Our days had been especially stressful with organization chance, outside attention from media and internal employee unrest.
Everyone was on edge. My jokes fell flat. My smiles were met with frowns. The dark clouds threatened to rain on every conversation.
I thought I would inject a little fun into the office. I considered wearing a crazy hat or a putting a stuffed lion on my desk. I considered pranks or brining in a crazy cake to lighten the mood.
But I settled on socks as a safe alternative.
Mike St. Pierre calls “wearing funky socks” one of the nine ways to be less boring at work. The Wall Street Journal recently pointed out the changing trend in men’s socks. In the article, “More Men Step Out in Stylish Socks,” the article says “Men want to have some expression or quirk in their outfit and the sock is the perfect way to do it.” According to Marketwatch, fashionable socks are seeing double-digit growth.
So I picked up a pair of socks at Walmart, colored orange, fringed with blue trim and a simple tassel on the side. I felt a little silly, almost like I was trying out as a bagpipe player for the Denver Broncos. Style doesn’t always need to make sense I reasoned.
With both fashion trends and mainstream journalism on my side, I pulled the socks above my calf that morning and marched into my office – with confidence and just a little attitude.
We all gathered at our 9 a.m. team meeting and I chose a chair at the end of the table and leaned back so my pants rode up on my leg – showing off my new accessory.
One day was enough
I saw the looks – as one by one they filed in. Some glanced at the socks and then my face and then back at my socks. Others put their heads down and looked away. A few just smirked. One of my teammates broke out in laughter. All day long I got jabs and looks, sneers and chuckles.
I heard about the socks at lunch, in the bathroom and in the hallway. I saw it on my messages from other team members. As the day wore on, other people in the building began asking me about the socks. The word spread and with every human interaction I felt just a little smaller.
Some are meant for the cutting edge. Some thrive on making statements. Not me.
Sure I broke the ice, but also my reputation. I never wore the socks again.
What’s my job?
I learned that day a little about roles on a team. I’m the thinker, the evaluator, the communicator. I’m the dependable one who can get the work done when the pressure is on. I’m not the smartest, nor the most educated one. I’m not the flashiest or most innovative. But I’m dependable – they know what they are getting.
We have another guy who worked in the building that was the garish one. He had the orange Jeep and always wore the loudest ties and the paisley jackets. He the gold jewelry and the creased pants. He set the fashion trend, and that was his job.
I could never be him. That’s not my role.
The clothes don’t make the man or the woman. And in God’s economy, it’s our attitude, our words, and work that makes the biggest difference.
My job is to wear black socks and do good work.
Photo by Adam Kuban via Flikr Creative Commons