I’m going to ask a favor of everyone that works for a large company. Simply, I request that you remember you are a unique individual.
To elaborate, don’t let your employer strip you of your sense of self and thereby make it easier for them to do it to the rest of us. These companies have become so afraid of offending the all-holy customer that they go too far and create norms against anything that a customer may view as personal expression.
These are usually policies, both formal and informal, that have to do with personal style and comfort. Typically, the policies attempt to strip employees of any.
An example or two are in order.
I tried on multiple occasions to wear my all black Vibram FiveFingers to my bank job. The first time I got some snide comments from my managers, “Those are interesting shoes,” her voice soaked in disdain. This was an attempt to make me feel ashamed for violating the informal norm. So, I wore them again on another day, because I wasn’t ashamed. This time my manager pulled me aside and said she discussed it with the other manager and they decided ‘your toe-shoes probably aren’t the most appropriate and customers might not see them as professional.’ Even though I stood behind a three-foot counter all day and customers couldn’t even see them; and most of the women kicked off their shoes throughout the day. This was an attempt to enforce an official dress policy and make me feel as if I had violated a condition of my employment. I was not finished, though. On a ‘casual Friday’, in which I had to wear jeans if I wanted to adhere to the informal norm, I wore my Vibrams again. My reasoning was that we were encouraged to wear more relaxed clothes–that violated the official dress code–so that would be an appropriate time to wear my more comfortable, relaxed shoes. Not so. Because they had already told me not to wear them, they had to continue the policy of stripping me of my individuality.
Another example, this one more brief. A coworker had a feather and jewels braided into her hair at a fair. She loved it and it really expressed her unique sense of style and self. The next day, she became worried that her job might not approve. So she removed them. These personal accents that made her so happy were stripped away for fear of some corporate sense of propriety.
I’m asking all of you to help the woman in the second example. Stand up for your right to innocuously express yourself. When nearly everyone gives in tot the pressure to conform to some bland, non-differentiated (caucasian) standard of professionalism, it becomes so much harder for the few of us that won’t stand for it. Those lone voices are so much easier to smother.
If it was an active conversation of expression, though, it would be harder to silence. If these companies want identical, expressionless automaton workers and customer servants, then they can invest in robotics and AI research (hire me). Until then, they must accept us as unique beings with the right to harmlessly express ourselves. We must defend this right and not let fear stop us from invoking it.
The header image was taken from chronos_tachyon's Flickr stream and is used under Creative Commons license.
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