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April 21, 2008

The CEOís Away, So the Martini Shirtís On Display


Iím on vacation from my company this week, but Iím not on vacation from writing my column because my editor is a slave driver who doesnít believe in days off. He figures that if I go to some exotic global destination, it ought to have wireless so I can sit by the pool and write my column.


What a tyrant! What kind of chief executive would bemoan his people their days off?


Oh wait. Never mind.


At any rate, I left my trusted vice president Lacey in charge. The last time I was on vacation, I found out that Lacey had been a tyrant while I was away. I was so proud. It went like this:


A certain young female employee had shown up for work wearing jeans, a martini shirt and flip-flops. Now, I am a business casual guy, so I rarely if ever wear a suit and donít expect employees to wear them either. And since I have no fashion sense whatsoever, I canít really set many specific guidelines on what constitutes business casual Ė apart from ďDonít look like a slob.Ē


Jeans could be OK, theoretically, but the problem with jeans is that in our business you never know when you might be called out to see a client Ė and even I donít think itís OK to show up at a client wearing jeans.


Flip-flops? I suspect thatís a bad idea. Lacey, who actually has some sense of how people are supposed to conduct themselves in business settings (unlike me), is absolutely certain theyíre a bad idea.


As for a martini shirt, whatís that? I wouldnít have known either, so as helpful public service, Iíve included a photo for those of you reading this online. If youíre reading this in a newspaper, try to envision a rather tight-fitting t-shirt with an image of a martini glass made out of sparkles.


Professional? Lacey didnít think so either, so the employee was sent home to pick out a new wardrobe.


Now I am not saying a wardrobe faux pas is the worst sin imaginable. One time I wore what I thought was a sweater only to be informed by Mrs. Krause when I arrived home at night that it was, in fact, thermal underwear. I thought it looked very nice! It was warm too.


But what got me about the martini shirt incident is that the offending employee would never have worn the shirt, the jeans or the flip-flops if I had been there. She assumed that my absence meant all rules would be automatically relaxed, and that the acting CEO would a) do nothing; and b) not tell me.


Perhaps she viewed the acting CEO as the equivalent of a substitute teacher. You remember those days. They were the best. Giggles. Barely muffled wisecracks. Paper airplane traffic so heavy the FAA sends in air-traffic control to monitor your classroom.


The hapless substitute can haul you down to the office if he or she happens to see you do something, but do you realize how many times a teacher stands with back turned to the class? They donít recognize voices. They donít really know your names.




Is a young employee, well short of a decade removed from high school, not able to recognize that a vacationing CEO presents a slightly different circumstance?


Maybe it was just this employee. I donít know. Sheís since moved on to a competitor that is much bigger and much more profitable than I will ever hope to be. Maybe martini shirts are standard attire there. Or maybe the CEO just never takes a vacation.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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