It all started when an unnamed intern took to the website Ask A Manager looking for advice after starting the footwear fracas.
"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. 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.
"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)… 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 next day, all of us who signed the petition were called into a meeting where we thought our proposal would be discussed. Instead, we were informed that due to our “unprofessional” behaviour 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.”
For some online, this story is a classic case of millennial hubris. Elsewhere, it’s prompted discussion about how frustrating interns can be in the workplace. Comments people have been making include things like "Kids these days. You gotta pay your dues” and “Interns these days got mouths on them. You’re in audition mode. You better not be slacking with the dress code.”
And sure, pretty much everyone has an intern horror stories. The ones who refused to photocopy things. Who arrogantly put themselves forward to work on major projects. Who left halfway through the afternoon because they were ready to go home.
But here’s the thing: We’ve all been young and done annoying and unprofessional things in the work place because we didn’t know any better. It’s time to calm down and cut the (we assume) skinny jean-wearing kids some slack. And interns are generally hard-working and appreciative to be learning on the job. In the meantime the message to interns should be: Just wear the damn shoes they want you to. Get to the top and then you can wear whatever you damn please.