Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Reader Questions Fashion Decisions at Work

DEAR HARRIETTE: I try to stay up-to-date on the newest fashion and beauty trends. I have tried extending my look into the workplace, a local coffee shop, and have gotten compliments from customers. My boss, who is old enough to be my father, constantly gives me an eye roll whenever I come in with a new piercing or hair color. I wear my uniform and maintain a well-kempt appearance. Should I tone down my style just because my boss doesn’t like how I present myself? I cannot lose this job. -- Beauty vs. Bills, Syracuse, New York

DEAR BEAUTY VS. BILLS: This is tricky, in that legally you should be able to present yourself any way you want, within reason, at a job. More subtly, though, it is important for you to have a sense of what is expected at your job and for you to find a way to express your own creativity within a comfort zone for your boss, too.

Why not speak to your boss directly? Tell him that you enjoy having fun with fashion and beauty trends, but you have noticed that he sometimes seems to disapprove. Remind him that you do not break the rules. You always wear your uniform and stay neat and clean. Ask him if he has objections, what they are and how you can agree on a compromise that allows you some freedom and gives him some comfort. Talking to him may break the ice. You never know what your image provokes in him. If he has children your age who are experimenting with piercings, tattoos, colored hair, etc., you may be reminding him of what is happening in his life. Who knows? Talk to him.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a long first name and am almost always referred to by my nickname, “Dani.” When I introduce myself for interviews or more formal occasions, I want to introduce myself as “Danielle,” but I fear I will be seen as stuck up. As I get older, is it OK to abandon the shortening of my name? I would prefer to be called by my whole name, but I don’t want to negatively answer “Can I call you Dani?” -- Full Name Only, Stamford, Connecticut

DEAR FULL NAME ONLY: Let’s start with your name: Danielle is not long. It sounds like you are part of a community that likes to shorten names. Living in a nickname culture can make it tough to reinforce a more formal name.

Here’s the thing -- your name belongs to you. You have every right to be called whatever you prefer. If you are asked if people can shorten your name, say no. State that you prefer being called Danielle. This may take time, but certainly in job interviews and other formal events, feel free to claim your full name. What happens for many people is that over time as they mature, their new set of associates and friends begins to call them by the name they put forth. Often, family and childhood friends will cling to your nickname for life. You may have to endure that. Later in life you may even consider it nostalgic.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)