How to Deal with Political Talk at the Office

How to Deal with Politics at the Office | CorporetteHow do you handle a lot of religious and political talk at the office — particularly if you disagree with it?  Reader S wonders:

Could you do a post about politics at the office? I am a moderate liberal, and my approach has always been to avoid discussing politics at work at all, except when necessary to serve the needs of a client (i.e., analyzing a judge’s leanings or referring a client to a PR/lobbying specialist). I now find myself in a small-ish firm (about 35 attorneys) in a conservative, evangelical region, and political conversations are very common in my office. Some of the partners with offices near mine are constantly making derisive comments about president Obama and his policies, the liberal agenda, the liberal media, etc. Sometimes the critiques venture into gender issues. I find many of the things they say to be pretty offensive. I try to avoid participating in the conversations as much as possible so they don’t ask me what I think, but I can’t help overhearing them. Do you have any advice on how to handle this situation, short of (or until) leaving the firm?

Yeouch.  We’ve talked about election politics at the office many years ago, as well as pressure from coworkers to give to charities at the office (which sometimes veers into the political realm), but we haven’t talked about either in a really long time.  (We’ve also talked about how to handle it when your coworkers are sexist pigs.)

I’m curious to hear what readers say here, but in this particular situation, this sounds like a Fit Issue.  A big time, capital letters, serious fit issue.  It sounds like you don’t agree with or respect their opinions regarding politics or religion, and you feel like your opinions wouldn’t be respected either.  Not only is it unpleasant and awkward at work, but honestly I think your career prospects are also limited, because Fit is a major reason why people get promoted (or don’t).  So: for you, it’s time to move on. [Read more...]

How to Wear Heels (If You’re Used to Flats)

How to Start Wearing Heels | CorporetteHow can you wear heels, if you’re used to flats? Which are the best first heels to buy? How do you make the transition smoothly and effectively? Reader J wonders:

I have always been a flat, practical shoe kind of person with some style. For example, Merrill boots in the winter. But, I am really trying to increase my presence in the world and have read that shoes with more lift indicate more power, money, etc. How do I find higher shoes that won’t kill my feet after all these years of being practical? Advice appreciated!

I’m curious to hear what readers say here. We’ve talked about the best brands for comfortable heels, specific ways to make heels more comfy, and how to look professional in flats (even how to wear flats to court), but I have a few more thoughts on this:

a) Obviously, you don’t have to wear heels to be professional. Personally I think heels look better with most work-appropriate clothes (full-length trousers, pencil skirts, sheath dresses, etc), and I find them more comfortable, on average, than a lot of work-appropriate flats, but you don’t need them to be “professional.”

b) Ask yourself WHY you want to start wearing heels. For Reader J, she’s trying to “increase her presence” — I’m not sure heels are the best way to do that. Heels can make you taller, and I’ve always thought they made my legs look thinner, but I think it would be a long road (because I’m going to suggest you take it slow if you do start wearing heels) before you’d get to the kind of heels that are outfit-defining, personality, statement pieces. For example — Erin Callan was known for her 4″ Louboutins and similar heels — but I’m not sure a 1.5″ heel is really going to “say” that much more than a flat would. It’ll make you taller… it might make your legs look better than flats… but it isn’t going to increase your presence (unless you’re clomping down the hallway in them, in which case I’m not sure that’s a good thing).  Like I mention above, I think heels will enable you to wear more outfits that will in general look sleeker, and those will increase your presence — but I think more credit is going to the sleek wardrobe than the mere fact that you’re wearing heels.

c) If you decide to start wearing heels, start s-l-o-w-l-y.  Don’t try to go from wearing, say, flat boots (where obviously your foot and vamp are fully encased) to 4″ pumps — it isn’t going to end well.  Look for low heelsunder 2 inches! — at first, to get your feet used to some height.  (Both of the Hunt roundups linked have a lot of suggestions for specific low heels that are pretty much perennial styles, like the Stuart Weitzman Poco, also pictured at the top of this post (and on sale — was $298 now $158, available in sizes 4-12). After you master that heel height, consider going higher (I’d stay under 3.5″ for the next round, perhaps aided with platforms (no bigger than 1″; bonus if they’re hidden).  Personally I don’t think anyone needs to go higher than that unless you’re taking pictures or shooting film (I’ve found out the hard way that 3″ heels look fairly frumpy on film!) — for actual life, I think the 4″+ heels are for the true heel lovers out there.

A few other tips:

  • For my $.02, check out the comfortable mall stores first — places like Aerosoles, Easy Spirit, and Macy’s comfort boutique — and avoid other mall shoe stores that specialize in trends/affordability first (sometimes sacrificing comfort and quality).
  • Scratch your soles — if the soles aren’t rubber, make sure you wear them outside enough to get them scratched.  It’ll give you more traction.
  • Look for strappy pumps if you have trouble walking in traditional pumps.
  • Look for chunkier heels (possibly even wedge heels) — the skinnier the heel the harder it is to balance.
  • Go bare.  If you’re still in the breaking-in stage, consider wearing them sockless (no trouser socks, no pantyhose) — for some reason that always helps me.  (Of course, know your office — bare legs are not appropriate everywhere, particularly with skirts.)
  • Know your inserts.  Get to know the various inserts from Dr. Scholl’s and the like available to you.  For example, I have narrow heels so I always have to put in heel inserts.
  • commuting heels Find comfortable commuting shoes — possibly even commuting heels that are lower versions than your regular heels.  (I was obsessed with this picture in a recent Inc. magazine article on executive assistants — Barbara Corcoran switching into identical but lower heels after a talk show!) I always suggest a general six-block rule for heels:  Your heels should be comfortable enough to walk at least six blocks, but I’d be surprised if anyone (at least, anyone with their podiatrist’s blessing) is walking for miles in heels.

Readers, if you’ve worn flats for years and then transitioned to heels, how did you do it?  Readers who started wearing heels when you started your career, how did you start?  What are your best tips for wearing heels?  Readers who love flats, which are your favorite work-appropriate brands and styles — and what do you wear with them? 

Emergency Preparedness — What’s Smart, What’s Crazy?

Emergency Preparedness Plans | CorporetteAre you prepared for various emergencies?  When do you think emergency preparedness crosses the line from smart to crazy?  We joked the other day about “Nine Ways to Prepare your Office for a Zombie Attack,” but that got me thinking — I’ve read a ton of advice lately about emergency preparedness plans for situations you never want to be in, and while some of it is a bit out there, most of it I’m glad to have read. Maybe it’s the former lifeguard in me (or the mama) but it calms me in a weird way to know what to do and have a plan of attack, and I often find myself discussing it with my husband afterwards, teaching him what I’ve learned. Maybe I’m crazy, but it seems like there are more and more of these stories, too. (For what it’s worth, we have had a serious discussion on here about the best self-defense tips for women.)  Ladies, do you like these stories? Or do you think it’s crazy prep for the paranoid?  (After all: may none of us ever have to use any of this knowledge!)

These are some of the stories that I’ve read and thought were really helpful — have any to add?

  • What To Do If You Fall On the Subway Tracks [Gothamist]
  • How to Stay Safe If You’re Caught in a Mass Shooting [Lifehacker]
  • How to Survive a Plane Crash [Smarter Travel, via Huffington Post]
  • How to Survive a Fall Through the Ice [Lifehacker]

Another fun topic: what emergency supplies do you keep in your homes? [Read more...]

Bra Care: How Often, and How, To Wash Your Bras

How often do you wash your bras — and how do you care for them? Which bras are best for under work clothes? Reader C wonders:

Could you please do a post on best bras for under work clothes, and also on how often one ought to be replacing bras? I have switched to (what I thought, at least) were high quality bras from Natori (size 32D), which I really like and also take moderately good care of (handwashing only; hang to dry; washing every 1-2 wears; rotating every day among 7-10 total bras). But they still only last about 1 year. Is this the normal lifespan? Or is there something I’m doing wrong in my purchasing and/or care? Many thanks!

We haven’t talked about this in a few years (here: a few of my favorite t-shirt bras, a poll on readers’ favorite lingerie brands), and we’ve never talked directly about how to wash your bras — so let’s discuss. (Pictured: Nothin’, as per previous reader requests on our lingerie discussions…)

[Read more...]

Tales from the Wallet: How to Invest $10K

How to Invest $10K | CorporetteHow should you invest $10K? Readers were talking about this on our money roadmap post, and I thought it might be helpful to talk about more. Maybe you’ve recently gotten a bonus or small inheritance… maybe you’ve just been saving for a while and are now saying, OK, let’s invest this sucker. So what are the options? (Pictured: I’m kind of obsessed with this metallic teal wallet from Marc by Marc Jacobs (there’s a phone wristlet too!) The wallet was $208 but is now marked to $104 at Nordstrom.) I’m not a personal finance expert, of course, but here’s what I’d do (assuming you already have a fully-funded emergency fund and no credit card debt.  If you still have student loan debt, you may want to look at your interest rates and pay off all or part of a loan that has a particularly high interest rate.) Beyond that, though: [Read more...]

How to Look Professional With a Wool Allergy

professional nonwool sweatersWhich are the best sweaters if you suffer from a wool allergy?  Are there any other tricks for looking professional while avoiding wool? Reader P wonders:

Like a lot of people I seem to know, I am allergic to wool. It makes me itch. Even cashmere. Even soft merino wool. Even if the sweater is a mixture with only 5% wool. My question is–where do I find good quality sweaters made of silk, linen, cotton or other non-wool fabrics that are light enough to wear under a blazer or suit jacket in the winter?

We’ve talked about how to look professional in cold weather, but not the allergy question, which is something I’ve gotten a few times over the years — let’s discuss.  I’m curious to hear what the readers would say here. A few suggestions — [Read more...]