Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Today’s Employees Have No Idea …

Have you visited a typical office lately? Things are pretty informal, with employees dressing casually, and many working flexible hours or even from home. Smart employers not only pay well and provide lots of benefits, they also look for ways to make the work experience fun. If you don’t, you lose good employees. (We used to have afternoon pingpong tournaments on the conference room table.)

One of my very first jobs right out of college was working for the Hartford Fire Insurance Company in Hartford, Connecticut.

Companies like that had informal but rigid protocols that governed the careers of young men working for them. (I say “men” because, with very rare exceptions, careers open to women employees in those days were as stenographers and typists and secretaries. Period.)

Sure, an ambitious guy had to work hard, but it was much more important to kiss up to your bosses and observe all the rules, many of which were unwritten.

For instance, the higher you went on the corporate ladder, the more conservative you were expected to dress. Young male executives wore dark suits, white shirts, subdued ties (no bold patterns or bright colors), and black or dark brown shoes. Long hair or beards? Never!

One guy I knew played by the rules in every way but one: He wore bright red socks to work almost every day. I finally asked him about it. “I’m waiting to see,” he said, “if anyone will actually be chicken shit enough to complain about the color of my socks.”

No one ever did. But they fired him anyway.

That was in 1962. That was also when I moved to Hawaii. And I haven’t owned a suit in almost 30 years.


1 comment:

Mike said...

One thing about being career military: attire decisions were made for you and explicitly so. Wasn't always the height of leading edge fashion, but that was accepted.