To ask trainee again to change her clothes

(112 Posts)
badbelinda Mon 09-Sep-13 21:11:09

Thread inspired by recent headmistress and uniform thread. I work in a professional role that involves a lot of public interface and within that role I also mentor juniors. My current junior often wears smart jeans (usually black) and a year ago I told her I didn't think jeans were appropriate for our work setting and didn't give a very professional image. At that time she stopped wearing them for a while, changing to smart trousers which I thought was fine. She's recently started wearing jeans again and now also smart trainers. So AIBU to bring this up again? If you go to see a professional in any role, what would you think of them wearing jeans and trainers (albeit smart ones)? Am I just getting old?

LongTailedTit Sun 15-Sep-13 22:07:26

It's a tricky line OP - I used to work with my sister and was friends with her assistant.
DSis had to speak to her a couple of times about appropriate office dress and makeup, as the assistant was a fan of plunging crop tops, and was plastered in makeup but several days old eyeliner all over the place and hair unbrushed (not a fashion look, just v messy).
The assistant took it as bullying and considered reporting her to HR.

Knowing both of them as I did, I can guarantee my sister did NOT bully her, but would not have backed down when disagreed with, and may have chosen her words badly.
The assistant did actually look too tarty/unkempt for her role, but couldn't see it, and was offended by the suggestion.
I am very glad I kept out of the whole discussion!

If you are going to approach her, I'd do so with a freshly written company dress policy in your hand, as you distribute it to all staff, without directly criticising her clothes.
Bear in mind tho, a new work wardrobe doesn't come cheap, you may need to give her a while to get it sorted! <Memories of minimum wage job with ridiculously tight dress code for non-client-facing role>

How about:
"Smart business attire to be worn, jackets and ties preferred for men, minimal makeup and jewellery, no denim, sportswear, or casual footwear (trainers/flipflops)" etc.

BiBiBroccoli Sun 15-Sep-13 20:49:41

I went to see a solicitor recently and the receptionist was wandering around barefoot. The solicitor was also scruffy and the office was full of boxes of paperwork and old coffee cups.

Took my business elsewhere as it really made me question how professional they were and how disinterested they may be in their work.

badbelinda Sun 15-Sep-13 20:41:59

Sorry have been away. Thank you all for your interesting thoughts. I'm not middle management and I'm not bullying her, just trying to work out whether in my capacity as her mentor this is worth tackling, partly for the image of our firm but mainly for her own future credibillity and employability.

PosyNarker Fri 13-Sep-13 13:31:54

I would say something. I work in an office casual environment - thicker cotton 'jean style' trousers would probably be okay teamed with a shirt, jacket and appropriate shoes. Obvious denims are only allowed on dress down Friday or if there's a good reason (away day, office move, IT lugging kit etc.)

Most people 'get it' and will automatically dress up for more important meetings, or when meeting externals and save the more casual end of their wardrobe for days in the office with no meetings. Trainees often don't (there is I am sure a reason why our policy explicitly states that cropped tops and micro minis are not appropriate for dress down Friday)

Comfort isn't an excuse. It is perfectly possible to be smart and comfortable (I wear a lot of jersey dresses, skirts with smart wool tops rather than shirts etc and actually find the jeans I wear on 'dress down day' more restrictive).

NomDeClavier Fri 13-Sep-13 13:23:18

She doesn't say it's not law - she says it's not a solicitor. That could still be patent or trade mark attorney, conveyancer etc...

TondelayoSchwarzkopf Fri 13-Sep-13 13:14:38

Does everyone realise that the OP does NOT work in law? It's like that but not. So all this discussion on what solicitors should wear is beside the point.

ZillionChocolate Fri 13-Sep-13 08:08:56

http://www.barcouncil.org.uk/media/43507/revised_guidance_on_court_dress.pdf
If you're a lawyer who might need to go to court, then you should be court ready, that is in a dark coloured formal business suit. I think you should wear much the same if you might be seeing/meeting clients.

Time for a written dress code I think.

LibraryBook Fri 13-Sep-13 00:19:44

Nothing shouts 'middle manager' quite like a skirt suit from Matalan. grin

LillyNotOfTheValley Thu 12-Sep-13 22:53:53

Solid except that when it is your own business and your employee may actually reflect badly on your clients - whatever you think of their ideas on how a lawyer should look like!

Actually, disobeying someone who is overreaching his/her authority is quite a good thing to do. It slaps down the officious middle manager and stops him/her from bullying less confident staff.

LillyNotOfTheValley Thu 12-Sep-13 16:10:37

I think there are two separate issues here: the fact she is wearing inappropriate clothing and that she is not abiding to your instructions.

A dress code is a dress code! Even when it is not written down and signed you have to follow it, whatever your fashion ideas are. I am working with writers and whenever I take them to clients meetings I have to sendthem a reminder on how to dress (corporate). I would not dream of hiring a lawyer that does not look like one too, I am trusting them with three digits contracts, ffs.

I would be more worried about her not abiding by the rules and not list to you tbh. That is where she deserves a good telling off.

LibraryBook Thu 12-Sep-13 10:26:23

I think this is bonkers. I'm no less likely to trust a solicitor in jeans and trainers than one in a well-cut navy suit.

I dislike corporate uniform. It has no place in 2013 and it's time we ditched it.

MattZelst Thu 12-Sep-13 10:18:56

if you're good at your job, then it doesn't matter whether you look a little more casual

joanofarchitrave Thu 12-Sep-13 06:19:08

To me, jeans are just not office wear, but these things can clearly change over time (I'm not THAT old though). My aim with work clothes is to be 'unmarked' i.e. to wear things that do not intrude on the process of my work in any way. If a professonal I'm interacting with wears jeans, I do notice, and although I don't care hugely, it is a small distraction.

MooseBeTimeForSnow Thu 12-Sep-13 06:05:52

Can I stick my tuppence worth in? No one appears to have mentioned the Court aspect yet. If I was doing non contentious work I'd be a bit more relaxed about what I was wearing. However, I was at Court at least three days a week and my local Judges would have said something if I'd turned up in black jeans. The only concession they would make would be during summer when a notice would go up on the board, permitting the removal of suit jackets.

My company had a dress policy. Somewhat ironic that the person who flouted it most regularly was a female equity partner.

nooka Thu 12-Sep-13 05:21:26

I never met the solicitor who sold my house for me, and have zero interest in what he was or was not wearing. I would expect a solicitor to be fairly formally dressed, but that's just because it is a fairly stuffy profession, not because it makes any difference to my opinion of them. The perception of appropriate wear within the legal profession and in the wider population (i.e. what 'ordinary' people think solicitors should wear) might well be different.

I dress pretty casually at work because my office is casual, but if I am representing the company then I am always much smarter. When our company lawyers are in court they are super smart. Just one of those business dress rules to learn really.

BadLad Thu 12-Sep-13 03:24:07

I wouldn't want a solicitor who wasn't wearing a suit or business dress.

TheFarSide Wed 11-Sep-13 21:38:49

I mean projecting their opinions onto the majority, or as if they are a majority view.

I am merely challenging this assumption (in addition to putting forward my own opinion).

LessMissAbs Wed 11-Sep-13 21:01:29

TheFarSide Some people on this thread are just projecting their own opinions

That appears to be what you are trying to do. Who has given you the authority to lay down whether evidence is required and in which form? As for me, I am not "projecting my own opinion" - I am qualified in the profession in question and now spend my time attempting to teach these skills to students. What we are trying to do is to make students employable, and not only on graduation, but in a vocational course to go on and have a professional career. This is something that will have been drummed into this trainee from almost the word "go", and she must either be very dense or have missed a lot of lectures and reading if she is unaware of it.

NomDeClavier Wed 11-Sep-13 20:55:55

If it weren't a thread about a thread it would be interesting to do a snap survey in MN - 'what do you think a solicitor should wear?' I suspect most people would automatically says a suit/formal business wear regardless of whether they would care hugely if the solicitor wasn't wearing a suit. I reckon the expectation is there for most of the population.

TheFarSide Wed 11-Sep-13 20:48:42

Exactly, LessMiss - no evidence exists.

I'm not disputing the fact that knowing how to dress according to one's environment is a skill. I am however disputing wild claims about what the majority of people think. Some people on this thread are just projecting their own opinions.

LessMissAbs Wed 11-Sep-13 20:09:28

Trazzletoes - what actual evidence do you have that "the majority of people expect a solicitor to be in business dress"? Do you think a majority of people prefer a solicitor to be in business dress? Are we just making assumptions and therefore perpetuating certain traditions?Perhaps a majority of people don't care

I doubt very much that the Law Society has carried out a survey of people's attitudes towards what solicitors wear with verified formal sources of empirical evidence. Just as it had probably not carried out a survey of the general public's precise understanding of fiduciary duties, such as respect owed to the employer.

What is certain is that before getting to the stage of a trainee, a potential solicitor will have spent at least 4 years and possibly more studying the subject of law at university with a heavy emphasis on practice, including office and business skills. Towards the end of that, the trainee will have realised how difficult it is to get a traineeship at the end of their student years, and during that traineeship, hopefully the importance of being kept on or at least given a good reference will have sunk in. There is constant complaint from the profession to the universities that trainees are not coming out well enough equipped to be of use when working in the profession, but it is supposed to be a vocational degree.

This trainee is not doing that well. These things should not have to be pointed out to her at this stage in her career. And definitely not more than once.

TheFarSide Wed 11-Sep-13 19:47:03

Trazzletoes - what actual evidence do you have that "the majority of people expect a solicitor to be in business dress"? Do you think a majority of people prefer a solicitor to be in business dress?

Are we just making assumptions and therefore perpetuating certain traditions?

Perhaps a majority of people don't care.

I don't wear jeans. I do occasionally wear casualish trousers with a nice top and lots of leggings and tunics. But then I'm not a solicitor. I'm an NHS manager and I need to be comfortable and approachable and friendly. If I've got a scary meeting I dress accordingly. OP - I'm not chuffed to read that your male colleagues 'wouldn't wear jeans. If you're making an issue of it with this person it should be an issue know to everybody. You cannot rely on people simply not doing it. If she can't there should be a documented reason why not or it starts to look like victimisation.

BTW on the trainers issue. I once employed somebody who wroe sort of canvas shoes in a dark colour to work. AFter a few months these disintegrated but they kept wearing them. I asked if they had any other shoes and they revealed they had their best shoes which were killers on the feet (and they had to walk 3 miles a day to get to and fro work plus a LOT of running round at work) or trainers (which they were wearing for the commute) or the falling apart shoes. They thought I wouldn't like the trainers. Now I knew how much this person was paid - also a training wage and what their commute already cost and I made the decision that what mattered more to me was an employer who was safe and comfortable in their shoes. On my instruction they wore trainers the rest of their contract. Looked fine and when they got a decent paid job straight from working with me the first thing they did was but good comfy, smart shoes. I would do exactly the same with any other member of staff.

NomDeClavier Wed 11-Sep-13 19:40:17

It all comes down to image really and if the image you wang your firm to be projecting doesn't include jeans you need to tell her, and the rationale behind it.

It's easier to say 'no jeans' than 'very smart, branded jeans are okay in the following styles but ripped, faded, studded, flared etc etc etc aren't'. If they're noticeably jeans then you potentially have a problem.

I don't wear jeans when I'm meeting with people I want to take me/my organisation seriously in terms of shaping public policy etc. I will wear jeans if I want to appear informal/put someone at ease although I still obviously wang them to take me seriously. It's the expectation of the other side that counts. The former will think 'what does she know, she's wearing jeans'. The latter will think 'she doesn't have a clue about me or my needs, she's wearing a suit'.

Part of learning to be a professional and moving in a professional sphere is dressing appropriately for your audience.

Do I have an issue with my doctor wearing jeans? No. They wash well and who wants bodily fluids on an LK Bennett dress? Besides it humanises them a bit.

Do I have an issue with a union rep accompanying me to an employment tribunal wearing jeans? Yes, because I want them to look serious and scary, not like they've come from/are off to the pub/trendy wine bar.

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