Ask the Question, Even if It’s Dumb

Dear WSW: My boss told me to write an outline and to make sure that my
 "lower-case letters are always auto-formatted, 
like the bulleted lists." 
I have no idea what this means. I think I should just pretend like she 
never said that to me and do the outline a different way. 
What do you think?

Dear Deprived,

This is a weird mandate, but OK. If your boss likes her outlines to include lowercase letters, who are you to suggest otherwise? You know that she’ll be looking out specifically for this to be correct, since it was important enough for her to state explicitly.

We’ll keep this short and sweet, because it’s a simple directive: If you aren’t sure, Google it. In this case, Google “auto-formatting lowercase letters in MS Word” and you will get what you need.

BUT, if somehow the world implodes and Google can’t help you, ask the question.

People assume a certain level of knowledge from others. There are two reasons for this:

1. They don’t want to be an asshole and talk to you like you are a moron.

2. They have spent so long in a certain profession that they lack the ability to see what should be self-evident and what should not.

When you are given a task, there will be a ton of information the task-giver does not provide to you. This is not because you should know it. It is because the task-giver does not know what you do not know. It is your responsibility to make sure you have all the information you need before proceeding (or even as you get started and realize you don’t know what you’re doing). A lot of the time you’ll ask questions and the task-giver will remember things he or she meant to tell you and simply forgot.

Think of it like this: which is worse, asking a question that seems dumb, or totally fucking up a project because you made assumptions that turned out to be incorrect? If you answered the latter, then you really are just stupid and you should never ask anyone a question ever again.

Got obvious advice? Got a question? Submit to wearshoesatwork <at>


Eye Makeup: less drag queen is always better

Now, I understand that this might seem self-evident, but sadly, I have seen too many young women come into our office for interviews looking like they just got their face painted at the fair.  Truly, ladies, your face should not look like a you fell asleep on your cousin’s couch and let her 5 year old use your face like a coloring pad! My advice? Keep your makeup minimal and subtle.

Unless you work in a field where noticeable eye makeup will help your career, such as, at a makeup sales counter, or in a special effects department, it absolutely should not be the first thing people notice about you in a professional environment.

Drag Queen Makeup

Why not, you ask? Well, it’s distracting. (You can’t stop looking at that picture, can you?) And, distracting eye makeup won’t help you professionally. When you leave a room after an interview, instead of discussing your stellar resume, people will wonder if you have a second job in a circus as a clown.

So, what happens if you wear your funky fresh shade to the interview and still somehow end up getting the job? Its also true that if people overlook your strange eye make up during the interview and you end up getting the position, most likely your coworkers would expect you to pick up on normal office cues and stop overdoing it.  If you don’t, people will focus on it instead of your professional attributes. They won’t let you talk to people outside the office, like, say clients, and overall, they will question your judgment- why doesn’t this person understand that makeup like that is for the club, not the client meeting? They will wonder what other poor choices you are making. In short, your smokey eyes are stinking up the office.

So, in conclusion I strongly advise you too not wear too much eye makeup to work. Why not you ask? Why can’t I use makeup to express my individuality? Why can’t I just do what I want to my face? Well my dears, you can! Just not at work. Now go wash your face and get back to work.

When to Ignore an Email

One of the hardest parts of working in the modern office is nailing down email etiquette. We here at WSW naturally have a lot of opinions about email. One half of us happens to be an editor at a publishing company, so 75% of her day is spent writing emails and judging others on their netiquette.

"Netiquette" feels so 90s. "LOL Writin' Correkt BRB" sounds much more modern.

“Netiquette” feels so 90s. “LOL Writin’ Correkt BRB” sounds much more modern.

When considering what emails warrant a reply, the short answer is “every single email, all the time.” HOWEVER, what about Reply Purgatory? You know what we mean, it goes a little something like this:

Dear Milton, 
Attached please find the TPS Report. Please note the new cover letter. 
Thanks and have a great day!
Thanks Samir. By the way, I'm still looking for my stapler. Let me know if 
it turns up.
Hi Milton,
Sorry to hear. Will keep you posted on its whereabouts if I 
happen across it.
Thanks Samir. I appreciate it!
Sure, no problem. Keeping my eye out.
Thanks. I'll take a look at this TPS Report.
Thanks! I think you'll like what I did with the spreadsheet on 
page 5.

The emails grow shorter and more informal with each round, but seemingly something in each message needs a reply. The longest Reply Purgatory we’ve personally experience lasted over a day.

How to stop the insanity before it starts? At what point did Samir and Milton take their exchange from normal colleague back-and-forth to the 9th circle of Hell? There are two approaches to email etiquette in general:

1. The No-Nonsense Approach


2. The Overcompensating Friendly Tone Approach

WSaW is split on which approach is better. Some of us lean toward #1 because nothing besides business information is important enough to put in writing. By this school of thought, the above email conversation  should have ended at Milton’s first reply. In this scenario, Samir, being a No-Nonsenser, does not know where Milton’s stapler is and will therefore not reply because he has nothing valuable to add to the coversation.

Others of us prefer #2. It is easy to tell which people you work with subscribe to #2 based on the number of exclamation points they plop into one email. Overcompensaters worry about sounding too severe, and so will gladly let an email thread grow to avoid being the rude non-responder. There is an art to this overcompensation, however. The trick is to let your effervescence shine but still cut the conversation off before it becomes too onerous. In the above example, Samir shouldn’t have replied to Milton’s second email.

It takes years of practice to refine overcompensation to perfection. Eventually you learn the quirks of each individual you are corresponding with and just how far you should let the emails go with him or her. For this reason, it may be better to just commit to being No-Nonsense.

Unless the email is about penis enlargement. Those threads should run in perpetuity.

Got obvious advice? Got a question? Submit to wearshoesatwork <at>

Wear Shoes at Work.

Workplaces discriminate against hobbits. For good reason.

Workplaces discriminate against hobbits. For good reason.

You should always wear shoes at work. Seems obvious, right?

We thought so too, until we met an intern who wore just socks the first 10 days he was employed. We can forgive someone getting cozy at his or her desk. But 10 full days, walking around and attending meetings…just in socks?

Maybe your shoes are too tight. Maybe your shoes are too warm and your feet start to sweat after an hour. Maybe your only “professional” shoes are a pair of 6-inch platform pumps that you bought for your spring formal because you wanted to give off the classy vibe, while still making it clear you’d put out for a bottle of schnapps.

If these are your work shoes, and you're not a stripper, you need to rethink your priorities.

If these are your work shoes, and you’re not a stripper, you need to rethink your priorities. Or just become a stripper, which is probably easier.

Whatever the case, you’re going to have to suck it up and wear your goddamn shoes in the office. No excuses.

This blog is for all those who think it’s OK to go shoeless at work. We are here to provide you with seemingly obvious and very sage career advice.

Such as: After work, go to Payless and buy some reasonable shoes that don’t draw attention to themselves. Make sure they are comfy enough to wear for 10 hours a day. And don’t ever let us see you in your socks again.

Got obvious advice? Got a question? Submit to wearshoesatwork <at>