asking about work hours before accepting a job, is long hair unprofessional, and more

It’s mini answer Monday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Can I ask an employer what their work hours are like?

Everything I’ve seen suggests that one shouldn’t ask a prospective employer what work hours are like.

I just got a job offer. Having interviewed on-site at the company, my “vibe” was that hours wouldn’t be too outrageous, but my wife really wants to know because we have two small children. I’m willing to put in pretty long hours, but she reasonably thinks that it’s important for me to know what I’m getting myself into. Is it possible to ask about hours/working conditions after an offer has been tendered, or is this still a bad idea?

You should absolutely ask! In fact, it would be a bad idea not to — because that’s how you end up a job where you’re out of sync with what’s expected of you.

I think the advice that you’re thinking of is that you don’t want to come across in the interview stage as if you’re mainly interested in a job that won’t require too much of you — and if all your questions are about benefits, hours, etc. rather than the work itself, you can risk that. But asking about hours in the context of a bunch of other questions is completely fine — and, again, necessary. And certainly once you have an offer, ask whatever questions you need to ask to feel comfortable making a decision about whether this is the right job for you or not.

2. Does long hair look unprofessional?

I have a good grasp on makeup, dress and perfume, but not on the rules of thumb for hair in the workplace, other than the obvious “look polished” rule. Is there any info about recommended hair length for upper level management positons? Does long hair send a different message than shoulder length hair?

In general, long hair (longer than mid-back) is going to look more professional worn up than worn down, but  — at least in many parts of the country — the rule that women can’t look professional with long hair after a certain age isn’t really in effect anymore. Just make sure that you style it well and don’t  leave it just hanging down your back.

3. What does this email from HR mean?

I applied online to a job 3 weeks ago, and earlier this week, I got this email response from the Director of HR: “Thank you for your interest in the position of [deleted]. We have reviewed your resume and have carefully considered your qualifications. While your background and skills are certainly impressive, we have decided the position will not be filled at this time. We will re-visit the position in the middle of August. On behalf of the company, we thank you again for your interest in [deleted] and we wish you all the best in your future endeavors.”

What should I make of this email response I got? I’m not sure how to interpret it. Will they still consider me as a candidate come August? Will they automatically contact me when they decide to revisit the position? Should I respond back to ask if I could follow up with them in August? Should I leave it alone and follow up in August? Is this a nice way of rejecting me? If they are impressed with my background, why are they wishing me the best in my future endeavors?! I’m confused!

It means nothing more than “We’re not filling the position currently but might do so in mid-August.” So yes, if you remain interested, you should check back with them in mid-August; don’t assume that they’ll reach out to you then. And you don’t need to ask now if you can do that; you can just do it when the time comes.

As for being impressed with your background, that’s form letter language that shows up in lots of mass rejection emails. And even if they truly are impressed your with qualifications, it doesn’t mean anything beyond that. I’m impressed with the qualifications of people I reject all the time — but I’m  rejecting them because someone else was better or they weren’t the right fit for what I’m hiring for, or whatever. As a rule, don’t read things into compliments in rejection letters, unless the note is truly personalized.

4. What to do for a reference when my former manager stalked me

Three years ago, I transferred internally from one position to another in the same department. During that time in the second position, my former manager used my personnel file, which he still had a copy of, to stalk me, at and away from work. I got a restraining order (that has since expired). He wasn’t fired or even demoted. He is still the manager of my former position. His only punishment was that he had to comply with restraining order, which meant he had to be relocated within the building, and he was forbidden to speak to or about me in a professional context ever again.

I deplore the way this was handled and sought a position at another company, where I work now. I’m not currently looking for a job, but if I were, how would I handle this on the application/resume/references parts? He was my supervisor, but he isn’t allowed to speak about me during a reference check. I suspect that if he were called, he would talk to the reference checker any way and “tell his side of the story,” because what abusive stalker wouldn’t like the opportunity to STILL manipulate the object of his attention years after she got away? He insisted to the police and to our company that we were having an affair and that I was the crazy one. There was zero evidence of either of his assertions. I had oodles of documentation supporting my claims, hence the court order. He was stalking me because he had a serious crush and was insulted when I left the position working under him.

Alison, this guy is kinda scary. I don’t want reference checkers calling him AT ALL. I actually regret letting my restraining order expire now that I’ve written all this out. What do I do?

How awful. The company should handle this by having someone else prepared to give you a reference and, if necessary, to explain that your previous manager stalked you and obviously shouldn’t be spoken with about your candidacy. So I’d start by contacting them and asking them to do that; if they balk at all, then you should have a lawyer contact them to negotiate this on your behalf. Frankly, you probably have a lot of leverage, given the situation, and you shouldn’t be afraid to use it to get what you need here.

5. When HR is closely aligned with the executive director

Is it legal or ethical for an HR director to be closely aligned with the executive director (even assuming second in command position), or should HR remain at arms length to insure impartiality for senior management in disputes with ED? (Our problem is that we no longer have HR to go to with unreasonable demands, expectations, or working conditions or staffing concerns, now that our only HR resource — the HR director — is so close to our manager, the ED.)

It’s certainly legal, and — while there might be a question about whether a particular configuration is good for the company or not — it’s not really an ethical issue either. HR isn’t there to function as an impartial arbiter or to represent the staff’s interests to the head of the company. HR is there to serve the organization’s interests, particularly when it comes to keeping it out of legal trouble, and it works for senior management / the company itself. It might at times advocate for employees’ interests against something the management is doing, but it would be doing that because it’s in the long-term interests of the company, not because its role is particularly to be an employee advocate.

6. Following up when a request for contacts has been ignored

I recently completed an internship and when I left, my manager suggested I contact our department director about some contacts she might have in the field I am hoping to work in. I reached out to her and she responded, saying she would think about it and get back to me. After 2 weeks, I haven’t heard anything from her. I would like to follow up because I think she probably just forgot, but I’m struggling to come up with wording that doesn’t sound too demanding. Do you have any suggestions? Is it possible that she didn’t respond because she doesn’t want to recommend me?

Sure, that’s possible. It’s also possible that it just slipped her mind, or slipped to the bottom of her priority list. It’s reasonable to follow up once (but not more than that). Say something like, “Hi Jane, I wanted to check back with you about whether there’s anyone you might connect me with for XYZ. If not, no worries, but I’m eager to move forward in this field and am hoping you might be able to advise me. Thanks!”

7. Recruiter was annoyed when I wouldn’t tell her my current salary

A recruiter called to do a phone screen before she put me into her list of recommendations to the hiring manager for consideration. She asked a few questions pertaining to my experience (which I answered clearly and politely) and then asked what my current and expected salary were. I politely replied that my expected salary is stated in my job application profile and that I wished not to answer about my current salary package at this point until the hiring manager wishes to interview me.

I think she got annoyed; she told me that from the standpoint of HR, she wouldn’t know how to put me in an interview if I didn’t answer this question, and quickly followed by saying that it was okay if I didn’t want to answer and thanks for my time. Her attitude was a total 180 change.

Does the recruiter have the right to be annoyed because I refuse to disclose my current salary package in an initial phone screen? Aren’t my expected salary and CV the most important elements to be considered when deciding if I should be interviewed?

Sure, she can be annoyed, and you can decide that you’re not interested in interviewing with a company that expects private salary information from candidates (which is a ridiculous demand, as I’ve written here before). That said, it’s entirely reasonable to expect you to talk about your salary expectations, and replying to that by saying the information is in your job application isn’t generally going to go over well. When someone asks a question, either answer it or don’t, but don’t tell them that they can find the answer in another document; that comes across as unnecessarily difficult.

{ 63 comments… read them below }

  1. WWWONKA

    #7 I generally try to avoid the salary issue. When asked what I am looking for, I usually respond that as I do not know all the details of the job or the salary range, and it is the beginning of the interview, I try to get by with negotiable

    1. jesicka309

      Yes! I do this:
      Recruiter: So what is your current salary?
      Me: I’m looking for something in the high 40s to low 50s range
      Recruiter: Yes, but what is your current salary?
      Me: Oh gosh, I couldn’t be sure, with superannuation etc, and I’d have to factor in commute etc, but I’d be looking for high 40s to low 50s in my next role.
      Recruiter: I need to know your salary!
      Me: Well, without knowing too much about the role, I’d say about high 40s to low 50s.

      If they don’t get the hint, well then. Negotiate your way out, steer the topic back onto prospective salary, or list a range that you can live with – even if you say “oh it fluctuates based on company performance, but I’d say it’s between etc.”. If that fails…find a new recruiter – while recruiters don’t work for you, you don’t want a recruiter that works against you!

      1. jobseeker

        #7, usually recruiter will insist on knowing your last drawn salary. In that case, I don’t think we can dodge this question when it’s being asked in such an outright manner (yes, it is annoying). You may have better chance dodging this when the recruiter is from headhunting company who tries to match-make you to his/her client, but if the recruiter is calling from your prospective employer, I doubt you’d have any chance surviving this question.

        1. Piper

          I avoid the question by saying I signed a confidentiality agreement regarding my salary (which is true) and that I’m happy to talk about salary expectations instead. This generally has worked just fine for me.

          1. Mike C.

            Just remember that if you’re covered under the FLSA, you’re allowed to discuss working conditions, including salary. That doesn’t mean this isn’t an awesome excuse, but just remember you cannot sign your rights away in a contract.

            1. Eric

              This is outside my expertise, but it was my understanding that that only applied to conversations with coworkers, not general comments to anyone.

                1. Natalie

                  One clarification – NLRA also protects the worker’s right to discuss salary and working conditions with a potential union, which would be outside the company.

                2. Annie The Mouse

                  They sure can and they sure do! My confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement expressly forbids any discussion of salary with anyone, ever. It annoys the heck out of interviewers when I refuse to tell them what I’m making now, but but I’m happy to honor the agreement because it’s none of their business anyway.

              1. RG

                But if you can talk about it with co-workers, it’s not really confidential any more.

                And because it’s covered by the FLSA it can’t be considered confidential information and I would have a hard time seeing a non-disclosure agreement be justified for something that wasn’t confidential information.

                1. Jamie

                  The spirit behind the NLRA is to make it illegal to require confidentiality with co-workers as it relates to working conditions – basically so employers aren’t hindering union discussions.

                  I can discuss a lot of things at work and it would still be unethical to discuss them with outside parties. It’s not as if things are either confidential or not – the context is important.

            2. Jamie

              Section 8 of the NLRA doesn’t protect anyone in a supervisory or managerial role – they can absolutely fire you for discussing salary.

              1. Jamie

                And just for the sake of adding extraneous details – there are parameters to the salary discussions.

                They do not have to let you discuss it while you are supposed to be working, but cannot prohibit discussions on your own time.

                You can discuss your own compensation, and that of others freely given in conversation – i.e. those who volunteer their own salary info can have it discussed but if you know others salaries through the course of work you cannot discuss that freely.

                In other words if I weren’t in management and over lunch I told you I made X per week you can tell anyone you like, on your own time. However if you happen to know what I make because of your position and use it to further a discussion and it’s not something I willingly shared that is not protected by the NLRA and you could be fired for that.

    2. Greg

      I posted this a few days ago in a comment thread, but I recently had an experience similar to #7. Yes, you can try to finesse it or dodge the question, but ultimately it’s probably going to come down to a decision: Do you stand on principle, or do you do what it takes to get the job?

      By the way, that’s not a rhetorical question. I believe very strongly that it’s BS to ask salary history, and I would totally respect someone who said that they would rather not work for a company that would insist on that information. But if you really want the job, don’t take it upon yourself to lecture the HR manager. They have that policy in place for a reason, and you’re unlikely to dissuade them.

      1. WWWONKA

        I also commented a few days ago. Tell me what your salary range is and we can take it from there. DO NOT disqualify me because my current salary is out of range for your job. Basing me on $ is so wrong.

        1. Manda

          It’s great when they’re up front about the salary/wage range in the posting. I hate it when they say to include salary expectations in your application. I assume they do it so they can automatically disqualify anyone who wants more than they’re willing to pay, but maybe there are other reasons for it. It would spare the applicants from wasting their time if the pay is below their expectations. It would also spare the employer from wasting their time reviewing applications from people who cost too much. Then again, maybe the ATS rejects people based on that. Sometimes it’s hard to guess what the job is worth. And I imagine some people low-ball themselves to avoid being automatically disqualified and then have a hard time negotiating later. I’m looking for entry level jobs so I don’t have much room (if any) to negotiate (and I think I’m too timid for that anyway). I’m willing to work for a little less than what I hope to (realistically) be making. I have a rough idea of the range I’ll end up in, but that’s just a ballpark. I wouldn’t want to state the bare minimum and be stuck with that, but I also wouldn’t want to be ruled out because I put down a number which I thought was reasonable when it actually wasn’t. Also, there are probably some people who are willing to take a pay cut if the job and/or company appear to be an improvement.

  2. WWWONKA

    # 5 I have seen too many times that HR has little power over management. It was so bad at a company I worked for that interviewed myself and several others about a bad supervisor. They asked me for a statement and wanted me to sign it. I told them very sternly that they NEVER do anything disciplinary and I would not sign the statement. I told them I said what I said truthfully and that was the end of my involvement.

      1. Flynn

        They were interviewed by HR about a supervisor’s behaviour and were asked to sign a statement regarding said interview/supervisor.

        But the poster above was sure it would be useless as HR wouldn’t do anything anyway, didn’t want to commit to a signature (because retribution/pointlessness/honour) and their statement was true and didn’t need to be signed.

  3. Jessa

    I don’t think there’s an issue with long hair provided it’s put up or back. The one issue is that you do not want people picking strands of your hair off every chair you sit in. And you don’t want it flying around looking messy, beyond that, I don’t think length matters.

    1. Laura

      This is one of the reasons I keep my hair shorter – I shed terribly, so if my hair was longer it would be an even bigger problem.

    2. Bwmn

      In hair at that mid-back or longer range – I agree about having it back as looking more professional. However, more important I think than specific style, is that any hair style, no matter the length, that frequent touching of hair is definitely not professional. Whether it’s playing, twisting, or regularly touching it to move behind the ears/over the shoulder – that is more of a problem.

    3. Lanya

      My hair is very long, but I am in a creative setting where the dress code is a little more relaxed and I can get away with it. I would probably keep it a little shorter or wear it up frequently in a more corporate environment. I don’t think long hair is inherently unprofessional, but if it’s not well-kept (if it is not well-maintained, has a lot of split ends, or isn’t brushed) it does not look good.

      1. Jamie

        You guys are making me feel even schlumpier than I did when I walked in this morning!

        It’s inventory – skeleton crew and other than that just me and the people cleaning the carpets. My hair is a mess – up in a clip. I showered and brushed my teeth which is about as much grooming as one can expect from me during inventory.

        I love this part of inventory – takes it down from business casual to “hey – aren’t you dressed to clean the garage?”

        But to your point, I think the same can be said for hair of any length. Short hair doesn’t look professional if it’s unkempt either – it’s not the length that’s an issue as long as it’s not messy.

        1. Elizabeth West

          Inventory when no one is in there–you get a pass to be as schlumpy as you like! :)

          Good point about the short hair–I’ve seen plenty of shorties that need a comb in the worst way.

    4. Lils

      I know a respected, older woman in my field who wears her long hair in a braid down her back. She’s also let the salt overwhelm the pepper. She has been promoted to higher-level administration positions because she’s good at what she does, not because of what she looks like. That being said, her appearance does not convey messiness. I can think of other colleagues who have the same hairdo as she does, who often come to work looking a hot mess with their wrinkled clothes, unkempt sandaled feet, and visible armpits.

  4. Laura

    #5: In general, Alison is exactly right – HR is there to serve the company’s interests.

    I worked with one of the HR reps at my company to get me through a very difficult situation I was having with a direct report, which resulted in my firing him. The HR rep was very supportive: he coached me on how to have conversations with the employee, he advised me on what I legally could or could not talk about, all the documentation I needed, we talked through what I needed to stay to the rest of my team after the firing, and so on.

    Then I worked with another HR rep when I got an absolutely scathing performance evaluation from a horrible manager who was the biggest jerk I’ve ever run across in all my life. It was filled with all kinds of unsubstantiated statements, like how people refused to work with me because I made them feel stupid and “ridiculed” them for asking questions. About the only thing he didn’t put in there was a comment accusing me of hating puppies.

    This HR rep did nothing to help me. Absolutely nothing. She offered some lame advice about how I should take it up with his manager, or the VP of my area, but it was well known that those 2 thought the sun shined out of that guy’s backside (even though every single one of his direct reports despised him), so it would have been a complete waste of time. I even asked, pointblank, why a manager was allowed to accuse an employee of things and then refuse to provide concrete examples of the alleged bad behavior. I provided ample documentation that refuted almot all of his claims. And she did nothing at all. My review stayed the way it was, and as a result I got an absolutely abysmal raise, and that review is now part of my permanent employment file. Fortunately, that was the only review I ever got from that manager, and all of them since have beeen very good. That manager was outed as being completely incompetent, and he, the director he reported to, and the VP have all since left the company.

    But, bottom line, the HR rep sided with management, because that’s her job. She did not care that I had been vilified, that my reputation had been impugned, or that this manager had behaved in a thoroughly unprofessional manner. For whatever reason, it suited his interests to make me the scapegoat for all the bad things that happen in the world, and since it was not illegal for him to do so, that performance evaluation was allowed to stand, even though it was full of statements that I was able to prove false.

    While I was on maternity leave, I heard she was not only fired, but escorted out of the building by security people, which is pretty uncommon at my company. And I’m not ashamed to say that indulged in a bit of schadenfreude at her expense.

  5. Sourire

    #4 – How awful; I’m so sorry. This has nothing to do with answering your question, but if I may ask, why didn’t the company do anything at all to address this (other than bare bones compliance with a legally required court document)?

    1. Ruffingit

      Exactly my thoughts. If I were her previous company, I would provide someone to give this woman a glowing recommendation if for no other reason than that I wouldn’t want to explain why I kept a legally documented stalker employed.

      Seriously. It’s just so mind boggling what some companies will do. People with stalker mentalities don’t stop with one victim. They find another one. This guy is a huge pile of dynamite just waiting to explode. I can only hope the next object of his affection is someone as strong as the OP. Otherwise, the company may find their stalker splashed across the front page of the news. And then what explanation will they give? “Oh, we knew he was a stalker, but we figured putting him in the basement Milton style was enough…”

      1. Michelle

        YES to what you said– I can’t believe this company would still let this person manage female employees after he’s already demonstrated without a doubt that he abuses that position of power.

        1. Chinook

          Michelle, I would be equally upset if this person was allowed to supervise male employees as well. He has already shown he will abuse a position of power and all employees deserve to be protected from this, not just the female ones.

          1. OP #4

            It gets even creepier. He was the hiring manager for the two positions under him before the restraining order. He hired exclusively young and/or attractive women. He did a lot to try to “groom” us to be better victims. He’s just unlucky that he picked me as a victim because I knew what stalking looks like and what to do. My roommate in college was stalked for months by a random guy she talked to once at a bar. Helping her through that really helped me clear this up as efficiently as possible. The fear is mostly gone but the disgust for my former manager and company isn’t.

        2. OP #4

          He wasn’t convicted of stalking. You don’t need to have the person convicted of stalking to get a restraining order because of stalking behavior. That’s actually a good thing, because it is really hard to get someone convicted of stalking regardless of how blatant it is.

          The former company felt there was some ambiguity in the situation, as to whether I was a jilted lover or he was a stalker. There wasn’t. I have pictures of this guy at my grocery store and my dog park (WITH NO DOG!) when he lives in a town 45 minutes away. He is standing several yards away, always looking at me, even when I took the picture, and generally looking like a stalker. He even has a goofy half-grin on his face in some of them, which makes my skin crawl to this day. He thinks he’s being cute.

          The police believed me entirely, but didn’t do much because it is hard to build a case for stalking. I worked with an advocacy group to get a restraining order. The whole time I was waiting on the courts, I was also hoping that my company would address this in some way.

          They never did. The head of HR told me that pretty girls should be expected to be followed by their admirers, so there’s the base line of what you should expect from this company.

          I like Alison’s advice though. I didn’t really want to bring it up at all with future employers because it’s all so sorted. I’m going to make my former employer handle this, maybe with the help of a lawyer.

          1. Elizabeth West

            Sounds like you did everything right, OP. Keep The Gift of Fear and read it, if you haven’t, just in case. The company absolutely should give you an alternate reference; it’s on them, since the jerkface a$$enheimer still works there in the same position (excuse me, but that makes them IDIOTS).

            The lawyer is a good idea if they don’t do it. Since he’s still there, I would be ready for the possibility of balkage on their end. You might even talk to one ahead of time; he/she might even want you to make that call from their office.

          2. Camellia

            “The head of HR told me that pretty girls should be expected to be followed by their admirers, so there’s the base line of what you should expect from this company.”

            This left me speechless.

            I next would expect them to say “pretty girls” should expect to be raped.

            1. OP #4

              The head of HR was also one of those guys who tells women to “SMILE! :-)” so there’s that too.

              1. Ruffingit

                What a horrendous workplace. Thank God you were strong enough to fight this crap and to get out. I’m sorry you had to go through this. It’s a nightmare for anyone, but even worse when your company backs the stalker, which is what they did here.

  6. Lisa

    #1 – I think its reasonable to discuss hours during the interview when you work in an industry that is notorious for 80 hour work weeks. Its perfectly reasonably to say, I’m used to 60 hrs at my current agency, but I’ve heard mixed reports about your company with some of my contacts mentioning that 60 is the norm, but others mention midnight meetings several times a month.

    It usually turns into a convo about you are required to be here between x and x, but when deadlines call for it, we expect your work to be done. Those midnight meetings are for people with clients overseas, and usually call in from home and come in late the next day / take a comp day.

  7. Cathy

    #4 – it sounds like you’re still at the same company with your former stalker. If you contact “someone” to discuss how they’ll handle reference checks, then they will know you’re looking for a job, so you may not want to do that.

    Is there any other manager or supervisor who has left the company and who could be a reference for you? It doesn’t have to be someone who directly supervised your work, even an indirect manager is better than none. You’ve been there over 3 years, so it’s likely that one of your managers, or your manager’s managers or the manager of some other department you interact with has left. Find these people on Linked In and ask to connect to them. Make sure to customize LinkedIn’s email to explain that you’d like to get back in touch and hope to be able to use them as a reference in the future.

    If you are comfortable contacting someone while you still work there, then it should probably be the manager of the person who stalked you. When asked for references, just use his name, don’t even give your stalker’s name. If you need to put down a supervisor’s name on a job application, just list the current supervisor. You don’t have to list previous supervisors at the same company.

    If you are asked for references and can’t supply any managers at all, then try to find some co-workers who are on the same level as you and give a verbal explanation about the lack of managers on the list. Any normal person is going to accept “my former manager was a stalker and there was a court case that resulted in a restraining order against him, so I’m sure you can see why I’m unable to offer him as a reference.”

    1. some1

      2nd paragraph, 1st line: “I deplore the way this was handled and sought a position at another company, where I work now.”

      1. Cathy

        Thanks, I missed the “where I work now” part.

        I still don’t think she absolutely has to use a manager from 3 years ago as a reference though. She most likely has management references from her current position and from that position if she looks for the type of people I listed above. If she really wants to put someone from the previous job, then she could use a non-management person she worked closely with.

    2. TheSnarkyB

      I disagree with your first point. I think that if the person specifies that they are not job searching, and that they’re looking into this as a matter of “tying up loose ends” or something of the sort, it’s a perfectly normal legal and procedural question to ask.

  8. Sascha

    #2 – For upper level management, a lot of it depends on the workplace (sorry had to say it!), but I think if try to avoid youthful styles (like high ponytails, drastic dye jobs, braids everywhere), then long hair can look professional. For men, I think what looks most professional for long hair is either pulled back in a low ponytail, or a very nice cut. One of my male friends has shoulder length hair, and he keeps it in great shape, and it’s gorgeous – he looks great in a suit and I don’t think it detracts from his professionalism. The top level executives that come to mind with long hair usually put some effort into a nice cut and keeping it well-groomed (for both genders).

    1. nyxalinth

      My most recent ex had long black-brown hair to his waist, but he always kept it tied neatly back. It never hurt him for finding obs. A former supervisor’s husband has blond hair the same length, though he shaved it when she got cancer and the chemo took her hair. He donated it to Locks of Love. Point is, both men were always well groomed and neat in and out of work, so even for men, while unusual, I don’t feel it would be an issue.

      Mind, I envied their hair!

    2. Elizabeth West

      High ponytails can look really nice if you tie a pretty silk scarf around them. :) I do that–it’s the only way I’ll wear a scarf (I hate them around my neck; feels like they’re strangling me).

  9. Joey

    Alison is exactly right- HR is there to protect the company’s interests. But frequently that means being an impartial arbiter. Because HRs goal is to mitigate risks. And most good HR folks know that the best way to do that is to make decisions based on the truth. And the only way to get true facts is to gather them without any biases.

    And HR is there to represent the staffs interest to the head of the company because generally that is in the company’s best interest. Although I will admit that the feedback becomes more relevant the larger the group it represents.

    As for crappy managers, HR is generally going to give the benefit of the doubt to its managers. After all, they were selected for their ability to make decisions. Although, when managers do wrong employees won’t typically see or know about corrective action so it can seem as though nothing’s being done. And because HR doesn’t like to undermine supervisors in front of employees it may seem as though they support crappy managers when they actually don’t.

    But of course there are crappy HR people out there.

  10. dh37

    I’m the person who asked #1.

    Thanks for the reply! (As well as the reply by the other commenter.)

    It makes sense to _me_ that it should be OK to ask this—a large discrepancy in expectations is good for neither party.

    Cheers,

    S

  11. Jamie

    I’ve found HR is one of those positions that a lot of people have misconceptions about. I know a lot of people who think HR is like the dean in high school – but it’s a policy/support position. Not unlike IT in some ways, but with people.

    HR should be working to craft and enforce policies that are good for the company, keep up with and make sure all labor laws are being followed, personnel record keeping, paperwork, insurance/benefit management, etc. I’ve never worked in a place where HR decides who gets hired/fired outside of their own department – they process the incoming and exiting paperwork and makes sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed. Just like outside of their department they may be able to give input, but they don’t decide who is getting raises or for how much. They process them…because these decisions should be made my managers who are in the position to know an employee’s work and that’s rarely HR.

    The policy part is strategic as is talent recruitment, so there is a huge reason they’d work closely with upper management…but there’ s also a lot of administrative balls to keep in the air from insurance, 401K, to knowing when people’s authorization to work will expire.

  12. Z

    What sort of “worn up” makes long hair look professional and is also feasible for thick hair? I have long-ish hair, and the only ways I’d ever wear it up would be in a ponytail or two braids, neither of which I think looks professional. My hair won’t go into a bun or a French twist – I’ve tried, and the hair just pops out in five minutes. What are other professional-looking options?

    Incidentally, it had never occurred to me that long hair could look unprofessional. Now I wonder if I’ve been projecting an unprofessional image without knowing it!

    1. Ms Enthusiasm

      Long hair isn’t necessarily unprofessional but it could potentially come across as not age appropriate depending on your age. The “vibe” I have gotten is that it is ok to have long hair when you are young (in your 20’s) but once you reach a certain age long hair just doesn’t look sophisticated and polished. And I think the older you get the harder it is to maintain healthly looking long hair. It usually becomes frizzy or messy looking.

      1. Natalie

        I’ve heard a lot of people say this, but looking around my city I don’t think it’s actually true. I see many younger women with short hair and older women with long hair. It’s certainly a stereotype, but IMO I wouldn’t let a stereotype dictate my hairstyle.

      2. Elizabeth West

        Product product product. :)

        I have longer hair, which I wear up in ponytails (trying not to do it so much, as it contributes to breakage). I don’t let my gray show anyway, and I look younger than I am. Good conditioners, regular deep conditioning, and styling products go a long way. I refuse to bow to convention, and I will NOT get that flipped-end “older woman” haircut!

    2. Rana

      I’ve seen a few people braid it and twist up the braid, or put it in a same-color snood.

    3. COT

      I hear you–I have thick, curly hair and it’s definitely harder to pull off “professional” styles like French twists. They just don’t stay in place, leaving my hair looking a little unruly (fortunately I’m young and work in a more casual setting, so it’s not a huge problem at this point). I’ve found that I can do buns if I use ample bobby pins. Doing low buns/ponytails increases my odds that it’ll stay in place all day.

      I think that half-up hair can look nice and acceptably professional, especially with a nice barrette (I know finding a strong enough one to hold thick hair can be a challenge!) rather than a ponytail binder. A good haircut makes all of the difference, too–the shape and style a good haircut provides makes it look like you put effort into your hair and care about your appearance. In my opinion, that matters most!

      1. Editor

        A friend of mine has long hair and it was not behaving well — it was brittle and sometimes also frizzy. Reducing the amount of product, changing shampoo to something milder, and using filtered water improved her hair an astounding amount. She is a frequent houseguest and got a filter for the guest room shower that she and my long-haired daughter both say has made a big difference.

        She learned about all this in online forums that cater to women with long hair. There are also a lot of craftspeople who make devices to put hair up — hair forks, hair sticks, hairbands, pretty open knot or net devices that hold a braid or wound-up hair with a stick through the knot or net, and more (so the hair can go up without elastics and the subsequent damage). She found out about the “hair toys” on the forums and buys and trades on Etsy mostly, from what I can tell.

        Google the words long hair forum to find various places and do some research, but be prepared to see heads of hair that are astoundingly thick and long. If you’re insecure about your hair, all the pictures can be discouraging.

    4. Camellia

      The Toni Twist is a lifesaver for me! There are great hair “pieces” out there now, with multi-color strands and without that weird shine, that my hairdresser couldn’t tell was not my ‘real’ hair. I too have naturally curly hair which I prefer to wear long. But I can have an instant up-do by putting my hair in a pony tail and leaving the ends in on the last twist, the putting the Toni Twist around the ‘bun’.

  13. Camellia

    Also, I use Wen exclusively on my hair. Curly hair is dry hair and this has made a world of difference! I even take it to my hairdresser who works in an Aveda salon. They tell me they have several people that come in and bring their Wen with them.

  14. Manda

    I’ve been wondering about #1 as well, although my main issue is start time. I’m hesitant about even applying at some places if the commute is long. I could handle, say, an hour bus ride if the job doesn’t start until 9, or maybe 8:30. I’d be willing to start earlier with a shorter commute. But if I have to be out the door by 6:30 everyday, I just know I’ll end up miserable. How far I’m willing to go and how early will probably depend on how good the job is though. I would hate to get an offer somewhere that’s going to be long ride, only to find out that I’d have to start earlier than I’m prepared to. I’d rather know before that point, but I wouldn’t want to ask about that too early and risk sounding lazy.

  15. Ann Onymous

    Regarding #1: I wonder if there is any way I could have known something about my employer’s hours before I accepted my current job. I work in a college library. Normally we are open 7 days a week, except for a few times a year (breaks, for e.g.) when we’re closed on the weekend. I normally work at least one weekend day. The library has a charming policy of making me work an extra day the week following a closed weekend. For e.g., if I ordinarily work Tuesday through Saturday, and am off on Sunday and Monday, and we’re closed that Saturday, then the following week, I have to work Tuesday through Saturday again, then come in on that Monday to “make up for” the day we were closed. My boss suggested I use my vacation days so that I can get a full weekend during those occasions. I’m finding I’m using *almost all* my vacation days so that I can have a full, two-day weekend (and I might add that my boss once gave me crap about splitting up weekends; he said it was “so important to have two days off in a row”…yeah, when it suits his purposes. I digress.)

    Do you think the college should have told me about these odd weeks before I accepted the job? I feel like they sprung them on me after I had accepted. And I’m getting tired of ending up w/almost no vacation thanks to their policy.

    Thanks. Interested in everyone’s opinion.

    1. Another Anonymous

      You should try this question on the open thread today or send it as a separate question directly to Alison.

      1. Manda

        The open thread might be smarter. I remember her saying somewhere that she doesn’t like to use letters that have come up in the comments.

        @Ann Onymous – Do your colleagues get the same crappy schedules? Maybe ask them if they were told ahead of time or if they found out later.

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