April 16, 2010 in Features

Business casual has its limits

Judith Martin

DEAR MISS MANNERS – We are employed at a billing center for a national durable medical equipment supplier. Our manager has recently reinstituted the business-casual dress code. We had been quite casual (jeans) for a very long time.

Is business casual the allowance of “crocs” and allowing employees to be wrapped in blankets at their cubicles during the winter months? What are the acceptable and practiced rules of business casual dress in the employment world?

GENTLE READER – As far as Miss Manners can tell, the word “casual” has come to mean that all social decencies are optional.

People who refuse to consider others – such as not showing up when they said they would or helping themselves to other people’s lunch supplies – will brag that they are just casual sorts of people. The implication is that anyone who objects is pompously citing an unimportant technicality.

So if you think winter was rough in your office (would turning up the heat have helped?), wait until summer. The casual folk especially enjoy trashing anyone’s sense of proper dress.

While “business casual” was originally intended to eliminate ties and jackets, Miss Manners urges your manager to specify what he means and drop the word “casual” from his dress code memos. Otherwise, you can expect your colleagues to peel down amazingly when it gets hot out.

Readers may write to Miss Manners at MissManners@unitedmedia.com, or via postal mail at United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016, or (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper. Judith Martin is the author of “Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior (Freshly Updated).”

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