We attach ourselves to groups, we form partnerships and relationships, and we conform when necessary and violate the norms when the norms don't fit. We work to fit into a society and work to make society fit our needs. We struggle and we accommodate, as we become better sociologists in our efforts to cope with our everyday sociology.
As I put on my clothes in the morning, it may be viewed as selecting the correct uniform. I want to assure that my clothes are appropriate for the day's activities. I want to belong to the group that I will spend the day with and clothing is a first impression that can include or exclude me from the group. This isn't a judgment I make based on any scientific research. It comes from the experience I have. Since I'll be working in the office today, I want to be sure to wear something conservative. I want to let my coworkers know that I am a part of the business community and not a maverick or a rebel. My heart may not be totally into the job of customer service representative, but my clothes will say otherwise. I will conform to the accepted dress code and in doing so, I will portray a sense of confidence and instill a sense of belonging. Yet, as King states, "Repression and unhappiness springing from conformity and suburban life are conveyed by ''gray flannel suit''" (King 3). I am conflicted by the desire to belong and the steps I need to compromise to become a member.
In my job as a customer service representative, I am required to interact with several groups. As groups, each one has its own definition of acceptable behavior. The informal language I use with my co-workers may not be acceptable in a meeting. The group of coworkers makes their own rules and folkways, but is always aware of the need to stay within company guidelines. The strict rules that govern our interaction with customers are formal norms, complete with written instructions and penalties for violations. Yet, the behavior we exhibit in all these different settings and groups comes naturally and is quickly learned. As Eliasoph and Lichterman observed, "Everyday experience makes the concept of group style intuitively plausible". The group sets the norms and as part of the group the norms are learned.
When I was hired at this job, I was apprehensive due to my age. I expected that being an older person, the business world might want younger and more energetic workers. I anticipated age discrimination during my interview and was prepared to hear excuses and rejections. However, I was not prepared for the institutional discrimination I was met with at one company. While applying for a job as a telephone representative, the company informed me of their policy that employees need to be able to lift 50 pounds. The job description did not require any lifting, but the company had systematically eliminated a large portion of its available labor pool. Older people were disqualified, as were many females and handicapped persons.
I did however, finally land a job with a good and more socially aware company. During my first week of training, I was surprised to see that the company hired almost exclusively women. I wondered if the company was practicing gender bias, or was it merely my selection of working in a natural gender specific occupation. It required a pleasant