Advice from My Mentor: Wear Red


Aspiring to be a strong leader means training to run hurdles. We all run into internal and external obstacles that take effort to overcome. Knowing what internal obstacles can throw off your day, and being prepared for the external ones too, can make a huge difference in how you respond when you hit a roadblock.

External obstacles can manifest in the workplace through stereotypes and competition, along with large challenges like government shutdowns or a tight economy. Internal obstacles can stem from our fears, self-esteem and difficulties communicating. They frequently cause doubt and make you think, “I can’t do this.”

When I run into an obstacle, I remember a story my mentor shared with me. She was starting a new position, and her new boss gave her some advice: “Wearing red is too bold for women in the workplace. It’s off-putting to the men they work with.”

Terrible advice? Absolutely.
Obstacle to overcome? Absolutely.

She could have easily given up and thought that this didn’t seem like an environment for a strong, driven woman. It might have been easier to be an agreeable employee with a closet full of neutral colors, but she responded gracefully to the comment and confidently wore red to the all-staff office photo the next week.

Every obstacle is going to require patience and confidence. Here are a few suggestions to help hurdle over these obstacles:

  • Take 15 – Take a quick walk outside, grab a cup of coffee, or chat with a co-worker. Step away for a few minutes, and then approach your hurdle with a clear head.
  • Identify your obstacle – Knowing what you’re facing will help you create a plan. Is it a skill you’d like to develop? Is there an issue with distribution of work on your team? Once you can figure out what the obstacle is, you can start to take action.
  • Research – Others might have faced a similar situation and may be able to offer support! There are so many helpful guides and resources available, especially on the GovLoop site. Use the search bar and try a couple of different keywords to explore available resources.
  • Wear red – Figuratively, and literally too, if you’d like! Be confident that you can overcome any obstacle that comes your way. Think about the strengths and skills you’ve developed over time. You weren’t just born with those, you worked hard to grow and learn. Reflect on your past experiences to gain insights into this new challenge. How have you handled difficult events before, and what did you learn from them?

Obstacles are overwhelming. When you run into one, remember you’ve experienced them before and respond with confidence knowing you’ll overcome this one too.

Kaitlyn Boller is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Joe Raasch

Take 15. Yes! I call it the ‘fog of work’. Something insurmountable becomes doable after a short walk or a night’s sleep. Go slow to go fast. Now about wearing red to work…ha!

Mariah Bastin

Very interesting. Thanks for sharing. Sometimes we just need a clear head or a new way of looking at things to be able to successfully deal with said situation (or scenario).


Great post! And yes, red at work – literally or figuratively – is a must and not just when facing obstacles. Those grey winter days are always improved with a shot of red! Thanks, Kaitlyn!