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???? Advice About the Workplace: Are Shoes Required?

Questions and answers on navigating the workplace in the age of emojis.

Welcome to ????, a blog about the everyday trials of the workplace. Here goes.

Dear 100: How about taking your shoes off in an open office or under a shared table?Tiptoeing Around the Subject

Oh Tiptoes! ??? It’s unclear if you’re asking permission to let your own feet out, or what to do when confronted with the unwanted feet of others, so let’s hit this from both directions.

If you’re looking for my permission to free yourself from the confines of appropriate footwear and you are confident that your feet don’t smell, then you have it. Life is hard. Shoes are hard. Riding out winter anywhere other than your home, on your couch, is not ideal. Do what makes it better.

There are limits, of course: Don’t walk more than a few feet from your own desk. For one, you’re likely to face resistance on this sock-trodden path, and you don’t want to give the keeper of workplace propriety any ammo. The first pushback will come over “safety.” Don’t invite this by roaming stocking-footed into the communal kitchen. Also, social contagion is a concern. Co-workers might be tempted to follow you over the line, but this is not in your interest. An office can only handle 1 or 2 barefoot employees at any given time before a company-wide email about OSHA comes along.

If, on the other hand, you’re asking about what to do regarding unwanted feet, here is a decision tree:


If all your co-worker is offending,? Tiptoes, is your sense of office decorum, keep quiet.

If, however, the offense is olfactory, here are some Slack-ready sentence starters that might be helpful in confronting your coworker. They might seem a little harsh, but smelly feet are not a big deal or a meaningful personal failing. It’s just feet, or maybe his socks, or those loafers. Long, sugar-coated preambles only serve to make the problem seem bigger than it is. Be direct and keep it light. “? ? I think that might be you?” or “☣ smell that, right?”

Have a question about workplace etiquette for 100 Sunglasses Dolphins Hairdo? Email

Contributing Editor

Amanda has contributed to Washingtonian since 2016. She has written about the right-wing media personality Britt McHenry, chronicled her night with Stormy Daniels, and come clean about owning too much stuff. She lives on H Street. She can be reached at [email protected]