I wore a full black tie and tuxedo to my first Nuclear Institute networking event when the dress code with Business Dress Code. Think about that for a second. The first time I ever met a lot of my peers in the nuclear industry I was the only man in the room wearing a tux when the rest were wearing suits and ties.
And yet, that’s exactly what I thought that I had asked been request to wear. I have photographic proof somewhere but I won’t make the effort to find it for this post. When I first heard my boss say “I am wearing black tie”, I was confused, a little worried, and even began wondering if my decision to join them at the event was a mistake. I also had to go and buy a tux as I didn’t own one at the time.
I was simply doing what he told me to do. I didn’t ask him why and I didn’t tell him it didn’t make sense to me because I’d seen photos of the event from the previous year and no-one was wear Black Tie formal dress. I was worried that it would look like I was pushing back and questioning him. I was afraid to make a bad first impression as I was new in the role.
Well I have news for you, when it comes to first impressions, wearing a tux in a room full of suits is a lot worse than asking a question.
Now, I could tell you that the reason I wore the shirt was because my boss had said that he was ‘wearing a black tie’ not ‘wearing black tie’. But the real reason is that I failed to take ownership of my own confusion and fix the problem. Had I done that, in a matter of seconds, I would have known to wear business dress. And my peers never would have had to ask me, “What’s with the tux, Andrew?” At my first day networking event.
As a subordinate, if something doesn’t make sense to you, ask. It’s really that simple. Just take ownership of the situation by asking a simple question. Clear up the confusion, solve the problem, and put yourself in a position to help the team, and your boss, be successful.