I work in a high profile law firm and have a co-worker who is very good at her job but has no idea how to dress, something that is holding her back in her career. “Juanita” insists on stuffing herself into the smallest size skintight clothing she can find. Her muffin top looks more like an exploding volcano cake; her breasts look ready to burst out of her blouse; and I don’t know how her butt fits into her clothes, but to say she has “visible panty lines” is an understatement; I can see the entire outline of her thong or worse, her g-string. The woman looks like a sausage about to burst its casing, and of course Juanita thinks she looks fantastic.
Juanita and I both work as paralegals at the firm, and both of us work behind the stacks, so to speak. We do not interact with the clients; those positions are held by paralegals with more experience than we have. My firm promotes from within, so I have always known that with time and experience I would have a chance for a promotion. Juanita has always hoped for the same, and this is where the problem is.
One of the front-office paralegals is pregnant and has decided that she will be taking an indefinite leave of absence after her child is born. This means that there will be an opening, at least for the long-term temporary, in the front-office. Juanita and I have both expressed interest in filling the position. I have mentioned it to the pregnant paralegal herself, hoping that she might recommend me; Juanita to one of the partners in the firm.
The pregnant paralegal told me that she would be happy to recommend me to cover her position for her, and if I do well recommend me for a permanent position in the front-office. She told me that I have the professional demeanor and presentation that the firm seeks in its employees, and that my performance will reflect on her since she is recommending me, so it is a win-win situation. I feel like I can practically count on the higher paycheck already!
Juanita keeps talking about how much she wants the front-office position and lording over me the fact that she has more experience than me, not so subtly hinting that she believes she will get the job regardless of whether or not I apply for it. She hints that I should not bother to waste my time applying for the job.
Tazi, I want to tell Juanita that she does not have a snowball’s chance in Hades of getting the front-office job until she changes her style of dress to something more professional, but I am afraid that if I tell her that she just might do it, and get the promotion over me! I do not want to sabotage her chances of getting the job, but I really want this job for myself, too. What do you advise, Tazi? What is the ethical thing to do?
Dear Professional Pattie:
Lucky for you, it is not your place to tell your co-workers that their style of dress is inappropriate for the office. Should Juanita be passed over for promotion one too many times, she will eventually figure out – on her own or through Human Resources – that she needs to dress more appropriately if she seeks to advance to a front-office position. You do not need to feel as though you are sabotaging Juanita’s ambitions by withholding judgment of her wardrobe.
Both you and Juanita have taken a different approach towards expressing your interest in the job; without knowing how the partner Juanita spoke to responded, I cannot know if Juanita’s confidence is genuine or an attempt to shake off her own insecurity. If the firm is interested in promoting Juanita, they will tell her what she needs to do in order to be seen as a viable candidate for the position.
If you are still feeling ethically challenged, I suggest you talk to Juanita and ask her what the firm’s partner told her that has given her such confidence that she will get the promotion over you. Knowing what she knows may ease your worried conscience.
Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.