A Peculiar Ladylike Influence


For several years I worked at a small company owned by a lady who was a, well, an oddball.

You might not have guessed it at first. If you were to meet her at a church function or a networking event, you would no doubt think that she was:

  • Nice
  • Well dressed
  • Smiling
  • Conservative

But if you worked for “Miss Nancy” (as she insisted on being called by grown women) you would soon learn that she had some rather restrictive views on:

Chatting. Talking while working was entirely frowned upon because she felt it led to broken concentration and mistake-making. It was okay to say “Good morning,” to coworkers, but other than, or directly work-related communications, she expected quiet.

Venting. She did not see the point of sharing with coworkers the frustrating conversation you’d just had with a customer. She desired that all negativity be kept out of the office.

Profanity. Nobody needed to tell me that office was a no cussing zone—it was obvious by the general atmosphere—but frequently customers would walk in and let fly with the raunchiness that made up their normal daily communication style. On one memorable day, an angry woman actually screamed a few vulgar phrases right at Miss Nancy, to which she replied, “Now that’s not ladylike at all.” (My coworkers and I, hidden behind a partition, were doubled over laughing, and we said those words to each other from that day on. Even now when my husband is in any way unmannerly, I chide him in Miss Nancy’s voice that he’s being very unladylike. 😀 )

Clothing. In staff meetings, she would actually say, “It’s wintertime now; you should be wearing winter clothes, winter colors. I don’t want to see anymore sandals,” and such as this. Everyone found it very insulting.

Smoking. Nobody did. Nobody. She didn’t ask me during the job interview; maybe she sniffed me. Not sure what her method was, but nobody on our staff smoked.

For these among many other (some more serious) reasons, she was the object of much derision. In fact, Miss Nancy herself was the fly in the ointment of that job, and having to navigate around her more onerous peculiarities was the reason I finally had to move elsewhere…to what I thought of as a real company.

My new boss (male) is a normal person with no weird personality traits, so that’s a relief. And my coworkers, well…they’re okay too. But when I first started there, I couldn’t help but notice, they really smelled. (From smoking.) And then, as I would sit with them during lunch, I noticed, “Boy, they sure cuss a lot.” And so unnecessarily, it seemed. They weren’t upset about anything, but they were just apt to say, “This is the greatest effing pasta I ever made.” My ears were no longer used to hearing it, and I felt uncomfortable and almost embarrassed for them, because it made them seem low class. Not only do they cuss…several of them belch out loud. Often. And act like it’s acceptable.

Frequently during the work day, I wish they would stop the chitchat; in fact I’ve had to start playing music with earbuds in my ears for the first time ever, to cut down on the distraction level. Every morning seems to get started with a coworker’s tale of woe, or the rundown of what everybody did the night before, whereas I like to get zoned in to my work asap to have a more productive day.

What took the cake was one day in January. It was unseasonably warm, I’ll admit, but I had a coworker who wore sundresses three days in a row. It just looked so odd and wrong to have that much skin showing in the winter, that I found myself thinking, “If I were the boss, I’d make her stop that.”


So okay, whoa, it was time for me to put the brakes on, lest I become the Conduct and Decorum Police at the office, a position that I doubt would win me any friends. I’m in a different place now, no longer in Nancy World, and everyone can act as they choose, so long as our easygoing boss is okay with it.

But Miss Nancy changed me. I get more done, I talk less, I complain less, I dress more appropriately, and wouldn’t you know it, I shock my coworkers if I say anything the slightest bit naughty, because their image of me is that I’m ladylike.

My closest confidantes wouldn’t necessarily agree. But projecting a mature, hardworking and respectable image at work cannot be a bad thing! So thank you, oddball Miss Nancy.You were a pain, but thank you.


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