Dear Getting a Grip: The women at my office and their low-cut blouses… What are they thinking wearing bar-hopping attire to work? A guy’s gotta look, doesn’t he? I’m not a creep, a stalker, or a predator. I’m a healthy, heterosexual male. Will you tell the ladies to at least button up one more button so I can get back to work?
Dear Not a Creep: While I don’t have the power or interest to impose a dress code, I can see your point of view. Literally and figuratively. People select clothing for reasons ranging from indifference, to adornment, to tradition, to intent. Should co-workers wear this and not that? Unless a company dress code exists and management enforces it, the question doesn’t really matter. Our particular morals or taste have no control over what, how much, or how little our co-workers wear.
A guy may think he’s gotta look, but it’s dangerous corporate territory. Whether you look, joke about the desire to look with co-workers, or talk over the looking with a manager, you’re right that you can look like a creep. You may also be accused of sexual harassment, which is legally actionable.
Getting a Grip: What we give our attention to ultimately is a matter of choice, whether to an office mate’s cleavage, to the plumber’s half-exposed rump, or to a rose-tinted sunrise. None of those “make” us look, although we may not be fully conscious of choosing. When we feel like something outside of us is driving our choices, we’ve given our control to it and we’re no longer behind the wheel. While it may feel natural to look, it’s natural to feel hunger and wait to eat. Figure out what’s taking your sense of choice and power from you at work, and take back that wheel. After work, places abound where it’s not only permissible, but expected, that you sit back and look and look and look.
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Getting a Grip, a workplace advice column, is written by Anne Giles Clelland Getting a Grip regrets that not all questions can be answered, personal replies are not possible, and questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.