I worked in Colombia for three years. And for about half of that time for a boss with whom I had a slightly awkward relationship. He never really forgave me for going on maternity leave a month after a big project launch (I hadn’t planned the two events to coincide and births do tend to stick to their own schedules regardless of how inconvenient that might turn out to be). In some ways it had been helpful. The novelty of a foreigner or a woman would have been enough for the conventions of hundreds of mechanics that I addressed week after week in cities all over Colombia. Throw in being 8 months pregnant and you definitely get their attention!
Anyway, the facts were undeniable and for the next three months I was in the UK giving birth and getting to know my son.
On my return I put in extra effort to prove I was on side. Working long hours, accepting the blame for things that weren’t my fault. On reflection, I was a bit of a pushover and I could have taken a stronger position but I suppose I was suffering from maternity leave guilt and anxious to make amends.
I was pleased then when my boss invited me – and the rest of my team – to his house for Halloween. Entering into the spirit of things – and disregarding the stares from neighboring cars in the traffic queue – I rapped on the door. His wife opened it and shrieked in delight then took a photo of me at the door.
Her puzzled husband joined her. Not shrieking with delight it must be said. And yes, of course. It turned out not to be a Halloween party. It was just a party on Halloween day. Nothing to do with Halloween. No decorations. And only one person dressed up.
In retrospect maybe it was a good thing he already considered me the root of all evil. At least I was dressed appropriately! He brushed aside his wife’s attempts to congratulate him on having such a creative marketing director working for him.
And I forgot after a while (I put down the candelabra. It seemed a little unnecessary in the circumstances) and enjoyed the evening.
There is a lot of nonsense spoken about business dress. Particularly now the rules have unravelled and nobody can be quite sure what is expected or could turn out to be their best bet. I can say though, with a fair degree of certainty, that it is unlikely to be this. Just in case you had any doubts at all.