What’s the Dress Code?

Posted by Richard Moran.

It was all over the news. Two young women were denied access to board a United Airlines flight because they were wearing leggings. In this instance, the dress was inappropriate and violated the dress code. (In fairness to United, the women were flying on an employee pass and the airline does have a specific dress code for those flyers.) Guys like me aren’t even sure what leggings are or if they’re appropriate for flying. Old timers are now reminiscing about the days when you dressed up to get on an airplane. Men wore jackets and ties, women wore dresses. Times have changed.

Figuring out a dress code today is like asking the “Magic 8 Ball” a question. When you turn it over, the answer on the little screen is “Answer Hazy, Try Again”. Formal dress codes do still exist and, depending on where you work, are usually not open for interpretation. If the dress code calls for a shirt with a collar, that’s what you wear.

It’s the informal dress codes, suggested dress codes or “figure it out on your own” lack of codes that create the mental havoc.

When the Evite hits the screen, business casual is the most often suggested dress. Does business casual mean a blazer and khaki pants or blue jeans and a T-shirt? Or, at some Silicon Valley events, business casual means cargo shorts and a T-shirt.

Business attire in most worlds means wear a tie for a man and get dressed up for a woman. But no one wears ties anymore. In some places wearing a tie is really weird and makes you look like a Grandpa.

What the heck is cocktail attire? Based on some parties I have attended, cocktail attire means wear something that you can spill your drink on.

Does black tie optional mean I should wear a black tie or not? This designation raises an entire spectrum of follow on questions like: If I wear a tux will I be the only one? Should it be a dinner jacket or a black tux? Does black tie really mean black tie or can I wear a blue tie? If the event is that fancy, do I even want to go?

Women have an even more difficult time figuring out the dress code puzzles.

Everyone defines the dress code differently today, depending on age. But there are still rules and good judgment does apply. My rules are simple: Wear what’s comfortable; wear what’s age appropriate; and, wear something that won’t get you into trouble. And never under estimate the power of a blue blazer.

5 Additions for the Uber Employee Handbook

Posted by amy.

Uber is big in the news lately. I know they would prefer not to be. Uber is one of Silicon Valley’s darlings. The market cap is $70 billion (yes billion) and it has helped define the word “disruptive”. It has created a transportation company without owning a single car. The company has become a metaphor for all start-ups in the world, as in, “ We are the Uber for cosmetics”. Or, “We are the Uber for baby sitters”. We like Uber, I use Uber. The Uber idea is changing the way we think about cars and has huge implications ranging from self-driving cars to urban parking garages. But what the heck is going on there?

There is that video of the CEO ranting at an Uber driver. Then there are multiple allegations of sexual harassment and of a misogynistic workplace. The president of the company just resigned over the “culture” there. And then there is that report that its self-driving cars are malfunctioning and possibly running on stolen technology. Did I mention the reports of a secret program designed to evade government scrutiny? Things do pile up.

All this activity doesn’t help the image of Silicon Valley as the haven for spoiled brilliant children. Uber CEO, Travis Kalanick has apologized and said he needs to “grow up.”  Ah, so that’s the problem. Growing up.

Travis, I am not sure I can help with the growing up thing, you might check with other adults. But I can give elementary advice to all of those at Uber who are wondering what the rules are in the hopes it will help the situation there. Think of it as a Growing Up Primer:

  • Whatever you do, you get caught. And the more of a luminary you are, the more likely it is that you will get caught. Many people learn this rule in high school. Did I mention that wherever you are a video camera or cell phone is capturing your behavior?
  • Just because a leader misbehaves, doesn’t mean you can. Sometimes rules are not enforced the same way for everyone. It may be inequitable but it’s true.  A boorish leader might still fire you for the same offense. Sorry to report this life truth.
  • Some crimes committed by managers are forgiven. Yelling at employees is not one of them, especially when the offense is captured on video. Plus, the offense will be remembered for a long time.
  • Not all PR is good PR. Contrary to the old marketing adage that “all public relations is good public relations”, some of it is really bad and can really hurt corporate or individual reputations.
  • Excuses only go so far. Even a good excuse may not explain egregious offenses. “I need to grow up”, is just another way to say “I am immature” and not typically in the great excuse category.

I suspect none of this advice is in the employee handbook at Uber or that management will read these simple rules. Maybe the next time I take an Uber I will see some of this advice on the dashboard of the car. In the meantime, for its own sake, I hope Uber stays out of the news.

That one big, bad mistake

Posted by Richard Moran.

Apologies in advance to PWC.

Dear PWC, I am sorry to write this but the metaphor is just too timely and important. OK, OK, some will say that I am piling on but I don’t meant to. I only want to illustrate a lesson about work and careers. I hope you will forgive the license and accept my apologies in advance.

To set the stage: One person at PWC, a senior person at that, made a bad judgment call and as a result gave the wrong envelope to presenters at this year’s Academy Awards. The resulting confusion was a moment for the ages. PWC owned up to the mistake and issued several apologies (good move). It was a story that was hard to miss and everyone in the world now knows about it. It was an unfortunate incident for everyone involved, especially PWC.

Let’s take a step back. PWC is a great firm. Worldwide they have over two hundred thousand employees who perform really difficult tasks and solve important problems every day. Although I have no inside information, the very nature of the work they do dictates that the people there act with integrity and high standards. The firm is selective in who they hire and employees are put through a comprehensive training program. People there are proud to be a part of the firm. BUT…that major flub did occur at the Academy Awards. It happened in front of billions of people. And PWC was to blame.

So I dare you. When you see an ad for PWC right now or you meet someone who works at PWC, what is the first thing that comes to mind? It’s the flub. Admit it. And it’s too bad because there are so many positives about the firm.

The proverbial saw cuts both ways. I suspect when you see an airplane from USAir you might think of the heroics of Captain Sully. When you see an Apple logo, Steve Jobs may still come to mind. Duke basketball and Coach K are almost the same thing. Tiger Woods can conjure thoughts in activities other than golf.

The lesson? No matter who you are and how long you’ve been around, one mistake can define you or your organization and last for a long time, good or bad. Reputations can be resurrected but it doesn’t happen over night.

Think of the guy who got drunk at the holiday party a few years ago. Or the person who was abusive to employees and was caught on video. Or the colleague who saved the day on the project by working all night and you still remember it. The reputations were built, or hurt, in one fell swoop.

A personal and corporate image is a sensitive treasure and once a mistake is made it can be difficult to recover. Think about that before you make that one big, bad decision. Or, when you have an opportunity to do something great.

And, once again, so sorry PWC. Let me know if I can help.