Friday is wear your sneakers to work day! Welcome guest blogger Rosemary Flaaten with this fun, provocative article.
By the fifth block I was done. Although my four-inch stilettos made my legs look long and lanky, they also made my previously innocuous little toe scream with pulsating pain. Walking to and from my business luncheon in fancy high heels had been my biggest mistake of the day. Where were my sneakers when I really needed them?
The craze started over 20 years ago when women, following the lead of the Silver Screen, started donning their sneakers in place of stilettos. The wise woman prized comfort over fashion, elevating her “right” to wear sneakers from her front door to her desk without anyone giving a second glance. It didn’t matter how matronly she looked or how disjointed her business appearance, functionality was given prominence.
So why have my sneakers been collecting dust in my front closet while my stilettos need new heels?
As I pondered this question, I realized that my choice between stilettos or sneakers is indicative of a greater question regarding my integrity at my workplace. Sneakers are stable, no nonsense, functional and take-me-as-I-am footwear. Stilettos are representative of my desire to fit the business mold and improve my appearance. In essence, I hope to portray a version of myself that looks better than reality. Likewise, how often are the choices I make around telling the truth or shading the truth based on my desire to fit in, to make myself look better or to prop up my lagging competency?
It has become socially acceptable to fudge the truth (even just ever so slightly) in order to increase our likeability. Robert Feldman, in his book The Liar in Your Life, quoted a study indicating that the average person lies three times every ten minutes in a conversation. The intention of these lies is not to manipulate. Rather, people lie so that they come across more interesting, likable and desirable. Sounds a little like stilettos.
Our propensity to shade or embellish the truth has strong ramifications in our workplace. When the boss calls to see if we’ve done the big project and we respond “Yep, just about” when we know that we’re only about 25% finished, we may find ourselves in a situation where we must continue to shade the truth in order to save our skin. One lie is seldom enough. When (not if) our untruthfulness is discovered, we will have a much more difficult task rebuilding the eroded trust.
If deception is telling and living a life of lies, then living honest is conveying truth no matter the consequences. Living honestly means we live authentically; but integrity takes this a step further. Unlike children who lie to get themselves out of sticky situations, integrity calls out greatness and gives evidence of maturity. In the workplace, we start with honesty, add authenticity, and then our character culminates with integrity.
In defense of all stiletto-loving working women, please don’t interpret my use of this metaphor to suggest that stilettos are wrong and sneakers are better. Rather, on this “sneakers at work” day, may it be a reminder that being a person of integrity will always be better than trying to make yourself look better. In the long run, sneakers will take you further than stilettos. Not just my feet will attest to that truth!
ROSEMARY FLAATEN’S successful book, A Woman and Her Relationships won The Word Guild Award, which is Canada’s top Christian literary honor. Now she writes A Woman and Her Workplace to help women process their 9-5 relationships. A dynamic speaker—Rosemary challenges women of all professions to view their work as a calling and their workplaces as opportunities to live out Christ’s love. Rosemary lives with her husband and three children in Calgary, Canada.