Balancing act: Readers speak against casual attire, worship of busyness

Published: Tuesday, July 16 2013 8:56 a.m. MDT

Whether it's our national worship of busyness, too-casual attire in the workplace or the decision to take charge of one's personal happiness, the topics I've addressed in the last few months have drawn strong responses from several readers.

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Whether it's our national worship of busyness, too-casual attire in the workplace, or the decision to take charge of one's own personal happiness, the topics I've addressed in the last few months have drawn strong responses from several readers.

Because I think those responses advance the discussions to which they pertain, I want to share some of them this week.

First, I wrote a couple of months ago about our U.S. culture that seems to prize busyness as a virtue, regardless of its potential negative side effects.

A reader named Pam sent me an email to say that column resonated with her.

"I truly applauded your article on busyness," Pam wrote. "Several years ago I decided the same things you were talking about and as a first step decided that my Christmas letter would no longer be a 'how busy we are' and instead would focus on a few brief accomplishments ... about each family member. Our family evaluated the impact of potential activities on our family life and then decided what mattered and what didn't.

"It's amazing what you CAN reduce in your life! I have decided that the whole 'busyness' thing for some people is truly an addiction ... one that I am grateful to have finally escaped!"

Congratulations, Pam, on prying free from the busyness trap. But what if you're so busy that you never manage to get a Christmas letter out on time, if at all?

Never mind. That's my problem to fix.

I received even more responses to a column about a survey in which senior managers indicated that how people dress at work can have a direct impact on their chances for promotions.

A reader named James sent me an email to say he is not a fan of casual dress in the workplace.

"As a child of the 1950s whose third-grade educated, blue-collar father wore a white shirt and tie to the beach (I grew up in Southern California), I deplore casual dress of any kind in the workplace," James wrote. "When I see the president of the USA in (a) sports jacket and open-collared shirt, I know that Armageddon is around the corner!"

Another reader, named JoAnn, expressed similar feelings.

"If the current workers get any more 'casual,' they will be coming to work in their PJs! Try to remember that you not only represent yourself, but your company," JoAnn wrote. "Are you dependable, honest and professional? It will show in your dress. If you care about yourself, others will also.

"This idea of 'take me as I am' is getting on my nerves. You only have one chance to make a first impression. I have a neighbor who barely dresses up, doesn't have any kind of a hairstyle and a negative attitude, yet cannot understand why she is never called back? Time to start some 'preparing for work in the real world' classes."

A reader posting a comment online wrote that how someone dresses at work can influence not only that person's chances for promotion, but also whether customers will do business with the person.

"I'm much more inclined to go to a place of business in which the employees have enough respect for me to dress appropriately," this reader wrote. "I especially don't like to go to a place of business where the women are dressed seductively or where the employees are covered with tattoos. Just my cultural bias."

I'm guessing many other readers would agree with at least some of these sentiments. As for me, I believe it's important to dress appropriately for your specific workplace. I'm glad that, in my current job, that means I am free of the scourge of neckties!

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