US interns fired for 'flexible dress code' petition

By Frank Chung

Do you think millennials are the worst generation in the workforce? Photo / iStcok
Do you think millennials are the worst generation in the workforce? Photo / iStcok

This is it. We finally have it - proof that millennials are the worst generation.

A group of young interns at an unnamed company have been sacked en masse for starting a petition for a "more flexible dress code".

The intern responsible has been widely panned after their plea for advice on the AskAManager website went viral over the weekend.

"I was able to get a summer internship at a company that does work in the industry I want to work in after I graduate," the reader wrote.

"Even though the division I was hired to work in doesn't deal with clients or customers, there still was a very strict dress code.

"I felt the dress code was overly strict but I wasn't going to say anything, until I noticed one of the workers always wore flat shoes that were made from a fabric other than leather, or running shoes, even though both of these things were contrary to the dress code."

The intern said they spoke with their manager about "being allowed some leeway" under the dress code and was told it was not possible, "despite the other person being allowed to do it".

Uh oh. The letter went on.

"I soon found out that many of the other interns felt the same way, and the ones who asked their managers about it were told the same thing as me," they wrote.

"We decided to write a proposal stating why we should be allowed some leeway under the dress code.

"We accompanied the proposal with a petition, signed by all of the interns (except for one who declined to sign it) and gave it to our managers to consider.

"Our proposal requested that we also be allowed to wear running shoes and non leather flats, as well as sandals (not flip-flops though) and other non-dress shoes that would fit under a more business casual dress code.

"It was mostly about the footwear, but we also incorporated a request that we not have to wear suits and/or blazers in favour of a more casual, but still professional dress code."

The next day, the hapless intern wrote, "all of us who signed the petition were called into a meeting where we thought our proposal would be discussed".

"Instead, we were informed that due to our 'unprofessional' behaviour, we were being let go from our internships. We were told to hand in our ID badges and to gather our things and leave the property ASAP.

"We were shocked. The proposal was written professionally like examples I have learned about in school, and our arguments were thought out and well-reasoned. We weren't even given a chance to discuss it."

The worst part, they said, was that "just before the meeting ended, one of the managers told us that the worker who was allowed to disobey the dress code was a former soldier who lost her leg and was therefore given permission to wear whatever kind of shoes she could walk in".

"You can't even tell, and if we had known about this we would have factored it into our argument," they wrote.

The reader went on to explain that they had "never had a job before" and was "hoping to gain some experience before I graduate next year".

"I feel my dismissal was unfair and would like to ask them to reconsider but I'm not sure the best way to go about it. Any advice would be greatly appreciated."

In response, AskAManager's Alison Green helpfully explained the situation.

"Y'all were pretty out of line," she wrote. "You were interns there - basically guests for the summer. Their rules are their rules. This is like being a houseguest and presenting your host with a signed petition (!) to change their rules about cleaning up after yourself. You just don't have the standing to do that."

This was asking you to abide by what sounds like a very common and reasonable professional dress code.

While interns shouldn't have to "suck up any and every condition of an internship", this "wasn't something like asking you to do unsafe work or work unreasonable hours".

"This was asking you to abide by what sounds like a very common and reasonable professional dress code," she wrote.

"[You] assumed you knew better (despite being in a position where the whole point is that you don't have experience and are there to learn) and then went about it in a pretty aggressive way.

"A petition is ... well, it's not something you typically see at work. It signals that you think that if you get enough signatures, your company will feel pressured to act, and that's just not how this stuff works.

A company is not going to change its dress code because its interns sign a petition.

The original post has attracted nearly 1400 comments and has been widely shared online.

"Your workplace isn't a democracy," wrote one reader. "At best, it's a benevolent dictatorship. It might be a totalitarian regime. But either way, rounding up supporters and creating a petition is not appropriate."

Another pointed out that the story was an "excellent example of how many college campus environments these days are not preparing young adults for the real world".

"Not only are basic office procedures and politics (such as following the dress code) not taught but students are getting the idea that if their voice is the loudest, then change will happen," they wrote.

Others pointed the blame squarely at the parents.

"If you want to blame any age group, blame the previous generation for raising kids who've been taught that when you get a bad grade, you argue with the teacher about it instead of studying harder next time," wrote one commenter.

"Millennials surely didn't invent that behaviour but rather learned it from their parents doing it on their behalf."

- news.com.au

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