It's my first time posting on this forum. I was wondering what people's experiences have been when they asked their manager or superior about the dress code (usually right at the beginning when they start working at their new work place). When I began working at this particular company, I had to sit down with the general manager on my first day to learn about the ins and outs of the company. I was asked at the end if I have any questions and I asked if there was a dress code and she kind of laughed and said "no." After our meeting, she came out of her office and literally at the top of her lungs told the entire office staff about how I had just asked her about the dress code while laughing at the same time. I felt so embarrassed that she did this and had no choice but to sit quietly in front of my desk and let the laughter subside.

I no longer work at the company but to this day, I don't know why it was funny to ask about the dress code or why she had to announce at the top of her lungs to the entire staff about my question. The company organized music festivals and where I worked was in an office space. The kinds of clothes people wore weren't exactly casual but not too formal either except when there were receptions to mark the start of a festival and also working at the box office at the venue where the festival took place (I found this out much later on the job).

Has anyone experienced something similar? Is what the manager did a "normal" thing, in other words, is asking about the dress code really a laughable question to ask managers on the first day at work? What did I do "wrong" here to invite ridicule because that's how it came across to me when she yelled in front of the whole staff about my question. Thanks in advance for any feedback.

**Hello, this is the original poster here. I just took a look at my post since I last visited this page and so much has been changed. As I wrote at the start of the post that I'm very new here so I don't know how it is that my original post has been changed by others. Certain sentences were deleted as well as my original title has been changed. When I put my title in, I didn't get a message saying that it's not an appropriate title to put in. Also, this post is now on hold. I don't know what that means but I simply wanted to know if anyone out there has experienced something similar to mine. Reason being, the experience was so painful that I pushed it deep inside and just recently, something triggered it back to my memory. It's been eating at me and I've decided to confront the pain that was so deeply buried. I see now how much of that experience has shaped the way I have behaved at work as well as in my personal life. I've never shared the experience with anyone because of the pain attached to it. I always thought that this experience was something that was uniquely mine, in other words, there was something wrong with me and that others probably didn't go through something similar. But when I decided to confront the pain, a question popped in my head to re-think whether this experience was just unique to me. So that's why I decided to ask if others out there have experienced something similar, and also to see if anyone can shed some light as to what I'd done wrong (if any) or any other perspective that I haven't thought about. I've been living with this pain for a long time and it was just me with my own thoughts about this experience. I thought that by asking people out there, I might be able to verify if my own thoughts or assessment about this experience is "correct" or not.

As to the comment someone had put in about whether I asked the manager or other co-workers about the experience, the answer is no. I think if I had brought it up, I would have exposed myself to further ridicule because obviously the manager didn't see any "validity" in asking the question in the first place. There was someone else who said that I should have observed how people are dressed prior to asking. The thing is, when I sat down with the manager to hear the ins and outs of the company, there were only a couple of people including the manager in the office. I had just arrived at the company and went straight into the manager's office as that's what I was told by the "middleman" (I wrote about this in one of my comments below) to do. So I didn't get a chance to "observe" other colleagues and their attire. Also, since it was a company that organized a festival (mostly classic music) I wasn't sure if staff needed to "dress" when they needed to briefly pop into the venue to drop off supplies (like box office stuff) and what not. I just wasn't sure what the "culture" or code was in terms of attire.

In any case, as I said, I don't know what it means by a post being on "hold" so I don't know if this post gets shown in public again, but I just wanted to take the time to thank those who have taken the time to read and respond to my post. Thank you.**

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    I don't think this is normal at all. I have always asked for the dress code at every new job and have been given a serious answer everytime. Perhaps this manager felt you should have known since you were already in the office and seen what they were wearing, however in my opinion she should NOT have ridiculed you publicly. Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 6:43
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    This is not a forum and "Has anyone experienced something similar?" is not an answerable question here. Please check tour and help center to get a sense of what types of questions we can and can't answer.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 8:17
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    It seems like it was just an insensitive attempt at humor. Unless the GM had a habit of doing such things, she probably regretted it but was too embarrassed to say anything in apology to the OP. Everybody says stupid things sometimes, I wouldn't put too much weight on it.
    – teego1967
    Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 10:05
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    It's normal to ask, however it might be that she found it funny that you asked the question after seeing how they dressed and how those in the office dressed. Before I started my current employment I asked the same question and was told "smart casual strictly no denim". However in the first week I was there I saw plenty of people wear denim. I didn't question it, but after 12 months I decided I too would wear denim. Nothing was said. Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 10:34
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    Maybe the boss was laughing at themselves for the lack of a dress code.
    – donjuedo
    Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 10:36

5 Answers 5


No, it's not unusual to ask about dress code on the first day, and yes it is unacceptable for a manager to ridicule any employee, even more so if it's their first day.

However, you said this was a company organising festivals and it sounds like it's a small company. I can easily see the culture at such a company being so far from "corporate" standards that a question of dress code seems laughable. This may have been her (rather poor) attempt to emphasise a more relaxed culture. Or she could just be a bully who enjoys embarrassing people and you were an easy target.

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    You think being laughed at for dress code is bad, wait till you get laughed at as a developer for asking do you have any documentation.
    – rath
    Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 10:05

No, this is not usual behavior for a boss to do this.

However, it might happen that you get a bad boss who just likes to do this kind of thing.

Sometimes you don't have to do anything wrong for people to be act like jerks. There wasn't anything else you could have done, either - although you should be asking about the dress code at the interview or before your first day.

  • Thanks again for the comment. I guess I should have asked the company that organized or sent me to this festival organizing company about the dress code prior to my first day. I realize that what I just said sounds confusing but the way I "got" this job at the festival organizer was thru a "middleman." I went in working at the festival as an intern (paid), & the middleman was the one that chose the particular festival organizer for me. I was also told to contact the manager (the one that laughed at me) & take it from there in terms of learning more about the company.
    – Kat
    Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 7:02
  • ...continued That's why I asked about the dress code on my first day there when the manager was explaining more about the company. Also, the company was starting out for the very first time (ie: it was their first year in operation). So there was no proper website etc set up to learn more about the organization prior to going in.
    – Kat
    Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 7:04

I feel there are two things that need to be addressed here.

The first is whether or not asking about the dress-code is acceptable. While it's usually something you do during (or even before) interviews, or you can read about in your contract once you have one, it's not a weird question to ask on your first day. At least it shows you realize there might be one and you're not sure if you're meeting it. Better to fix it late than never.

The second is whether it's acceptable for a manager to publicly ridicule you for asking a question. The answer to this is a simple "No, this is never, ever acceptable and a huge red flag".

Being publicly ridiculed for mistakes generates a toxic work environment where people would rather sweep problems under the rug and keep their head down over working together to repair mistakes and improve the general running of the company.

Even if it was a stupid question, the manager should have just privately told you that, and left it there. That's the professional way to handle it.

Because if you had known you'd be publicly ridiculed for asking, you probably wouldn't have asked at all, and then the (potential) problem would have persisted much more than it should have.

  • or you can read about in your contract once you have one, - I've never had a contract that stated a dresscode. Only limitations such as 'no facial tattoos' or something like that, no clear dresscode. It should probably be in there but in theory it almost never is.
    – Summer
    Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 10:55
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    @JaneDoe1337 hm, I thought it was in the employee handbook for my job (which you sign along with the contract) but it turns out it indeed isn't. Interesting.
    – Erik
    Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 10:59

It is a completely normal question to ask. I usually observe and just try to dress about the same degree of formal/casualness, and then ask a colleague when I am about a week in.

Your past manager's response is totally uncalled for. Do not be bothered by it. I am glad that you have left that place.


It's a perfectly normal question to ask, and embarrassing someone for asking it is certainly not a normal response.

That being said, from your question I doubt there was malicious intent. Unless the manager truly did turn out to be a nasty piece of work during your time there, I strongly suspect it was just a misguided attempt at humour.

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    +1, all the other answers missed the possibility that it was an attempt at humour. That was my initial assumption upon reading the OP's question. Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 16:00

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