One undergraduate student took a rather ambitious approach to his summer internship. But the young man's attempt to reform the institution that hired him ended up backfiring big time.
This past week the intern submitted an anonymous letter explaining the situation to the advice blog, Ask a Manager.
"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 letter began. "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."
This perceived double-standard did not sit well with the young man, who approached his manager to discuss the matter. But when the conversation did not go as hoped, the undergrad student decided to solicit the support of fellow interns:
I spoke with my manager about being allowed some leeway under the dress code and was told this was not possible, despite the other person being allowed to do it. 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. We decided to write a proposal stating why we should be allowed someone 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 favor of a more casual, but still professional dress code.
The day after the interns submitted their proposal, they were asked to attend a meeting where they would discuss the matter with company leaders. Or so they thought.
"Instead," the student continues, "we were informed that due to our 'unprofessional' behavior, 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."
And the worst part? It turns out the worker who had been "breaking the rules" was actually a former solider who’d lost her leg in combat, and was therefore allowed to wear "whatever kind of shoes she could walk in."
In response to the ex-intern's letter, Ask a Manager blogger Alison Green noted that he and his comrades were "out of line."
"You were interns there — basically guests for the summer," Green wrote.
She compared the request to "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," she added.