I recently read one of those so-good-you-rip-it-out-and-fold-it-in-your-agenda-for-later articles in InStyle’s March 2017 issue (also, one of my favorite #GirlBosses, Amy Schumer, is on the cover so I was immediately sold). Titled “Dress to Unimpress,” the article by Lena Dunham (another great #GirlBoss) eloquently satirizes fashion’s golden “rules” and gives her top five tips for breaking them. Regardless of your stance on age-old fashion restrictions, it’s worth a read for a good laugh.
Inspired by Dunham’s good-natured humor, I thought I would take a stab at my top five workplace “rules” I think are worth breaking (if you can). I’m not nearly as funny as Dunham, so keep your expectations low.
- Don’t bank on your degree.
It’s super awesome that you graduated summa cumma kappa alpha magna laude from your liberal arts college no one has heard of. It really is. But, if you can’t problem solve on the fly, take direction quickly, or be nice, no one will care. Even worse, if you keep reminding people of your summa cumma kappa alpha magna laude degree, you likely will not get invited to the office holiday cocktail party.
Good grades don’t make friends for you, and they don’t get you promoted, either. They might get you a good job, but they don’t mean you will do a good job. Keep working hard and tell yourself you did not peak in college. Your mountain-top moment is yet to come!
- Do wear clothes that make you happy.
This is the 21st century, people. Times are not that tough. You can now buy office-appropriate clothes that reflect your fun personality. No, you do not need to look like you are a member of the CIA. No, you are not required to look like Anne Hathaway in the beginning of The Devil Wears Prada and give off the scruffy, I-haven’t-slept-or-bathed-in-three-days-because-I’m-so-committed-to-my-job look. No one is asking you to do that. Unless you are a Deal or No Deal case girl, you can freely choose your own work uniform. Wear clothes that reflect who you are. Work feels way more fun that way. (And if you are Dorothy Self, you will wear camo skinny pants with cheetah stilettos. And she gets stuff done in that outfit. Case. In. Point.)
- Do ask a lot of questions.
I completely understand the desire to appear like a know-it-all on your first day. I also understand the fear that accompanies approaching your boss because you truly do not know how to complete your task. It’s the worst. But, even more awful is Googling how to do something and proudly showing your boss your work, only for them to go, “Oh, nope. That is not what I meant.”
Asking for help/clarification requires vulnerability and humility. But it is so worth the five seconds of awkward. Ask away. I promise your boss would much rather you do it right than try to prove yourself and do it wrong.
- Do build up your coworkers.
If you haven’t caught on to the words of affirmation theme on the #GirlBossBlog, you must be new. Dorothy and I thrive on words of affirmation (in a major way, we’re kindred spirits). And something I have picked up from Dorothy is her tendency to text me after a day in the office to follow up on a conversation we had or a difficult situation navigated together. Knowing that she thought of me while driving home, making dinner, or catching up on emails means the world. Wash, rinse, repeat on that one. Great buildings were never built from materials working against each other – but rather with each other. And the people building had to work together, too.
Don’t fall into the trap of gossip or petty talk. It gets nothing done. You can read more about how much I appreciate encouraging work environments here, here, and here. Oh, and here.
- Do become friends with your boss.
In my previous jobs, there was a major “us vs. them” mentality when it came to boss/employee relationships. I think that’s how we are conditioned to approach work since childhood, thanks to the ever-present “us vs. them” attitude toward our teachers. The boss is the bad guy and the employees bond over how much they can’t stand the dull meetings, invalidation, egos and lousy memos. (Think about those side interviews in “The Office.” They are so funny because they are so accurate.)
Dorothy once told me to pick the boss, not the job (her first boss was Melissa Cabocel of the Consumer Bankers Association, and I am headed up there to meet her soon – can.not.wait to meet the very first link in the chain of DFSquad #GirlBosses). This idea might sound counterintuitive – being friends with your boss – but after building my friendship with Dorothy over the past nine (I mean really!) months, I realize how right she is (what else is new). The right boss, if you let them, will inspire, encourage, and push you to be better. They will find your strengths and magnify them. They will want to teach you. They will want to be your friend, and friends build up friends. They will care, and they will see the strengths that God has given you, and they will honor that. And I can say that I’m 100% sure she appreciates me every day! That’s a freeing feeling, and empowering too. No filing of emails for me – she believes in me full stop. She trusts me with her friendship and her business she started from the ground up. That’s no small responsibility, but that’s what friends do. So forage that good relationship with your boss. You might just learn from them, and benefit along the way.
So, if you get in trouble for committing a classic workplace faux pas, you can blame me. But, in my experience, some rules are worth breaking to enhance the work experience. And if you really want to go wild, wear white heels before Easter. *gasp*