my new employee lied on his resume, are ponytails professional, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My new employee lied on his resume

I joined my current company last year and was recently promoted from my former position (more IT-related) to managing another department. One of the team members in my new department expressed an interest in the role I was vacating. In the process of both interviewing him for my old position and having a general “get to know you” session, I discovered glaring errors on his resume. He has oversold his previous job experience, listed software and systems that he has no actual knowledge of, and when questioned directly about some parts of his resume (education, previous positions), he can’t even come up with a very good lie.

When I asked him why he seemed to have some discrepancies on his resume, he shrugged and told him that his brother had helped him write it.

I already know that this employee is not ranked very highly as a candidate for my previous position, but that means that he’ll be staying in my department. Do I address these lies on his resume? So far his work for the company is competent, if not particularly thrilling, and it’s certainly not his fault that his previous manager didn’t catch these issues when she was interviewing him for his original position. I would not want to punish him for lying on his resume (because I don’t feel his lies directly affect the quality of his current work), but I do want him to understand that this isn’t acceptable. What’s the best way to go about this?

Well, lying on a resume is a good reason for firing someone. He lied to get the job, and he didn’t even think it was a big deal when you talked to him about it. That says something pretty serious about his integrity and his trustworthiness. Are you going to trust this guy when it’s his word against a client’s, or when a story seems a bit off to you? I don’t see how you’ll ever be able to give him the benefit of the doubt, and that’s a huge problem.

But if you want to keep him, I’d sit him down for a very serious conversation and explain that he lied when applying to the company, that it’s a fireable offense at many companies, that you’ve considered whether that would be appropriate in this case, that it raises serious issues about integrity and your ability to trust him, and that you’re going to need to see impeccable integrity and ethics from him going forward. And then I’d keep an eagle eye on him for a long time, because I would bet money that you’ll uncover other ethical issues if you watch closely enough.

2. Calling your coworker “mom” — when she’s actually your mother

My coworker has a daughter who started working at the same company. They do not work in the same department nor have the same manager. Is it proper to have the daughter call her “mom”? It’s been said that this makes other workers feel uncomfortable when the daughter says, “I’ll ask my mom.” Instead, she was asked to call her by her first name or reference the department her mom works at instead.

Yeah, everywhere I’ve seen this done, the person used the parent’s first name while at work, so as to de-emphasize the parental/child relationship.

3. Are ponytails professional?

I am starting my first “real” job next week (which I credit to all of your interviewing tips! thank you!) and I’m at a bit of a loss on what to do with my hair. This seems silly, but all I have ever done with it was wear it in a ponytail. Every day. It is fairly long and really thick, so it tends to be a bit to handle. I thought about chopping it all off, but that tends to not do nice things for my face shape. Anyway, my actual question is: What are work appropriate ways to style your hair? Would it be strange for me to continue with my ponytail everyday, or is that seen as sloppy?

A ponytail is perfectly professional, although a low ponytail generally reads as more professional than a high one. You can also experiment with buns, clips, gibson tucks, and more.

4. Seeing a negative note about you — from your boss

A friend who relies on me for professional advice just called me in tears. She was called into her boss’s office to review some pictures (standard). As he was getting the right windows pulled up on his screen, her eyes fell to his desk, and right in front of her was a printed email that was from the CEO of the company. Her boss had highlighted it so it really stood out. She caught only a few words but essentially it was, “since [friend]’s predecessor has left, the writing is suffering, the photo selection is suffering…. blah blah blah [friend] is doing a bad job.”

Should she confront her supervisor or just sit on this?

Confront? No. But she should take this as a sign that she should be asking for feedback about how she’s doing and whether there are things he’d like to see her doing differently. And really, if that email reflects his assessment, it’s good for her to realize it, hard as I’m sure it must have been to see.

5. Did this insurance agent over-step boundaries?

In my new job, I have replaced the old contact point for our insurance company. Sometimes our contracts require revisions or additional coverage, so I have to stay in touch with our insurance agents. I reached out to the agent and asked him to email me a copy of the policy. When he did, he made a point to ask about whether I had or wanted him to review my life insurance, home owners, and auto insurance policies — my personal policies. I was really skeeved out by this and didn’t answer, but I have to work with the guy. Should I just ignore it? Or let him know I thought that was unprofessional and inappropriate thing to do with a professional contact? It has really colored my perception of him and my desire to trust him, which is problematic.

Eh, I wouldn’t have been crazy about it either, but I don’t think it’s a huge deal unless he keeps pushing it. He asked, you said no, and if that’s the end of it, I wouldn’t let it bother you too much.

{ 321 comments… read them below }

  1. Artemesia*

    When I saw the headline, I assumed they were talking about guys with ponytails in professional spaces. Didn’t even cross my mind they were talking about women.

    1. Grey*

      Same here. The letter gives no indication of gender. If it was written by a man, the answer would be a bit different.

    2. Girasol*

      At Interop – the big data networking conference – a few years ago, one of my coworkers went to the “networks for executives” presentation. The tidbit he brought back was “when you go out on the show floor to look at new products, bypass the sales droids and talk to the guy in the ponytail.”

  2. Min*

    #4 seems really passive-aggressive to me. It would be one thing if it happened to be on his screen, but to have it printed out, highlighted, and laying on the desk when he called her into the office reads less like an accident and more like design.

      1. misspiggy*

        And me! Which suggests she might want to also ask colleagues for feedback, since the boss seems to have a problem giving it.

    1. Ops Analyst*

      Absolutely! I was thinking the same thing. Highlighted email right out in view and he called her into his office. And if it really was an accident, he should have started a feedback dialogue with her as soon as he realized it was out in view and she might have seen it (and apologized for it). Also problematic, if she saw it, anyone else in his office might have seen it as well. I’d be worried about this manager if this is how he handles things.

    2. Michelle*

      Make me #4 in thinking it was deliberate to have that email right there, *highlighted* no less!! Why hasn’t boss talked to friend yet? Seems like he thought things were ok, but CEO does not.

      1. YogiJosephina*

        Absolutely. There is absolutely, positively, next to ZERO chance that that was anything other than intentional.

        Honestly, it gives me pause that the employee is actually the problem here. $10 her work is just fine.

    3. qkate*

      Yeah, I’m struggling to come up with a legitimate reason for printing out an email and highlighting it like that. And to leave it lying around, no less. Man, I shred perfectly normal resumes right after I’m done with interviews (because there’s still the electronic copy)…I can’t imagine leaving something truly sensitive like that lying out.

  3. Reave Mekonta*

    I prefer to wear my hair down, but I’ve put it in a ponytail for years because of the heat. But I’ve never heard of a “low” or “high” ponytail until now! (Or a Gibson Tuck, either).

    It’s not my place to make judgements on such things, but yeah, the “high” ponytail would probably look out of place at the office. I don’t think it would necessarily make me think someone was unintelligent. But I’d wonder if they were heading off to the Academy Awards after work. Or something.

    1. Artemesia*

      Re the Gibson tuck. There are sort of devices that look like a dental floss needle i.e. a loop with a pointy thing on it that you stick through the ponytail and then thread the pony tail through the loop and pull it down and through which gives you a sort of pulled together pony thing with what appears to be just hair holding it. You can then tuck the tail hanging down back up into the spot where the hair is pulled through and have the gibson tuck — but easier. I have grown my hair long because I have so much trouble with it — it was a short Judi Dench thing or that — and I wear it in a pony or in clips or sometimes in that thing I just described.

      I had hoped that by the time I got old the fashion would be caps or shaved heads and giant kaftans — but alas we aren’t quite there yet.

      1. Stuck in the Snow*

        Wouldn’t that be nice? I’m still hoping for turbans to make a comeback. And just more variety all together – let men be able to wear sandals to work if women can in their office, women can have short hair & no make-up and men can wear their hair long, etc., and have it be professional.

        1. Merry and Bright*

          Is it unprofessional, though, for women to have short hair or wear no make-up in the office?

          I think this stuff has come up on here before.

          1. Merry and Bright*

            Think I may have misread this slightly. But yes, women should definitely be able to go with make-up in the office or have short hairstyles.

          2. costume teapot*

            While I can see women’s long hair styles having differing degrees of professionalism, my back gets really up when people want to say women who dont wear makeup or have short hair are by default unprofessional. (Probably because thats me to a T ;) ) I think the only thing that can be said about a woman like that is that she does not conform to gender standards/reauirements of long hair + makeup. I dont think it says squat about looking professional when someone chooses to not spend a great deal of time handling hair/makeup.

            1. Not Today Satan*

              Honestly, any discussion about whether a woman’s hair is “professional” (beyond being clean and brushed) annoys me. Most of the “approved” styles also happen to be the ones that take a LOT of time to achieve (like blow drying straight–which for me takes half an hour).

              1. Allison*

                Agreed. I understand the logic to a degree – an appearance that clearly takes a lot of time and effort shows someone you care, and they’re worth it – BUT I think it’s a little silly to expect women to spend a lot of time on their hair and makeup every morning. Let us save the time-consuming styles for big events.

            2. Cordelia Naismith*

              Do people really think short hair on a woman is unprofessional? I’ve seen the make-up argument before, but not the short hair one! I’m sorry, that’s just ridiculous.

              1. Kelly L.*

                @Cordelia Naismith, I’ve never encountered that. I’ve been told long hair is inherently unprofessional; I disagree, but I also notice a lot more short cuts than long in white-collar settings.

                1. Xarcady*

                  I agree, short hair has been seen as professional for women for decades. Long hair can be professional, too, but usually it needs to be tied back or up in some fashion.

                  The chin-length bob for women has been a professional standard for since the 80s, I think, and the first “Dress for Success” books.

                2. Stranger than fiction*

                  Hmm I’ve had short and long and everything in between, cause I get bored of what I’m seeing in the mirror every couple years, but at no time did I ever even think one or the other might be looked down at in the office. The one thing I have heard (and I think this sinject vary greatly by region and industry) is that when women get to a certain age, long straight hair looks “school girl” ish. I don’t agree but it’s the only negative I’ve ever heard about the matter.

          3. FD*

            I think short hair is generally considered more professional at the moment, but the OP indicated that she doesn’t feel it’s flattering to her face.

          4. Allison*

            I sure as heck hope not! I’ve had short hair for years, and I’d cringe if someone told me it’s been unprofessional this whole time!

            I mean, I have made unprofessional choices with my hair re:accessories. Once I started getting it cut so short I couldn’t simply pull it back, I had to find new ways to keep my hair out of my face, and started wearing really dumb things like flower clips and headbands with bows on them, and all sorts of things that were either too dressy or too cutesy for the office.

            When it comes to things like hair and makeup at work, I think a minimal approach is just fine. As long as someone is clean and neat, and their clothing is appropriate.

            1. BananaPants*

              I know, I took my hair from shoulder length to a pixie almost a year ago and I don’t think it’s unprofessional. I have to go for a cut every 5-6 weeks but it saves me SO much time on a daily basis and I actually consider it a more professional look on a daily basis for me. I can go from wet, freshly-washed hair to blow dried and styled in 2 minutes flat (no lie). It’s a lot better than a year ago when I’d be running late and just threw it into a ponytail because I didn’t have the time for anything nicer. I think I look more put-together and it leaves me time to apply some makeup, too.

              I wear a hard hat at work with some frequency and the pixie is much better because I don’t get “hat head” and then have to try to fix it before I go back to my desk. I’ve found that it’s more important now to keep my eyebrows nicely-shaped and I pay attention to my earrings because there’s more attention drawn to my face.

              I’m overweight and “they” say that plus-size women shouldn’t have pixie cuts because it will emphasize the roundness of the face or whatever – people, it’s not like my shoulder-length hair was REALLY somehow magically hiding the extra 50 pounds of baby weight that I have yet to lose! I’m a big girl regardless, you know?

              1. Amber Rose*

                Short hair really does look bad on me, so I would consider that unprofessional since it’s important to look put together.

                I compromised by leaving it long in front and cutting it right up above my neck in the back.

                1. Cheesecake*

                  Honestly, what suits an individual has nothing to do with looking professional or not. As was said above, as long as hair is clean and neat looking it is ok.

              2. AnotherAlison*

                Interesting. . .I’ve had a pixie 4 different times, and it’s not low maintenance for my hair type (type 2 wavy). When I wore it during college, I just gelled it and let it air dry, and that worked, but the wet look is over, so now I have to dry it and straighten it like I do with my long hair. It takes less time to dry than long hair, but I have to be more particular about getting every piece of hair in place with short hair, and I have to do a lot of creme/paste stuff to be presentable. And you can’t pull off a hat look as easily. I found the hard hat works better with long hair too, so it really is interesting how what works for one person does not work for another.

              3. MsChanandlerBong*

                I just got my hair chopped off (just above chin length, which is SHORT for me). For years, I resisted a shorter hairstyle because of my round face. I’m losing hair rapidly, so I needed to do something to get rid of the thin strands hanging past my shoulders. I finally realized having shoulder-length hair doesn’t magically trick people into thinking I’m thin, so I told the stylist to have a ball. It looks MUCH better, especially around the front of my part, which was looking really thin when I had long hair.

              4. Marcela*

                Hehehe, I loved your last paragraph. I have a round face, big round cheeks and I’ve been told the same thing. But my face is always the same, regardless of my hair ☺

            2. Yellow Flowers*

              I agree – trying to get shorter hair out of your face can be a pain. I once used a binder clip – one of the big, metal ones – to hold my hair back while I was working. Worked just fine until I went to a meeting like that.

            1. "Find yourself a cup; the teapot is behind you. Now tell me about hundreds of things,"*

              Agree with you, Helka. Lot of comment and judgement recently about women’s hair and make-up.

          5. Green*

            It is not unprofessional. Anyone who thinks that’s unprofessional and judges anyone’s work on those bases is unprofessional.

            1. Name Required*

              Same here! Never had a problem to get high-paying jobs in Fortune 100 companies as a woman with short hair and no makeup.

      2. Reave Mekonta*

        > caps or shaved heads and giant kaftans


        I have a friend who is several years older than I, and her hair is long and gray / white / silver, and she’ll quite often wear it down, and she looks amazing. It’s a look that I wish more people would go with.

        (MHO, etc, etc)

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          And when I saw a friend’s mother in her white braids, she looked amazing. It was then I realized that I didn’t have to cut my hair and get an old-lady curly hair do. Forget about wearing purple — when I am old I am wearing braids!

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Me too. I was forced to wear short hair as a child. I grew it out as a teenager, but then I cut it all off my senior year. While I liked it, I never wanted to do it again, and ever since, it’s been long. I will still have it long when I’m old. I don’t care what anyone else thinks.

          2. Reave Mekonta*

            Braids will work, for sure.

            It just hit me that actress Jane Alexander is a very good example of someone who takes her silver-white hair and runs with it. Try a google image search, or watch Terminator: Salvation. She’s made-up to intentionally look kinda rough around the edges, but it’s not difficult to look past that and see that she is quite fetching.

    2. Loose Seal*

      I may have to disagree about the high pony being unprofessional looking. I think it can look just as professional if the hair is super sleek and healthy. See Sandra Bullock in “The Proposal” for an example.

      I will say that TWO ponytails or braids have no place in the workplace.

      1. Meg Murry*

        I think in generally a sleek, healthy high pony could be professional, except for the fact that OP mentions it is her first “real” job, which makes me think she may be young. A high pony on a young person tends to make them look even younger, IMO, because it’s kind of a “perky high schooler” look.

      2. INTP*

        Agree with this, though it might vary by how trendy your region or industry are. With my long hair, a low pony looks extremely frumpy and also makes my neck itchy. I do a ponytail straight from the back of my head for interviews and such rather than one close to the top of my head, though.

    3. Nanc*

      Topsy Tail! When they first came out I bought one for my sister as a joke as she has really think hair and could never find clips big enough to hold it. She loved it!

  4. Reave Mekonta*

    In re #1: I don’t want to second-guess OP1, but – are you sure his resume contains actual falsehoods? Like: maybe he was just stoned when you talked to him? :)

    Seriously: I agree with what Alison suggested about talking to him about it. But I’d want to be absolutely sure that he was a big fibber first.

    1. Zillah*

      Well, if he was stoned when the OP was talking to him, that’s also a huge problem – you shouldn’t show up to your job or an interview stoned! Honestly, that would worry me as much as the lying – they both indicate horrifically poor judgment

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Yep. And before anyone mentions legalization, alcohol is legal in 50 states, but you don’t show up drunk for an interview either!

        1. Lindsay J*

          Heh, we got warned about that in our company orientation. “Just because marijuana is legal in Colorado and a few other states doesn’t mean it is legal for [insert profession where having impaired judgment could cause death] in those states.”

      2. Afiendishthingy*

        Pretty sure Reave was joking about that and doesn’t think being stoned at work is a good excuse!

    2. Merry and Bright*

      I couldn’t agree more that you would want to be sure the employee has been lying. But someone further down the thread picks up that he shifted the blame (at least in part) to his brother. Why do that if the resume so squeaky clean?

      1. fposte*

        And that makes him look like a doofus anyway, because it suggests he didn’t read his own resume.

        I don’t see the OP as being worse off without this guy.

        1. Spiky Plant*

          For real! Not amazing work + lied on resume + pushed blame to his brother when confronted about lies = someone you should fire. I don’t even know how there’s another side to this!

        2. AW*

          it suggests he didn’t read his own resume

          YES! Even in the best case scenario this dude is highly suspect.

    3. LW#1*

      Letter writer 1 here. I think they’re definitely lies. Without getting into specifics, his resume had something like “worked with X company administering Y software.” So when I asked for him to give me an example of a project he’d completed with Y software, he just shrugged and said he hadn’t actually used it! Honestly, I was flabbergasted. People occasionally embiggin themselves (to use a perfectly cromulent word) on their resumes and I get that, although I think it’s dangerous to do. But this was just a total lie. And the puzzling part was he seemed to not realize why it’d be inappropriate to lie on your resume.

      I’ve also witnessed some Cover Your Ass behavior since writing this letter. So I’m documenting like crazy.

        1. JMegan*

          I agree!

          And I also agree with fposte above, that I don’t think it would be any great loss to your team if this guy weren’t on it. Hopefully you can find a way to sort this out soon.

      1. Meg Murry*

        I think if you aren’t going to fire him for this, you need a formal PIP in place, to make it clear that lying and gross exaggeration (whether in reports, email or verbally) are absolutely not acceptable, and the next time it happens he will be fired. I’d give him one chance to “come clean” on any other half truths he may have told during his time at your company or on his original resume, and anything discovered after that would be a reason to fire him.

        I think you also need to talk to your new manager about this, to see if this is part of an ongoing pattern, or look at any past reviews to see if this has been mentioned before – because if he has been reprimanded about this before and did it again then he has no intention to stop lying to suit his own purposes.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yep. If you do decide down the road of firing him at some point in the future, you don’t want to be starting from scratch at that point. Do the formal PIP now.

      2. Judy*

        Do people who administer software always use the software? I guess things like email and word and excel they do, but at least in my world, the people who administer the software tools my team uses, don’t actually use those tools. (I’m pretty sure the guy who administers our SVN server has never compiled any code and placed it on our server. I’m also pretty sure he doesn’t use the CAD software the MEs use.)

        Only you can say if he administers that specific software would he most likely use it.

        1. Juli G.*

          Yes but if that was the case, most people would say “You misunderstood – I was only the administrator for this software” not shrug.

      3. Joey*

        it sounds to me like this guy is willing to say anything to deflect accountability. How can you ever trust this guy to come forward and own a mistake. It sounds like he’s much more willing to not tell you and/or if you find out he will blame someone else. What a stand up guy!!

      4. Artemesia*

        I think your best chance to unload this guys is asap based on lack of skill with something he sold you AND the lies on the resume. Wait and you have less leverage. Sounds like someone who needs to go.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Also I’d like to add to perhaps bring it up with the manager that did hire him so you guys can maybe collaborate on the remedy ’cause that manager may get into hot water when this comes out

      5. Anonsie*

        Well geeze, I was gonna come in here like “how do you even know those things weren’t true” but that’s pretty cut and dry.

  5. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    I have long hair and sometimes like to pull it all back into a single large barrette when I want the ease of a ponytail but with a bit more polish. A regular hair elastic is also totally fine, too, though I go for brown or black ones and save the like green for the gym.

    1. MK*

      You can twist a lock of hair of the ponytail and secure it with a pin underneath, if you want to hide the elastic; it looks polished too.

      1. JPixel*

        I’ve tried so many times to wrap my ponytail with a lock of hair and it NEVER works. Doesn’t matter if I tuck it in to the elastic, use a bobby pin, hairspray, etc. I always see people with it and think to myself, how is that staying in place?!

        1. KTM*

          It’s fussy for sure. One thing that I found helped is if I actually curled the piece of hair I was going to wrap around my ponytail to get it going in a somewhat circular motion before I wrapped it. And lots of bobby pins and hairspray!

        2. Mpls*

          +1 – I have to use a thicker elastic to actually hold my hair in a ponytail, and it’s not easily hid by a piece of hair. I usually go with more subdued elastic colors myself.

        3. Erin*

          Thirded! My hair is fine and very smooth. I can’t get the hair to stay put around the pony tail.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Ha! And I’ve rarely found one small enough to hold all my hair without falling out.

          1. Artemesia*

            Yeah my hair is fine and I can’t get clips to stay unless I use a rubber band and the clip over that or have the hair in some sort of twist and anchor it in that. I like the low clip pony tail look but it just falls out for me.

          2. Anx*

            Same. I have swavy hair with a mix of coarser and finer hairs. In the summer it gets huge, and there is no keeping my ‘halo’ from frizzing up. Serums, sprays, etc are all out of the question because my hair texture and color just don’t do well with it; it makes it look extremely greasy or dirty.

            Yet when I gather it all up, the diameter of the ponytail is probably less than an inch.

            1. EvaR*

              Are you me? I use hair rats to get volume so I don’t look bald when I wear a ponytail, but when I wear it long in summer, I look like Hermoine Granger got into a barfight. I’ve noticed that using hair forks or claws seem to work well with keeping my hair in a bun, and heavy dry shampoos/not washing kind of makes the halo stay weighed down a bit without looking nasty, if it helps.

      2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        You can get a similar look by using an elastic and then clipping the barrette through part of the hair right above the elastic.

        1. Kelly O*

          This is what I do.

          You can also find some simple elastics with barrette-like things on them. My favorite one is an oval tortoise-shell on an elastic. It curves a little bit, so it kind of goes around that part of the hair. (I have a lot of hair, but it’s really fine so it constantly comes undone, and a barrette by itself wouldn’t be enough to hold it.)

          Tip I learned from my old hair stylist: spray a bobby pin with a little hairspray, and put it where you want quickly (with the ridged part facing down) and it will help hold things better. It makes a huge difference for me.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        Me either. And they seem to have stopped making those long curved metal clip barrettes, which is the only thing that will work for me. The ones with the spring-loaded clips aren’t wide enough to hold a ponytail.

        I looked everywhere before I finally found some. And they were shorter! They shrunk!

      4. Glorious Tresses*

        Have you tried France Luxe? I have a looot of hair on my head and their ‘Volume’ barrettes can actually keep it in place.
        They make ones for thin hair too, but I haven’t used those either , for obvious reasons :)

    2. Anonsie*

      Man I’m jealous of people who look presentable with their hair pulled back. I look like I’m doing a spot-on impersonation of Hugo Weaving as Elrond.

    3. KJR*

      You could also experiment with braids – there’s a ton of YouTube videos out there, and they’re kind of fun, yet professional (although I probably wouldn’t go all Game of Thrones or anything.) Even a nice simple french braid would work nicely.

    4. Pennalynn Lott*

      Spin pins! I have really long, thick hair, and I twist it into one long “rope”, then make a sort of bun-thingy by pulling the end of the rope through a loop I’ve made at the top of it, which leaves a long straight ponytail hanging out through the loop (so it’s like a small bun with a ponytail coming out of the middle), then secure the bun-thingy with three spin pins. The pins screw in far enough that they’re invisible, so it looks like I’ve tied a knot in my hair and the knot is what’s holding it all together. I get lots of compliments on it.

      1. DMented Kitty*

        Lucky you! I’ve tried Spin Pins on my hair — six of them at a time, in fact — and I am still unable to keep it from falling apart after five minutes.

        I think I’ll have to resign myself to ponytails for life — I try braids, but my hair is so straight I have tiny locks of it sticking straight out of the braid like a cactus.

        1. AuntieSocial*

          One of those Topsy Tail things really makes a boring ponytail look dressier, and it tends to hide the elastic as well. Google the term, and look at the Image search page – lots of cool ways to use them, and they’re like $2 on Amazon.

          1. Lanya*

            Sock Buns are also great. I have very long, very thick hair, and the sock bun has been my saving grace, especially for “second day hair” days.

  6. Chocolate Teapot*

    Having just been watching various costume dramas, it would appear men can be professional with ponytails, but you really need a frock coat and tricorne hat for the full effect!

    1. Meg Murry*

      I’ve worked with men who worn ponytails professionally, and ones who definitely did not.

      To be professional in a man or a woman, the ponytail should be neat, hair should look clean, and the ponytail holder should be neutral looking to the point of being unnoticable or barely noticable. The other key is that you need to be able to pull back your hair and then leave it alone. Occasionally having to re-do the ponytail in the bathroom or at a private desk is ok – but constantly taking out the ponytail holder and re-doing the ponytail, especially in hallways, meetings or when talking to someone is not ok. If the ponytail won’t stay in, consider a slightly different elastic band (maybe you need thicker or grippier), using some hairspray or making the ponytail with a wet comb, or going for a different hairstyle altogether. Don’t play with your hair at work!

      My go-to hairstyle for most days is a low ponytail at the nape of the neck, with my hair side parted in the front – it’s a more flattering look for my face shape, and I think it looks a little more pulled together than brushing straight back from my face. I find it easiest to step up my look with more/fancier makeup and nicer clothes if I want to be more dressed up – it’s rare I do much more than a ponytail or low bun for work, because it just takes so much more time for me for so little actual effect, IMO.

      Scraggly, lumpy, or dirty looking ponytails do not look professional. Looking like “I rolled out of bed and pulled my hair back in a ponytail holder in the car on the way here” is not the look you are going for, and neither is “I wear my hair in a ponytail because I haven’t bothered to cut my hair in years”.

      1. UKAnon*

        I don’t have a huge problem with any of these things, but then it would take a lot for me to frankly notice somebody’s hair (unless I am particularly envious of the hairstyle they’ve accomplished, seeing as it usually takes me three attempts to get a ponytail) The thing is that everybody’s hair’s different; in my case, I wash it daily and it still usually looks greasy by the end of the day. It’s super fine so impossible to keep neat unless I re-do a hairstyle every 10 mins and it’s long simply because I barely scrape together the money to get it cut once a year, so it looks best that way. I trust that none of that reflects on my professionalism.

        1. Karowen*

          I’m right there with you. In fact, after reading this comment my brain went “My hair feels loose. Must re-bun.” And I did so at my desk in the middle of the office I sit in that houses 9 other people. I think the general guidelines are right on, but there’s some accounting for workplace and some accounting for what works for the person’s hair. My hair always gets redone in the car on my way to work (at a stoplight, don’t worry), but it looks no different than if I did it at home. It’s always going to be a little messy, but that’s a fact of life when you have thick and curly hair. And in fact, I wear it in a bun because I haven’t gotten my hair cut in years, but that’s because people don’t know how to work with it so I’ve given up.

          The main thing is that people shouldn’t really be noticing your hairstyle, much like they shouldn’t really be noticing your clothes, shoes, jewelry, etc.

        2. Rene UK*

          I also have very fine hair that in the past sometimes looked greasy and dirty just after it finished drying. Very frustrating! I’ve discovered that silicones-an additive that makes most hair smooth and attractive, and is in a lot of hair products-weighs mine down and makes it impossible to work with; think stiff, glassy, yet lank. Changing to a shampoo/conditioner without the silicones(usually one of the last ingredients and ending in ‘one’) really, really helped, as did advice to only shampoo the hair closest to the head(usually that’s the only hair that’s really dirty anyway), rinse, then only condition the ends. A nice thing–some of the cheapest shampoo/conditioners don’t have it. It’s a bit annoying having to read the ingredients, but worth it.

  7. Former Computer Professional*

    One of my favorite “lied on their resume” tales comes from a friend who worked with science technology. He and two colleagues were part of interviews for an open position that had one of those “Would be nice to have [niche technology] knowledge but it’s not required” to it. They didn’t expect anyone to have the knowledge as it was very, very specific and rare. Imagine my friend’s surprise when the boss handed them the resume of someone they’d be interviewing that day, whose resume not only showed that niche knowledge, but that they co-authored a paper about it.

    They got about halfway through the interview before my friend started asking for details about the paper the candidate had on his resume. The candidate kept dodging the questions and giving vague answers until my friend lost it and pointed out that -he- was one of the co-authors of said paper, and he’d never met the candidate in his life.

    If you’re going to lie (and you shouldn’t) at least research what you’re lying about.

    1. Green*

      Many foreign journals aren’t peer reviewed, so often people will resubmit a paper that was already published elsewhere, add their name to it, and get themselves an easy “credential.” Always Google. :) I had a friend whose exact paper was published in the US and then subsequently published by at least 2 or 3 other people in foreign countries.

      1. A Bug!*

        By “Always Google,” is the implication that the applicant was telling the truth at the interview? Because even if that’s what happened, it’s a disingenuous claim that he “co-authored” the paper when in fact he simply submitted someone else’s work to a publication with less-rigorous plagiarism policies, especially when he clearly knew nothing about the paper.

        1. Green*

          Clearly the applicant wasn’t telling the truth in the interview, since OP’s friend (in this thread) wrote the article. I meant you should Google someone’s publication titles to determine if it was actually authored by someone else, particularly if published in a foreign journal you don’t recognize. Plagiarism is plagiarism, even if you “published” it somewhere.

          1. Anonsie*

            A really good way to check for this or for just straight up bad papers published in revolving-door mills is using the Scholarly Open Access list/ratings for what they call predatory publishers ( These are journals that don’t really review the papers they publish and make money by charging significant fees to the authors. Many claim to have known experts as editorial staff that actually have nothing to do with them.

            As an aside, the process by which they tested these journals is really interesting. They submit nice sounding papers with glaring issues that should be caught by any expert and see if the review process catches it at all. In some cases they do catch it but publish anyway.

            1. peanut butter kisses*

              One interesting journal scam was the one Ian McEwan pulled for his book “Enduring Love”. He faked a study about a condition he invented and then submitted it to a journal and it was published under a fake name. He then wrote “Enduring Love” about someone with that condition and cited the study in the appendix.

    2. Artemesia*

      I have interviewed people for academic positions who didn’t seem familiar with things they had co-authored on their vita. I don’t expect them to know the stats off hand, but I do expect them to know what the questions were, how they investigated them and the gist of the findings. We dropped someone from consideration when it became clear he had been a much more minor player in his own work than it appeared from his materials.

    3. Dynamic Beige*

      At my art school, most of the teachers were also working professionals (not teachers who had gone to teacher’s school, had the qualifications etc. but that’s another story).

      One of my teachers taught what he did — commercial illustration — and he was also a painter. He told us the story one day of having someone come in for an interview to work in his studio and asked the candidate a lot of questions about one page full of a certain style of drawings — a style my teacher was known for. Vague answers of why there were there, who had commissioned them. Teacher then told the candidate that these were *his* drawings — candidate denied but that interview was over. Moral of the story was: don’t steal someone else’s work, you never know who you’re going to be sitting down across and will recognise it. These were the days before the Internet where it was harder to get work to steal (unless you physically stole it) but it was still happening. A few years later when I was working professionally, someone I went to school with sent me an e-mail about interviewing someone I used to work with, so I asked how Colleague had done in the interview. Turned out, my former colleague (whom I had also gone to school with) had taken a copy of one of the projects I had done — they had had no input on — and was showing it in their portfolio. While on the one hand, that’s kind of flattering in a weird way, but on the other, Nope. So I called Colleague up, and after some brief catching up, told them that I had heard they had used Project in an interview with our mutual former classmate. Much backpedaling ensued. Former colleague did not see anything wrong with that and claimed that they described it as “something that was done while they were working there.” Perfectly true and they had been in a position to see everything I did on it. I then pointed out to this person that if I ever went on an interview to some place that they had gone and showed Project, the person interviewing me would think that I hadn’t done the work since they had seen it from Colleague first. I then also pointed out that Colleague wouldn’t like it if I was showing TheirPetProject around and saying “it was done while I was there.” They then said that they saw the error of their ways and were deleting it right then. Never heard another thing about it, and it’s so long ago that no one would care but it’s the principle of the thing.

      Some people just want a job. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a job — we all need money. But when you will do anything to get one, including falsifying your work/CV/schooling/credentials — there’s a bigger problem there. A problem that I hope won’t come back to burn whatever company they do manage to snow. Shattered Glass may be an OK movie to watch on a rainy weekend, but I’d bet in real life, that was a nightmare for all involved.

  8. ZenCat*

    Ack! Feeling awful for #4 – I agree it is good to ask for more feedback but sheesh I would hope her manager would offer constructive feedback as soon as possible. If the boss is reviewing the photos on a regular basis too, then I think the CEO feedback should be directed to him as well.

    My inner control freak would be so upset about a message like that… It’s feedback for him and “your employee sucks at her job” is a really crappy way to have quality addressed. What if the boss doesn’t know what is expected either?

    Wht is this dude printing stuff like that out anyway? It makes me worry if it would be for her ‘file’ or something.

    Anyway something about this struck a nerve. Reminds me too much of my old boss who was basically incapable If taking responsibility.

  9. Reave Mekonta*

    #5: I think people who sell insurance live in a different world. I once made the mistake of sitting down with “my” agent and he proceeded to tell me about all of the policies he had on his house and his cars and even on his wife and how he had $50K on each of his kids … there might have been some kind of investment angle on this, but I found the concept disturbing, to say the least.

    1. Onymouse*

      If it makes you feel any better, the policies on the kids were probably dirt cheap (and it was probably a whole-life policy, so the rate’s locked in), and if nothing else, funerals are expensive and not getting any cheaper (say in 80 years, after the kids lived long lives)

    2. MK*

      Children’s life insurance policies can work differently than adult ones. When I was 4 and my sister 1, my father took out policies on both of us with the other sibling being the beneficiary (mostly as a favour to the agent, who was his cousin, and they were cheap). But there was a cash-in clause at 20 years, so we had a nice bit of money waiting for us just after we finished university.

      1. Green*

        I don’t have kids, but I’d use the same philosophy as I did with my own and my husband’s for life insurance: enough for either of us to be able to pay off the mortgage with one income and take a few months off to grieve. I’d certainly build in enough to be able to be out of work for a while if I had children.

    3. the gold digger*

      I worked for an insurance company for five years in the group health and benefits division. We also had a division that sold individual policies. The execs in my group always said – even though our company sold whole life – “Buy term and invest the rest.”

    4. Fabulously Anonymous*

      There must be something wrong with me, but I just don’t understand why the concept of insurance for children is creepy. What if the inevitable happens? Funerals are expensive. Not to mention there are policies that pay out when the child reaches a certain age and gets her own policy. Then she has a nice nest egg.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        If you’re from the kind of family that sees death as a part of life and that these kind of things are out of your control so it makes sense to have a plan in place in case the unthinkable does happen… it’s completely normal. If you’re not from one of those families, then you’re going to find it morbid, pessimistic, creepy to even consider that anything awful could ever happen to your child [hands over ears] lalalalalala I can’t hear you!

        I come from the second kind and when I found out that the parents of a friend of mine had gotten insurance for her when she was a baby I was slightly squicked out because *who* would do something like that? Ew! Preplanning in the event your kid dies before they turn 18? But, I had also had the good fortune of growing up without a lot of disease and death around me, which is a sword that cuts both ways because you don’t have to think of these things and so you also don’t know how much these things cost. Also, you have to have the money to pay for the insurance policy, if you even know such things exist (and you may not) so there’s that. Now that I’m older and have seen some stuff, I can see how it’s actually a good idea, provided you can afford the policy.

        As far as insurance agents go: I’m not sure but aren’t they all on commission? So the more policies you buy from them, the higher the premiums, the more money they make? An insurance salesman is like any other kind of salesman, they’re trying to sell you something and they want you to buy. I bought a car 7 years ago and the dealership calls me at least once a year and asks me to come on in and check out the new models — even though I rarely go there.

      2. peanut butter kisses*

        Also, if I ever has a child die, I would need a heck of a lot of money for therapy. I don’t think it would be easy to continue to live and I just know I would need professional help.

    5. Grand Bargain*

      #5. Yeah but… this is what insurance agents do! Their J O B is to ask. And, if you have any length of experience in the field, you know it too! You may not like being asked about your personal affairs and think that insurance agents are aggressive, prying, and annoying. That’s totally fine… lots of people (justifiably) feel the same way. But, why are you working for an insurance company? If you are offended that one of your agents would behave toward you in the same way they behave toward their clients and prospects every day, then you need to find a new line of work.

  10. Janet*

    I, for one, would be absolutely delighted to see one of my long-haired male coworkers show up to work in a gibson tuck.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Thank you for this; I just spent a very amusing 5 minutes imagining all of my male colleagues wearing that hairdo. (I also picture my colleagues wearing speed-skating outfits when I need a good laugh).

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        I just laughed out loud so hard and had to walk away from my desk with tears rolling down my face!!

      2. Alternative*

        Love this! The Bold Italic just shut down btw – such a bummer. They had that great series where they took little kids to fancy restaurants too.

      3. The HR Witch*

        OMG, this is great!! Forwarding link to my long-haired brother and his long-haired male offspring. Thank you!!

  11. Aussie Teacher*

    Re: #4 It’s possible the reason the boss hasn’t addressed the feedback from the CEO with the staff member yet is that he’s planning on pushing back against it (i.e. defending her). For instance, when I first started teaching, a parent was very upset with her daughter’s mark in a particular assessment and came in to have a meeting with my Head of Dept to complain. My HOD backed me up and completely smoothed all the ruffled feathers – I never even knew about the incident until much later because she didn’t want to worry me.

    Another possibility is that the boss wants to thoroughly investigate the complaints from the CEO regarding the staff member before replying to him or taking any action with the staff member.

    Regardless, your friend should swallow her pride and carefully examine her work quality, paying particular attention to every area she can remember that was on the email. Is her quality lacking? Are there things she can do to improve? Once she’s done a frank assessment, it would be great to proactively schedule a meeting with her manager to report on how she feels she’s doing in her job, where she’d like to improve (and have a plan for this), and ask for feedback. Any sane manager, even one who doesn’t like conflict, would probably jump at that opportunity to give feedback or point out areas that need work, if the employee seems receptive and is point-blank asking for advice on where to improve.

    1. AnonAnalyst*

      I too was wondering if something like this was happening. It seems really odd to me that the manager would deliberately leave the printout out for the friend to see, so I’m guessing that it’s something that’s being addressed but that he’s not yet ready to discuss with the friend and just forgot it was there. Either way, it wouldn’t hurt for the friend to be proactive and ask for feedback in the meantime.

    2. Ama*

      I wondered about that, too –I’ve certainly worked in a place where the “big boss” was unhappy with something and chose to blame it on an employee before asking around and finding out either that there were extenuating circumstances (i.e. the photos of an event were of poor quality because he insisted on mood lighting and it was too dark) or that the complaint that made him think there was a problem was completely off base (someone complained we didn’t include a regular feature in a spring newsletter when said feature only ran in the fall).

    3. YogiJosephina*

      I have to say that I disagree slightly with Alison here. Confronting the boss is ABSOLUTELY the way to go here, IMO. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with being super direct and saying, “hey listen, I’m sorry this puts you on the spot, but this has been bothering me and we need to address it. The other day while I was in here, I saw by accident the email that CEO sent you with concerns about my work. Can you tell me what that was about, and can we have a discussion to get me some feedback about my work quality?”

      The reason for this is twofold; one, having an employee call a meeting asking for feedback just out of the blue, and wouldn’t you know, JUST after I got an email from the CEO complaining about her, just reads as a little disingenuous to me. Like, if you saw the email, just be honest about it. And two, if this WAS done as a deliberate attempt to give her feedback without actually having to give it directly, it calls the boss out, puts him on the spot, and lets him know he needs to cut out that tactic ASAP, because he will be called to the carpet anyway and won’t be able to avoid the uncomfortable conversation he was clearly trying to get out of having.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        That’s totally fine; my issue is only with the word “confront,” which implies a, you know, confrontation. You can have this discussion without it being confrontational.

  12. lonepear*

    I’ve always worn my hair back in a ponytail as well (neutral colored elastic if I’m not dressing casually) and no one has ever commented on it. I also have a few dressy clips/elastics that are good for thick hair–most drugstore barrettes don’t hold it all, but Oberon Design has lovely botanical and knotwork barrettes in several sizes (local-ish to me, but you can order from their website), and other long-haired people swear by Ficcare clips.

    1. Artemesia*

      I think the hairstyle is fine but ‘no one has ever commented on it’ is never really a convincing argument for appropriateness. Most people don’t complain about things that are super annoying in the workplace and that affect them e.g. personal habits that are actually bothering other workers. They certainly aren’t going to criticize a hairstyle to one’s face. It is like saying ‘we had a dollar dance at our wedding’ and no one said anything to justify the custom in a culture where it is not the custom but seems like a way to make a buck.

      1. MK*

        Considering how reluctant people are to offer feedback on personal appearance matters, even when someone’s choises is objectively unprofessional, I agree.

      2. Merry and Bright*

        I think there are some environments where things like hairstyles come under a general culture or dress code but in most places I am too busy getting on with earning my living to get upset by someone’s hair.

        Mind you, if there is an organization where the worst complaint I can come up with is about someone’s hairstyle, where can I apply? :)

        1. Laura2*

          For real. Unless your hair is tangled or greasy-looking, I probably haven’t thought much about it, and I certainly don’t associate ponytails (of whatever height) with unprofessionalism. I assumed a ponytail was kind of the acceptable, neutral way for women to wear long hair.

      3. Cass*

        +1 on the “dollar dance”! I’m from New York, husband from PA and I refused to have it at our wedding, just because the concept was foreign to me (and I’m sure my New York relatives) and the whole thing would have seemed super tacky

        1. MsChanandlerBong*

          I didn’t have one either. What a gross concept! Sure, ask people who have already given you $50 to $250 in your cards to pay to dance with you. Yuck.

          1. Kelly L.*

            I believe that when it originated, the money collected in the dance was the gifts; it was pretty much all you got, and everybody at the wedding was poor. It’s a lot tackier when you transplant it to a lavish wedding in the US and get a pile of shower gifts and a pile of wedding gifts and a dollar dance.

        2. Lily in NYC*

          I hate them, but it is very common in New York – I’ve seen it at more than half of the weddings I’ve attended. Thankfully, it’s much less common than it used to be now that everyone has the internet and can read about wedding etiquette more easily.

          1. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

            And for many people, it is a tradition that is no more stranger or in poor taste than any other wedding tradition.

        3. simonthegrey*

          I nixed that at my wedding, also. I was surprised that there were guests who were disappointed! Not all, but a couple.

    2. Wanda*

      Ok. Pointing me towards Oberon Designs was just mean. That is beautiful. However, I didn’t find any hair accessories. (I need one of most of the purses though).

      1. Artemesia*

        I discovered them looking for a cover for my husband’s kindle. I loved the one I got him so much that I got myself one for my nook. The tooled leather reader covers are just beautiful. Mine is one of the less ornate ones — the Medici– with a hand tooled design that looks like those metal hinges on the door of the Florence cathedral. I am not a person much enamored of ‘stuff’ but this thing is just beautiful — it gives me pleasure every time I use it.

        I also then discovered their French hair clips and have one of those — they are quality and it is an item that is hard to find.

    3. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      I do ponytails a lot as well, and I have one of these: that I wear regularly (mine doesn’t have a dragonfly on it). It works better than an elastic and looks much more professional… they’re kind of pricey for a hair adornment, but they last really well and work better than normal barrettes. They have a booth at my local Renaissance festival.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I really really like that. :)

        I have a metal bun cover thingy that I bought at a con; but I haven’t tried it yet. It’s a bit too formal for work, especially in my office, where people will be wearing shorts and flip-flops all summer (we get to pay to wear them and the money goes to charity).

    4. Chocolate lover*

      Thanks for sharing those, I’ve been wanting to find some new, nicer barrettes and clips! I’m going to check them out now.

    5. Lore*

      The Ficcare clips are truly magical. I have very fine, slippery hair and with that clip, can just twist it, stick the clip through it, and have a reasonably professional-looking hairstyle all day! They’re crazy expensive but I had one for about 12 years (lost it a few weeks ago, to my continued chagrin, since I didn’t actually know that’s what it was at the time. But now that I’ve figured out the brand, I am so going back for another…)

      1. Nodumbunny*

        I love them too but yes, super expensive. I do that twist and pin up style too – it’s my default. The other hair accessory place I like is Franceluxe.

      2. Nashira*

        Co-signing Ficarre. When my abundant fine curly hair was to my thighs, one large clip would hold my monster bun up for an entire day. They’re terribly chic in French twists too.

  13. Kathlynn*

    I agree that it’s unproffesional…but I’m in the same boat as the woman who calls her mother “mom” not first name. I’ve worked with my grandma for 5 years, same shift frequently, and I’ve never been able to kick the habit. Though my manager was able to do so with her mother (who is her manager, even though it’s not a family run business).

    1. mskyle*

      I think *addressing* your mom/grandma as mom/grandma is one thing, but the “I’ll ask my mom” thing is very weird! I call my parents Mum and Dad but even socially I’ll refer to him by name when I’m talking to a third person who knows them. I would say “We’re going to Ned & Catelyn’s for Easter” to one of my cousins, or my brother-in-law even.

      1. Afiendishthingy*

        I worked with a mother and daughter at a previous job and the daughter referred to her mother as Mom about half the time and Jane the other half… Neither bothered me, although I can see how it’d be preferable to minimize the relationship in a professional context. Can I ask why you wouldn’t just say “my parents” when talking to a third party within your own family? It would never occur to me to call my parents by their first names when talking to a cousin or BIL.

      2. Sadsack*

        You would say you’re going to Ned and Catelyn’s instead of you’re going to your parent’s?

  14. Snoskred*

    #5 – insurance is his job. It would likely be a part of his job to ask people if he can help them with other insurances when they contact him re insurance. Don’t hold it against him that he was doing his job. :)

    If he asks another times, simply say I’m good with all my insurances and please don’t ask me that again.

    People in the financial industries are trained to ask these questions. Yes, it can be super annoying at times (eg when you are ringing to activate your credit card and getting asked about insurances etc) but I never hold it against anyone when they do it, because I know it isn’t personal, it is just what they do.

    1. OP5*

      I guess I feel like its a really out-of-place way to use business contacts. It feels like someone inviting me over for a Tupperware party theyre putting on when the only way I have ever contacted them was for their relationship to my company.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Yeah, but imagine that it was your company’s printers and copiers, and the vendor says “Hey, I also have personal printers, do you need a new printer at home? I’ll bet you didn’t know you can get an all-in-one for under $100!” Sure, it’s always annoying to be pitched like that, but I wouldn’t consider it weird or inappropriate. If I thought the vendor did a good job, I’d probably tell them “Look, please don’t try to sell me anything personal. If I do decide I need [printer/insurance], I’ll definitely consider you, OK?”

      2. Persephone Mulberry*

        Nah, not the same at all, IMO – unless they were your corporate Tupperware contact. Were I in your insurance guys shoes, I might not have made my pitch at our very first contact, but it’s the nature of sales to constantly be qualifying new leads.

      3. LBK*

        I don’t really see that as the same since it’s the business you actually do with him, not just some random side job. I wouldn’t love it just because I don’t really like any salespeople talking to me, but it wouldn’t feel out of place IMO.

      4. BananaPants*

        That’s how insurance salespeople build their portfolio, though. I’d politely tell him you’re not interested in changing your personal lines right now, but if you want to make a change in the future he’ll be on your list to contact. THEN if he keeps pushing the issue I’d start to get annoyed.

        1. fposte*

          I don’t know, this sounds like the kind of answer that gets a Mary Kay person tracking you for the rest of your life. I’d be more inclined to say that you don’t find it appropriate to be solicited for personal business at work, and while you’re happy with their business custom, you don’t expect the personal solicitation to happen again.

      5. CAA*

        Just say “no thanks” next time he asks. (Alison’s advice assumed you already did that, but your letter said you didn’t.) If he approaches you again after that, you’ll have to say something like “I have a personal insurance agent I like and would prefer not to switch at this time.”

      6. the gold digger*

        Nah, when I worked for the insurance company, the agents asked me all the time if they could quote my auto insurance. They were always so dismayed when the learned I had USAA.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Did you ever have to explain to them about the dividend check? That is fun, when they hear that it really takes the wind out of their sails, as none of them can offer that good of a deal! (I don’t think they’ve done that for a few years, but still…)

          1. the gold digger*

            Cosmic Avenger, that is an interesting question! I don’t remember getting any rebate checks from them back then (although I sure have gotten them since!), but back then, the company I worked for was also a mutual company. I don’t know if they send dividends to individual policyholders, though, the way USAA (pbuh) does.

        2. bridget*

          USAA is the best. insurance. ever. Everyone should scour their family tree to see if they have any connection that could get them in – sometimes even pretty attenuated military relatives can make it happen. Every time I use USAA’s customer service, I am so happy that my grandfather-in-law who retired from the Army a good 40 years ago got me in.

          1. Artemesia*

            Can you say more about USAA — my husband was in the army during the Vietnam War. We are paying an arm and a leg for insurance for house and car — or is this just life insurance?

            1. Nashira*

              Oh man. We get house and car insurance through USAA, thanks to my husband’s grandfathers, and it is just the best. Great value, GREAT service, totally the bee’s knees. Absolutely look into it!

              1. Judy*

                After the last discussion about USAA, I asked my parents about it, Dad is a Korean vet. Mom did call, and they were at least 50% more than the insurance they currently have through a nationally well known company that has been around for many years. She was told that they could do a jewelry rider, and then we’d be able to get the insurance. I’ve not called to see if it’s also that much more expensive than our current coverage.

                The USAA representative also was trying to push them only covering their cars to the minimum allowed by law, which is not something Mom wanted to do.

            2. The Cosmic Avenger*

              Yes, they offer homeowners, auto, life, etc…and the “dividend” was what they gave back to members in the form of a CHECK if claims were lower than expected! I haven’t seen that in a few years now, but they’re still basically operated like a credit union.

              1. Judy*

                That is how any of the “mutual insurance companies” work including American Family and State Farm.

        3. OP5*

          Oh good point! I have my EVERYTHING through USAA because they’re just so gosh darned good. Next time he asks I will say “No thanks, I have USAA.”

      7. Meg*

        It’s totally normal for insurance salespeople to do this, since this is how they build a portfolio and get more commission. I certainly wouldn’t consider it skeevy or unprofessional. However, it’s also perfectly normal and understandable to say no, and if he continues to press the issue you can have words with him then.

    2. vox de causa*

      This. It’s actually common to use insurance for businesses as a lead for personal insurance prospects. He was doing his job.

    3. Mike C.*

      You know, I’m really, really tired of this attitude. I don’t want to be sold something every time I make contact with someone, and I don’t care if “that’s what they’re trained to do”. It’s a waste of my time and my patience, and I take that personally.

      1. Green*

        It’s interesting, but the people who like it the least are “buyers” — the people who buy things under pressure or feel guilty about saying no/feel some need to justify it. It raises my hackles ever so slightly in the moment, but then I’m just like “Oh, I appreciate you asking, but no thanks!” and don’t think about it anymore. Practice the Cheerful No out loud and employ as frequently as needed and you won’t need to use your reserves of time, patience or take it “personally.”

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Oh trust me, I feel you, Mike. I despise sales pitches myself, but as long as the person takes the first “no” for an answer, I find it hard to hold it against them if it’s in this type of context, where purchasing a product has already come up. (Call me or knock on my door out of the blue and you get zero tolerance, though.) But we should also try to remember that cashiers at electronics retailers (just as an example) are often told that if they don’t “offer” everyone the store credit card and extended warranty they’ll be summarily fired, so we should blame their crappy management more than the poor retail workers themselves, no matter how irritating it is.

        1. Mike C.*

          Yeah, I know enough not to blame them, but the whole thing irritates me because I can’t say to the person responsible “Isn’t it enough that I shop in your store?” If it’s not the person in front of me it’s the manager, and they most likely got told from HQ in the midwest somewhere.

          Bah, I’m just grumpy because I have to sit through meetings at 7am on a Monday.

          1. OP5*

            At my last retail job I once heard the manager try to recruit a customer into the rewards program after the cashier accepted a “no.” The customer literally said “I said no, you should respect me as the customer when I tell you NO!” The manager didnt even apologize. It was awful.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              As I said, I’m fairly tolerant of people who follow the script because they’re worried about keeping their jobs, but if I get a full-out hard sell like that, I’ve been known to walk out without completing my transaction. (Usually after warning them “If you can’t just sell me what I want, I’m leaving.”)

            2. Another Ellie*

              When I used to work for a very large department store that pushed a store credit card on customers, we were actually essentially punished by not meeting a certain ratio of new card applications. In other words, if the customer didn’t pay with the card (even if they had the card but elected not to use it) and also didn’t apply for the card, it was a ding against us. And if we didn’t have at least x% of our non-card users apply during a given week, it was a ding on our record. The managers were always angry at the best sales person on our floor because he refused to push the card (even though he otherwise sold the most merchandise each month) and it reflected badly on them to upper management. Just a horrible system all around, which made me wonder if the store’s execs had ever actually gone shopping.

              1. Lindsay J*

                Seriously. I worked for a retailer where we had to ask and be turned down 3 times before we were allowed to take a no. All it did was make people mad. It reminded me of the Austin Powers bit where the person had to tell the truth after being asked the same question 3 times. Like after saying “No” the first two times the person was going to magically change their mind and say “yes” just because I asked a third time.

                The “best” person for credit card apps tricked people into doing it, which was at best just unethical and at worst unethical and illegal. She would just tell them she needed their driver’s license when they tried to pay with another type of credit card and start signing them up without asking. And rather than be reprimanded for this practice she was held up to the standard that we should all be meeting, “Well if Tahmina can get 3 apps every hour, why can’t you?”

                They were terrible cards with high APRs, little in the name of rewards, etc. We offered $10-$15 back on your purchase if you got approved, so we were encouraged to tell people to apply for the card, get the $10 back, pay it off and close it right away if they said theu didn’t want or need another card because “Everyone needs an extra $10 in their pocket.”

                And yes, we got punished if we didn’t have a good store card ratio – less desireable departments, less desireable hours, hours cut, etc.

                I hated everything that had to do with credit card apps.

    4. Michelle*

      Here’s an annoying insurance story- background: 2 coworkers are married (“John” & “Jane”). John’s best friend, “Adam” decides he doesn’t like what he is currently doing and decides to sell insurance. Adam’s wife “Eve” is hired to work with Jane. To try to help her husband’s insurance endeavor, Eve prints a copy of the company phone list and takes it home to Adam. Adam starts calling employees after-hours asking about their life/auto/home insurance and offering to review it, for free, to see if he can get them a better deal/rate.

      The fourth employee Adams calls is at the hospital, sitting with her aunt who is gravely ill with cancer and starts trying to chat her up about insurance. After she shuts him down, she calls me (office manager/admin) and asks how this person got her phone number. I don’t know, so I tell I will talk to Eve and see what’s up.

      I speak to Eve. She tells me what she did. I told her that she needs to call her husband and tell him to shred that phone list and do not contact anyone else on it, or I will call HR myself and see what can be done about it.

      If she had handed out business cards or maybe mentioned that her husband had started an insurance company and coworkers could call if they wanted a review or see if they could get a better rate, I’m sure we all would have been ok with that. Taking home our employee phone list and cold calling people- not ok.

      She lasted about a year.

  15. "Find yourself a cup; the teapot is behind you. Now tell me about hundreds of things,"*

    #1 I agree with pretty much all that has been put forward so far. But something else stood out to me, too. There seems to be just a little bit of buck-passing on both sides. The OP says it isn’t the employee’s fault that the previous manager didn’t pick up on the lies on his CV, and the employee shrugs things off by saying his brother helped him write the resume anyway!

    Anyway, listing job experience and software knowledge that you just don’t have is more than “discrepancies” or “errors”. It is just lies.

    1. LW#1*

      Yeah, you’re right. I took over for a manager who was not working out (still at the company but now in a different role) so there’s a part of me that wants to grace anything that happened before my time. He shouldn’t have been hired, but he’s one of several who shouldn’t have been hired, you know?

      1. Merry and Bright*

        Thinking about this, LW#1, whatever the rights and wrongs, it does add another dimension when you step into someone else’s mess :)

  16. "Find yourself a cup; the teapot is behind you. Now tell me about hundreds of things,"*

    On the letter by OP1, something else that comes to my mind is that almost everyone on AAM is fully aware of the multiple interview rounds, the hoops we jump through, all the references, skills assessments, checks and counter checks before we are hired. But employees who have been economical with the truth (well, elections are looming both sides of the Atlantic!) still squeeze through the net like this.

  17. Merry and Bright*

    I probably have a bit more time on my hands than usual while sorting out new contract paperwork, but I looked at the link for a Gibson Tuck. I had seen this style a few times but now I know what it is called! I even looked at a You Tube demonstration of how to put it together (it is OK – I am on a paid day at home).

    I genuinely envy the women who have the dexterity to quickly put together styles like this – often without even a mirror.

    1. Nashira*

      To be honest, when I had long hair (pixie cuts for life!), I could quickly do a neat bun in a few different styles. The catch was if I looked in a mirror, I turned into a bumbling buffoon and my hair looked like a three year old did it.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, that happened to me in the days when I’d French braid! Hands knew what to do–don’t bring eyes into it or we’re doomed.

        1. edj3*

          Me too, and don’t ask me to French braid your hair. I’ll screw it up and you’ll look like a toddler did it.

          1. LibLady*

            Oh me too! I can do my own fine in a French Braid, not looking, hands behind my head. But doing it for someone else, looking? No way. It’s like there are now 20 strands of hair and I can’t figure out how to hold them, add new hair, all of it. Weird.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Same! Can’t do it with a mirror, can’t do it for someone else. I think it’s because I mostly know it by muscle memory. Make me have to think about it, or make the motions different, and I’m screwed.

        2. Nashira*

          Yes! I used to AMAZE one photo professor because I could French braid waist length hair in a minute and a half, before we hit the darkroom. He caught me once in the hall doing it, and was dumbfounded. But well, do it a few hundred times and you get fast and neat… So long as there’s no visuals involved.

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        This. When I can be bothered to style my hair, it’s usually something that looks fancy, but it’s only long hair + twisting it up in some way + pins. I’ve been doing the Gibson tuck for yeeeeaaaars because that’s just what happened when I did the twisty part. When I do it right, it takes 3 minutes and is super easy. But if I start over-thinking it, I get the three-year-old did it look. On those days, it’s the black jaws of death clip for me.

        1. Kelly L.*

          The jaws of death clip! I broke my best one a while back, alas, and haven’t found a good replacement. I call it hair jail.

          1. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

            Ha! Best term. I’m able to gather my (shoulder length) hair up into a bun and trap most of it in hair jail. With my glasses, messy clip-bun, and picture of my cat at my desk I truly feel like the embodiment of the librarian stereotype.

      3. Oryx*

        Oh goddess, yes. When I had really long hair I used to have fun with braids and my hands and fingers knew what to do but the second my eyes got involved I lost it.

    2. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      When I worked in a bridal salon we kept hair ties and clips on hand for women who wanted to get their hair out of the way quickly, and once I offered to get one for a woman and she said “No, I got it” and twisted her hair back into this magnificent chignon in about three seconds without a mirror or anything besides two bobby pins. I was gaping and she said “Oh, I’m a hairdresser.” I would have gone to hair school if they’d have taught me how to do that!

      (This is in response to Merry and Bright)

    3. VintageLydia USA*

      It takes a little bit of practice (my first few attempts at french braids were rather… precious) but the vast majority of my “fancy” hair styles are a variety of quick braids haphazardly pinned on my head. I’m not even particularly good at doing hair. My hair is a bit too long for this now, but when it was around shoulder length my favorite was doing a french braid and tucking the tail underneath. A neater french braid looked professional but letting it be messy looked more stylish, especially when I stuck a couple small jeweled hair accessories in at random points. Always got compliments and it rarely took more than 3 minutes to do once I got a hang of doing french braids.

      1. VintageLydia USA*

        That said, I did a Gibon today (thanks for posting that video tutorial, Alison!) and I need to practice >.> It’s technically easier than my normal styles but its just different enough.

  18. Soharaz*

    I worked with my mother in a retail store from when I was 16 until I was about 19 and I NEVER called her mom at work. A lot of people at work said if it weren’t for our (unusual) shared last name, they never would have known we were related (and this was at a store of about 25 employees).

    1. Elizabeth West*

      When I worked at my parents’ retail store off and on, everyone (even customers) knew she was my mum–if I hadn’t called her that, they would have thought it was weird! It was a very very small town.

  19. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


    I’d terminate him. I tend to soft hearted about mild exaggerations re past – not giving full answers about why left, mildly inflating previous job duties, taking lions share credit for things that perhaps only had a part in, claiming proficiency in something where “familiar with” is generous — pretty soft hearted.

    Flat out lies with no acknowledgement of that’s an issue? It’s not a question of justice. It’s that it’s guaranteed something bad is going to happen next.

    1. FatBigot*

      #1 May not have any choice. It could very well be corporate policy to fire as soon as the resume untruths are found out. That way they can demonstrate a consistent policy if it is ever challenged.

    2. Lauren*

      I’m not sure if this matters, but OP doesn’t know if its the same resume used to get the current job. So how does OP know he lied on that resume or to the previous manager? He could have done a new one with the lies for this internal job. Either way, it says something about his character that you don’t like.

      1. LW#1*

        It’s definitely his same resume, because I went to his previous manager with a sort of hand-waving stupified stammering of “how was this guy hired??” But because he was hired I am not sure I can really terminate him cleanly. I should make it clear that his resume, lies though it contains, never had specific-to-this-job experience anyway. (Which is its own issue.)

          1. LW#1*

            To be honest, it is probably a confidence issue on my part as well. I really need to speak to HR about it. For better or worse (sometimes much worse), my company has little in the way of formal policy about a lot of this. My own director even implied that they didn’t really call references when hiring!

            That may make firing him easier, though. I’m not sure.

            1. Hiring Mgr*

              Hi LW,

              In your letter you mentioned you didn’t want to fire him, but rather make sure he understood this was unacceptable going forward.

              Why not try that first, with consequences spelled out if there is a further issue.

              1. LW#1*

                I have a coaching session with him today, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Spell out that lying on your resume + the CYA behavior I’ve previously witnessed from him is unacceptable, and that my next step is a PIP. I think part of the issue is that this person does not have a lot of professional experience (and, obviously, grossly overstated the experience he DOES have), so I think there may be some truth to the idea that he just has no idea what we expect. So that’s what I’m clarifying with him today. I feel like, if I do this (and document, obviously) and he continues to fuck up, then I’ll have a lot less guilt (and likely, hassle) in firing him later.

            2. Anonsie*

              Oh lord. I would be concerned about the way this might make me look to my other new reports, since the overall culture seems pretty dang relaxed.

    3. JB (not in Houston)*

      Yeah, to me it’s the combination of flagrant lying PLUS not acknowledging that it’s not ok.

  20. Not Today Satan*

    #2–I think that calling the parent by their first name just makes it more awkward. I used to work with a father and son, and when my boss spoke to the son, she would always say “I’ll talk to Tom” (rather than “I’ll talk to your dad”) and it just felt forced and awkward. The son always just said Dad. (I always said “your dad” and didn’t at all feel weird about it.)

    I find it so odd that coworkers would actually complain about “feeling uncomfortable” that a coworker calls her mom “mom”.

    1. LBK*

      I wouldn’t mind if an employee referred to their parent as mom/dad, but I’d feel pretty demeaned if someone said “Oh, let me ask your mom about it” to me as an employee. Even if that were the proper chain of command it would feel a little like a teacher calling my mom to get permission for me to go on the class field trip.

      1. fposte*

        I think that ends up being likelier if the employee calls her “my mom,” though–people tend to echo the locution that’s used in front of them. So if somebody really doesn’t want that reference to happen to them, not using it in the first place is a good defense.

      2. Cordelia Naismith*

        Totally agree. That seems a bit infantilizing, I guess. I worked with my mother for a few months before she retired (in different departments, so we weren’t really co-workers, but we worked for the same organization), and if someone had said, “Oh let me check with your mother about that,” that would have felt really weird. I’m at work; I’m not a fifth grader who didn’t do her homework, you know?

        There were occasions when people referred to her as “your mother” to me, but not in the course of doing work — more during social chit chat. That was fine and felt natural.

    2. Meg Murry*

      I think it’s not so much just feeling uncomfortable about her calling her mother “mom” at work – sometimes, it’s uncomfortable with the situation in general.

      I recently started working in a very small office where there is a father-son pair. The pair live near each other, commute to work together, and for a while the son had moved back in with the father. While my interactions with each of them have been generally professional, the way they interact with each other sometimes is not. Dad tends to question son harshly, and sometimes treat him as a kid to be blown off rather than as a colleague, and Son tends to get argumentative with Dad much faster and more easily than with Son. It doesn’t help that they both have loud voices that carry, and it really doesn’t help that they occasionally have personal discussions that veer into disagreement at work. It makes me tense when I hear them arguing/loudly disagreeing, because it sounds way too close to how I interact with my parents when I am frustrated by them, like when I’m trying to explain to my father for the 1,000th time that the reason his computer is slow is because he keeps downloading malware and to just stop it already! Or to my mother that, no I don’t want her to come over and “help” me clean up my spare room and I’d really rather not talk about the state of cleanliness (or not) in my house right now. I turn back into a whiny, foot stamping teenager sometimes when I’m dealing with my parents, and I can tell that sometimes my co-worker that is the Son is holding on by a thread from doing the same.

      The fact that Son calls his father “Dad” at work and says things like “let me ask my dad” is only a small piece of the problem, but every time he says it, it reminds me again of their (sometimes unprofessional) interactions, and it doesn’t help me think of the Son as “professional adult colleague with X years experience”, it makes me think more “kid working at an internship his father got him”. Which is not good, because the Son is actually pretty good at his job, and would not spawn that mental response from me if he was working with me somewhere else – but it definitely colors the way I think of him. He and another person both started at this company at the same time, and technically the son has more responsibilities than other young co-worker – but unless I’m actually thinking about it, I tend to think of other co-worker as having more professional experience, and I suspect the father/son interactions play a part in my perceptions.

      So yes, I would highly recommend that the daughter take the advice to stop saying “let me ask my mom” or calling her mother “Mom” at work – because it does influence how people think of you, and even more so if there is even a hint on unprofessionality between the mother and daughter.

      1. Meg Murry*

        oops – typo that changes the meaning a little “Son tends to get argumentative with Dad much faster and more easily than with any other colleagues, especially over relatively little things

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        THIS is why keeping it more professional is a good idea. Just like married couples shouldn’t say “Let me go run the TPS report by my shmoopsie-poo and get her feedback on it”.

        1. Happy Lurker*

          This made me laugh. I worked with my spouse and occasionally he would say “honey” to me in my separate office (but he never shouted it). “Honey can you hand me the pen?” Apparently, other staff heard it and began to refer to us as “Thurston and Lovey”. I was horrified and then I laughed. Cuz what are you going to do?

    3. VintageLydia USA*

      This is slightly different, but my husband used to work for his dad who is a freelancer that often hires subcontractors. In front of clients, he nearly always referred to him by his first name except with people they’ve known so long they’re practically family themselves but with each other he almost always just called him “Dad”. The worst, though, is my FIL would sometimes forget he was “First Name” when my husband called him that. FIL has a really common first name and one of his other frequent subs had the same name so he was used to Mr. Vintage saying “First name” to mean the other subcontractor and “Dad” being him, even if other sub wasn’t on that particular job.

  21. FD*

    Alison, all response comments at the end here seem to be starting a new thread? They’re not showing up as ‘subordinates’ to the comments we’re trying to respond to.

      1. fposte*

        @Cosmic Avenger–I think usually when it happens it’s because there’s a post in moderation that you can’t see, and they sort themselves once that post is up. Today’s excitement seems different.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Well, I had a reply go awry a couple of times over the last week and a half or so, where I know I clicked “Reply” to a comment and yet it shows up on its own. I have seen a lot more other people doing that, too, over the same time span. You know, a top-level comment that is obviously meant to be part of a conversation, it’s pretty easy to spot those. I meant to say something in the open thread but I was away from my computer most of the weekend.

          Of course, I haven’t really spotted enough of them to call it “data”, it’s still pretty anecdotal, and I’m not going to say that I don’t have any kind of observational bias, but that’s why I meant to bring it up in the Open Thread.

          1. fposte*

            Could be. On the other hand, I had that happen too recently too, but it’s only when I was initially going to respond to something else. The new system doesn’t seem willing to forget that original plan, even if you cancel reply. The old system would figure it out. Also, at least previously, the site-based threading failures tend to happen at a particular place in the original comments and then keep happening after that, which is what looks to be happening today.

    1. Reave Mekonta*

      Are you sure you’re clicking the ‘REPLY’ immediately after the comment you want to reply to? Or are you clicking the ‘REPLY’ at the very bottom? I know I’ve mucked this up before.

      Or – for what it’s worth, I believe that when Alison posted this set of 5 questions, she deleted the very first reply for some reason. I had replied to that reply; my reply went to the bottom of the list. My point being that it might be a bug in the software.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I know I click on Reply directly below the the comment to which I want to reply — in fact, a lot of times I don’t make it to the bottom of the comments! You could be right, since each Reply link is coded with a specific number relating to the comment to which you’re replying. Deleted comments could be the root of the issue if the CMS renumbers the comments after a comment is deleted…which it shouldn’t!! But I’ve seen worse than that…I worked with MS CMS 2002 for 5 years. D:

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Not sure what’s going on with it! Fposte is right about what normally causes it. Can’t figure out today’s though; assuming it’s just a fluke.

  22. Merry and Bright*

    Hi Alison, think there is a problem with posts appearing out of sequence and replies to comments getting detached. Thanks!

  23. TotesMaGoats*

    #2-I would personally try to kick the habit of calling my mom “mom” in a professional setting. I worked with my mom for 4 years. Not in the same department but very closely. My department relied heavily on hers. If I was calling her and no one else, I’d call her mom but in a public setting I’d refer to her by her title or first name. It was awkward but gave my mom the respect she was due because of her experience and position and put me in a professional light as well.

    #3-A ponytail can be completely professional is worn the right way. I second the low pony. I do sometimes wear my long hair up high in a pony but I wrap hair around it to hide the elastic. It depends on your company whether that will fly or not. I can’t wear super short hair either but maybe consider layers and a little bit of a cut. It’s amazing how much of a difference that can make.

    1. Pickwick the Dodo*

      I work with my mom, although she’s in a slightly different department. It feels really, really, strange to call her by her first name, although I’m getting better about it.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I wouldn’t think it that odd if a coworker called another “mom” while addressing them. But other people call her “Alice”, not “mom”, so when speaking to a coworker and referring to her, it’s more professional to refer to her as “Alice”…especially since not every coworker may know you’re related, depending on how big or small your company is!

    2. Michelle*

      My son and I work for the same company, different departments. He started off calling me by my first name, but everyone else referred to me as his mom, so he just started calling me Mom and it hasn’t been a problem, or at least, no one has mentioned feeling uncomfortable about it. Of course, we have a lot of people who are related that work for our company (child/parent, siblings, cousins, married couples) so maybe it’s just a “company culture” thing that doesn’t bother people or make them uncomfortable.

      My youngest son has almost always called me Michelle vs. Mom. If he calls me Mom, I know he wants something (lol).

    3. Mpls*

      +1. I also worked with my mom for 4 years and referred to her by name when conversing with other people. She has her own identity as a professional within that workplace and shouldn’t be reduced to being a relationship to you (especially if you are the newcomer).

      Of course everyone in the company knew my mom, was her age and ad been working with her for 10 years by the time I came along, so if they knew, they usually referred to her as “your mom” when discussing her with me. I would still try to use her name in my responses – not as a rebuke, but just to try to maintain that professionalism.

  24. Xarcady*

    Another option for long hair is to use Spin Pins–corkscrew-like hair pins that hold your hair in a bun. Much, much easier than hair pins to create a neat looking bun.

    And if you are trying to use bobby pins to make a bun, try hair pins instead. They look like bobby pins, but the two “arms” of the pin don’t touch. They will hold even my fine, thin hair, and they work great with my BFF’s thick, curly hair.

    But the Spin Pins and their generic knock-offs are better–two will hold a bun in place.

    1. Artemesia*

      I have a drawer full of these easy to use hair thingies — every darn one of them is nigh onto impossible for klutzy me to use. I was not the little girl who did her doll’s hair styles — and am all thumbs. I finally learned how to twist the long hair and then clip it across the back for a sort of okay look and use one of those claws with the folding wings as well — but the spin pins and French twist tools and such — I am such a loser.

  25. some2*

    The fact that things like #3 keep coming up, and ONLY EVER in reference to women’s looks, will never cease to enrage me.

    I’m a woman. If makeup makes me look more professional, then I expect every male coworker of mine to start wearing it as well.

    I once worked at a law firm where I was told that my curly hair (which I take great pride in keeping natural and well-groomed) was “too crazy” and I should straighten it every day. My hair was so thick and long at the time that I straightened it once and it literally took three hours. Um, no.

    1. Kelly L.*

      Ugh. Even beyond the short/long/up/down debates, mandating how curly one’s hair should be can go down the road of racial and ethnic prejudice very quickly. It’s a terrible idea, and your bosses sucked.

      1. Anonsie*

        People have so many issues with curly hair. My hair is naturally curly and I’ve been told at least once at every job I’ve ever had that it looked messy natural and I should straighten it for work.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          My only issue with it is that I’m jealous. :)

          Before you tell me it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, my mum has curly hair and I got the frizz but not the curl. No fair!

          1. Anonsie*

            I think curly hair is awesome, it’s everyone else that needs to relax.

            GET IT??? *slaps knee*

            Although I have had to dig my nails into my palms to keep from violently shaking the shockingly high number of women with naturally sleek, shiny, shampoo-commercial looking hair with 0 heat styling or products that have whined to me about how their hair just sits there, and it’s sooo boring and how I’m soooo lucky and their hair is just sooo boring because it just sits there all smooth and doing nothing, uggghhhh their hair is just the woooorst.

            1. DMented Kitty*

              FWIW, people tend to want stuff they can’t have. Some curly/wavy-haired people desire to have straight hair, some straight-haired people would like them wavy.

              I have naturally straight, thick, Asian hair and everyone in the salon likes to touch it like some holy relic, but I had it permed a couple times. Loved the new look for a while, but then my hair is just so straight no matter the perm it wouldn’t last after a few months. I got frustrated with the mismatch of curled/straight locks of hair that I ended up with, I went in for a Brazilian blow-out and that straightened it back to my usual.

    2. Beancounter in Texas*

      I had a coworker who had corkscrew curly hair and she said the only way she could manage it was to wash it, comb it, French braid it wet and let it dry before bed. She didn’t want to bother with hair product and at least her hair was so dark, one couldn’t really see the mess.

      1. Karowen*

        Mine’s not corkscrew, but I have to do something similar. Wash it, finger comb it in the shower, put product 1 in, French braid sopping wet, put product two in, dry til damp, sleep. And then it still ends up in a bun by the time half the day has passed.

    3. The Office Admin*

      I’ve also gotten the, “Your hair looks a bit crazy/fluffy/out of control today” comment and I usually just come back with a laugh and some comment like:
      It has a mind of it’s own.
      I made it angry yesterday.
      Have you SEEN the weather today??
      I know, right? Story of my life.

      In my defense, I try to keep my hair in line as much as I can, but at least one day a month I just force it to submit and toss it in a bun. And most days it looks pretty, just a bit wild.

      1. Kelly L.*

        @The Office Admin: I used to keep a Non Sequitur cartoon taped to my filing cabinet; it was about a girl whose hair floofed so much when it rained that her friend chucked her into a closet for safety. The hair went “FOOMP!” and exploded to fill the entire closet. That’s me. Rain=instant free spiral perm for the day. It actually looks really cool, but is pretty unmanageable.

    4. sunny-dee*

      I didn’t see makeup as even a thing in that request.

      As for why *women* bring up apearances — women have significantly more variety in their appearance and tend to care much more than men. So, it is something we judge ourselves by, something we judge other women by, and something we are (sometimes unfairly) judged by.

    5. Carrington Barr*

      “If makeup makes me look more professional, then I expect every male coworker of mine to start wearing it as well.”


      You got it.

  26. Sunflower*

    #3- I tend to go with if someone is eye-level, looking straight at you and they can’t see the top of the tail, you’re totally fine. If it’s any higher, you need to be careful. It can still look polished but I think you need to put extra effort into it besides just a hair tie or you run the risk of it looking too casual for work. You can also wrap it in a professional looking bun if you really want to keep it out of the way.

    1. Artemesia*

      I have used sock buns, bun forms, instructions for making formless buns etc — never got a bun that looked suitable to leave the house. I see all these tight flawless buns everywhere — how do people do it?

      1. Elsajeni*

        It might just be your hair type. Mine won’t hold a bun — it just falls out and turns back into a ponytail. I complained about this to my hairdresser, who scoffed and said, “Of course it will, you just don’t have enough practice,” and set to demonstrating. Five minutes after she was done it fell out.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Yeah, my hair is just too fine. I don’t have enough volume of hair to make a sock bun.

          (When I pull my hair into a ponytail, the diameter at the spot where it’s gathered by the hair elastic is less than 1/2 inch. There’s just nothing there.)

        2. ThursdaysGeek*

          My hair is down to my waist and as thin as Victoria Nonprofit’s. It falls out of a pony tail. :( The only way I can keep it up is if I do braids and wrap it around my head.

      2. Xarcady*

        I have fine, thin hair. It needs to be really long, past my shoulders, in order for it to stay in a bun. If it is shorter, I can bun it, but it all slides out. (I can so relate to the 1/2 inch thick ponytail and having to use hair elastics make for little girls.)

        Hair pins rather than bobby pins help. Or a gizmo called the Spin Pin. Putting your hair up while still damp also helps.

        Another professional long-hair look I love is a french braid. Leave the braid down your back, or stuff it up under the “french” part of the braid and hold it there with a hair pin. It’s up, but the braiding makes it harder for your hair to slide out.

      3. DMented Kitty*

        Definitely hair type. Mine is straight and just too slippery if I use anything short of a really good scrunchie it will just fall off. Those elastic bands don’t work either — my hair’s too thick it will just stretch beyond its elastic limit and I end up with a very loose ponytail (and I will have to buy a sack of those elastics each month).

        Most of the time I wore it down, with a hair band if I need to keep it out of my face. My hair is a little past chin-length right now but I plan to grow it long again — I just remembered while short hair is a lot more convenient for a wash-and-wear type of girl like me, ironically I had to use wayyyy more hair products to keep it manageable. Long hair takes a lot longer for me to towel dry to an acceptable point, but hardly need to use hair products.

  27. Amber Rose*

    #4: once upon a time for an employee review, I had to rank myself from 1 to 5 on various competencies and write a series of short essays to justify my decision. I gave myself all 3’s, my boss having made it clear that anything higher was too optimistic.

    While going over my submission my boss commented that our DM had wanted to give me a 1 on… I don’t remember, my consistency I think, because I had some errors when I started. But my boss went to bat for me and the 3 was held.

    I see your scenario playing out in two ways. 1, the boss is passive agressively pointing out shortfalls and that sucks.

    2, the boss highlighted things he disagrees with and wants to argue about and sincerely left it in the open by accident.

    Either way, while I empathize with the hurt feelings, this is not the time for tears. This is the time for honest self evaluation and a straightforward conversation with the boss about areas for improvement and how that might be achieved.

  28. grasshopper*

    Ponytails are perfectly fine for the office. I often use a headset for the phone and I’ve found that using hairbands or clips interfere with that, so ponytails are the way to go.

    A good haircut can save you from having to do lots of styling. I used to feel guilty for spending more than $20 on a haircut, but realized that hair is something that you ‘wear’ everyday so the ‘value per wear’ calculation means that it really is worth spending money for a good cut. I know that if you’re starting out in the workforce, you can’t always afford it though. No matter what a cut costs, be honest with the stylist about how much work you’re going to do (ie, I don’t use a hairdryer, don’t use product and really do wash ‘n go) and they can give you something that will look good.

    1. Michelle*

      I can relate the cost factor. If get a haircut & color it can be easily be $100, not including tip.

  29. Joey*

    #1. Maybe others feel differently, but I wouldn’t go easy on the guy because “his old manager didn’t catch the lies.” Id fire him, one for lying, but two for being so dismissive about it. The fact that you only found out about it after the fact means he should consider himself lucky that it didn’t get caught earlier. I’m sorry, I just couldn’t trust the guy.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      Yeah, the fact that he isn’t mortified about it, or at least displaying a modicum of chagrin, suggests the guy isn’t ethical. I wouldn’t see how I could trust him.

    2. Cordelia Naismith*

      I agree. Not only did he lie on his resume, but he also doesn’t seem to see why that’s an issue. It appears he thinks that lying on your resume is perfectly okay — how can you trust him in any other work situation? I don’t think I’d be able to believe anything he said after that.

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      Wondering is there’s a statute of limitations, so to speak, I’m this type of thing? Or is it up to the individual company policy? Sounds like this guys been there for a while

  30. CollegeAdmin*

    Re #3: I have long, thick hair, OP3, so I feel your pain. Personally, I have no issues with wearing ponytails at the office, but if you’re worried about it, there are plenty of styles that use a ponytail as the base.

    One look I always get comments on in a braided bun – everyone thinks it looks so complicated but it’s very easy. Put your hair in a ponytail, do a simple three-strand braid, and then instead of tying the braid off, twist it around the base of the pony to create a bun. A butterfly clip can hold it securely and it stays all day.

  31. Great Stone*

    As a man with very long hair,( down to my lower back), having it in a ponytail is a must. and it must be kept with 2 bands, at skull and near the end.
    I’m from the reservation so it’s my culture to have long hair. But in the professional world it becomes a masculinity and gender issue and not what it really is, a cultural indicator and tradition. Trust me, I’d rather shave it all off. and technically i’m supposed to keep it in a long thick braid and then a secondary smaller gauge braid over the right side. But for simplicity i keep it in a simple ponytail.
    You’d be suprized the kind of resistance I get from clients and co-workers. Thus far HR and Administration have been smart enough to leave culture where it belongs. But other staff give trouble. It’s also complicated by the fact that i’m slightly lighter complexion than my tribal brothers.

    1. Joey*

      if those folks were worth anything they’d let you do the braid. I think it’s super cool to see all of the diverse cultural differences. I kinda wish I worked with even more culturally diverse folks if you can’t tell.

    2. Fact & Fiction*

      Ugh. It stinks that you have to deal with judgment for that. As long as you keep it neat and groomed, it shouldn’t matter HOW or WHY you wear it that way. I hate that it does matter for some people. :(

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I have never in my life understood why anyone thought a guy with long hair wasn’t masculine. That just does not compute in my brain. Perhaps it’s because my uncle, who is a musician, had long hair for decades and also usually wears a full goatee. And I mean full–there is no doubt in anyone’s mind he’s a dude. Not to mention the culture issues. Argh.

      Also, I’m jealous that you can grow your hair so long–mine always stops in the middle of my back!

  32. BSharp*

    I often start with a normal ponytail using a brown or black elastic (I have brown hair), then clip a barrette OVER that. My hair’s too thick to fit in any of the usual alligator clips or barrettes, but I can clip those to the ponytail holder itself and it looks sharp.

  33. Dot Warner*

    #3: Wearing your hair in a ponytail isn’t unprofessional. The worst that could happen is a little good-natured ribbing from your coworkers if you wear it the same way every day. :)

    1. Nikki T*

      My hair is the same every day (short afro). I can’t cornrow or twist or do anything else, so I just, let it be. When I get something done to it, my co-workers act like I’m wearing a tiara and all want to come see..

      I just want to be left alone!

      But..that’s a diff story for a diff day..

      1. Dot Warner*

        Ha ha, good point! I only brought it up because that happened to me. :) (Again, it was good-natured teasing, no bad intentions.)

  34. INTP*

    Regarding ponytails, I have long thick hair and fins that the low pony looks extremely frumpy on me. My go-to interview hairstyle is a ponytail straight from the back of my head, very sleek and I run a straightener over it. I get most of the jobs I interview for so clearly it isn’t holding me back. If your hair is super curly then I think defined curls are fine instead of straightening.
    For day to day, I usually do a side braid or a topknot with a bunnette. Those bun tools can create a neat bun – I always fail at YouTube hairstyles but can do a nice bun with that thing.

  35. Relly*

    #2 I work with my dad, and I never call him by his first name unless I’m paging him. And zero people at work find it weird, and always refer to him as “your dad” to me. I never thought about it as a professional issue, but if I started calling him by his first name after working here for years my coworkers would think I lost my mind. I work in a small company, though, so your mileage may vary culturally. I’ve even had coworkers who said calling your parents by their first name is disrespectful, but maybe everyone I work with is a little more old-fashioned.

  36. shep*

    #2 –

    I work for a relatively large office (approximately 100 people), as does my mom. She works in a different division and we rarely have any interaction.

    However, my mom’s tenure here is approaching 15 years, so I’ve known most of the people who work here since late childhood. That puts a wrinkle in things when I’m trying to cultivate a professional relationship with them now, but to that end, everyone’s been really supportive and graceful about smoothing over any potential awkwardness. They treat me professionally, and I like to think I do the same.

    Because I see my mom so rarely at work, I’m not in the practice of calling her anything other than “mom,” but I also think that everyone else, having known us for so long, would raise an eyebrow if I called her by her name. Something to the effect of, “Who are you trying to fool, kiddo?” But in a nice way. :)

    I used to work at a family-owned franchise, and THAT was a completely different story. The family maintained calling each other given names, but the knock-down-drag-out fights that would occur between my boss and her parents (the owners) made the facade of professionalism a complete moot point. I’d like to think my mom and I do a far better job than that.

  37. Stuck in the Snow*

    My apologies – I thought I was nesting a comment as a reply and failed at it! Yes, I mean that I wish we had broader and less gendered standards of what’s considered professional – if a woman is clean and tidy & a man is clean and tidy, what does it matter which one has a crew cut and which one has waist-length hair and which one is wearing or not wearing make up? If an office allows women to wear sandals, so long as her feet are nicely groomed, why shouldn’t a man be able to wear sandals too under the same conditions? If women can wear work-appropriate pants, why can’t men wear work-appropriate kilts? And if one’s hair is naturally curly, why should she or he be considered less professional (by some) if they don’t straighten their hair? I’m sorry I wasn’t clear on that in my first comment.

  38. #4 - note from CEO*

    Hi, I’m the person in scenario #4 and can’t thank everyone enough for the support and comments — many of which I hadn’t even considered. I didn’t confront my boss and though my pride is pretty wounded, I’ve taken note of the comments in the email and am trying to quietly improve on the outlined areas of weakness. I have an official review in a few weeks, and hopefully that will provide some clarity. So again, many thanks for the advice and perspective. It has all helped tremendously!

  39. Bunny*

    On long hair – if you want to pull it up and out of the way in styles other than a ponytail, but you haven’t really got much experience with doing Hair Things, plaits are a great way to go. One long plait/braid down the back is fashionably on-point and smart, and keeps hair out of the way well – especially very thick hair. A plait also lends itself well to doing other things with – it’s really easy to curl a plait up into a big bun, for example.

    I’ve also seen people with thick hair pull off a half pony-tail quite well – the hair is part horizontally level with the top of the ears, with the top half pulled back into a neat ponytail or plait, and the bottom half is styled to lay loose smartly, still swept back from the shoulders and kept away from the face, but a simple way to vary things.

  40. Anonsie*

    You guys are cracking me up with the hair threads here. WOAH WOAH WOAH is that a blue elastic? A blue elastic?? Keep that in the privacy of your own home, you deviants!

    Highly related PS to whoever recommended looking for the Corporette water bottle and bandaid posts last week: Jesus take the wheel.

  41. Anonyby*

    #2– I worked with my mom on breaks during my college years. When talking to her our coworkers I’d call her “mom”, but when talking to customers or others outside of the business, I’d refer to her by her name. It was fine, in part because it was a family-owned business and we were one of four-five pairs of parent/child coworkers and there were other family sets working there as well. Also, most of our coworkers had been working there since my mom was hired when I was only a few months old. It would be more awkward for me to call her by name to them when they had watched me grow up!

    #3–I have long hair, and I need to pull it back in pony tails, or buns, or braids. My favorite clip is the Flexi-8 (the company is now called Lilla Rose), but even with that I still need to refix it every so often. My hair is long, thick, wavy, and with a total mind of its own. It HATES being forced into submission. And it gets even more rebellious when I cut it short!

  42. hnl123*

    I only do high ponytails or high buns, crown of the head. It pulls up my scalp and I call it the “Instant Face Lift.”
    I have thick, uruly curly hair so I can’t wear it down most of the time. (I live in a hot humid climate where everyday is summer) so updo’s look more professional. If i did a low pony I would have a rat’s nest festering around my neck and my neck sweat would make it even more frizzy and unruly.
    I think that as long as you don’t wear loud, crazy hair accessories, you’d be fine.

  43. Tempest of Teapots*

    For OP #5…

    I’m in the insurance industry. This is pretty normal, actually. You’d be considered a “warm lead”. Most insurance sales people work on commission, and in sales any relationship you can leverage is sometimes worth taking a shot at. I probably wouldn’t have done this with a professional contact, but I’m not surprised. If he persists, just tell him you’re happy with your current coverage and insurance agent (if you have one… since you can do so much yourself online, you very likely may not need one). In fact, having a professional contact have your personal information (i.e. what you’d reveal in a life insurance app) could be a conflict of interest. I can see how that might be uncomfortable. He just seems a bit aggressive, which in sales isn’t a bad thing. You have no obligation to do business with him, and hopefully he gets the hint.

  44. Cath in Canada*

    I’d just like to take a moment to appreciate my Mum’s decision to leave the high school she was teaching at a couple of years before I went there as a student.

    [thanks, Mum!]

    She’d been taught by her Dad when she was a kid, and hated having to call him Mr. Name instead of Dad while at school, among other things. So she vowed she’d never put her own kids through that and found a new job instead!

  45. Sunny*

    In my early twenties, I worked at the company that my mom worked at when they needed seasonal help. (Big petroleum accounting firm) It never occured to me to call my mom by her name, although I was pretty immature.

    I also liked to refer to the “Clean up after yourself, your mom doesn’t work here” sign in the breakroom and urged my mom to get to work.

  46. INFJ*

    Interesting- when I worked with my mother, I would refer to her as “Name” to my coworkers (in an attempt to be more professional and avoid confusion), and they would laugh at me and say, “‘Name?'” or, “You mean Mom?” This happened for 9 years.

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