after work to get in my leggings and run some errands.

        2. Allison*

          Man I am so sick of snooty women who judge younger women for what they wear in public. I’m not at your house, or at an event you’re putting on, I don’t know you, I’m just going about my business, so why do I need to ~dress~ to be in your presence?

          To be clear, I enjoy dressing up. I wear dresses to work, sometimes I wear cute outfits to run errands, and I usually dress nicely when hanging out with friends. I’m not a total slob, but sometimes I just don’t feel like getting gussied up to pop over to the store, and I don’t have to! Deal with it!

          1. MsCHX*

            I’m so stuck on why this perceived issue of ageism keeps coming up. I have yet to see “younger women” specifically mentioned.

        3. Alienor*

          Seriously. I’m wearing jeans today, but after reading all this, I think I’ll go upstairs and put on some leggings, then brazenly walk outside to get my mail. I might even make eye contact with a neighbor!

    13. KellyK*

      Not adhering to your personal concept of modesty does not make something inappropriate, particularly at the gym where range of movement matters, and in fitness classes where baggy clothes can prevent the instructor from seeing whether your body mechanics are correct.

      Nobody is going to be arrested for indecent exposure for wearing leggings, unless they’re extremely sheer with nothing worn under them. People jog in sports bras and short shorts. People go to the beach in bikinis. People mow their front lawns without shirts on (localities vary on whether this is legal for women, but men do it all the time). You can choose not to dress any of those ways or to look elsewhere if someone is wearing something that doesn’t match your personal sense of modesty and aesthetics, but you don’t actually get to tell people how to dress.

      Obviously some people like the way it looks, or care more about the comfort factor, or they wouldn’t be wearing it.

      For that matter, it’s worth pointing out that there are people with such severe chronic pain issues that it actually hurts to wear jeans or trousers, because the snaps dig in or their hands are too stiff to operate zippers and buttons. Unless you’re offering to buy groceries for them on bad pain days, then you can deal with seeing more of someone’s butt than you might like. Just like, if your personal religious beliefs meant that cleavage was never, ever okay, or women had to wear ankle-length skirts, you would survive coexisting in public with people with different standards of modesty than you have.

    14. JustaTech*

      Not at the gym? Yeah, I’m going to argue with that. What if I’m in ballet class? Or yoga class? Or any other class where it’s important that the instructor be able to see the position of my body? Or when I’m out running? For me running in loose pants is horrible, I get nasty chafing.
      I’m not going to wear extra clothes to cover my butt so someone else doesn’t get offended while I am out exercising. I’m meeting the legal and cultural requirements for clothing, and frankly my face is so red and sweaty you’re never going to notice my butt.

      So what I’m saying is that yes there is a time and place for just leggings in places where people may see you and that’s ok.

    15. Little Missy*

      I turn 60 in three months and nothing–I tell you NOTHING–makes me want to go out and do something like having someone tell me “stop it!” I don’t even own a pair of leggings but I am going to go to Macy’s online and order me some. As we say where I was born and raised, bless your sweet heart.

    16. Trillian*

      I wear them to fly in. Comfortable for spending hours folded into a small space, and there’s no need to pat me down to make sure I’m not packing a bomb.

    17. Not So NewReader*

      “Leggings can never be worn as pants, EVER. Not in an office, not at school, not on the street, not at the gym, not at home if people will see you.”

      Hmmm. And what will be gained by this practice? I could buy into this if it would cause all our bank accounts to triple in size, or if it cause world peace to take over. I see nothing to be gained and I see a huge waste of resources in policing this one.

  17. Pudding*

    OP2: working for a CPA, this happens all the time. It all boils down to materiality when mistakes are missed and your boss can give you guidance on how to determine what is material and should be changed and what is not.

    Even if you KNOW something should be fixed, you must consult your boss. Even with taxes most big mistakes won’t cause any problems and they get discreetly corrected the following year. For big mistakes that are a priority to fix he must consult the client about what they want to do – it isn’t up to us.

    Sometimes a big mistake is not worth fixing. If I made a big mistake in financial statements and a tax return, it’ll cost us a good $1000 in time to get everything on the up and up, something we cannot charge the client for. Sometimes it is even cheaper to just cover any penalties they get if caught before fixed the next year. When fixing it the next year it is a simple entry that gets absorbed into that years chargeable time.

    Also, bringing a mistake to the government’s attention can cause more problems than it is worth. Admitting that you may have miscalculated a deduction can turn into them scrutinizing everything.

    It is also a huge blow to image/trust from clients when we need to tell them we mucked up – plus it can cause them major inconveniences and delays. Just telling them it was a mistake instead of having your boss gloss up the explanation can cause you to lose a client and have your name dragged through the dirt.

    I feel like I could be you. After starting at a public accountant firm just 9 months ago, I’ve been the martyr of the screw ups from my predecessor. I have seen what happens when you hide your mistakes in files – one resulted in $250,000 in overclaimed expenses over 5 years that was blatantly covered up to hide the first mistake. My bosses door is my enemy because I constantly have to close it so he can explain how I messed my earlier files up. But sometimes he even misses my mistakes and it is tempting to not tell him and just hide it next year – but then it looks very bad on you.

    1. Angela C*

      Pudding-Kudos to you! Public accounting is very, very difficult the first two years…Keep up with it….

    2. BenAdminGeek*

      I was coming here to say basically this. The key thing I’ve learned working with large clients is that the financial impact really matters for the action taken, but the trust factor doesn’t. Bringing to your boss is the right move- she can help navigate the process. And as noted, there’s a big difference between “billed $25 of pens to Account 1 vs Account 2” which can be cleared easily, and “This client never paid for 15 computers we gave them.” Both are just 1 screwup on an invoice, but the impact will really drive what the client/customer needs to do.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Good examples of talking points here, OP.

      Most jobs I have had there is wiggle room for error. Except for the new person who does not know the ropes yet. It’s a good to keep in mind that a new person can be held to a bit higher standard for a while, in part because they do not know what to worry about and what to let go.

      Bring your examples to your boss. One thing I have done is make every effort not to ask the same question twice, because I know I will be asking plenty of questions. After a bit the questions taper off because you know what to do when you see problem X or Y. The recurring problems you will learn the answers to the quickest. The one-offs will take longer, of course.

      A few years ago, I took a job in a new-to-me arena. I rounded up my questions in batches. Usually it took about 20 minutes to get through a batch. I was very fortunate in that my boss expected me to have questions and would grow concerned if I went more than a few hours without questions. Later, she did note that I never asked the same question twice. So the boss can notice the effort on your part to get through the learning curve.

      In a different job, I would ask my boss, “What is proper procedure for x problem?” Or “How does the company want me to handle Y when I see it?” This phrasing worked well for me, because once I had a bit of trouble over a misunderstood situation. It was well etched in my boss’ mind that I always asked questions about proper procedure and company expectations. She knew that the trouble was simply a misunderstanding, I was way too concerned about correct handling to have done what I was accused of.

  18. Violet Fox*

    Also what are people supposed to wear to the gym other then work-out clothes, most of which, for women these days do include leggings, usually made out of some quick-drying or water wicking material. They’re actually very pleasant to work out in.

    When I am at the gym, I am there to work out, I am not there because I care if people see how I look in exercise clothes. I would hope that other people are there to work out as well, are not going there to judge others on their bodies, their workout outfits, how those bodies look in the workout outfits, etc.

    1. LCL*

      I hate hate hate leggings as pants on my body. So I don’t own any. I wear loose fit capris. At the moment they are hard to find. Duluth sells a pair that sells out as soon as they list them. I just bought a pair of loose capris to wear skiing under my snow pants-look for men’s 3/4 soccer pants and you will find them. I don’t care what you wear to the gym.

      1. Emma*

        Last time I went shopping for athletic wear, I ended up buying men’s gym shorts, because a) I don’t like anything remotely pant- or tight-like (so no leggings) and b) all the women’s shorts available were barely ass-covering, form-fitting, and colored like highlighters. Not knocking anyone who wants to wear them, but I really didn’t want to feel like an uncapped highlighter on legs at the gym.

    1. Mustache Cat*

      Oh, totally. I don’t know why, but there’s something about how young women choose to cover their legs that brings out really intense opinions.

      1. Recruit-o-rama*

        It’s institutional mysogny. I understand creating dress codes for work, but as we can all see, many people feel free to comment on how women dress in public on their own time as well. It’s about expecting women to conform to what makes men comfortable, it’s gross.

        1. Allison*

          Yeah, we can do without the slut shaming here, it’s not necessary. This is about talking to an intern about workplace norms, not how “gross” it is that women wear yoga pants to the grocery store.

          I too used to roll my eyes at women who wore leggings as pants, I thought they looked terrible, but now I really don’t care what you wear on your own time. Hell I don’t even care that much what people wear to work, your know your workplace better than I do, but I also figure leggings aren’t appropriate for most conventional offices and it’s fair to ask people not to wear them, and it’s reasonable to advise against them.

          1. Stellaaaaa*

            Well that’s the thing. I think leggings look terrible as pants. I think a lot of people dress badly. But I also don’t care enough to say anything about it. Why would I? I’m sure lots of people hate my car or think I drink too much coffee.

        2. Violet Fox*

          It really is pretty gross, and I think you put into words pretty well what is making me uncomfortable with this whole thing. I tend to think that some of the judgement and comment on how women dress tends to bleed over into dress-codes, which makes dress-codes something that has to be done carefully to make sure that they actually have the desired result, and do not end up being just another bit of institutional misogyny.

          1. Charlotte Collins*

            I have to be honest, I don’t want to see men wearing leggings with hip-length shirts in the office, either.

            I’m fine with leggings in the office, provided that the wearer has an appropriate (long) top with them. They really aren’t designed for the waist to be seen anyway.

            I was in HS in the 80s, and I remember the first round of leggings in fashion. They were definitely not considered appropriate office wear for most businesses, mainly because they were seen as clothing for very young women at a time when professional women were working to be taken seriously as women rather than “girls” – and they were always worn with a long shirt, tunic, skirt, or dress. Unless you had no fashion sense. At least in my neck of the woods.

            Man, I miss the Big Shirt.

          1. Gwensoul*

            I bet if you were to review any dress codes you would find the list for what women not wear/wear is much longer. It is not about equal application, but that what women wear is much more scrutinized and tends to be thought of in a “what bothers men/boys” way rather than a what is appropriate way. That is where the institutionalized sexism comes in.

            1. Charlotte Collins*

              The dress code where I work doesn’t include gender-specific rules. For example, there are rules about skirt length, but no rules about who can or can’t wear a skirt. I think this makes sense.

              Also, women’s clothing/fashion does have a lot more variety traditionally, which just means the list will end up being longer.

            2. Lady Montworth (née Janice in Accounting)*

              But women have a much greater spectrum of clothing styles available. Men don’t generally wear low-cut tops or leggings or pantyhose or midriff-baring tops or many of the other items we typically see regulated in dress codes; their dress code is more limited to pants vs shorts, closed-toe shoes vs flip-flops, and collared vs uncollared shirts.

        3. Emma*

          I don’t buy this. It’s not about some generic thing, it’s about wearing skintight and/or sheer stuff that reveals way more about you than someone wants to see. And it’s not remotely about just what makes men comfortable, as plenty of women are uncomfortable getting an intimate view of your vulva or ass as well.

          Note that no one’s screaming about folks wearing t-shirts or jeans.

      2. Emi.*

        I think it’s part sexism, but also partly that women’s fashion changes more and faster over the years than men’s fashion, so there’s more to debate. It’s like how “business casual” is so confusing for women, but men just go “OK, business clothes that aren’t a suit, cool,” and move on.

        Part of it is a modesty issue, obvi, but I don’t think that’s all sexism. We’d get more riled up about men coming to work in a (perceived) state of undress if they did it more often. (My theory is that women’s clothing veers more towards immodesty because the industry is run by men with a strong interest in getting us to strip down for their lecherous pleasure.)

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          This is a good point. Every few years, women have some new clothing option that must be vetted and judged and found work-worthy or not (i.e., the miniskirt). This just doesn’t happen as often with men.

        2. Koko*

          A couple weeks ago my boyfriend asked me to “dress up” for a dinner we were going to with two other couples he knew. Our conversation went something like this:

          Him: It’s a nice restaurant, so we’re dressing up.
          Me: Dress up how?
          Him: Dressed up, in dressy clothes.
          Me: Like…white tie, black tie, cocktail attire, formal wear, business casual?
          Him: I’m going to be wearing a suit.
          Me: OK, so should I dress like I’m going to a cocktail mixer or a ballet at the Kennedy Center? I can’t just throw on a suit jacket and call it a day. Should I choose a conservative skirt length? Are bright colors or unusual fabrics OK?
          Him: …
          Me: Just show me the pictures on their website.

          1. Emi.*

            Augh, this happened to me when I went to my boyfriend’s friend’s house for Passover. I was on the phone with him, clothes strewn all over my room, trying to figure out what particular variety of “nice casual” he meant, when I heard the friend say “business casual” in the background. I literally screamed in panic.

          2. Bob Barker*

            I’ve been dealing with this in re funerals lately. I am neither Catholic nor Jewish, but in the past 6 months I have googled “_____ funeral etiquette” trying to track down obligatory lengths of skirt and sleeve. Some people feel strongly about black! Other people feel strongly about covering up! I don’t own a black dress that goes more than an inch below the knees, which it turns out is prooobably fine, unless the funeral is Orthodox Jewish, or in St. Peter’s Cathedral.

            (In reality, I know the bereaved trust me not to show up in a clown suit, and that’s that. However, the social pressure to Do It Right Without Having To Ask is pretty strong.)

            1. Marillenbaum*

              Google is your friend. Google saved my bacon when I was going to Friday prayers at my local mosque for my Arabic class: I could get a sense for the range of appropriate dress, and watched some YouTube tutorials on how to wrap a headscarf. It felt good to know that when I was going into someone else’s sacred space as a visitor, I knew what would allow me to avoid standing out in a bad way.

            2. funeralss*

              An inch below the knees is fine even in St. Peter’s! I think the vatican just makes you cover your knees and your shoulders.

              In general for Mass/funerals/weddings I try to wear things that are no more than 1 or 2 inches above the knee and cover my shoulders (although that doesn’t seem to be standard, but I feel weird having bare shoulders in church and I have a bunch of cardigans, so it’s an easy solution). Although my only black dresses are pretty short, so I usually wear black work pants and a dark shirt to funerals.

            3. JustaTech*

              I once wore a yellow bridesmaid dress (50’s style) to a funeral, at the request of the deceased because yellow was her favorite color. It was weird, but everyone thanked me.

          3. Hermione*

            Every. darn. time. Ugh.

            My SO once picked me up for a birthday party for one of his family members in a pair of giant red swishy athletic pants and a hockey t-shirt and hat. I was in a cute dress with straightened hair – we looked like the Odd Couple. We went back to his place for him to change, but I was rolling my eyes all night. Just because your brother “won’t care” doesn’t mean you can go to this mid-range restaurant looking like an extra from the movie “Miracle.” Ugh.

          4. SJ*

            Maybe ~5 years ago I went to a wedding with a boyfriend. When I asked him about the attire, he said “oh, cocktail attire.” So I wore a cute (and a little short, but that’s how I roll) cocktail dress. And the wedding was freaking black tie. I looked like an idiot in a sea of fancy floor-length gowns. He “didn’t know there was a difference between cocktail attire and black tie.” Sigh.

          5. Turtle Candle*

            Ohhh yeah. My husband and I had a similar conversation the first time I joined him for a “dressy” company event. I was like, blouse and nice slacks okay? With blazer? Without? Or do I need to wear a skirt? Separates okay? Or dress? Cocktail dress, tea-length, gown? Colorful y/n? Jewelry–can I wear my pretty colorful necklace or should I keep it minimal? Bright scarf or would that be too much? Can I keep my hair down or is an updo going to be more expected? And on and on.

            He was so boggled. “The nicer suit or the less nice suit” and “can I get away with my dogs playing poker necktie or do I need something more staid” is the extent of how much he’d had to think about it.

        3. Stardust*

          Yeah, I just don’t think there really is a guys’ clothing item that is both ambiguous as to whether it can be worn to an office at all and at the same time so commonly worn that a young, inexperienced man would think about wearing it to work in the first place. I’m also pretty confident that if leggings were more widely worn among men, people would take issue with them appearing in the workplace paired with nothing but a polo shirt as well.

          1. Hermione*

            “I’m also pretty confident that if leggings were more widely worn among men, people would take issue with them appearing in the workplace paired with nothing but a polo shirt as well.”

            Love this imagery!

      1. Artemesia*

        I don’t think I own any anymore but I remember when they first became a regular thing. In the 60s skirts got really short and before that women had always worn stockings with garters. This didn’t work very well under short skirts and thus panty hose became standard. I was teaching in a public school in the late 60s and we had to wear dresses or skirts — teachers could not wear pants — and bending over a student’s desk got to be a challenge — I got good at the bent knee swivel and panty hose were absolutely necessary for the skirt lengths of those times to be appropriate. We cheered when pantyhose became cheap and easily available. Now I rarely wear a skirt and have to go buy panthose if it is winter and go without if it isn’t.

      2. Marillenbaum*

        Pantyhose are TERRIBLE and I hate them with the red-hot intensity of a thousand suns. My late grandmother was appalled that I would go bare-legged to work, but I pointed out that DC is built on a swamp, and spending forty minutes on public transport in the summer with hose would be the death of me. Also, I’ve seen Hill staffers (staffers, not interns, mind) wearing pretty casual stuff when out of session, so I figured I was firmly in the right.

        1. starsaphire*

          I am intensely grateful that I don’t have to wear pantyhose anymore. 25 years later, I *still* have scarring on the insides of both my thighs, thanks to years of required pantyhose and dresses to work in hot weather, and walking blocks and blocks to and from bus stops. Ugh.

          1. JustaTech*

            I hadn’t noticed that pantyhose went out of style (of out requirement?) until I realized that I couldn’t buy them at the grocery store any more. Like, when I was a kid there was a whole section of those shiny eggs of name-brand pantyhose. And they were so ubiquitous that I actually had a book of crafts to make out of the left over eggs.

      3. Anna*

        I get a shiver of discomfort down my spine remembering the feeling of pantyhose brushing against pantyhose. UUUUGH!

      4. Turtle Candle*

        I remember talking to my grandma about when she was a teenager/young adult in WW2, when it was considered patriotic to forego stockings for the war effort since nylon was a rationed item. (She had one pair of real nylon stockings, she said, “for weddings and funerals, and heaven help you if you got a run.”) I remember she described putting foundation on her legs, then powdering them and then drawing a line in eyeliner pencil up the back of her calves to mimic the seam.

        Then she leaned forward and said conspiratorially, “You know what? I liked it so much better than actual nylons, especially in the summer!”

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          When bronzer became widely available, my grandmother started using that instead of those nylon knee highs all elderly women used to wear.

      5. Jenky*

        Whenever I balk at an intern’s outfit I remember all the things I do that would appal my gran. Honestly, if they’re put together and do good work, I’d rather just wait for the world to catch up, fashion-wise (as with blue jeans, athleisure, etc. everything trickles up and down) than make a fuss.

  19. Colin R*

    #5. Thank you for including this one. I’m sure you get a lot of clueless questions, and it’s good to sometimes call them out for the clueless readers.

  20. Jane D'oh!*

    LW#2, in addition to AAM’s excellent advice, consider tracking your own learning process as you go. As you grow and change in this role and look for future goals to meet, filling the void you lamented (lack of documentation) would be a great project.

  21. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-Do what Alison says. When I was doing my final undergraduate internship at a hospital, it was standard office attire of slacks/skirt+blouse or dress. I still remember one day when my supervisor told me my sweater was too low cut and “would be a distraction” and I either had to go home and change or wear my jacket zipped up all day. I was mortified. One because I’d never in my life been told something I was wearing was inappropriate. Two because I still lived with my very conservative parents and they would’ve said something. Three because I’d done something wrong. (As a note, my sweater was not too low cut but that was over 10 years ago. I’m mostly over it now.) So tell her something.

    #5-I just. Nope. Gonna keep that response inside my head.

    1. Hermione*

      I had something similar happen to me – our HR woman pulled me aside once when I was leaned over signing some paperwork (direct deposit, I think) to tell me that “we are not that sort of firm” and “we cover ourselves here.” I was mortified, and threw the sweater away when I got home, but looking back on a photo of me wearing it a few years after I left that job I don’t think it was that bad. She was a pain in other ways to everyone except the most senior partners throughout my tenure there, but I still get mad when I think about her phrasing.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        That’s terrible, and that HR woman sounds like a nightmare. I’m so sorry that happened to you. Even if you think someone’s particular item of clothing is outside the bounds of appropriate for your office, there is a better way to phrase it without sounding like my horribly judgmental youth group leader.

      2. Jenky*

        One problem with dress codes, in school and work– they’re applied differently, depending on the woman’s body, and often punish women for things they can’t control. I still remember people chattering about a busty woman wearing a turtleneck. A turtleneck. It couldn’t have covered more skin unless she’d added a balaclava. And it was pretty loose, except where they thought it ‘counted.’ It was gross and demeaning and made it clear it wasn’t that she’d made a poor choice, but that her body presented the problem.

  22. Rusty Shackelford*

    #5 – I’m not sure where your confusion lies. Were you under the impression that keeping the phone was okay because you didn’t realize it was a company phone? Did you think you’d found a coworker’s personal phone and therefore it was okay to keep it? Or were you aware that taking someone else’s phone is wrong, but you’re just not sure it’s legal for your company to fire you over it?

  23. shep*

    #1 – I have been guilty of this (although I wore them with long shirts/sweaters), and I admit it probably has something to do with my age and the ubiquity of leggings as pants among my peer group. But a lot of it was also down to the fact that I am EXTREMELY short and cannot purchase a pair of pants straight off the rack, and was steadily losing weight during that time.

    I was also transitioning from wearing dresses all the time, like I did in my old job where I could park at the door and walk two feet inside in inclement weather, to a job where I have to park two blocks away in a garage, and dresses in anything but nice weather became a hassle. I didn’t want to invest $120 in tailored jeans and then have shell out again in two or three months. I tried cheap $20 jeans every six months or so, but they were itchy and uncomfortable and ugly, tailoring or no.

    I now have three pairs of nice tailored jeans, which hobbled me financially for about a month and a half. I also realize I’m lucky in that I can wear dark-wash jeans to the office if I want instead of dress pants. But the person who finally told me, AFTER I started wearing my jeans, that I looked nice but like I was going clubbing instead of to work, was my boyfriend. I can only imagine what my office mates thought!

    If I could go back and do it over, I’d bite the bullet and invest in at least two pairs of jeans at the beginning of that transition period, knowing I might need to purchase more the next year (or possibly sooner), but it is what it is.

    1. Allison*

      As a fellow short person, I feel you on the pants thing! I wear skirts and dresses, and wear tights under them, and just suck it up being cold outside. Recently I’ve decided I’m gonna look at thrift stores for inexpensive (but still nice) pants, and monitor ModCloth for pants on sale, so I can “build” the cost of tailoring into my purchase and still end up with something decent.

      1. AJ*

        I’m 4’9”. Have you ladies ever considered learning how to hem your own pants? Or are you also getting the width of your pants tailored? I’d def pay for someone to make my pants skinny, but there is no way I would pay $120 just for shortening!

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          $120 sounds like a pair of custom-made jeans! The last pants I had shortened (just this month) cost $15.

          1. Artemesia*

            I live in an expensive big city in the US and it costs about $15 to get something hemmed. I could do it myself, but I no longer want to bother.

            1. shep*

              Same here. I mentioned this below, but I like the convenience of in-store tailoring, so I buy jeans at Buckle. Their jeans are pricey but high-quality, and they hem for free.

              Also while I have a sewing machine and some basic skill (like, I can thread the needle and sew a straight stitch in most basic fabrics) I wouldn’t trust myself to hem a pair of jeans, especially if I took the time to find something that fit really well everywhere else.

              1. JustaTech*

                Hemming jeans is actually much trickier than hemming dress pants because you want to keep the decorative stitching at the bottom of the hem. If you want to learn I’d suggest buying some cheap crummy jeans (for painting or yard work) and trying on those before risking a good pair of jeans.

                1. MsCHX*

                  Noooo. Jeans require a double turned hem that can be topstitched. Easy peasy. Nice trousers require hem tape and a blind-stitched hem.

        2. Allison*

          Jesus, when did I say I’d pay that much??

          I figure where I live it’s about $40 to get something altered, maybe cheaper elsewhere. So if I buy a pair of pants for $30 and fork over $40 for alterations, I’m paying $70, and that’s reasonable for a decent pair of pants.

          And yes, it has occurred to me that knowing how to hem my own would be helpful. Now if I had the money to spend on a sewing machine, old pants to practice on, and some spare time to get it right, I may actually do that. But right now, I don’t trust myself doing anything to my clothes more than hand stitching a hem or sewing a button back on.

            1. Allison*

              I have no idea if that’s actually the cost. I rarely get things altered, I had a dress taken in and that was the cost, so I’d rather figure hemming costs the same and be pleasantly surprised, than expect it to be cheap and then be shocked.

              But still, not learning how to sew this weekend. Sorry.

              1. Charlotte Collins*

                Taking in a dress requires more changes to the construction of the garment. Plain hemming is usually cheaper. And can be done in a pinch with a stapler (not recommended, but useful to know in an emergency).

        3. Jane D'oh!*

          My legs are short enough that, if the hem is too long, the entire structure of the pants leg needs to be changed. I don’t have the equipment or the skill to do that myself. I try to buy bootcut style to minimize the issue, but styles change and sometimes I can’t find any. When I do find something that works, I stock up!

        4. Marillenbaum*

          Tailoring is kind of a pain, but for me it is so necessary! It’s not just hemming in my case–my hips are several sizes larger than my waist, which means that no matter what, I need to get my jeans altered with darts put in. It runs about $30 per pair to get them altered, which means that I refuse to spend above a certain amount off the rack, because I know I have to add that to the overall cost of the jeans. Shoutout to Old Navy and their occasional $20 jeans sales, which are the only reason I ever get new ones.

      2. Purest Green*

        There are fleece lined leggings for the cold months, if you like that sort of thing. I have a pair and practically live in them.

      3. shep*

        I love ModCloth! That’s where the vast majority of my dresses come from. I may have to look into buying pants there too, but I am so lazy about outsourcing the hemming! I just bite the bullet, go to Buckle, and shell out the $100-plus-tax for their jeans, since they offer free in-store (and often same-day) tailoring. They’re really comfortable and high-quality, and I can determine the fit immediately. I figure I’m probably paying too much, but I’m also paying for multiple conveniences.

        Such is the life of a short girl!

    2. blushingflower*

      just FYI, eshakti sells jeans now. I’ve not bought a pair yet but I’ve had good experience with their custom sizing for dresses and tops (currently wearing a button-down that fits my 38C chest without gaping at the bust or being huge elsewhere)

  24. Allison*

    1) I’m all for wearing tight pants on my own time. I wear yoga pants if I’m just running a quick errand or two, or hanging out at my boyfriend’s place and watching Netflix, or traveling. And I love wearing athletic pants to dance class! But I agree that those types of pants, let alone leggings (even opaque ones) are not appropriate for most offices, and it’s fair to tell someone they need to stop wearing them to work.

    If I had worn something inappropriate to my internship, I would have wanted to know. Early would have been ideal, but even if they had told me at the end (“your tops were a little tight, you should buy some bigger ones”) it would have been better than nothing at all, because I left my internship figuring there was nothing wrong with what I wore. Had I been wrong and gotten in trouble wearing something bad to my next job, I would have felt like my internship should have warned me.

    #5, Someone stole my cell phone in college. I (stupidly) left my bag in the dining hall and by the time I went back for it, someone had turned in the bag, but had taken the cell phone out first. That person was a thief. They didn’t take it directly from me, they didn’t come into my room and take it, but they took it knowing it belonged to me and that I would be looking for it. I loved that phone, and having to get a new one really sucked. And it would suck even more today, with phones being so much more expensive.

    If you had intended to turn it in or find the owner, you should have said that when you were confronted, and if you did and they still fired you, that is legal but unfair, I’ll admit. However, it does sound like you figured “finders keepers,” and that’s fair if you find a $20 bill or something, but if you find a phone, wallet, engagement ring, etc., that thing still belongs to its owner, and keeping it for yourself is a form of theft.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I was just about to post this! We used to mercilessly tease a friend who tried to get away with wearing leggings as pants (i.e., wearing a sweater that was long but did not cover her back or frontsides). In addition to quoting “Camel Toe,” we sent her this chart (via buzzfeed:

  25. Lovemyjob...truly!*

    #5 – It saddens me that there are people who can’t see that this is wrong. (I’m assuming it to be as it sounds in the letter: found a phone, wasn’t hers, didn’t turn it in, got fired for stealing.)

    My aunt got fired for stealing. She had taken a substantial amount from the company petty cash fund. She repaid it all back. She was fired approximately 3 months after it was repaid after there was an extensive audit/investigation that spanned the year. To this day she is convinced that what she did wasn’t wrong because she paid it back.

    If it doesn’t belong to you and you took it, regardless of your plan for reparations, it’s stealing.

    1. Allison*

      Not sure if I agree here. If you pick up a phone and turn it in or start texting/calling contacts to find the owner, that’s helping them get their phone back, not stealing. If you leave it there, the owner might find it, or someone else might take it.

      1. MeridaAnn*

        No, if the only thing you’re doing with it is trying to return it, then I don’t think that’s what Lovemyjob is talking about. More like if you picked up a phone and then used it to call in a pizza order and chat with your mom for the evening and call your bank the next morning and *then* you start trying to track down the real owner.

        I have an example that falls in between the two – when I worked retail, we got a call from the police that a stolen phone had been tracked via GPS to inside our store. The girl who had it said that she had found it left behind in the bathroom at a nearby park and brought it with her as she tried to contact the owner, but it was locked in a way that I guess she could continue an ongoing text conversation that she was trying to use to find the owner, but couldn’t access anything else on the phone (or that was how I understood what was happening when she explained it to the police). Anyway, she wasn’t trying to use it for herself, but she had still taken it away from the park and made it a lot more complicated for the real owner to track it down. She wasn’t charged, but in that case, it probably would have been better to leave it at the park or possibly take it straight to the parks and rec office or something else instead of just taking it along shopping with her to make it more obvious that she hadn’t taken it for herself.

        1. Allison*

          Ah, I see what you mean. It’s not okay to “borrow” the phone for personal use before using it. Yeah, that’s not cool.

      2. BPT*

        That’s not the same thing at all as “taking it.” If you literally pick it up in order to find it’s owner, that’s not equivalent to what Lovemyjob was talking about.

        The equivalent would be someone taking it, using it for a couple of months, and then trying to give it back to it’s owner.

  26. RVA Cat*

    Re: #1 – As someone who remembers the bike shorts fad from the early 90s, I truly hope leggings-as-pants never becomes a thing for men. So much TMI….

    1. Emi.*

      YES. I once saw one of my professors cycling across campus in tighty shorts and it was low-key traumatizing.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        When I was a student, we had professors who would go swim together. They were in their 60s and 70s. This was almost 20 years ago, so I don’t remember why the building was set up this way, but I had a lecture in a building that had a glass wall so you could see the pool. The lecture time coincided with their swim time. : (

    2. CU*

      Tight dress pants seem to be in fashion for younger men. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned (see my comments on leggings up thread), but if I can tell which side you dress to your pants are too tight.

      1. RVA Cat*

        Exactly. (That phrase will always remind me of the scene in Hell On Wheels where Cullen tells Elam what it means, wiggling his finger LOL.)

      2. Bob Barker*

        If you can tell which side a dude dresses on and he’s wearing tailored pants, then I don’t have a very good opinion of his tailor! That’s the whole point of tailoring, to smoothe out the uneven parts with artfulness.

        1. Artemesia*

          In Europe, particularly in Italy, the fashion in men’s pants is to cut the crotch to be tight to the body so you have to tailor them to dress right or left. It is clearly a cut designed to display and not hide. It is pretty gross to see all these old men showing off their bulges. Younger men actually seem somewhat less likely to dress like this.

          1. Bob Barker*

            I thought that was a cut for men who wear tighty-whities (so, effectively, dress neither left nor right). However, I am basing this understanding on one of my first customer service experiences in retail, where I had to return a pair of silk boxer shorts bought by a French woman (in a US store). Reason for return: these are not underpants. Things just fall out the side. I don’t understand. (Except with a French accent and a distinct air of “Oh my god you barbarians can’t even underwear correctly.”)

    3. JustaTech*

      I once found a coworker in the lab still in his full bike gear (helmet, click-shoes, everything). It was very early and he was obviously in the middle of something he couldn’t stop so I just handed him a lab coat and went on my way. Later he came by to apologize.

    4. Chaordic one*

      I once had a job at a hip, young, edgy company where “Free-ballin’ Friday” was a thing. It was co-ed. Enough said.

  27. Yggdrasil*

    (Rocket Raccoon voice) “What if I take something that I want, but it belongs to somebody else. Is that a crime?”

  28. Mark in Cali*

    #3 – I think the hard part of the advice, and I would assume it’s similar for many, is that it’s hard to say how we are better than a mediocre person at the job. Even though my boss tells me I excel at my work, I still leave the end of the day thinking that I’m really just doing the basics that ANY person doing this same job should be doing. If fact there are plenty of days I go home thinking about how the most productive thing I did all day was eat lunch. I know it’s about digging deep and giving yourself a pat on the back when writing a resume, but gosh it’s hard.

    1. Lass*

      100% this. My supervisors rave about me, and I even got a promotion way faster than normal, but I still feel like I’m just doing what any normal person would be doing. I cannot identify what I’m doing that’s so much better than anyone else.

  29. Xarcady*

    #5. Here’s the thing. You saw a phone on the floor and decided you could keep it, without any attempt to find the owner.

    a. You knew the phone wasn’t yours. You may or may not have known it was company property, but you found and kept something that wasn’t yours.
    b. You have now sent the message to the company that you take things that are not yours.
    c. Now, management is questioning if you have taken other things that weren’t yours. And if you will take more things in the future.

    That’s why you got fired. Not because you found a phone and kept it, but because you have shown yourself to be untrustworthy. And very few companies want untrustworthy people working for them.

  30. fake coffee snob*

    For #1, many commenters seem to be confused why it wouldn’t be totally obvious to her. To share my perspective, as the youngest member of several offices, sometimes it’s a challenge to figure out what clothing is of appropriate formality while still feeling comfortably stylish – when all your coworkers are 30 years older than you and wear clothes you just wouldn’t feel like yourself in, you don’t exactly want to match.

    For instance, many of my coworkers wore looser, more traditional slacks – I tried on some at the store but it was like I was staring at my mother. I want to be professional, but I couldn’t really wear those. Instead, I bought some ankle pants (think a j. crew minnie or old navy pixie pants) – while I think they’re appropriate in my business casual office, they’re a fair bit tighter than what others wear and I’m always a little worried that people silently find them inappropriate.

    So I guess what I’m saying is, “read the room” can be challenging with an age difference. Sure, maybe one should just match as much as possible and go to the thrift store to buy 90s talbot stuff but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to feel comfortable in modern clothing (while still dressing appropriately). And when you’re from a generation where thick leggings or skinny-cut yoga pants *are* considered acceptable casual wear, maybe it’s not obvious that the reason others aren’t wearing them is generational rather than professional. I’m not saying that they should therefore be accepted as professional, but have some sympathy for why she may not have realized?

    1. MsCHX*

      I think your slim JC or ON pants are perfectly fine for business casual. Fitted is different from skin tight. I wouldn’t think you need to start wearing shapeless clothes so you don’t stand out…

      And I also don’t think that leggings are generational. My mom loves leggings! Has tons of them! But she wears them under tunics and dresses that will fall above the knee in her business casual work environment.

      Caveat: I’m one of those people who will always dress a little bit nicer than the occasion. I own no yoga pants and 2 pair of leggings and one of those is a really thick ponte from LOFT. And I believe tennis shoes are for the gym only. And I’m late 30s. My 18 year old daughter doesn’t own any yoga pants or leggings. It isn’t her thing. I think it’s more a personal and trendy thing.

      1. Michaela T*

        My mom is in her sixties and wears leggings all the time. It helps that she is very short so all her shirts end up being thigh-length anyways.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      I actually had a similar problem when I graduated wayyy back in 2000. I work in engineering, so when I was in school, professors would instruct the guys to wear khaki pants and polo shirts when we needed to dress business casual for presentations, etc. I thought business casual=khaki pants. My mom explained to me that a wide range of clothes could be business casual, so I was able to find stuff that wasn’t frumpy or masculine.

      However, I don’t like the characterization that all older people are wearing “90s talbot stuff”. I work with women in their 50s and 60s who wear lots of fashionable business outfits. (Leggings, dresses, boots, shawl/poncho/whatever you call those things)

      1. Willow*

        I think she was saying that the older women she worked with wore 90s Talbot’s stuff, not that all older women do.

    3. LBK*

      This is one area that I always felt What Not To Wear excelled: figuring out how to find job-appropriate clothes for people without completely sacrificing their own personal sensibilities. Stacey’s show Love, Lust or Run did it even better (she let people wear stuff they never would’ve let them wear on WNTW).

    4. Natalie*

      I think the fact that there is a debate upthread about exactly *why* leggings-as-pants (it is the sheerness? tightness? casual factor?) are generally not work appropriate also illustrates that this is not duh-obvious.

    5. Marisol*

      I blame mid-range retailers for this. Banana Republic et al introduce these new looks that are fashionable but not business attire. I think what women, especially young women, often fail to grasp is that business =/= fashionable. Moreover, business attire is not the same as “dressy,” what you might wear to a party or to church. Dressing for business is more like putting on a uniform. It’s boring. But once you master the basics, and you get adjusted to seeing yourself in a business-y silhouette, you can see how to bring some individuality and fashionableness to it.

      1. Allison*

        “Moreover, business attire is not the same as “dressy,” what you might wear to a party or to church.”

        Yep, I struggled with this too. Part of it was not having a huge work wardrobe and trying to make do with what I had, and in hindsight that just means doing laundry more often and repeating an outfit or two each week, but I definitely wore stuff to work that, in hindsight, was too dressy for an office.

        For a long time I’ve adhered to the rule that if you could see yourself wearing an outfit somewhere other than work, it’s probably not appropriate for work.

        1. Marisol*

          I think that’s a perfect rule. It feels kind of weird to me have categories of clothing–like I want to lump all the clothes in my closet together as being cute and expressive of my personality–but really they have distinct functions. And that idea of being able to dress something “up” or “down” doesn’t work for me in practice–like that little black dress that you can supposedly wear to the office with a blazer and then to the club with big sparkly earrings and chunky heels–that seems like a myth to me. For me clothes are either for work, for going out in the evening, or for errands on the weekends, period.

      2. blackcat*

        Yes. When I started student teaching, there was another student teacher who complained to me that even though she was wearing “nice” clothes, people kept mistaking her for a student. I said, “Your butt looks great in those pants.”
        “Thanks!” she cheerfully replied.
        “No. The point is that I shouldn’t know how nice your butt is while you are here. Get mom pants.”
        “Mom pants?”
        I turned around, pointing to my butt.
        “Oh. You mean pants that hang a bit loose around the butt.”
        “Yes. My mom took me shopping.”
        She looked me up and down again. “Even your shoes make you look like a mom.”
        “You have no idea how comfortable these Clarks are, and I have no idea how you can teach in heels.”
        “I thought heels were dressier….”

        The struggles of 21 year olds in the work place are real. And sometimes awkward. For her, she was wearing “nice” clothes. She grew up on a farm and never saw her parents wear business attire (she did seem to have some other references–see the shoes comment–but she hadn’t really picked up on what professional wear was. She had no idea that tight “damn girl your ass looks fine” black pants were not appropriate. I had two professional parents, and my mom made sure I was dressed professionally (my mom also worried because I inherited my… ample bosom from her, and she figured I needed extra guidance because of that). Explaining such things to interns/student teachers/fresh out of school employees is a kindness, particularly for young people who did not grow up with professional parents.

        Also, I’d like to note that 21 year old me did not have an appropriate entry point into that conversation. 29 year old me shudders at telling someone I barely knew that her butt looked great.

  31. AJ*

    #1 – Even though not appropriate for most work places, leggings with shorter tops is extremely common. Have you considered having a written dress code with specific examples? Or even just a simple one you can give to interns.

  32. Lass*

    Bottom line: Your employer can decide what’s work appropriate clothing and what’s not. If they don’t want you wearing skinny cut clothing that hugs your body, that’s their prerogative.

    I have one pair of leggings I wear as lounge pants at home (in front of my husband, GASP). I don’t wear them out because I am very self-conscious of my lower stomach and thighs. That is the same reason I don’t wear skinny cut jeans, skinny cut trousers, pencil skirts, straight skirts or sheath dresses. But, if I suddenly gained some self-confidence and started wearing any of those things, I don’t think any of them would be “inappropriate” as long as they were sized correctly and covered any necessary bits that ought not to be seen in public.

    However, there are people out there who would say that if I wanted to wear a correctly-sized pencil skirt while possessing a lower belly pooch that that skirt would be inappropriate because God forbid anybody see that I’m fat. I feel like thin, tone women can get away with wearing leggings as pants far more easily than larger women, even if both are wearing the correct size of leggings and leggings of a material that are not see-through and are sturdy and thicker.

    I see plenty of larger women with more self-confidence than me rocking skinny jeans and skinny pants that show off every curve and contour of their body and no one would say they aren’t wearing pants just because they’re tight. None of those skinny cut, tight pants may be appropriate for work, just as leggings may not be, but if you’re going to say leggings aren’t pants because you can see everyone’s “personal contours”, then you have to say that those skinny jeans and skinny trousers aren’t pants either because you can see the same exact things. If you’re okay with a skinny, toned woman wearing skinny cut, tight pants because you can’t see her contours, but think it’s “inappropriate” for a larger woman to wear correctly-sized skinny cut pants because you can see she’s fat, then that’s a big problem.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      But that isn’t what’s going on here. No one said this intern was okay wearing leggings as long as she had a specific body type. And as far as I’m concerned, I don’t care what your body looks like – if I can tell you’re wearing a thong, you’re not wearing pants (yeah, looking at you, woman I saw in Target the other day). If I can see bump of a mole on your right butt cheek, you’re not wearing pants. If I can tell you’re wearing a maxi pad, you’re not wearing pants. Those are the “personal contours” I was talking about, not whether you have a belly pooch.

      1. Lass*

        Okay, I’m 100% in agreement with you. I’m just saying that there are leggings out in the world where you can’t see someone’s underwear, moles or maxi pads. They do exist. They are not just figments of one’s imagination. To say that all leggings are like these particular examples is not true.

        1. Emi.*

          I totally agree, but if were writing a dress code it would just be “no leggings as pants,” so that I didn’t have to get into just *how* tight or sheer was acceptable. Managers shouldn’t have to tell their interns, “So, I was looking at your butt, and…” if it can possibly be avoided. :P

          1. Michaela T*

            I agree, from a dress code policy standpoint leggings would really need to be just allowed or disallowed totally.

    2. Marisol*

      I think I agree with you. It’s a question of having an appropriate amount of ease in the garment. Where I work, I often see slender young women wearing skirts that are stretched so tight around their hips that the fabric whiskers across their pubic area. I’m talking about woven fabric, not knit. It’s tacky no matter what the shape. Which is not to say that the bias you describe doesn’t exist because it clearly does.

  33. AnotherMSW*

    #3- This is such a problem! As a service provider all I can say is I survived? I managed a caseload and none of them died? It is really hard to figure out. And I don’t know how helpful Allison’s well meaning advice is. When you are part of a bureaucratic system that just seeks to perpetuate itself and have a revolving door of people to connect to services and move on there is no difference between “mediocre” and “excellent” in most cases. Maybe if you put in 80 hours instead of just 50 or 60 hours a week you can do more, or if you are the one in a million to have a supervisor who gets it and supports change, but chances are you don’t. It sucks.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      So if you’re hiring in your field, are you really saying that there’s no way for you to tell which candidates are stronger than others? Everyone appears to be the same? I don’t think there’s any field where that’s really the case.

      1. AnotherMSW*

        No but it can be hard to figure out how to highlight yourself on a resume where you can’t put anything you truly accomplished. I mean I had suggestions that were always hot down, not even looked at simply because everyone fron case managers to social workers to supervisors were overworked and no one had time for anything other than keeping their heads above water. This is one of the reasons I want to leave direct service but its hard to find applicable resume advice when I can’t do any of the things suggested. I didn’t save any money. I didn’t go above and beyond because at a certain point that is not possible. I was caring, I met my benchmarks I tried- really I tried, people would laugh at my suggestions because I never thought we should give up even if there was a .000000001% chance of something working because for me- I had to ask. I knew the answer would be no but I needed to ask.
        But I don’t know if any of the suggestions would be useful to me. Not even no one complained about me- I mean no official complaints about my license- but parents and youth would complain and threaten us regularly.
        In case you can’t tell I’m a bit burnt out and frustrated. I do appreciate this site and all the suggestions, but for some of us a lot of this isn’t applicable to our field

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But again, if there’s a way to distinguish among candidates if you’re the one doing the hiring, there’s a way to communicate those things on a resume too. I don’t know enough about the field to give really specific advice, and I hear you that it’s hard, but I am absolutely sure that if a hiring manager can distinguish among candidates, it can be done on a resume too.

          1. Tobias Funke*

            The things that make me a good social worker are the things that I don’t want hiring managers to know about, really. They don’t want anyone who is going to question or rock the boat in any way.

            1. LBK*

              I think you underestimate a lot of hiring managers! I personally don’t want to hire anyone who’s just going to quietly do whatever they’re told and never raise concerns or question things that don’t make sense. The concept of “rocking the boat” doesn’t even really exist in my department – everyone is always welcome and even encouraged to question things.

        2. LBK*

          You seem really hung up on equating “accomplishments” with making changes. An accomplishment doesn’t necessarily have to be something you did above and beyond the call of your job, those are just the easiest ones to come up with. What’s the caseload you handle on a daily/weekly/monthly basis? That’s something you can measure that would be relevant to an employer, because it creates empirical evidence that you can multitask and prioritize (as opposed to, say, if you worked at a boutique-style company where you only handled one or two VIP clients at a time, which would be a totally different kind of experience). It’s an “accomplishment” in the sense that you were able to manage that volume of work.

          One thing that might help: think about your worst coworker. What do you do differently from them? Are they constantly missing emails but you’re always up to date on your inbox? Quantify the number of emails you reply to and your average turnaround time in order to show how responsive you are. The goal here isn’t just to come up with arbitrary things you can measure. It’s to give a hiring manager additional information beyond a generic description of duties that will help them build confidence in your ability to do the specific job they’re hiring for.

          A real example from the hiring that I do: between everyone in my department, we have about 40 reports that have to get sent out every month. When I’m reading resumes, I don’t just want to see that someone has done monthly reporting before – 40 reports is a lot to keep track of, so I need to feel confident that they’re used to staying organized, prioritizing and collaborating with their teammates if necessary so that all the reports get out on time. “Responsible for sending out 10 monthly reports, plus serving as backup for 10-15 additional reports as needed” gives me a lot more confidence about your ability to do the specific tasks I need an employee to do than just “responsible for monthly reports”.

        3. RD*

          Would any of these work? I think sometimes it’s really hard to reframe your accomplishments into a resume when you’re still in the trenches of the job you are doing.

          1. Continued to work for process improvements even within a system that rejected change.
          2. Successfully managed a caseload of X without Y happening.
          3. Maintained a caring demeanor, even when working with antagonistic clients.
          4. Consistently and continuously met benchmarks even with full caseloads and unrealistic goals.
          5. Persisted in attempts to help clients even when all other attempts had failed and when colleagues and clients had already given up.
          6. Maintained healthy, positive relationships with even the most hostile of clients.
          7. Consistently went above the scope of the position, by putting in extra hours or persisting in helping even after previous attempts had been shot down.

          Were you able to get through to any clients where other social workers had previously failed? Did any clients have a spectacular success that you feel like you contributed to? Is it possible to quantify those successes? 30% of my clients did X or avoided Y while the average in the department was 10%. I don’t know exactly what you do, but some of that might already be quantifiable, like recidivism rates or graduation rates.

        4. Amy the Rev*

          When I was in a similar position, I found it really helpful to ask my supervisor to help me (granted, I was also in a fixed-term position so my supervisor already knew I was job-hunting and so asking them for advice updating my resume wasn’t necessarily a weird thing, I also had a great relationship with said supervisor). While I often (half) joke that “I’m just really good at doing what I’m told”, my supervisor helped point out to me where my accomplishments were, and how to frame things that I saw as “just doing my job description” as actual accomplishments.

          He also had more info about results that helped me realize some of my accomplishments: for example, I was asked to create a FB page for him as a business person, run reports to determine good candidates for refinance, and write a form letter to send them to try and initiate a refinance, so I did that. I saw it as just doing as I was told, but he informed me that in the following quarter, refinances were up 25%, and said I could truthfully write, “created and implemented outreach program that increased gross sales by 25%” …I never would’ve thought of it that way, but because he had more context and was at a higher level, he was able to point out where my accomplishments lay.

    2. nonymous*

      If you’re having trouble identifying accomplishments at a job which is process-oriented, I recommend comparing newhire you to current state.

      Also be very specific when quantifying experiences. Managing a caseload may mean a different volume or different division of labor depending on agency. Depending on what area of social work you’re involved in, you may have experience with a specific coordinating agency (e.g. state/county/city/school district/public health authority).

      As a generic example one could say that making 20 teapots in a month is an accomplishment, where all the spouts/lids/etc are created by support staff. If teapot making involved crafting all the bits from clay, maybe 5 teapots in a month is an accomplishment. But making 18 teapots in the first case and 4 in the second would be barely scraping by. In your situation, you need to define what your caseload means in terms of labor and the accomplishment is that you manage the time well (e.g. no incomplete write-ups, etc). No one wants to hire a candidate that just goes thru the motions without some attention to quality, however that metric is measured in your industry (and I’d argue that “they survived” is not the best metric).

    3. Frustrated Optimist*

      I sympathize. I know what it’s like to work in an environment with a tough population to begin with, then also feel undervalued by management on top of it.

      I would suggest trying to highlight skills that really show you at your best. Example: “Quickly developed a strong rapport with clients.” Hey, it doesn’t mean that that happened with *all* clients, but when the potential to develop a strong rapport presented itself, you were able to seize the opportunity.

      Or how about: “Maintained focus on client advocacy and empowerment.” Again, maybe that didn’t even apply in all cases. But when it did, you were on it!

      Both statements would set you apart from someone with only mediocre skills.

  34. GertietheDino*

    Leggings are not pants. Full stop! No questions, you should have told her the first time you saw it, sent her home to change and teach her that that type of dress is unacceptable in the office.

    1. LBK*

      I think sending someone home from work is extremely demeaning unless they literally showed up half-naked. If anything, you should give them the option to go home if they want to prevent the embarrassment of sitting in the office all day knowing they’re wearing an inappropriate outfit, but you shouldn’t force them to.

      (That’s also why I think these conversations should always be had at the end of the day.)

    2. Blue Anne*

      Whoa. There’s a lot of disagreement even in this comments section about whether leggings are pants. It’s been noted that they’re more appropriate in some office cultures than others. Sending an intern home for something that is okay in some offices would be humiliating and really not send a good message about how management works.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sending someone home is really extreme (and infantilizing). It’s for someone who shows up in a bathing suit, not someone who gets the dress code slightly wrong.

      1. GertietheDino*

        If the manager had told her about her dress code violations when she first saw it, the intern most likely would have requested to go home and change (and wouldn’t have done it again). Maybe forcing her to go home and change is harsh, but it would have gotten the message home and further issues would be minimized.

        1. Jessie*

          But you need to do more than simply get the message home; you need to treat interns and employees with respect, right? Sending them home handles the first but not the second. With an intern especially, you can treat this simply as a learning moment rather than as a punishment. Picking the one of the most harsh options when there are other options available just isn’t good management, really. Wearing leggings isn’t the end of the world, it isn’t an egregious horrible crime That Must End Now. It is simply a misunderstanding of what business casual means to this office. A conversation about that is all that is needed.

          1. Observer*

            Exactly this. If it were a pattern, it would be one thing. But, you don’t need the nuclear option the first time someone does something like this.

      2. Temperance*

        Yep. One of my colleagues had an intern who did not dress properly, and she worked with her as much as possible, as clearly as possible, only sending her home when it hit the point of being embarrassed to have this intern accompany her at an event. (This intern had a habit of borrowing clothes from her 2-sizes-smaller girlfriend, which did not fit and looked terrible.)

  35. UofTeapots*

    I’ve been in a position a couple times where I wanted to talk to a female intern about dress code, but wasn’t sure how to broach it because a higher ranked man in the department dresses inappropriately, and nobody has asked him to modify his clothing. It just seemed wrong to point out a skirt was too short when her superior was walking around with plumber’s crack.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Actually, since she was an intern, I think it would have been appropriate to say “This is how you should dress. You will find the occasional outlier who dresses differently and gets away with it, but don’t use them as a model for your own behavior.”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Exactly. And this is what I have done, too.
        “Yes, you will see people wearing x and I am telling you not to wear x. This is true. I am telling you want you need to know to help you. Ignore the people who wear x and do not copy them.”

        Because I was not wearing x myself, it was easier for them to see that I meant it. Since I was not worried about what others were doing, they eventually ignored what others did also.

        People tend to copy the people around them. People also tend to listen more closely to supervisors whose talk matches their walk.

    2. Violet Fox*

      I honestly don’t think you can tell the intern that what they are wearing is wrong if no one is doing the same with the man because otherwise you give them the idea that young women must follow the rules and men who have more power don’t have to.

      Dress codes need to either be enforced everywhere or not at all.

      1. Emi.*

        Except that there’s no one Boss of Dress Code Enforcement, and dress code, like everything else, gets handled a little differently at different levels. It’s one of myriad issues where managers should worry about their own people, even if higher-ups are dressing like fools, leaving work early, not putting cover sheets on their TPS reports, or whatever.

        1. UofTeapots*

          I get it, and generally I concern myself with my own report, but in a small department, when a man is allowed to expose skin (think ill-fitting shirts that expose large areas of belly/lower back when leaning or moving around in an office setting) and a woman is talked to for wearing a skirt that is too short when she sits, I think it sends a message that women are valued less for what they have to offer in the workplace. As a supervisor, I’m very concerned about sending that message.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            I wouldn’t make it a man vs woman thing. I’d make it an intern vs higher-ranking employee thing. Because I assume a male intern who dressed like that higher-ranking employee would be getting the same talk.

            1. Jessie*

              I wouldn’t assume that – I would carefully consider whether that is true, as honestly as possible, and if I thought it might not be true I would not talk to the intern about it. Because there is a predilection for focusing on women’s clothing far more than men’s, and sometimes for very valid reasons (as discussed up-thread, sometimes just because we have so many more options) but sometimes not at all for valid reasons. Think back to the letter here about the company that wanted to ban certain clothes for women of a certain shape and size; or the boss scolding the employee for wearing a turtleneck. Sometimes a women’s dress code issue is in fact more an issue of sexism/body shaming. Not always, but sometimes.

              So, if there is a man who dresses in a way that seems to be against the dress code, and a woman who seems to be dressing against the dress code, and the man is going to continue to dress that way – think hard before telling the woman to cover up. Think about whether a male intern would be treated the same way, and whether the dress code judgment is actually fairly implemented overall for women.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                I don’t see any reason to assume UofTeapots wouldn’t speak to a male intern about dress code violations.

            2. Turtle Candle*

              I’m not sure I’d assume that. It’s possible that’s the case, but it’s also very, very common to treat male and female breaches of dress code differently. Either because men “can’t help” not noticing how terrible they look (but we assume that women are trained from birth to constantly monitor their appearance), or because a man wearing something too short/tight/whatever is at worst perceived as mildly but ignorably gross but a woman is perceived as distractingly salacious.

              I mean, if a given workplace treats all male interns the same as female interns, and all female executives the same as male executives, then good on ’em and carry on. But the societal pattern is such that I think that is less common than it ought to be.

              1. catsAreCool*

                If the intern isn’t told that her outfits aren’t work-appropriate now, who is going to tell her, and how long will she go on not knowing, which might not be good for her career.

  36. Moonsaults*

    The professional dress code talk is reminding me of when my former friend had an epic meltdown trying to find attire she found appropriate for medical internship interviews. She needed things that were as unflattering as possible because she thought she needed to hide her womanly shape under drab crisp clothing. However in her size, a very tall slim figure over all but very much an hour glass at the same time, you couldn’t find a button down and black flowing pants. We went to to countless department stores aimed towards older women even and nope, nothing that fit her but yet didn’t fit her? It was a truly bizarre experience. She settled on things that she had inherited from her much older, larger relatives under a suit jacket.

    So I know that formal attire is drastically different depending on who you ask, where they’re from and what they ate for breakfast that morning.

    So if it’s not appropriate for your office in particular, do someone a favor and let them know. It’s much better for everyone that way.

    1. Amy the Rev*

      That’s such a sad story; my heart goes out to that woman. So many times I feel like women are caught between competing societal demands: on the one hand, and as a prior commenter pointed out via sharing an article, women are conditioned to think that we owe the world prettiness/attractiveness (as evidenced by folks who get mad about fat people wearing tight clothing in public), and on the other hand, we’re conditioned to think that it’s our responsibility to NOT look attractive, lest we get harassed/assaulted/not taken seriously/dismissed/etc.

      I’m reminded of how certain gyms based on being ‘non-judgemental’ have asked slender women to not wear sleeveless shirts because their toned arms are making others feel ‘judged’, and of that model who shared a photo she took secretly of an overweight person at the gym, making fun of them, and of the boss who fired his employee because she looked ‘too sexy/attractive’ in a normal turtleneck (that she was wearing in order to be as covered as possible).

      1. Observer*

        Three very different issues.

        #1 is just stupid, but a very good example of the mixed-to-an-insane-degree messages that women get.

        #2 was just someone being a nasty, smug piece of work. Even if she didn’t mean it to go viral, who takes a picture of someone it a locker room?! And her comment about it was just gross. This wasn’t mixed messages or societal expectations.

        #3 If it’s the case I’m thinking about, that was a situation of jealousy. Again, not a societal issue, but more of a deeply insecure boss.

        1. Amy the Rev*

          Oh, I wasn’t clear, sorry: I didn’t mean that all of them are examples of mixed messages, but that they each describe how these issues play out.
          1 and 3 describe how women can be discouraged from/face actual repercussions for ‘looking too attractive’ and 2 describes how women can be shamed for ‘not looking attractive enough’ (even by other women, because we’ve often internalized these messages). Also the boss in #3 was a man, so I doubt it was a case of jealousy.

          1. Observer*

            I was thinking of a case where the boss was a man, but the wife was the office manager, and she was the one throwing the fit.

            1. Amy the Rev*

              This is the case I was talking about, it wasn’t about a jealous spouse:

              She was a banker with citibank, and was told that she had to wear makeup to work because she looked “sickly” without it and that she had to straighten her naturally curly hair, but then also told that she shouldn’t wear typical business high heels/pumps because they drew attention to her body in a way that made male managers uncomfortable.

      2. Beth*

        That model who shared the picture of the woman in the gym locker room broke my heart. I’m glad she was caught and charged.

        1. Little Missy*

          You are talking about Dani Mathers, if I remember correctly. I think she got heaped with a double portion of scorn because she was a Playboy centerfold.

    2. Marisol*

      this is where a tailor is essential. an hourglass woman would get pants that fit the hips, and take in the waist. I have a straight up-and-down figure with broad shoulders, so for jackets and blouses, I fit the shoulders, and take in the waist. things rarely fit perfectly off the rack. I’m looking into getting some things custom made too. my tailor is great and will do a blouse for eighty bucks, which I think is quite reasonable.

      1. Temperance*

        That’s just not feasible for many people, though. If I was buying that custom shirt, I could only afford like 3 shirts for the year.

        1. Marisol*

          Everyone’s situation is different. I was mostly addressing the medical intern’s situation, who I would presume was willing to invest a little bit of cash in clothing, given her field and the fact that she was shopping furiously for the right piece. Some people would find $80 cost prohibitive of course. But you bring a consumption issue too–how many shirts does a person need to buy every year? I think three well-made shirts in a year is plenty.

          1. Emi.*

            When you say “three well-made shirts in a year,” are you talking about replacing them every year, or replacing them every two years and overlapping two sets of three shirts, or what?

            1. Marisol*

              Well I would keep them for as long as I could and try not to buy new ones every year. I would ideally replace as needed, which wouldn’t happen all that often. Shirts can last for a long time before they show wear. I think most people buy more than they actually need.

            2. fposte*

              This could be a cohort thing, but there’s no kind of clothes I replace yearly or even every two years. I might admit defeat with a summerweight tee after three, but I wouldn’t repurchase a brand that died after the second year. A nice dress shirt I’d expect to get five years out of minimum (except obviously if I change size, because that’s not the shirt’s fault).

              If you can minimize the dryer, that’s a huge help in keeping clothes lasting; I know there’s not always much hanging space in apartments, but I would at least prioritize the more investy stuff; give it a few minutes spin and then hang it up to finish.

      2. Observer*

        $80 is nowhere near doable for many, many people. If you are a DINK, and both of your are being paid well, that’s one thing. For a huge swath of the rest of the population, though, even with decent pay, there are enough obligations that that is just too much to pay for for the kinds of clothes that you wear every day (and that you are generally expected to change with high frequency).

        1. Marisol*

          As I said above, everyone’s situation is different. I live in L.A. where the cost of living is high so I expect to pay more for things generally. 80 bucks for a shirt may be a lot in the absolute sense, but relative to the cost of other tailors who do custom work, is reasonable.

          I disagree that there is an expectation to change clothes with high frequency though. That is a need that retailers, and more recently fast fashion retailers, have manufactured. In a business setting that is more on the formal side, you could wear the same pair of navy blue trousers once a week, and probably even twice a week, with absolutely no problem. If you get it drycleaned every three or four wearings and store it with some mothballs so it won’t have to be repaired or rewoven, the cost of ownership is low as well. Do that with a handful of items and you have enough clothing for the season for years to come.

          1. fposte*

            This subthread made me really curious about numbers of clothes in wardrobes and trends in frequency of purchase. I think when you’re young and starting out you have to buy more, but if you stay in the same rough sartorial culture acquisition can decline after a few years as your archive grows. But it seems like what’s happening with fast fashion is that a lot of us never really change the rate of acquisition.

            1. Marisol*

              I think it’s actually accelerating, and it scares me. I have found myself doing recreational shopping on a Friday night, instead of going out for dinner and a movie. The cost to my wallet is the same right? So it doesn’t feel irresponsible in terms of my budget and cash flow. Meanwhile, landfills are piling up with this junk and I’m not impressing anyone at work with my Forever21 blouse.

            2. Turtle Candle*

              Yeah, right now my clothing costs are low because I’ve retained more or less the same body shape for 5-7 years and have built up a wardrobe. Even with clothes wearing out, I only have to replace a few shirts a year.

              But when I got out of college, I had essentially no work-appropriate wardrobe. (At college, I wore t-shirts and tight jeans and cutoffs; I had a couple of club-ish outfits and a few things for weddings/funerals/church. But basically nothing business casual.) Even if I was going to wear the same five shirts and two pairs of slacks every week, I needed to shell out for five shirts and two pairs of slacks, plus dark socks and new shoes. And ideally I would not wear the same five shirts every week–if only to reduce the rate at which they wore out–which meant attempting to grow my wardrobe beyond that every so often.

              It was a genuine financial issue, and I went into credit card debt before my first paycheck even buying the cheapest decent-looking stuff I could at JC Penney. (People often ask ‘why not go to a thrift store’–this varies hugely by area; my area was not terrifically useful for thrift store clothes unless you wanted lime green nylon pants from the 70s or castoff bridesmaid dresses.) Had I had to get them tailored, it would have been so much worse.

              (I have not noticed the acceleration, but mostly because I work from home these days, and can wear t-shirts and jeans for the 48 weeks of the year that I don’t have to go back to the home office in person.)

          2. Observer*

            What I by “changing” I was thinking of laundering. If I need to launder something every time I wear it, it’s going to wear out much sooner than if I can launder it every second time. And every second time much faster than once in 4. For a lot of people Shorts are a every time or two.

            As for regular dry cleaning resulting in “low cost of ownership” – you sound like you are living in a bubble. Even if you have to use a laundromat, or a shared machine that pay per use, laundering costs SIGNIFICANTLY less than dry cleaning. Like an order of magnitude less.

            1. Marisol*

              There is no question that running a washing machine costs less than dry cleaning. I was not comparing the two. I was referring to clothing that is labeled dry clean only. Some people think a garment that needs to be drycleaned should be cleaned after every wearing but that is not the case. If cleaning a pair of pants costs $5, and you send it out every 2 months, then that is $30 a year. If you spend $200 on a pair of pants, clean it 6 times a year, and it lasts 5 years, then you will have spent $70 a year on that pair of pants, which cost amortizes each subsequent year. I cannot argue whether $70/year is a reasonable amount to spend on a pair pants–that is for each individual to decide according to their unique circumstances. Not sure how to take that bubble comment, but I definitely don’t live in one.

        2. fposte*

          Sure, but $80 is a pretty common price for a retail structured blouse. That’s about what you’d pay at J. Crew. I don’t think Marisol was saying “custom blouses are within the reach of the masses!” But for the amount you could get something that doesn’t fit you well from Banana Republic you could get something that fits you perfectly.

          Obviously if you’re not buying in that price range retail, it’s a moot point to you, but lots of people who aren’t in the 1% do.

          1. Marisol*

            Exactly. Most of what I buy is on sale, so if I get a shirt at Ann Taylor for forty bucks, then take in the sides for another 30, I might as well pay another ten and get a better fit *and* thicker fabric. (What’s up with that cheapo polyester that sells at a premium price anyway?)

        3. Emi.*

          But if you change your clothes frequently, you wear them fewer times per year, so they last longer. Wouldn’t that offset it?

          1. Marisol*

            Yeah, it offsets it. There are many ways to parse a…personal clothing economy for lack of a better expression.

            1. fposte*

              This thread is so making me want to find and create graphs. If you have more clothes and wear them less frequently, they might wear out more slowly–or you might be buying cheaper clothes to get the multiples and they might therefore wear out so much quicker that there isn’t a financial advantage after all (or vice versa with the pricier clothes, of course). And of course the correlation between price and quality is variable to say the least, but I wouldn’t say it’s nonexistent. Is there a sweet spot? Somebody needs to get on this.

              1. Marisol*

                I have been trying to envision some sort of schematic for this as well. There is also a sweet spot to be found depending on the value of clothes relative to your industry and position, e.g. client facing or not, and other lifestyle factors such as weather, since clothes will wear out faster in a city like New York where you’re walking, commuting on the subway, sweating, and getting in the rain and slow…and this might be silly, but there’s the emotional satisfaction of clothing. Arguably, if you feel bored and blah with what you’re wearing, it affects your quality of life and thus productivity…so where is the sweet spot in all of that??

      3. Moonsaults*

        I have my interview outfits tailored, that’s for sure. I got a great deal though, an off the rack suit with just the right nips and tucks to flatter my body only cost me an additional $35 dollars per piece.

        1. Marisol*

          totally worth it, especially if it gives you an edge in an interview. Even just an internal confidence boost.

  37. Mrs. Picky Pincher*

    2. I’ve been in a new position for about six months, and I totally agree with just letting it go. I’m catching small mistakes I made when I first started. Since they were small issues that didn’t cause any harm, I chalked it up to experience and let it go.

    5. What the what? Did you take the phone and keep it? I would be sympathetic if you took it with the intention of giving it back to the owner and the business freaked out on you for some reason. But yeah, taking phones and keeping them is pretty uncool.

  38. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

    #5: If this occurred like it is laid out in the letter – you saw a phone, took it without intention of returning it, were discovered, then fired for theft – you are extremely lucky to not have been reported for grand larceny as well. Several years ago my iPhone fell off my suitcase and the guy behind me in line picked it up and put it in his pocket. After I checked in I realized it was missing, and someone else in line let me know she though that guy picked it up. I ran him down, asked if he had picked up my phone, he said no, and walked away. I got the police involved, and he was caught at a restaurant near his gate talking on my phone and tried to say it wasn’t theft because he “found it” – he was arrested in the airport and charged even though the item was returned to me right then.

    If you are confused as to why your company can fire you if what you stole is not their property – theft is theft. Some companies fire employees for stealing their coworkers’ food. It doesn’t matter if you are stealing from the company or coworkers or employees of other nearby businesses – they do not have to tolerate theft on their premises.

    1. Allison*

      It does seem like there are people who don’t think it’s “theft” if you just find something and keep it. To them, theft is taking something directly from a person, or going into their house and taking something, or taking something off their desk at work, but if it’s on the floor and “lost,” it’s fair game to anyone who wants it.

      1. Blue Anne*

        I had an acquaintance once who explained how he had found a wallet on the street, taken the cash out of it, and turned the rest of the wallet in to the police station. He told this as a story about what a good person he was. We said “so you stole the cash” and he was ENRAGED – that was his reward for turning in the wallet, not a theft!

        Blows my mind.

        1. AW*

          There are a LOT of people who think that if you turn in a wallet you get to keep the cash inside.

          I’ve heard that logic enough that it actually feels really good to read someone else agree with me that that’s theft.

          1. catsAreCool*

            It’s scary that there are a lot of people who think that. If someone loses their wallet, you try to find their phone number and call them, or turn it into lost and found or take it to the police, you don’t steal their stuff.

  39. ilikeaskamanager*

    My goal with workplace attire is that I want people to pay more attention to what I am doing than they are paying to what I am wearing.

  40. Sorin*

    I’m enjoying the difference in response between this leggings question, and the question from last week about the new CEO at a startup.

  41. Turtle Candle*

    It’s amazing to me how fast any conversation about women’s clothing blows up, even as well-moderated a one as this. The initial question had nothing to do with whether leggings were appropriate in the park, the mall, the gym, or one’s own home, and yet.

    1. MsCHX*

      It’s a polarizing debate because pro-leggings camp takes “leggings aren’t pants” as 100% literal. When the anti-leggings camp means “leggings are a layering item”. And the anti camp can have super extremists that think all leggings should be burned at the stake.


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