A decade ago, I entered the world of e-learning. In the early days, I wrote the way I spoke: eloquent, yet informal. After years of writing in this manner, I was informed that I would have to change. The corporate world had no place for informal writing.

We were speaking to C-levels and vice presidents and procurement officers. They demanded respect per their titles and part of showing that respect was writing as formally as possible and wearing suits to every single meeting.

Last week, I got an email that said I wrote like a lawyer. Too formal. I should be more relaxed. We were speaking to C-levels and vice presidents and procurement officers. They demanded a more personable tone and transparency and that meant upbeat and direct communication.

Years of being told the way I spoke and dressed wasn’t enough and that I had to elevate myself to be seen, heard, and respected. Only to then be told that it was too much… by the same people who said this was the standard in the first place.

I’m bitter and I have a question: what does professionalism mean?

What is it to be a person who should be listened to, respected, and heard in a space? What does it mean to communicate in a proper tone? What is a proper protocol for communication to a client base?

It’s not like the clients changed (maybe they did); it was simply decided the communication was suddenly too formal and that, by proxy, the me from 10 years ago would have been acceptable.

It’s being told that in a single line, offhandedly, in an email with no sense of where that behavior comes from. Like it wasn’t conditioned.

“Put away the person we molded you into being. We need you to be someone else now. We’ll probably ask you to be someone else later.”

Someone corporate, 20XX

It’s the same thing with clothing choices, hairstyles, and tattoos. Being gate-kept or denied access to things unless we adapted to survive only to finally come to the point that we collectively realize we never needed to heed those restrictions. I should be happy, but instead I’m looking at wasted time.

I never had to get that email. I never had to be this.

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