Cynical Girl Laurie Ruettiman has occasionally described HR as frumpy, an accusation I thought slightly unkind yet largely irrelevant. But when I surveyed the crowd of primarily female HR people at a recent seminar, she was right.
With a few notable exceptions, we were middle-aged, frumpy and on the chubby side.
Of course, age is just a number and heavy women can exude beauty and style. In case you don’t know, I am no fashionista; I am a tomboy with hints of thrift-store flower-child. My mantra has always been: comfort, comfort, comfort. Working in a nonprofit, I love that I could probably come to work in pajamas and not raise eyebrows. For much of my career, I wore khakis, a shapeless shirt, and shoes that can’t accurately be described as anything except butt-ugly. In other words, I was an ideal candidate for TLC’s What Not to Wear.
In fact, this show helped me see my attire in a whole new light: as a way to brand and promote myself, market my contribution to my organization, make myself feel good, and also communicate to the people in the room that I anticipate and honor our time together.
Since watching the show, my style evolution has been slow, modest, perhaps even unnoticed by others. I struggle with a proportionately small waist and curvy thighs, making it almost impossible to find pants that don’t simultaneously gap and bind. Skirts would be a great alternative except I’d have to think ahead and shave my legs. And probably wear uncomfortable shoes. Yes, I’m still a tomboy.
But then I think about those ladies at the HR event and it gives me pause. Forgive me, but I couldn’t escape the thought that, with a few notable exceptions, we looked like a convention of retired librarians.
I wondered, what image do we project to our employees when we dress like this? To our leadership, customers and constituents? Do we project confidence, boldness, vision, courage, innovation or vibrancy?
In fact, does anyone even notice us at all? Does the way we dress command attention and respect? Or do we just blend into the background where we belong while we quietly alphabetize workers comp forms or whatever else people assume HR does.
What would happen if we dressed as though we worked in advertising rather than in admin or in PR rather than Personnel?
As much as I love comfort, there will be no more HR frump in my office. I’m going to be creative, use color, explore my style and maybe even show my legs – confidently, vibrantly and without apology. Doing so communicates that I am awake. I am confident. I take pride in myself. I am aware it is 2011. I reinvent myself. I try new things. I take risks. I am my own person. I am not afraid.
After all, I am part of the HRevolution – not the HRarchives.
photo by estranelo_edessa