employee came in with blue hair, boss is circumventing HR, and more

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

1. Employee came in with blue, green, and purple hair

I wanted to ask how I tell a sweet younger employee, who dyed her hair from a rather unassuming brown to black with blue/purple/green highlights over the weekend, that it is unprofessional for the workplace. It is jet black with highlights that change with how the light hits it — think peacock feathers. I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but it just doesn’t fit here. Our policy is specific about nails, attire, tattoos, and piercings but not hair. I never dreamed I would have to include that “crazy cartoon hair” is a no-no. She is a medical assistant and is in patient care all day.

I’m going to take your word for it that your stance is necessary for your particular business rather than debating that here — but I’d also encourage you to think through that question first, because the world is changing in this regard and this is now okay in many places that it didn’t used to be.

But if it is indeed a business necessity for you, just be straightforward: “Jane, your new hair color looks great on you, but unfortunately we need you to have a more conservative appearance while you’re working here. I realize that the dress code didn’t spell this out so it’s not your fault for not knowing it, but I do need you to revert back to a more natural color.”

2. Boss is circumventing HR to do hiring work on his own

A number of recent interviewees for various positions in our marketing team have turned down their offers. Our chief marketing officer (CMO), who can be a micromanager in the extreme, has taken this as an indication that HR is somehow screwing up the hiring process. His solution is to step in and do more of the offer-giving, negotiating, and question-asking on his own.

We’ve told him this is a bad idea, but he’s unwilling to see that it could be a problem… and then this weekend happened. The team interviewed a tremendously talented young writer and we all pushed the CMO to make an offer ASAP. “No,” he said on Fridayafternoon, “I’ll need a couple days to think about it.” We were all disappointed that he wasn’t as eager as we were, but we went into our weekends hopeful that he’d give HR the green light to send her an offer letter on Monday morning. Instead, we arrived at work this morning to find that he had called the candidate over the weekend to “unofficially” offer her the job without first consulting with HR to secure official offer paperwork.

As a mid-career professional, this would have set off a number of alarms and I wouldn’t have accepted the position. As a recent graduate, the candidate didn’t seem to connect the dots/be concerned that the CMO of a large company called her on a weekend to extend an unofficial employment offer.

All of the mid-level managers are taken aback by his actions. Even my director is shocked. Is his behavior as weird as we think it is? How do you approach senior management who is openly distrustful of HR’s ability to onboard new candidates about his behavior with new recruits?

This … seems really normal to me. Managers should do this stuff themselves, and if your company has been leaving it to HR, that’s actually not a great thing. When managers turn this kind of work over to HR, they often miss out on opportunities to sell the position and to get a good sense of any reservations the candidate has, which they’re often going to be far more effective at addressing than HR will be. HR also isn’t going to have the same investment as the manager in hiring this particular person, getting the tone right, getting the person excited about the job, and setting up the relationship well from the start. Hiring is one of the most important things that managers do, and the offer stage is a critical part of hiring; it makes no sense to turn it over to someone without the same stake in it that the manager has.

So I don’t think it should set off any alarm bells for the candidate — maybe the weekend call, but not the rest of it.

Your CMO may have other issues, but this doesn’t sound like one of them.

3. My director requires more reporting from my department than from another

I work in a department of seven people that is overseen by a managing director who is also over another department of four people. Those in the smaller department all make about 5-10% more than those in my department, but we do completely different functions.

What I’ve noticed is that my department has to turn in weekly reports of our accomplishments. I won’t go into detail and give away what we do, but suffice it to say that our work is easily quantifiable and I generate a report and graphs for a weekly director’s meeting that my boss attends.

I’m considering making a formal complaint to my director that I feel like he’s only keeping track of our side while letting the smaller department do whatever. I’ve seen copies of the reports that are submitted to the company managers and there’s no mention of the smaller department. Their work is also easily quantifiable and they are setup to use the same work order tracking system we use, but they don’t. What would be the best way to approach this?

Don’t. It doesn’t impact your job, and it’s not really any of your business. There are all kinds of legitimate reasons that your director might ask for different reporting from your department than he does from the other department — but even if there’s no good reason for it, it’s just not your business and you don’t have standing to complain about it, formally or otherwise.

4. My boss wants me to work with an estranged relative

One of my relatives is a big supporter of the organization I currently work at (apparently it really is a small world, after all) and, without knowing that I was related to this person, my supervisor suggested that I might work with my relative and that they could be a resource for a project I’m working on. This person is very well-connected, and may be able to open doors that will be very helpful to this project.

However, I have been estranged from a relative for just over a year now. This person is not abusive, and I don’t fear for my safety—we were actually close until they did something pretty terrible and I decided that I could no longer have this person in my life.

I eventually told my supervisor that this person was a relative because I thought it would seem odd if it became known eventually and I hadn’t said anything, but I didn’t mention the estrangement. I just started working at this place a few months ago, and I don’t know if it will reflect badly on me if I tell my supervisor about the estrangement and that I would rather not work with this person. My supervisor is also a big believer in the separation of work life and personal life, and I’m not sure how they would react if I mentioned this personal story, even in very general terms. I don’t know if I should talk to my supervisor, not say anything and hope my supervisor forgets about it (the idea of working with my relative has been raised as a possibility, but in the meantime another project has come up that needs to be our top priority for now), or if there’s a better solution.

Would it seem like you dropped the ball if you didn’t follow up on it? If so, you should proactively bring it up so that you don’t look like you just let it drop or that you hoped that if you didn’t bring it up again, you could get out of it — those two things would be a bigger problem than just explaining what’s going on. But if neither of those things are true, then sure, you could just wait and see if it comes up again.

If you do need to address it (either now or down the road), I’d just be straightforward and brief: “Jane and I are actually estranged due to some family issues, so it would be awkward to work together.”

5. Can my resume list pieces I ghostwrote?

One of my current job duties is authoring op-eds and blog posts for senior leadership at my organization. Is it appropriate to list specific ghostwritten pieces in a publications section on my résumé? I like that this conveys the range of topics, diversity of voices, and frequency of publication, and also highlights work of which I am particularly proud. But I worry that it’s gauche to “out” the publicly credited authors and to assert a role that is not backed by bylines. Is it better to leave it as a general bullet point with some sample topics and publications?

Nope, it’s totally normal to list ghostwritten publications on your resume. It’s also very normal for staff to be the ones who actually author the pieces that have the byline of a top organizational leader, so you won’t be exposing any dirty secrets or anything like that. (That said, since this isn’t a CV, you don’t want a long list of publications on your resume — just selected highlights.)

{ 605 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I should have thought to post something about this at the start, but better late than never: Posts about hair color tend to get a lot of comments. They also tend to get people sidetracked into conversations about what hair color/style they like/want to try, brand recommendations, etc. Please resist that here and keep comments focused on the question in the letter, since this is likely to be an unwieldy comment thread otherwise. Thank you.

    1. A Cita*

      Oh my. It’s going to be hard to wrangle that cat back into the bag. I think we need to create a new internet rule: Girl Scout Cookie Rule*: comments on fluffy topics that touch on an area where people have a lot of opinions and general interest will be nigh impossible to reign in after the fact.

      *Name taken on the phenom that happened around here any time any one mentioned girl scout cookies in the comments that led to crazy long comment threads, and which ultimately led to the open threads here.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Ha, very good point. (And I remember that Girl Scout cookie thing but didn’t remember that it led to the open threads. Interesting!)

        And yeah, I need to spot this from the start and say something then in order to have any chance of heading it off!

    2. brighidg*

      This is probably good as I would just talk about how envious I am of the employee’s oil slick hair.

  2. Artemesia*

    #3 A very good way to get fired is to register ‘formal complaints’ about the way your boss does his job when it has nothing to do with you and actually even if it does unless it is some sort of illegal harassment. It is so very much not your job to tell him or her how to do the job of being boss.

    1. Bee Eye LL*

      OP here. I agree. Allison’s answer here was pretty much what I’d expected her to say.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      True, and there’s probably a legitimate reason why the smaller department is not running the same exact way. Without more information, I can’t really tell why the OP thinks they get to “do whatever”. Maybe they’re quantified in a different fashion. Or the company has decided it’s unnecessary, or that they don’t need the information from the small department for this particular analysis.

      Regardless, the director has to have this data for his meeting and it’s the OP’s job to provide it.

    3. Clever Name*

      Seriously. I have a few coworkers who get overly wrapped up in how other people (including their boss) do their jobs or how the company is run. It frankly drives me batty. Yeah, we, small company of less than 100 people, are run very differently than MegaCorp you are used to. We don’t do things “wrong”, it’s just different. Either find a way to deal or find a new job. But don’t loudly bitch about it to anyone who will listen.

  3. You Don't Know Me*

    Honestly I love when companies allow employees to have a “different” look. Hair color especially doesn’t interfere with job function. It is often a conversation starter and can put a patient at ease.

    I know there things that can interfere in a medical office like nail length, piercings etc. but hair color doesn’t fall into that category.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      Agree. Is it really **impossible** for her to have wild-colored hair in her role, or is it just that you don’t like it?

      1. The Optimizer*

        I was at a restaurant today and the server had peacock bangs. It wasn’t a trendy spot – it was a mid range restaurant next to a large corporate/business park. I found her over use of perfume far more offensive. The hair was cute!

        1. Jinx*

          I really love that colorful hair is becoming more mainstream, even though I wish it’d go faster. :P I’m at a pretty conservative workplace right now, and I’d love to have the option to dye my hair.

          1. azvlr*

            Jinx, did you just write in for me! I asked my boss, whom I have never met in person and would probably never have known for permission (our dress code speaks about “unprofessional hair colors” but doesn’t specify what is or isn’t unprofessional.) She said no. Why did I even ask?

            1. Vicki*

              I have to wonder about “unprofessional hair color”. A company could so easily get into a discrimination lawsuit if a black employee colored her hair red or yellow.

          2. O*

            I live in a midsized European city and am charmed by how often I see older (middle-aged-to-elderly) women with interesting-colored hair and facial piercings. They’re not particularly punky-seeming older ladies either! Dour lunch lady types checking you out at the supermarket do this too!

      2. Amber T*

        I was just at the doctor’s office and the nurse who came in to do the pre-screening stuff had ombre hair – natural black on top that went to firetruck red with yellow tips. Looked like fire. It was awesome and looked amazing! I had an early morning appointment so I heard a lot of the other staff walking in and complimenting her. Only one elderly patient kind of huffed at it, and there were at least three octogenarians who loved it. If only I was brave enough to do something like that…

        I work in a conservative finance firm, and I think there’s a decent chance The Boss would turn me away and tell me to buy a box of hair dye or face being fired on the spot. We just got a dress code reminder…

        1. JMegan*

          I’m getting so many amazing hair ideas from this thread! I had pink hair for a while and loved it, but it just got too expensive to maintain. The “fire” look sounds amazing, as does the oil slick (although I’m with some of the others in not liking the name), and the jewel tones.

          As soon as I win the lottery, I’m going to start dying my hair ALL THE COLOURS again!

          1. cheeky*

            I have blond hair with pink sections, and I maintain it with Overtone color depositing conditioner. It works wonders to keep color! It comes in all colors of the rainbow.

          2. manybellsdown*

            I did the oil slick 3 months ago, and one thing that the LW might not have considered is that, if she had this professionally done, it’s EXPENSIVE. Assuming your dress code didn’t specifically cover this, you might be asking her to basically throw away $200+ for something she didn’t know would be a problem.

            1. Collarbone High*

              YES. I also have an oil slick, and I not only would I be out ~$200 for the original color, dyeing it back right now would destroy my hair plus cost another $100 easily.

          3. Vicki*

            One former co-worker of mine dyes her dark hair with blue. Everyone who knows her thinks of her as “Oh yes, Meg with the blue hair”.

            Another former co-worker did purple.

            I love what people do with their hair color.

        2. snuck*

          Aged care is somewhere it might not wash, and as the OP is in a health setting there’s a reasonable chance that at least some of the clients are elderly. If it’s subtle and tied back and only when you look at it in certain light it’s probably less of an issue (which is what it sounds like), but if it’s glorious, amazing and wonderful peacock hair then it could well be an issue with the older set. (Speaking from some experience here)

    2. Irishgal*

      I used to work in Harrod’s in London about 12 years ago when it was still owned by Al Fayed. I worked in a non customer facing staff support role. Our office wasn’t even in main store although the staff canteen was there (staff had to use one particular side entrance and one particular set of escalators to get to the canteen to limit us wandering through store en route to breaks). Our dress code was “business sombre” and on the wall of our office were colour printouts showing the colours we could wear, what kind of pinstripe, what colour blouse/shirt. We also had rules about hair and no “fashion colours” were allowed. Anything beyond the usual brown, blonde, black etc had to be run by management/hr first. We had fab xmas balls in posh hotels and one year I had short hair and wanted to do something with dye as I couldn’t get a “do”; I only wanted to dye it a dark brown with some flashes of copper but had to go argue my case with HR and agree I wouldn’t use permanent dyes and if need be (if HR wanted me to) would dye it back to my natural brown after the ball.

      1. katamia*

        Business sombre? What is that, something you’d wear to a business meeting if you had a funeral to go to right afterwards?

        1. Irishgal*

          At the time it was synonymous with what they wore in the old school formal English banks…so only black, dark grey, navy suits and a narrow pinstripe. Ties on men had to be muted and from a particular colour spectrum. No cleavage allowed. We could wear pale pastel blouses ..can’t really remember about the men’s shirts but it was along the lines of white and pale blue only type thing. We pushed boundaries a little but employees being told to moderate their attire was a regular event.

          1. RVA Cat*

            At least be glad you didn’t have to wear powdered wigs like judges and lawyers over there, right?

        2. Sarahnova*

          Harrods used to enforce clothing rules on customers too – no shorts, for instance. You were literally not allowed in if you were not deemed smart enough.

          1. Irishgal*

            Yup….The majority of the big spending customers were Muslim (think dropping a few hundred thousand in one afternoon and then coming back next day) who flew in for a week to shop. The dress code catered to them. I had a lot of friends in security who had the difficult job of stopping people at the door and turning them away etc. Even more difficult if said sleeveless shirt had been actually bought in the store previously. It was a nuts place to work and my role gave me a birds eye view on a lot of the nuttiness ..but best social life of my 20s those couple of years were

          2. katamia*

            It took me a second to realize you meant a British meaning of “smart,” so for a second I was envisioning them making potential customers take IQ tests.

              1. alter_ego*

                I once told a British guy (I’m American) on a first date about how I never wear pants. It wasn’t until I saw how red his face was getting that I remembered what “pants” means in England.

                We may think we’re speaking the same language, but oh man are we not.

                1. Chinook*

                  ” It wasn’t until I saw how red his face was getting that I remembered what “pants” means in England.”

                  We had the same reaction from our British coworkers in Japan whenever we were reminded that female employees weren’t allowed to wear pants at work. Those of us N. Americans who got the mistranslation just snickered and asked whose job it was to check.

                2. Amber T*

                  Oh my god… that made me ugly snort and coffee through the nose is painful, but oh so worth it.

                  I remember watching BBC’s Sherlock during the scene where Sherlock’s in a sheet at the palace, and John asks him if he’s wearing any pants. The first time I saw it I thought American pants and it was pretty funny, but when I learned what pants meant in England it became that much funnier.

                3. Jillian*

                  When I was in my twenties, and new at my receptionist job, my English boss had a fit because we didn’t have any rubbers in the supply closet and instructed me to run out and buy him some immediately. My horrified expression prompted him to clarify that he meant erasers.

                4. snuck*

                  The Aussie version of this is thongs.

                  We wear thongs on our feet.

                  You wear them as undies.

                  Saying “I lost my thongs at the park” has a whole new meaning!

            1. Liana*

              I thought the same thing, and was super confused for a minute. Still though, that sounds crazy!

          3. Marzipan*

            That sort of weird attitude towards people is why I never shop in Harrod’s. They also get pissy with you for having a (small) backpack and make you carry it in your hand, because obviously no-one in the history of the world ever had shoulder problems that would make this difficult, and backpacks presumably lower the tone in some way. It’s a horrible, horrible place.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              But they only lower the tone when worn on your back, not when carried at your side….

              I think I just rolled my eyes right out of my head!

              1. UK Nerd*

                Perhaps they’re concerned that people will knock things off shelves with the backpack? I’m used to having to remove mine when visiting shops while on walking holidays.

                1. the gold digger*

                  I have knocked not one, but two bottles of wine off a grocery store shelf (in two separate incidents, not two at one blow) with my purse. I was mortified at the mess I made and tried to pay for the wine, but the store would not let me.

                  I am more careful now.

                2. Ann Furthermore*

                  I was in Sweden on a work trip before Christmas a couple years ago, and spent the day shopping for unique, super-cool Christmas stuff I’d never be able to find in the US. I had a large shoulder/tote bag with me — I was so proud of myself for remembering to bring my own shopping bag! I was in a shop with many lovely things, turned to look at something, and I heard my large shoulder bag start to push something off a shelf or table. Thankfully I was with 2 other people…I stopped moving and one of them came over to make sure I didn’t knock anything to the floor and break it. Phew!

                3. Elizabeth West*

                  @the gold digger – I once clocked a poor little kid in the head with a tote bag full of library books while in the checkout queue at Woolworth’s. He started crying and his mum of course gave me a very dirty look. It was an accident, but I still feel very bad about it. :(

                4. Elizabeth*

                  That’s usually the concern. A lot of museums/galleries won’t let you wear a backpack on your back but are fine for you to carry it in your hand in front of you (if they don’t force you to check it).

            2. Elizabeth West*

              I’ve never been to Harrod’s. As far as I know, they still turn you away if you show up in denim, even if you’re a celebrity. I may go someday, just for the curiosity factor, or if I suddenly become fabulously wealthy and/or just to check out the food hall. I don’t ever have this issue with Fortnum & Mason, though I do try to look presentable when I go into the city. I’ve worn black jeans in there and they didn’t bat an eye. I feel so spoiled there, even if all I do is buy tea. The doorman (in livery!) still holds the door for me no matter what I’m wearing, and all the clerks are just lovely. They will always have my business whenever I’m in town. :) <3 <3 <3

              I've got no clue what their employee dress code entails, though they are always dressed very conservatively and nicely. They look a little like flight attendants.

              I took a peek at F&M's Work with Us page, at a posting for a waiting assistant in the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, and all it says is "professional and polished." My guess is that's not publicly available information. I don't actually want to click "Apply Online" while I'm at work!

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                I’ve never been to Harrod’s. As far as I know, they still turn you away if you show up in denim, even if you’re a celebrity.

                Nope. You may be ignored, but you won’t be turned away.

                1. Dynamic Beige*

                  Uh… I think I was wearing jeans the day I went there. Don’t remember anyone kicking up a fuss but then again, I wasn’t browsing in the expensive areas of the store. I was in the food section looking for a particular type of tea for a friend.

    3. themmases*

      It’s probably not necessary.

      Speaking as someone who used to have a lot of patient contact, this is the kind of thing that comes up if the patient was unhappy with something else anyway. Patients want you to seem competent and respectful in your behavior, e.g. wash your hands, be polite and reasonably on time or else give honest updates about what is happening, be generally forthcoming with information. Once they are annoyed enough to complain, like anyone else, other little stuff might become fair game that they might not have otherwise cared about.

      I used to work with a group of techs– in a children’s hospital no less– who almost all had tattoos that might be visible depending what they were wearing, including the managers. All these techs did all day was a procedure that was impossbile in its current form maybe 10 years ago, adapted even further for children. I am honestly not sure who we would even have been able to replace them with if tattoos were an issue. The parents and kids certainly didn’t care.

      1. themmases*

        And I can’t believe I forgot to mention this, but one of the managers has always had bright red hair, ranging from “natural color, unnatural saturation” to “fire engine”. Again no one cares.

        1. Red*

          This is literally me. It’s meant to be fire engine red, but I don’t bleach first so it’s more just an unnaturally bright auburn. I work in a very patient-facing role in a hospital of mainly elderly patients and I’ve received nothing but compliments.

      2. Ann O'Nemity*

        I agree completely.

        One of the receptionists at my doctor’s office doesn’t look very professional. She happens to have purple hair, but that’s not the only issue. She also has wrinkled clothes, chipped fingernails, visible tattoos, and poorly applied makeup. All together, she just looks like a mess.

      3. Kris*

        The issue is the overall impression that I believe it sends. I personally believe, especially in healthcare, that the perception of knowledge and competence is portrayed by many factors, many of them unspoken. Crazy cartoon hair doesn’t lend itself to being serious about ones profession. Maybe I’m just old school and need to loosen up but imagine having to defend some sort of accidental error in a court room with that as a representation of your company? If nothing else it makes for future amendments to the dress code policy. I appreciate all of the feedback.

        1. Thermal Teapot Researcher*

          I’m not a medical professional, but I am an astrophysicist who works at a national lab, so I do have some experience with the perception of knowledge and competence. While this is just my opinion, I wouldn’t view the dress code that you have outlined as conveying “knowledge and competence” as much as “old and conservative.” I would be more likely to wonder if your office relied on holdover techniques from the 1950s than feel that you were up to date with your knowledge, equipment, and care.

          You, of course, have the right to set the dress code to whatever you feel is appropriate, but I would kindly suggest that you think about the alternate interpretations of your policy.

          As an aside, and to be fair, asking a person to clean up for a court of law to fit the expectations of a judge is an unfortunate, but common, law tactic. There is no requirement that I know of that would ask your staff to physically present themselves in court exactly as they do on the job or in their private life.

          1. Red*

            I second this. I do not wear a suit to work, but you can bet I’d wear one to court. The appearance expected of me in my role at work is that of someone who is competent but is also prepared to run about the hospital, getting things done. Khakis and a polo are expected, but so are athletic shoes. I look competent at my job regardless of whether my hair color is one a judge would love to see in court.

        2. JMegan*

          What’s the term for taking an argument to its logical extreme? I think that’s a bit of what you’re doing here. I get that you wouldn’t want your medical assistant representing you in court with blue hair, but what’s the actual likelihood of that happening? To get there, you need to go through:

          ~The reasonable probability of your office ending up in court in the first place
          ~IF you go to court, the chances of your assistant being the one to represent you, instead of someone higher up the org chart
          ~IF your assistant is representing your office, the chances of this happening so quickly that she won’t have time to change her hairstyle in the meantime.

          Like, is she going to be representing you in court tomorrow afternoon? I mean, I’m sure it’s possible, but it doesn’t seem to me to be a possibility worth considering on a regular basis. Better to consider the impression she’s making for the job she’s actually doing. You may consider it and still decide that she needs to change it, but please don’t make a policy argument based on hypotheticals.

          (Also, I know my personal opinion on her hairstyle isn’t really relevant, but I do want to add one more vote in the “yes” column. I think it sounds really nice, just maybe a bit outside the norm for your office.)

        3. Nerdling*

          I guess I don’t understand how the color of someone’s hair determines their seriousness about their profession. I also don’t know what you consider “crazy cartoon hair,” since, quite frankly, the oil slick hair is one of the more subtle techniques on the surface. It might create an impression in the *observer* about their seriousness, but it doesn’t actually tell you how seriously they themselves take it. I take my job very, very seriously – and it’s one in which a courtroom appearance is actually possible – yet I’ve had a wide variety of hair styles and colors over the years, from red to purple to blue-black and from just past my shoulders to a recent stint with a fauxhawk.

        4. Anonsie*

          Thing is, how much time do you spend in healthcare settings? Because this is super, super common and acceptable in this field. Folks who don’t work in it and don’t spend a lot of time as patients seem to assume it shouldn’t be, but it is.

          1. Tyrannosaurus Regina*

            FWIW I feel like I see unnatural hair colors and piercings more often on women working in the medical field than in nonmedical fields, at least in terms of my personal interactions. I’ve never considered colorful hair inherently unprofessional.

        5. Observer*

          Seriously? I can’t imagine any juror (or judge, for that matter) assuming that the person representing you in court must be an incompetent mess, careless, or especially prone to making errors just because of the color of their hair, much less seeing that as a reflection of the company as a whole.

          But, what difference does that make? She’s not representing you in court. If it ever came to that, she could get rid of the coloring. But why would you even worry about that? She’s not part of your legal team…

          Beyond that, I can’t imagine why you think that peacock colored hair implies lack of seriousness about your profession.

      4. Anonsie*

        I worked in pediatrics for years- not only do the parents not care as far as I have ever ever heard, a massive proportion of the parents themselves are pretty decorated. I had actually curiously dug through all the negative complaints submitted to us as they were made available for people to read (with named redacted) and not even there did I ever see a note about the many heavily decorated employees.

    4. Anonsie*

      I’m surprised that the LW specifically comments that, as an MA who is with patients all day, this is less acceptable. In my experience MAs very commonly have unusual hairstyles or colors, visible tattoos, piercings, funky glasses frames, decorated nails, and other “alternative” (but still quite common) stylistic choices and no one bats an eyelash at it. That’s usually less true in private practices than hospitals or large medical homes, but it’s far from unusual or standard practice that MAs should expect to not be allowed to do things like this. We just got a guy where I work with chin to wrists tattoos and a severe undercut manbun AND a full beard, no one is miffed by any angle of this. Our patients like him just fine. This is a gossipy place and I haven’t heard any of this get mentioned by even my most whisperin’-about-people coworkers.

      Some groups have a specific rule or two, like many hospitals ban artificial or acrylic nails and I once worked for one that banned nail polish as well, but not as sweeping as the LW has here. No-nail-polish hospital only had that one policy and none about any of the other things I’ve mentioned, so people felt free to keep in their facial piercings and whatever other things they did since those things not being in the policy meant they were fair game.

      This is typical in my personal experience- medical center dress codes are taken quite literally and alternative styling is common and accepted among most staff. So “just because it’s not in the policy explicitly doesn’t meant she shouldn’t have known better for the industry” is actually running directly against what I feel is actually standard, personally.

      And though I know there are many folks who will disagree (“I would take an xyz seriously who had tattoos I could see”), I will controversially also state that anyone who spends any amount of time in medical centers will find this type of thing to be extremely common and totally acceptable. The people I have heard be more flustered about formal professional appearance standards for medical and support staff tend to be people who don’t actually spend a lot of time in those places to know what must of us actually dress and look like. Like, if I had a nickel for every time someone in a different business entirely suggested I wear “more professional” leather flats instead of ugly orthopedic shoes, I could probably retire.

  4. katamia*

    OP1, also give her some time to get her hair re-dyed. Don’t expect her to be able to do it the same day you tell her (assuming you don’t reconsider whether “normal” hair color is really necessary for her to do her job). Hair dye can often be very damaging to hair, and if she re-dyes it again right away it could damage it even further. In the meantime, see if she can put it back in a bun or otherwise try to minimize how noticeable it is. If you absolutely must have her change her hair color again, talk with her to determine a reasonable deadline for the change.

    Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut please consider adjusting your stance on this. I go to a GP whose staff all have multiple large tattoos, and some of them also have unusual hair colors and piercings. And you know how much it’s affected the quality of care I’ve received there? Not. One. Bit. You don’t have to like it, but just because you don’t like something (I’m sensing some judgment with the use of the phrase “crazy cartoon hair”) doesn’t automatically make it unprofessional. If patients aren’t complaining about her hair, it’s probably not as big of an issue as you think it is.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      And it sounds like the hair colour is one of those new “oil slick” dye jobs – those are quite subtle compared to dying your hair neon pink, and the photos I’ve seen look amazing, and could easily be quite professional looking.

      1. likeOMG*

        Also, depending on where she went to get it dyed- and oil slick hair looks like something you probably don’t want to try to do to yourself- she probably paid at least a couple hundred dollars to have it done.

        The process is kind of involved. You have to have your hair lightened a bit if it’s too dark, and then all of these temp-perm colors are mixed with black for that oil-esque shine, and added in layers, dark at the root, then you’re all wrapped up in plastic wrap, then rinsed.

        My point is, this is probably something she planned and saved for, and it’s probably going to be a morale killer to force her to change her expensive, beautiful hair if it isn’t affecting her job. You can still do it, but make sure it really matters before you do.

        1. Former Retail Manager*

          YES to spending around $200, if not more depending upon her geographic location/cost of living. It sounds like OP probably works for MegaCorp, but regardless, I think they should make some offer of reimbursement for the cost of the hair color being undone, especially since it wasn’t specifically prohibited in the company’s policy. Medical assistants here in the US don’t make a lot of money and this was likely a pricey outlay for her. I think it’s an extra slap in the face to say “Hey, we didn’t tell you couldn’t do this, and it looks like you spent a couple hundred bucks on it, and it looks cool, but guess what, you can’t have it. So go undo what you paid $200 for….your loss….too bad.” Of course, they won’t say that, but that’s likely what the employee will hear.

          If I were the employee, this whole situation would prompt me to reassess whether I really wanted to stay with this company if this is their stance. Medical assistant jobs are a dime a dozen where I live and you can quit today and be hired tomorrow. Best of luck to the employee and this company really needs to get with the times. Most medical assistants are younger females just starting out their medical careers so I can’t imagine that this will be the last time they ever see this.

          1. AG*

            +1. Also think about how it will affect the morale of the rest of your staff. You could end up losing more than just this one employee.

            1. Red*

              I would be one of those employees handing in my resignation. Employees have many options in healthcare, and one can only expect to retain them by making your business a desirable place to work. For me, a place that police’s hair dye without any sort of reason is not a desirable place.

          2. Bwmn*

            The cost factor greatly came to my mind. I choose to dye my hair and due to personal choice (where cost is definitely a factor) – I have it done twice a year. If all of a sudden that because for a few months my roots (which no matter how I feel about them definitely hit a point where they’re “unnatural” looking) were a professional problem – that would be a huge problem for me. Not just an immediate expense issue, but a larger matter of how I prefer and manager my appearance that had previously worked now was a problem based on something fairly subjective.

            I also feel that these types of issues with dress codes end up being applied VERY unevenly should this be a route you choose to go down. I worked in hospital that had a one piercing per ear rule and worked there having a grand total of 7 piercings in my ears. Three were up my hairline and I have longer hair, and I never wear large earrings – so overall the look is very subtle. However, employees with a flair for more flamboyant jewelry were penalized. Same would happen with “no visible tattoos”. Inevitably someone with manager A would have a bicep tattoo that might occasionally peak out and never have any mention where manager B would chase down any potentially visible tattoos.

          3. Elizabeth West*

            ….I think they should make some offer of reimbursement for the cost of the hair color being undone, especially since it wasn’t specifically prohibited in the company’s policy.

            This–it wasn’t even in the dress code! If I were her and had to pay to have it undone when it wasn’t specified, I’d either expect the company to reimburse me or I’d find another job.

          4. kk*

            I like this a lot. I had the same thought – the poor girl probably spent hundreds on her new do! I would be devastated if my job told me to change it back after I spent that chunk of change (and time!). OP, if you are reaaaaaaaaaaaaalllllllllyyyyyyy going to make her dye her hair back, please at least offer financial compensation.

          5. Ted Mosby*

            This was my first thought (that she might quit). The MAs i know make minimum wage, there are tons of jobs, and creative color is suuuuper expensive. If I spent 20-30 hours of wages on my hair color I might leave before I dyed it back (either with a damaging box or another 20 hours of wages for corrective color). Not to spite anyone or bc I was mad, but bc it might make more financial sense.

          6. Cecily*

            100% agree. I would expect if something was prohibited by the dress code it would be actually say it was prohibited in the actual dress code, especially considering that the dress code is actually highly specific on other things and had nothing about hair. It is perfectly reasonable for an employee to look at a highly specific dress code, not see the thing they want to do on the list of “don’ts”, and do the thing.

            Even if OP says they didn’t expect to need to specify “no cartoon colored hair”, if you’re being specific about how nails should be done, how you dress, etc etc, listing “only natural hair” is not hard and normal. My employer had a dress code that was specific in weird ways (you could wear blue jeans but not black jeans? But black dress pants were fine?) that actually just got loosened a ton, and it was absolutely specified ONLY NATURAL HAIR COLORS, and still is.

            As an aside, I’ve been planning on doing a two tone deal with my hair – I have an undercut all the way around (so, only the top is long, back/sides shaved, if my hair is down you can’t tell anything’s shaved because my hair’s ridiculously thick), and want to dye the long part platinum blonde and keep the rest natural. Just waiting for the top to grow out enough to 100% cover the shaved bit so you can only tell when I put it up. This is TECHNICALLY allowed in the dress code but I was worried it might still not fly because y’know, historically weird with this stuff. The regional manager was in helping out today and she had just dyed her hair blonde, so I mentioned my plans, and she was like “That’s gonna look so great!” I’M GOOD, FULL STEAM AHEAD.

        2. Finman*

          Not only that, but there was no official policy against hair color. If she didn’t break a policy, I wouldn’t force her to change her hair color back right away.

          1. RVA Cat*

            This. Also, be sure that if you do write a policy that it isn’t discriminatory – plenty of offices have run afoul of this by forbidding popular black hairstyles.

            1. Just Another Techie*

              I’m going a touch off topic here, but the problem isn’t that the hairstyles forbidden by these dress codes are “popular.” The reason they are discriminatory is that they forbid Black people from wearing their hair the way it naturally grows out of their heads. To get so-called “professional” hair, if you have very thick tightly curled hair like many Black people do, you have to do a lot of expensive and painful work. I don’t know what modern improvements have been made in hair-straightening tech, but when I was growing up in the 80s, it involved literally putting lye on your head. Lye, the very caustic stuff soap is made from and that was a plot point in the movie Fight Club. On your head. It’s far more involved than the dinky little straightening irons a European or Asian descended person might use to flatten out wavy hair. So to say that to be able to work here, only Black people have to invest this significant burden of time, money, and pain, instead of leaving their hair the way it naturally grows out of their head, is very discriminatory.

              1. AnonHairComment*

                THANK YOU. Also if I get a protective style with braids or twists and decide to use an accent color (“real” hair color or otherwise) – I’d better know what colors are acceptable BEFORE I spend the 2-6+ hours and $$$ on it.

        3. Erin*

          YES. This.

          This was likely literally hundreds of dollars that she planned and saved for and spent several hours in a chair getting. Asking her to change it isn’t just a matter of grabbing an $8 box at the grocery store. This would be a very, very big deal.

          1. Kay*

            I don’t normally like to jump on the bandwagon when other people are already saying what I feel, but I feel really strongly about this! It’s totally not cool to make the employee change her hair colour when there is no policy on the subject and she couldn’t have known in advance. On top of the expense and damage to her hair, getting a proper re-dye job from those colours could take 5+ hours. As that employee, I would be very (very!) annoyed.

            1. Lady Kelvin*

              Honestly, if that was the case I would be tempted to shave my head. They can’t dictate how long your hair is without being discriminatory between sexes, but it’s definitely more “extreme” than a colorful dye-job. But then again, I don’t like being told what to do with my body without good justification (safety, etc).

            2. TowerofJoy*

              And she might have even chosen this specific one because it is relatively subtle. I’d find it very irritating to have to change it back.

            3. manybellsdown*

              Yes my “oil slick” do took 5 or more hours in the chair and was over $200. I’d be pretty unhappy if two days later my boss was like “oh we forgot to tell you that’s not allowed.”

          2. MK*

            I think people are running away with the whole “it cost her a fortune, how can you ask her to dye it again, it will ruin her hair” thing. We don’t actually know what the OP’s employee did, how much it cost and how difficult it will be to reverse it. My best friends had some copper and green “painted” highlights that were just washed off after a couple of weeks.

            1. Erin*

              It’s certainly possible, but I think highly unlikely, that it was not expensive/permanent.

              Although now you have me wondering. Maybe she did do a temporary, washes out in a few weeks dye, to test the waters at work and see what the reaction was.

        4. Emily K*

          Yep, in the DC metro area it costs me over $300 after tip and takes 3.5-4 hours in the salon chair for me to get my multi-tonal unicorn hair (currently in galaxy palette). It’s a significant investment of resources.

      2. Nobody*

        Wow… I’ve never heard of this “oil slick hair” so I had to google it, and it’s really pretty! I confess I’m not a fan of crazy cartoon hair in a professional setting (maybe I’m too old fashioned about that), but I agree that if it is this oil slick look, it’s not the same as bright neon colors. I wouldn’t think patients would have a problem with it.

        1. manybellsdown*

          It’s funny, because I had it done 3 months ago, and it’s fading and I was thinking of just coloring it brown again but … this thread is making me want to go get it redone!

        2. Windchime*

          It’s truly gorgeous. It would probably violate the rules where I work (also a medical facility). I’m not patient-facing and for a couple of years, I had bright red panels underneath my otherwise brown hair. I loved it and got a lot of compliments on it, but I’m pretty sure I would have been made to change it if I’d been in a patient-care area.

          Health care can be pretty conservative. Although I have to say that my workplace has recently removed the requirement that people keep tattoos covered. Now the only requirement is that offensive or scary tattoos have to be covered.

    2. Sparrow*

      I’m with you. I actually associate this kind of hair style with a certain level of self-confidence (people will definitely look at you! Some will stare!). I couldn’t pull that off and I admire people who are comfortable enough with themselves to do so. But I’m in my early 30s and work with college students, so I’m probably not in the demographic they’re worried about…

      1. Emily K*

        Yes! I work in marketing which attracts a lot of big, bold, creative personalities so I’ve always been surrounded by professionals with unusual hair or style. It’s almost a tease about your marketing ability – if I can present myself this creatively, just wait til you see how I’ll present your product!

    3. Katniss*

      I was going to say the same thing about giving her some time to change her hair. It takes some work to do depending on the color and the dye used. It probably won’t be able to happen overnight without a significant amount of money and luck.

      But seriously, I don’t see how this would be a problem in any doctor’s office I personally go to or have ever gone to. Then again I have part of my hair dyed bright pink so I’m not unbiased.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Agree that it’s getting common to see at doctors offices, dentists and ER’s. I feel like just about everyone I see at any of them now have tattoos, piercings, dreadlocks, teal or pink hair, etc etc.

    4. LadyCop*

      I love non-traditional colored hair…and as it is, mine is pretty boarderline…but I think it’s totally normal to have written policies asking for “natural” colors only. Especially given my job, where we’re all busy waging tattoo wars (hair color isn’t about to be advocated in a field that is 90% male), I’m often put off but how suprised people are that I can’t just dye my hair 17 colors and get facial piercings and face tattoos…um yeah it’s called a uniform. (not that I would do those things anyway). As some have mentioned above, the irony is as police officer, I absolutely feel like people relate to me better when they know I have tattoos etc… Then I’m not just a badge, I’m a person just doing a job.

      1. katamia*

        It’s not abnormal to have a policy like that, no. But the fact that these policies are still normal doesn’t mean that such policies are necessary or smart in most workplaces. I mentioned the staff at my GP’s office in my other comment, but, honestly, in the last few years, the number of medical personnel I’ve dealt with who have had tattoos is probably larger than the number I’ve seen who haven’t. In my experience, medical practices seem to have a higher tolerance for “unusual” bodily expression (tattoos, piercings, weird hair colors) than a lot of other fields. So OP’s attitude about the appropriateness of unusual hair colors in the office seems especially out of step to me.

        Really can’t speak to cops at all because I don’t know any and don’t see them normally when going about my day.

        1. Kyrielle*

          I’m still used to fairly conservative – I haven’t seen many, if any, tattoos in a medical setting (hmm, discounting my doctor’s temporary henna tattoo after a weekend festival, which was *awesome* by the way), and piercings are usually a little more normal/subtle (or else they’re where I could see them, but those aren’t my business). Hair though? Hair I’ve seen, occasionally.

          I think the doctors I see, and their offices, are pretty conservative. But honestly, if I try to imagine encountering oil-slick hair or even bright neon pink hair on someone there…I smile. That would brighten my whole day, as a patient.

      2. One of the Sarahs*

        My issue with “natural colours only” is I’ve seen stories where the interpretation is that I, a freckly white blonde woman, could dye my hair any shade of red, black, brown etc but women of colour are banned from blondes and reds etc as they’re “not natural” for them (the fact that dark black hair with my colouring is far more “un-natural” than a black woman going honey-toned, eg, never seems to apply)

        1. KR*

          And that while many dress codes will restrict hair color to natural shades, when women of color try to wear their hair naturally – truly naturally – they are often seen as unprofessional or made to change their hairdos. Really, if the job doesn’t require a natural hair do I don’t think anyone should dictate what a woman does with her hair.

        2. Bwmn*

          I agree with this as well. This ends up being a similar area of concern when more slender/flat chested women are allowed to wear certain clothing, but on more buxom or heavier women the clothing ends up being perceived as unprofessional.

          I get that a number of work places around the country retain fairly conservative dress codes, but the reality is that those codes just do not apply evenly to employees (women in particular) factoring in height, weight, skin tone, etc. I think there are moments for individual mentoring with a more buxom employee about the difference between following the dress code rules and greater aspects of being perceived professionally (and how that can just be unfair and whether or not an individual feels its worth challenging) – but I think that’s very different from wanting to hide behind dress codes.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            I’m not sure I agree that’s the same thing. I’m an overweight/busty woman, and there are things my neighbor could wear that wouldn’t show cleavage at all, but on me they show an inappropriate amount. It’s not discrimination to say “don’t show cleavage.” It just means I have to work a little harder at it. Such is life.

            1. Bwmn*

              I’m not so much thinking about showing cleavage but more so in the realm of tops/dresses perceived as “too tight”. I’ve found that being more busty, this has absolutely nothing to do with showing cleavage but rather having the audacity to wear a fitted sweater.

              1. Kelly L.*

                Yep. Another place I noticed this was in rules about leggings. I don’t want to start the “leggings are or are not pants” argument back up in general, but I heard of multiple situations where a thin woman was wearing leggings as pants with impunity, while a larger woman was chastised for it.

                And to be extra clear, I’m talking about each person wearing the proper size for themselves, so (e.g.) a size 2 person was wearing size 2 leggings while a size 20 person was wearing size 20 leggings. I’m not talking about people squeezing into things that legitimately don’t fit.

                1. Bwmn*

                  Yup – I think this also applies to “body conscious” clothing. So leggings, skinny/fitted jeans or trousers, fitted sweaters/shirts, etc.

                  Ultimately, I think this is also one of those issues where intersectionality comes into play. When you’re a taller or shorter than average woman, there are issues A. When you’re an overweight woman, there are issues B. When you’re a busty woman, there are issues C. When you’re a woman of color, there are issues D. When you’re a woman with certain allergies/skin sensitivities, there are issues E. When you’re a women with varying levels of ableness, there are issues F. So in the quest to look professional at work and everything that goes with what that means professional, addressing one or two issues has certain impacts and costs. But when that’s expanded to multiple issues, the restrictions and costs can start to balloon.

            2. TowerofJoy*

              I disagree. I pretty much can’t wear anything but crew necks without showing some cleavage – especially because my job occasionally involves bending and stooping in ways that cause my neckline to pool or ripple. Crew necks or similar styles are hard to find in anything that looks professional/business-worthy. I have a few shirts, but trying to build a whole wardrobe around that that is affordable and allows me to wear something besides a “uniform” every day is near impossible. I get teased about my inflexibility in my work wardrobe as is, and I allow for a little bit of cleavage here and there.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                Yes, same here, which I why I said “inappropriate amount.” But I should have edited “don’t show cleavage” to “don’t show a lot of cleavage” (which is subjective, obviously, but all of this is). If you’re busty and don’t like turtlenecks, it’s pretty much impossible to never show any cleavage. The dress I’m wearing today would be fine on a smaller-busted woman, but if I weren’t wearing a lace bandeau with it, it would be inappropriate on me.

                1. TowerofJoy*

                  I can get on board with “don’t show a lot”. I just think sometimes its a fine line between looking professional, and some people just thinking having a larger chest means you look vulgar period.

                2. Bwmn*

                  The reality of something being subjective and based on perception is where I feel that unfortunately this really can end up being very biased and discriminatory against women who don’t fit into a fairly narrow definition of Western professional appearance and beauty norms.

                  As a tall women, I’ve mostly faced this around what length of skirt is/is not considered “too short”. And the reality is that whatever technical measurement is applied, it doesn’t always translate to how people perceive me.

                  But similarly, as a Caucasian women – if I dyed my hair platinum blond – despite that having no “natural” component anywhere within my ethnic background and being relatively rare within the larger scale of Caucasian hair coloring, that is perceived as fitting within the realm of natural hair for a white woman. Whereas for a woman of color, most shades of blond are often perceived/labeled as unnatural regardless of any potential minority occurrences of lighter shades.

              2. J*

                This is why I wear a scarf almost every day to work. I don’t have that large of a bust but given the angle that I am sitting at a desk and lots of people are standig directly in front of me when they are talking to me… well, you’re bound to see something. The cheapest solution for me has been to become a scarf addict. I can wear the same shirts on the town with or without one.

                1. TowerofJoy*

                  Sadly the job I do I can’t wear scarves because they can become caught in my work and cause problems. I do wear them on occasion in the rest of my life for that reason though!

        3. manybellsdown*

          I knew a black guy in college with naturally strawberry-blonde hair. He self-identified as “mulatto” and he had really dark skin – but with freckles!

      3. Ineloquent*

        I knew a girl once who had the loveliest shade of pale pink hair, completely naturally. It was amazing.

      4. Cecily*

        It’s normal to have written policies asking for “natural” colors only, sure, my workplace does. But OP’s workplace doesn’t. OP’s workplace actually has a highly specific dress code that does not mention hair at all.

    5. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I have government clients with colored hair. And one of them is getting ready to retire, it’s no longer something that only the office intern would do.

      1. TowerofJoy*

        My grandmother uses purple shampoo to keep her hair from getting brassy, she overdoes it a little, and it leaves her with that lavender color thats been popular in the last couple of years. She doesn’t even realize, and she just got out of the work force a few years ago.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I just went blonde, and I was overjoyed when I realised I can now put temporary streaks in my hair (or get those little clip-in ones) and they will show up. I can’t wait to try it!

          I’m fifty, by the way. :)

          1. Windchime*

            I’m older than you and I love crazy highlights. I have dark brunette hair (right now, ha) and I’ve been dying to get some dark purple highlights (lowlights?) but I’m afraid of how that might go over at work.

            1. DMented Kitty*

              I went for bright red underlights when I saw someone in the company who had baby blue hair (she said her hair turned white so she figured have fun with it). I am a brunette, but I didn’t want a full head of red hair, so I opted for underlights. Everyone loved it – in fact when I had it retouched, I asked my stylist to increase the number of red streaks and make it a little less subtle than when I started with.

              If I’m still in this company (healthcare) when my hair goes gray, I’m going to go all out on playing with color. :)

          2. Fawnling*

            Wow, I’ve always seen your profile pictures and thought you were around my age (late 20’s).

          3. KH*

            I’m 48 and have been thinking about putting a few royal blue streaks in my hair. One of my close friends about the same age just dyed her hair bright vibrant purple as part of a bet with her step-son. It looks awesome.

      2. Anonsie*

        My mother, the “any makeup is tarted up” fuddy duddy, started putting neon pink and purple streaks in her hair a few years ago. She also has tattoos, but those are from before I was born.

    6. rando*

      Another option for her is to wear a decent wig while she’s working, if the hair color is really a problem.

        1. Daisy Steiner*

          I would think, if ‘unnatural’ hair colours are seen as unprofessional, that a hat would be seen as waaaaay worse (obviously excepting religious/cultural head coverings).

          I have no problem whatsoever with however people want to wear their hair, but I’d find it really weird to be served by an accountant/doctor/cashier/any other profession wearing a hat if it wasn’t part of uniform or, again, some form of cultural/religious dress.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Besides, isn’t it considered rude to wear a hat indoors? (or is that no longer a thing?)

            1. alter_ego*

              I think (and I could totally be wrong) that hats indoors have only ever been a concern for men?

              1. super anon*

                i believe this is true. when i was in middle & high school only the boys weren’t allowed to wear hats inside, but the girls could. i still don’t understand the distinction – a baseball hat is a baseball hat regardless of the sex of the person whose head it’s on, but somehow if a girl was the one wearing it it wasn’t rude?

                1. Kelly L.*

                  It goes back to when women’s hats were elaborately pinned into their hairstyle, and a woman couldn’t take her hat off without resulting in total dishabille. There’s some debate about whether it applies to a woman wearing a traditionally “male” hat, and I think generally, these days, the ball cap inside is considered rude on any gender.

                  (And of course, again, there are work exceptions. Whenever I worked fast food, we had a required ball cap to wear while working.)

                2. KH*

                  What Kelly L said about women’s hats being a part of a woman’s overall outfit and being pinned into the hair style. Whereas men’s hats have always been an item of “outerwear” that should be removed (like a coat) when inside.

            2. Kelly L.*

              I think the suggestion downthread of a medical cap might work. One still isn’t supposed to wear a hat indoors as a general thing, but there are exceptions for work hats/uniform hats, I think. I wouldn’t think a medical worker was rude if they were wearing a medical cap (link in next post).

                1. Elizabeth*

                  Surgical caps.

                  We don’t allow them outside the OR. Same as the bouffant caps. They’re meant for sterile environments, not general wear.

            3. Daisy Steiner*

              I think perhaps that’s what this is stemming from – I was raised to believe that wearing a hat indoors is rude, especially at the table. But I’ve realised this isn’t universal – I mentioned to a friend once how shocked I was at the rudeness of someone keeping on a fedora-type hat at the dinner table, and they couldn’t understand why I had an issue with it.

              I don’t know, I have this weird ingrained feeling that it’s somehow… unsanitary? That’s not a logical belief, so it must have been hard-wired when I was pretty young. It just feels unclean – like putting a brand-new toilet seat on a dinner table.

      1. Sophia Brooks*

        A costume student of mine had to wear a wig to go to her student job in the hospital because she had non-natural colored hair. We also do not allow nursing students to have fun colors or paint their nails or have visible tattoos. I am not sure if it is the same once you get a job.

        1. Cliff P*

          It’s not. The restrictions on nursing students are far stricter than the ones on working nurses. Hospitals see nursing clinicals as a favor they’re doing the students, so they tend to be picky about their appearance and behavior. With nurses, they’re so frequently short-staffed and desperate that the situation is more like “if you’re willing to do the Saturday overnight ER shift, you can wear a Chewbacca costume for all we care.”

          (At least in Massachusetts–this may vary regionally. Also, painted nails are a different case because nail polish can trap bacteria.)

          1. Red*

            It’s like that everywhere I’ve been lol. You can look how ever you wish if you’ll work overnights and holidays taking care of patients that don’t even know who you are, much less that you’re literally saving their life. Though, nursing students always look like a perfect embodiment of their school’s uniform policy. Always.

    7. Megan*

      I agree with this. You serve clients with tattoos, hair colors, piercings, etc. It’s not unreasonable that they should be represented amongst your staff.

    8. Lily in NYC*

      I work in a very conservative office (no casual Fridays, no jeans or tshirts allowed), and there are a few people here with neat colors or hombre type shades of different colors. I love it and no one gives them a hard time. My 10-year old niece and most of her friends also have funky hair colors – it’s just not a sign of being “alternative” like it used to be. I’m also curious to know if OP actually has the authority to tell the new employee that her hair isn’t acceptable.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Oh that’s interesting. That means the elementary schools have started allowing unnatural hair colors too. When my kids were that age, that was definitely not allowed. Neither were platform sneakers, thanks to one kid twisting their ankle. I’ll never forget that one because I once spent around $45 buying some of those sneakers for my kid’s birthday, only to get that dreaded call from the school’s office.

        1. Oryx*

          When my dad was growing up in the 50s and 60s, his older sister got one of those natural white streaks in her hair. She had to carry around a note in school from I think her doctor or someone to indicate that, yes, this was natural and no, she hadn’t dyed it.

        2. Lily in NYC*

          I think it’s a relatively new trend – and I’ve started seeing a lot of kids on the subway with bright hair streaks as well. Sigh, I wish it would have been ok when I was in school. I was in HS in the late 80s and everyone was scandalized when I went to school with a small streak of spray-on purple hair (it was right before Halloween). No one blinked an eye at my ridiculous floor-length paisley blazer (don’t judge me!), but the little streak of hair made quite a negative impression.

        3. yasmara*

          Ugh, this reminds me, we are considering cross-country move for a job change for Husband and I happened to look up the dress code for a highly regarded charter school in the new town. Khaki’s, golf shirts, OK, no big deal. No hair past the collar for boys…uh oh. My 10 year old has long hair & has no intention of cutting it. I never dreamed that a public school (a charter school, yes, but still a public school with no tuition) would deem this a dress code violation. Crap.

    9. AMT*

      If anything, I’d look at the hair and the tattoos and think, “Hey, an accepting, welcoming environment! My kind of doctor’s office.”

    10. Searching*

      Exactly. The hair is absolutely not going to stop the worker from doing her job, and she has a right to be angry since she was following policy. Is the individual personal expression going to make her file things slower? Do less well at taking phone calls or listening to patients? Who, exactly, is the hair going to offend? And LW has completely overlooked any possible benefits- for example, does your practice serve teenagers or young adults? Might they be more comfortable with someone with an alternative style or cool hair?

    11. Elder Dog*

      If a company wants to dictate what color employees hair is, the company should spring for wigs to be worn at work. A uniform is a uniform, and if it’s required, it should be paid for.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I mean, that sounds fun to say, but it’s not in sync with the fact that it’s very, very normal for workplaces to expect people to adhere to a generally agreed upon spectrum of “professional appearance.”

        1. AnonHairComment*

          I guess, for me, the issue is with “generally agreed upon spectrum…” because it was never generally agreed upon really. White men of a certain class or stature developed and harshly enforced the rules and we’ve been “Well that’s the way we’ve always done it” ever since. Times have changed a lot and I’d really, really love if Don Draper was no longer the standard of “professionalism”, because no matter how hard I try I’m never ever going to be a white man. The costs (financial, physical, mental, emotional) are way higher for me and are essentially a penalty and tax on well, just having a white collar job. I know it’s not easy but I really need people to understand how much of a additional burden it is; that “sucking it up” for 20-40 years of working life isn’t peanuts.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I’m all for pushing to change those standards, but I don’t think it applies in this particular situation; it’s not a financial or physical burden to not be able to have green/blue hair at work.

            1. Frosty*

              To be fair, it sounds like a rather expensive dye job and the handbook had no particular mention against coloured hair. If she just spent 400 dollars on a hair style it kinda of is a financial hardship to go and get it changed, specially since black hair is really difficult to re-dye and will likely do irreperable damage.

              This whole situation reminds me of a work situation where we had a girl with strawberry blonde hair that was allowed it but a girl who dyed her a similar colour and was told to change the ‘orange hair’.

                1. Frosty*

                  Why what?

                  Why is it exepensive or damaging or why the girl wasn’t allowed the orange hair?

                  If the first, because black with feathered colours is a really tricky, long process to achieve, takes a lot of skill and I’d guess most of an afternoon. To revert it back you’d have to bleach in layers to strip the colour, and then re-dye it again it takes skill and a lot of time. That’s a lot of chemicals in one head in a short period of time it’ll probably really damage it even done by professional.

                  As for the girl, I don’t know. Really it was just a ridiculous place so it didn’t surprise me at all, but this situation stood in my mind as particularly absurd. If you remember Blake Lively’s strawberry blonde hair it was a slightly less blonde version of that.

        2. sam*

          This whole conversation reminds me of a time (not here) I ended up in a massive comment threat argument with someone who insisted that it was completely ridiculous that any workplace have *any* rules about clothing or body modification, up to and including things like face tattoos, and that it was utter discrimination if places like my (fairly conservative law) office wouldn’t hire him with his giant face tattoo.

          Um. No. If nothing else, getting a giant face tattoo* is going to telegraph something to the suit-wearing higher ups in my company about your judgment. I’m not saying it’s “fair”. I’m saying it “is”. If you want to engage in extreme body modification, go for it, but go for it with the eyes-wide-open understanding that you are closing certain doors to yourself professionally.

          I think hair is different, precisely because hair is not permanent – and something like the style the OP wrote about is relatively subtle. While I certainly don’t think I could walk in to my own office with an “unnatural” hair color, this is something that has loosened up a lot in recent years, and is probably something people can be more flexible on.

          *exception made for, say, certain pacific islanders for whom giant face tattoos are actually a matter of cultural significance.

    12. Fifi Ocrburg*

      Perhaps she could just cover it with a scarf or something when she is with patients?

    13. Episkey*

      Yes! I have been wanting to color my hair purple, maybe a purple ombre, for awhile now. I asked my boss — we work in real estate in an affluent suburb of Chicago — and she said no. :( I was disappointed, but understood. I LOVE the oil slick look and would totally get that too if I thought she would be OK with it (but I know she won’t be).

  5. A Cita*

    Question 1

    I work in health research. And while I don’t see patients, I do work in the medical school of a very prestigious (aka stuffy old-timer conservative) Ivy League and have to consult with folks pretty darn high up in the pecking order, have to mentor trainees, and have to represent our work at peer-reviewed conferences. In addition, there’s the research aspect where I have to work with participants. I currently have smokey pink hair. Before that it was lavender. And before that it was gray. Naturally, I’m a dark blonde. And really, it’s no big deal at all. Times really are changing around this, so agree with making sure it really is an issue. (Caveat: where you are located may matter; for instance I’m on a coast; it may be different in, say, the Midwest.)

    1. LadyCop*

      Nope. Colors are just as acceptable in the Midwest (seriously, you’ve clearly never been to Minneapolis or Chicago) What matters is what you do. Part of my uniform means that my hair, tattoos, jewelry, (which is dangerous to wear anyway) etc fits a uniform standard. I may not like it, but it’s very normal for some places to ask this of people.

      1. Irishgal*

        Hence why I wince at parents whinging on social media and to press about how their poor darlings are having their right to individuality quashed because they have to conform to a school uninform that requires them to look like they are not out at a nightclub. It’s training to accept rules/dress codes you might not like but have to accept in the workplace etc.

            1. my two cents*

              i’ve also heard the argument about “distracting” teachers, which is all sorts of terrible.

              1. Stranger than fiction*

                So how ironic is it that the catholic schoolgirl uniform is now a role play outfit?

          1. KR*

            This is important to note. I don’t know about whatever those people are whining about, but when I was in school I was whining about why my shoulders were considered inappropriate for school and the boys shoulders weren’t, or why I got spoken to if my bra strap was showing like it’s supposed to be a secret that women have breasts and need to wear bras, or why there were more standards and rules for females then there were for males.

            1. Charlotte Collins*

              This is funny. I went to HS in the 80s, and we had a dress code. It was non-gender specific. (Basically, they didn’t want to see anyone’s midriff, and everyone had to wear shirts. Also, hats were only allowed on certain days.)

              While I was there, they enacted a policy about no gang colors. The best part was that our own school colors were considered gang colors. So, you could only where the school colors if you had to for a uniform or it was a “school spirit” day.

              And we were in the Midwest. I often wore “unnatural” colors in my hair.

            2. manybellsdown*

              The angst about bra straps is such a peeve of mine because it’s such a catch-22. It can’t be obvious we’re wearing a bra, but we can’t look like we’re NOT wearing a bra, or go without one, either. We’re just supposed to look Barbie-smooth without any obvious means of support happening.

          2. Katniss*

            There’s a really great podcast episode of the newer podcast Still Buffering about this, with one of the hosts being a high school girl discussing the sexism of dress codes.

        1. brighidg*

          The thing is, even uniforms aren’t uniform. When I was in high school, aside from our required shirt and skort, we could wear what we want for shoes, socks/tights, and even under the sweater as long as it wasn’t too obvious. One girl I knew wore a flannel shirt that just peeked out of the edges of her cardigan sweater. We could have multiple ear piercing, even some nose piercings were allowed, and we could dye our hair as we pleased. No mowhawks though as that made it difficult for people behind you to see.

          And this was a Catholic school. In the suburbs. 20 years ago. It’s crazy my little suburban Catholic school was more liberal than most workplaces today.

      2. Not Karen*

        Depends on where in the Midwest. I used to work in Rochester, Minnesota, and the dress code called for only natural hair colors and styles, no visible tattoos, and a bunch of other conservative crap.

      3. A Cita*

        Ha! I grew up in the Midwest. I think it really matters where you’re talking about. Major cities, sure (and I always see cities like Chicago and Minneapolis or college cities like Madison and Ann Arbor to be the exception to any Midwest generalization). And of course there are always exceptions (I think it would be totally fine in my super tiny hometown in one of the most conservative states in the country). But it’s also true that the movement of creative color to mainstream acceptance has been happening with more frequency and over a longer period of time in the coastal cities. For instance, the article linked in the post where Alison provided a comment is about creative color in Minneapolis and the article is dated 2013. You’d see this kind of article for the NYC area years earlier.

    2. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I’m in the South, and one of the professors in our department recently came in with smoky pink strands in her naturally-gray hair. I thought it looked great, and no-one else seemed to think anything negative of it. Colored hair is just so normal now, and it isn’t just for the young folks anymore or for people on the coasts.

      1. Agnes*

        I am a professor in the South, generally an extremely boring-looking person, and I just dyed the ends of my hair pink. It can be tucked out of sight with my normal hairdo, but I’m considering putting a streak in next time.
        The main person who seemed to care was my 3-year-old, who asked why I put on new hair.
        Now, I do have tenure…

        1. EmilyHG*

          I’m a professor in the South, too, and I also have pink hair! It’s been varying shades of pink for a year and a half now, and I don’t even think anyone notices anymore.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I know–people used to color only to cover greys and nobody would ever admit it. Anyone remember that old Clairol slogan, “Only her hairdresser knows for sure!”?

        Now you can stick any old color in your hair and nobody bats an eye (mostly). Even green!

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          My daughter, who attends the same university I work at, says that her philosophy professor has green hair. So yeah, even green!

    3. my two cents*

      i’m a female electrical engineer working in the power industry out in wisconsin – i currently have purple-over-brown hair. i go on customer calls with the sales guys at least one week each month and i’ve only ever received positive feedback. “oh wow. i didn’t notice right away, but in the light your hair is bright purple!”

      1. JennyFair*

        Purple-over-brown is my go-to hair color for just that reason. It’s subtle, but still fun, plus if your hair is brown, purple is probably a flattering color. My boss is a fan of a college team that dresses in purple, so it’s also the one color he doesn’t mind :)

        1. my two cents*

          if you want to keep your color up between services, i highly recommend using pravana’s chromosilk ‘vivid’ in violet bi-weekly. it is crazy-strong and will lightly stain my super-pale skin if i’m not careful while rinsing, but for <$10/tube it's a deal compared to the salon and my level 4 hair soaks it up. : )

    4. MAB*

      I’m on a coast and in the food manufacturing industry. Right now my hair is short, bright white and had grey streaks in it until they washed out. No one commented on my new grey-ish hair. Actually, the only comment was I like this color better than the last one (a golden, copper orange).

    5. themmases*

      Yeah, no. I also work in medical research in the Midwest and see this all the time. Patient care too.

  6. Mike C.*

    OP2: So according to my wife, we’re talking a dye job that ranges from $250 to $400, and the expectation is that the employee should just get rid of it because of a rule that wasn’t ever spelled out to begin with? No buns, no hats, no nothing?

    I’m just really shocked at the reaction of the OP. I’ve always seen medical professionals at all levels who step on the wild side a little to be a nice distraction from what can be anxious and stressful time. Especially when children are involved. I hope the OP takes to heart the advice above and reconsiders their position on the hairstyle.

    1. A Cita*

      $250 for that kind of look sounds super cheap (I believe even for Seattle, where you are from, correct?). In most major cities, 250-300 is what you can expect for a single creative color. The peacock effect would be closer to $500 (maybe even more, depending on the reputation of the salon). But if you’re saying you can do it there for $25o, I know what I’ll be doing during my next trip to the area. :)

      1. Mike C.*

        Yeah, the estimate was “really short hair to long” according to my wife. This sort of thing really puts my fountain pen habit in perspective.

        1. Gandalf the Nude*

          I mean, I knew theoretically that /r/fountainpens had to be populated by other people, but it’s weird to see folks that share my partner’s habit out in the wild, so to speak.

    2. Amber*

      Yeah I think the style she’s describing is “Oil Slick Hair”, google it and you’ll see what it probably looks like. My mom (in her 60s) recently dyed her hair pink and she told me she’s gotten more compliments on her hair then she has her whole life, I agree, you’d be surprised how many people actually like seeing interesting hair colors.

      1. A Cita*

        I already knew what this style looked like, but image searched it just now to look at some different takes. And stumbled upon…..Mother of Pearl hair color. Like the opposite of the Oil Slick color. Now I want to go Mother of Pearl! But I just paid a mega-ton of money for my smokey pink! But I want Mother of Pearl!!!!!! What to do???

        1. Panda Bandit*

          Wait until it’s time to color your hair again and go for Mother of Pearl! It’ll still be around, I promise.

        2. Wendy Darling*

          Wait until the pink fades because red is volatile and totally the worst, then do mother of pearl?

          I want to do something insane with my hair (possibly black and dark blue) but I’m interviewing now so I need to wait until I’ve been in a new job for a bit and scoped out the hair culture. I think it’s stupid to fuss about unnatural hair colors but I’m also not going to tank a job prospect over it.

          1. A Cita*

            I’m actually going to start looking soon and interviewing. I don’t want to change my hair to something normal in case it takes a long time to find something. So I’m just mentioning it head on. For instance, I’ve had a couple of informal phone chats about a potential position, and I figured given the role, pink hair may be a no-go. So I just mentioned it was currently a muted pink but would be happy to go back to a natural color (not happy at all, but will do it) if we decide to move forward.

            Not sure though this approach would work for everyone. And if you haven’t spent the enormous chunk of change to get a creative color yet, then I agree to wait until you land something first.

            1. Wendy Darling*

              Yeah, my hair is a natural color now so it’s better for me to wait to change it. I have super dry delicate curly hair so I’ve never been willing to dye it before, but a friend told me about the miracle that is olaplex so now I want to give it a shot.

              I live in the Seattle area and am mostly looking at tech companies so on the plus side it is highly likely that no one will care. At my last job there was a guy with a bright green mohawk.

              1. A Teacher*

                I love olaplex. Well worth the money for the treatment. I get it every other hair color treatment or every 6-8 months right now. It helps hold the color and makes the texture so much better.

              2. Red*

                I also have dry, delicate, curly hair. Deep condition before and after our use Olaplex and you’ll never know a difference.

          2. Navy Vet*

            OMG, there was one I saw that was called “Jewel Tone Hair” And it was royal blue and amethyst highlights. So pretty.

        3. Afiendishthingy*

          Ooh. I have a growing streak of silver/white hair… Maybe I could get that streaked opal?? Pretty

          1. s.b.*

            Streaks are so fun! I wish I had that instead of just grays coming in all over :) Go nuts!

            1. Kelly L.*

              I always wanted a dramatic Morticia streak when I get older, but my natural color might be too light for it to ever happen. Bonnie Raitt gives me some hope.

              1. Wendy Darling*

                I have bilateral white streaks. Not quite as wide as Morticia but very distinct if I wear my hair straight. I have curly hair though and the white ends up divided between a few different curls so it’s less obvious.

                I also have a total baby face so I always wonder if it confuses people. My face looks like I’m in my 20s, my hair looks like I’m in my 40s, but I’m in my 30s. Go figure.

                1. yasmara*

                  Me too! Except mine are underneath a top layer of brown. I stopped dying my hair last year, but I’m actually considering going to a new salon to *add* silver/white highlights so that my streaks are always visible, instead of hiding and then peeking out.

        4. Jinx*

          I’ve never seen this before, but it’s soooooo pretty! Maybe I should ask my boss if I can go for that… My hair is really short and muddy brown though, so it probably wouldn’t come through as well as the pictures. :P

      2. Rubyrose*

        Looked it up. I’m conservative about hair color for myself and I really like a number of things that I saw. I would have no problem seeing this in a medical setting.

        1. Randi*

          I WISH I could do something, just a tiny bit fun with my hair, but our employee handbook has the natural hair color rule. On the plus side, since I don’t work with customers (in at all a regular basis), the rules on tattoos are more lax. We can have visible tattoos as long as they are “tasteful”, we cover them when working with customers, and newly added, disclose them when we interview either initially or for transfer positions.

          1. NotMyRealName*

            My company is pretty conservative, so my “tiny bit fun” with my hair is to choose a natural color that’s different for me. I tend to choose dark reds.

          2. Anonymosity*

            I just looked at ours and it says no exotic hairstyles as determined by management. So I assume if your manager didn’t like the oil slick, you couldn’t wear it. Also it says no shaggy, unkempt hair — I’m sorry if my humidity frizzled hair does not conform! :P

      3. beachlover*

        I was just at my salon having my hair done. Cut and highlights, and mentioned to my stylist, that if I was younger (I’m 58) I would definitely rock something less conservative. She told me that age has nothing to do with it, she has seen women of all ages do pink, blue or even green hair. I think I might go for something with a dash of Purple or blue next time!

        I also work at the corporate headquarters of a beverage company – Think Monstrous Energy in a can! So our dress code is pretty lax- Tats, piercings and wild color hair is not even blinked at here.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          I worked with one guy whose entire wardrobe was Underarmour. Hat, sunglasses, shirt, shorts/pants, socks, shoes. I am relatively certain his underwear was also Underarmour but I never asked because that is not workplace appropriate.

          Unlike wearing your Underarmour sunglasses propped on the bill of your backwards Underarmour baseball cap, which is fine.

    3. Devil's Avocado*

      Seriously. It is so expensive to get that kind of dye job. OP, please don’t make this poor girl re-dye her hair for a policy that doesn’t even exist! As “wild” dye jobs go, that kind of colour is pretty tame. It could make the employee mistrust you and the organization, and for no real reason – just because you have a vague feeling that it is “unprofessional” (which is really, really debatable in 2016!) I would be really annoyed at this if I were your employee. (I say this as a person with super boring brown hair.)

    4. Jeanne*

      I’m more shocked that a place that spells out your attire to the tips of your fingernails never considered hair. There are so many ways to change hair. That’s quite an oversight. I wonder how old the policy is.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        In some medical positions, fingernails can actually be an issue — long nails interfere with manual tasks and can harbor germs underneath.

        1. Jeanne*

          I know that. I know quite a bit about medical standards. But you don’t want long hair falling in a patient’s face when you lean over. If you get hair caught up in a trach stoma you have a big problem. I’m saying someone dropped the ball. They were being very detailed and omitted this detail.

    5. MK*

      Well, lack of judgement is something you often pay for. When your company policy is specific about piercings, nails and clothes, you know that your appearance matters and you sort-of should have known a very unconventional hair color might be an issue. And to insist that it should be OK because it wasn’t specifically forbidden isn’t much of an argument; presumably the dress code doesn’t specify pieces of clothing either. I cannot imagine not asking about it beforehand.

      Also, many people focus on whether this policy is really necessary, but that might not be up to the OP; if she knows the higher-ups will have an issue with this, she won’t be doing this employee or herself any favours by letting it slide, only to have both of them get in trouble over it.

      By the way, amid all the people gushing about how lovely oil slick hair is, am I the only one who thinks “environmental pollution hair” is a more appropriate name? That being said, I must say it doesn’t look very outrageous to me: the predominant color is black and the highlights will probably become very muted after a few washes. It is a lot less of an eye-pop than, say, green hair (which I find attractive, as it evokes nature, not how our quest for more energy is ruining the planet).

      1. BRR*

        I think the hair should be fine but I agree with your point that saying something wasn’t specifically forbidden isn’t a great argument. It’s been mentioned before on here that employee policy simply cannot cover everything. You’d have a 2,000 page handbook.

        1. Roscoe*

          There are still limits though. A place could ban visible tattoos but be ok with a nose piercing. I don’t think saying one thing explicity means everything that someone “may” consider unconventional is banned. How do you know if they don’t spell it out.

          1. MK*

            You ask. When you work for a company that has a specific policy about nails, attire, tattoos, and piercings, but not about hair, and when that policy is conservative (judging from the OP’s reaction) and when no one else is wearing their hair in unconventional colors, you casually run it by a supervisor or a senior colleague. It’s either clueless or disingenuous to insist that it should be fine because it isn’t explicitly mentioned in the handbook.

            1. JJL*

              But I think a reasonable person could have looked at the existing list of restrictions and concluded “OK, these seems to be concerned mainly with health and safety, so hair dye should be fine.” Or looked at the office and said “People wear wacky jewelry around here fairly often, so some mild streaks of color in my hair wouldn’t be out of place.” I don’t think the conflict is about letter of the law vs. spirit of the law, but about differing interpretations about what the spirit of the law actually IS.

            2. Rusty Shackelford*

              To me, it’s exactly the opposite. If a policy is specific enough to cover tattoos and attire, which (unlike nails and piercings) aren’t health-related issues, then IMHO it’s neither clueless nor disingenuous to assume that there are other very common things related to appearance that your employer cares strongly about but didn’t bother to put in their policy.

              1. Roscoe*

                Like I said, I’m a firm believer that if you have a hard stance on something, it needs to be spelled out. Its not fair to change the goal line after the fact

                1. Jeanne*

                  Yes. If it is this important, then spell it out. Otherwise, don’t just say you don’t like it so change it. Think it through and be able to give real reasons.

              2. J*

                Yeah this is the difference of opinion I’m seeing all over the place — is it “If they cared about hair color, they would have told me, just like they told me EVERY OTHER THING” or is it “Of course they care about hair color, they care about EVERY OTHER THING”? I think both of those *could* be perfectly sound judgment calls.

                1. J*

                  I’m starting to wonder if this might be the same kind of division in approaches to communication as “ask vs. guess culture” — i.e., what are your assumptions about the meaning of what remains unspoken?

                  Don’t mind me, just musing over here.

                2. Mallory Janis Ian - Chatty MILs Anon2*

                  I can see myself wavering between the two and being torn as to which interpretation I should use. In the end, I would ask. But then I’d feel like maybe I’d elicited the “no” by the very act of asking when if I’d just done it without overtly bringing it to anyone’s attention beforehand, the response would have been different.

                3. Elsajeni*

                  Yes, this is what I’m thinking, too. I think I would probably ask, at least before doing anything more expensive/involved than a jar of Manic Panic at home — so definitely before committing to an oil-slick look — but I also don’t think it’s crazy to conclude “I can’t be the first person who’s ever worked here to want to dye my hair, so if they cared, it would be in the handbook just like EVERY OTHER THING.”

            3. BRR*

              Exactly. When in doubt ask. Again, my opinion is the hair shouldn’t matter. But I know not everybody feels the same. It’s better to ask before doing something than after.

            4. my two cents*

              i actually left my previous employer, and one of the smaller reasons on the list was that they wouldn’t allow me to wear my septum ring while i was in the office and not meeting with outside customers. turns out there’s a whole mess of companies looking for engineers, so i had 0 issue finding a new job that also pays 40% more.

              shouldn’t they at all be concerned about retaining/attracting creative or energetic employees as well?

              1. KR*

                It’s so funny that they wouldn’t allow you to wear your septum ring, especially since if you’re wearing one that doesn’t circle all the way around you can just flip it up in your nose and someone would have to be looking in your nose to see it.

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  I worked with a lovely young lady who had a nasal piercing, and because she was taller than me and had an upturned nose, I was ALWAYS looking up her nose. And I always forgot, for a second, that it was her nasal jewelry that I couldn’t help seeing up there.

                2. Red*

                  I’ve had a septum piercing for a year now and always wear jewelry in it, lest it close up. I do exactly as you say and flip it up my nose. I’m short so no one sees it. The only reason anyone knows is that I went to dinner with a few coworkers and didn’t flip it up.

            5. april ludgate*

              I think the employee deserves the benefit of the doubt here. The OP specifically said that she’s younger, so I’m assuming she just doesn’t have much workplace experience. It’s not disingenuous or clueless to dye your hair when there’s no rules against it. It may seem obvious to people who have had more work experience that it’s something she should have asked about, but picking up on small workplace culture things like that can be hard when it’s new to you. If the OP explains this to her kindly, this could be a good learning experience for her, especially since she might run into this type of work culture again down the road.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah. I think the handbook is basically saying have “you need to have a traditionally professional/conservative appearance.” But I also think it’s not at all surprising that someone young didn’t know to read it that way and took the rules more literally.

          I think it’s fine to say “you need to have a traditionally professional/conservative appearance” if that’s what you judge your business requires, but I also think that employers tend to be way too conservative in this regard and tend to assume that their customers will be put off by things that they won’t actually be put off by.

          But there really are some businesses where it does matter, and I’ve noticed that when the topic comes up here, people tend to blow that off. It’s possible that the OP is making the right call here.

          1. Roscoe*

            I don’t think anyone is arguing that its not ok to have those rules, but things like that should be made clear and not left open to interpretation.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            I think because a lot of us are assuming that if it mattered, it would be part of the existing policy. So now I’m curious… if you were this employee’s manager, and you had some leeway over this area but you knew the higher-ups would want her hair back to a natural color eventually, what would you have done? Would you make her change her hair right away? Let this one fade away but tell her not to do it again? Put it in the actual policy but grandfather in her current dye job since it wasn’t against policy when she did it?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Depends on whether there was really a business need for it and what that need was; I don’t think there’s a blanket answer here that would work. But if I have to try for one, I’d say to just let this fade and tell her not to do it again, and then clarify the policy in the handbook.

          3. Traveler*

            I had a doctor once that I had to see because I was very sick on a trip. She was dressed like she just got out of the club, tons of make up and platinum blonde hair and she talked like a valley girl. It didn’t affect her ability to diagnose me or give me meds that made me feel better in a couple of days, and ultimately that is all I care about. I smile whenever I think about her because I wonder how many people’s stereotypes she breaks.

          4. Elizabeth West*

            They do tend to be way too conservative IMO, thought it really depends on the employer and the level of control they want to have over the appearance of their employees. Like it or not, certain industries such as finance favor a conservative appearance because anything trendy is still regarded as flaky (silly but true). And the perception is you don’t want someone who might be flaky handling your money. But if your company has a problem with anything other than a natural-appearing hair color, it probably needs to be in the dress code.

          5. Anonsie*

            I mentioned this upthread but I’ll say it again here, as someone in the same business as the MA in the letter: I think the dyed employee was making the industry-appropriate call in thinking that 1) unusually colored hair is often/typically considered acceptable and 2) anything that isn’t actually detailed in the policy is fair to interpret as allowed.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        “am I the only one who thinks ‘environmental pollution hair’ is a more appropriate name?”


        1. Afiendishthingy*

          Yeah, I know what an oil slick looks like. “Environmental pollution” is much broader and less descriptive especially as it relates to color. Also iridescence exists in nature also.

        2. Kelly L.*

          This. I think implying that the hair color promotes environmental destruction is a bridge too far for me, unless that was a joke that went over my head. Nor would green hair really be a statement for the environment, unless a specific person intended it that way and said so.

          1. MK*

            Eh, I certainly didn’t mean to imply that this hair color promotes environmental destruction (!), or that green is a statement about the opposite, or any statement at all, really. I googled oli slick color after reading the comments about how great it looks and had a strong “eww” reaction, because all I could think seeing it was oil being spilled to the ground or the sea (just as bright green immediately evokes plants). It’s a personal preference, I was just very surprised that so many people were calling it beautiful.

            1. TowerofJoy*

              I think the colors are beautiful together, even if they are on the ground in a dirty puddle. I’m not keen on what it means for the environment, but its pretty. Just the way sunsets are pretty when there is smog or forest fires. I can understand having a knee jerk reaction though.

        3. Amber Rose*

          Yeah, especially since OP compared it to peacock feathers. And if you look at like, male pigeons, they have it too. Oil slicks aren’t the only shiny rainbow effects, they’re just the most straightforward reference to black with color highlights.

          1. Elsajeni*

            I’m actually a little surprised to hear someone say it doesn’t evoke nature to them — to me, the “oil slick” hair I’ve seen looks exactly like grackle feathers, and in general much more like iridescent bird feathers or butterfly wings than like spilled oil. (Although admittedly grackles are not an especially beautiful or likeable bird, so I can see why people aren’t in a hurry to compare their hair color to them.)

        4. Chinook*

          ““am I the only one who thinks ‘environmental pollution hair’ is a more appropriate name?””

          Nope because oil slicks are naturally occurring in my part of the world (especially north of here) due to how the oil is naturally mixed into the mud. Early white explorers made note of the rainbow effect in puddles and how some tribes would make the trek up to what is now Fort McMurray because the mud they could find there was great for caulking their canoes (because it was tar-like).

          There is nothing as funny/irritating as getting someone from away reporting a possible oil leak/line rupture that is now here near where machinery went or the pipe is because it is impossible to prove a negative. All we can do is point out that the amount is small and that, if clear up that small spill, it will be back the next time it rains. “Tar sands” may be considered a slur but it is awfully good description of what happens when oil is found in places with lots of sand and loose dirt.

          1. Chinook*

            Sorry to rant. This is one of my pet peeves that ranks right up there that a warm wind that melts snow in January is a harbinger of climate change and couldn’t possibly be a type of wind that happens ALL THE TIME and is so unique to the area that it has been reported (and appreciated) for centuries.

              1. Chinook*

                I am just impressed that someone else out there made the connection (most think my nickname refers to a helicopter or a salmon). You must be a fellow Albertan! (waves)

                1. Joline*

                  Admittedly I think my “Chinook hierarchy” goes: salmon -> wind -> first nations peoples -> helicopter.

                  I’m from BC (hence salmon first) but am admittedly now an Albertan as well (wave).

      3. BananaPants*

        In a medical setting specifying nail length/polish as well as allowed piercings, is for hygiene reasons. Many doctor’s offices only allow staff to wear certain colors or styles of scrubs, and hospitals usually have restrictions on allowed scrubs, at least for staff on certain units. If an employee handbook outlines everything else about appearance but doesn’t have restrictions on hair color most people would logically assume that non-natural hair colors would be OK. Those of us who are more experienced in the work world would probably think to check with HR first.

        If they’re going to establish a restriction only allowing for natural hair colors, I would set a date in the future for the policy to be effective and make sure the new policy is clearly communicated before then. Do not spring this on the employee with, “You have to have naturally-colored hair by tomorrow.” That would be fair if this was a written policy or had been clearly communicated verbally to all employees, but since it was not a clear policy before I’d give the employee a little bit of time to deal with it.

        When it comes to appearance rules, something like this is not part of the minutiae that will make for a 2000 page employee handbook; if this is a legitimate business requirement, it can be stated outright in about 1 sentence. The military, police departments, etc. all specify this sort of hair color requirement and a lot more about appearance requirements.

        That said, I think it’s a silly rule and I’d have no problem seeing oil slick hair on a medical office staff member.

        1. MK*

          I wouldn’t care either (though I find the particular color very unattractive), but most rules about appearence are pretty arbitrary anyway and ww have to live with them as they slowly change.

      4. Roscoe*

        Well specifying hair colors isn’t something that is uncommon to do. I had jobs going back to the 90s where they did this. So in this case, I disagree with you. If it was a big deal, they should have figured that out by now and made it a policy.

        1. MK*

          That can depend on your location, though. In my town it has only been very recently that regular people have started doing this; before it was rare and usually part of a more general punk or goth look. The OP’s reaction would suggest that this is something they haven’t encountered before in the workplace.

          1. Roscoe*

            I don’t know, I see what you mean, but if you are going to go through the trouble of putting guidelines on nails, it seems its not too hard to think that you should put them about hair too. But as some have mentioned, the nail stuff is more about hygiene. This is just people being judgmental. Plus, even if it wasn’t as common, people had different color hair in the 90s. If this is America, you should have some forethought. I mean 20 years is a long time to see things coming.

      5. Kyrielle*

        Except that if the company policy is that specific and doesn’t mention hair, I might well assume they didn’t mind if my hair was a weird color, because otherwise they’d have *said so*…and if most of the policies seem also practical (no long nails because of germs, etc.), I would be even more likely to make that assumption (wrongly).

      6. Erin*

        “Also, many people focus on whether this policy is really necessary, but that might not be up to the OP”

        True, but I read it as it IS up to her, because she implied that she’s the one that wrote the policy in the first place.

      7. Jeanne*

        These medical dress policies often do specify the types of clothing you can wear, down to specific colors. (In some hospitals, you can easily tell how to place someone by uniform color. Maybe light blue for surgery, maroon for ICU, dark blue for med/surg, orabge for cleaning crew, etc.)

    6. Persephone*

      I paid $95, with tip, to get my hair ombre bleached then dyed one color (orchid pink). $25 for each touchup (still one color). It’s a steal and I love it. Sometimes living in the middle of nowhere pays off.

      That being said, I did ask my boss first if it was okay before I did it.. I was 99% sure based on the culture of our workplace, but my position is occasionally client facing (mostly conferences), but he said it was totally fine.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        +1 My daughter paid $100 to have her short, dark hair double bleached and dyed peacock blue. Oil slick or other fancy effects would probably be around $200, but she’d need longer hair.

    7. Stranger than fiction*

      Your mention of children just reminded me of this whacky dressing pediatrician that was very popular in this area (he’s long since retired) It wasn’t dyed, but he had crazy gray hair that stood straight up like Einstein and wore crazy plaid suits with mickey mouse ties, nothing ever matched, etc. The kids absolutely loved him! Of course. But I could totally see little kids having the same reaction to bright hair colors.

  7. Jen in RO*

    #1 – It sounds to me like the OP is not very high up the chain and is just trying to convey to the young employee that the culture of the place frowns upon colorful hair… so I don’t know how much the advice of changing the policy will help.

    1. Bookworm*

      I agree that we should be cognizant of this – it’s very likely, especially if OP is at a large org – that she has no standing to confront the existing policy.

      In that case, I think Alison’s phrasing works well, but should be said with a compassionate tone. I also think OP should express sympathy to the fact that this was probably a pricey and time-consuming dye job, and going back will be frustrating. Depending on the culture within the org, it might be worthwhile to see about extending a goodwill gesture of some kind (gift card, lunch, etc.) to express your appreciation that the situation is frustrating (particularly because it sounds like the hair policy wasn’t spelled out). I realize that’s not something you HAVE to do…but depending on how valuable the employee is, it might be a useful call to maintain goodwill.

      1. Blossom*

        Can we call it a policy, though? Sounds like the issue is that there wasn’t a policy. It may be “frowned upon”, but I’m with Mike C that retrospective frowning should not mean a very expensive dye job needs to be reversed (again, at significant expense and damage to the hair… Not to mention damage to morale!).

        1. MK*

          Policy can change at any time and that might affect people in a negative way. It sucks for this employee, but if something is considered inappropriate for this workplace, you can’t really expect to be allowed to continue with it indefinitely.

          Also, it’ should be noted that unconventional haircolors have only recently started to enter the mainstream. Many dress codes don’t forbid them because it had never been an issue before. But if the company’s dress code is conservative, claiming that it wasn’t spelled out won’t fly. It’s not a court of law, when sticking to the letter of the law might et you get away with violating it’s spirit.

          1. Megan*

            If a company had explicit policy on dress code, visible tattoos, and piercings being prohibited, I would assume, quite reasonably I think, that hair color was excluded purposefully.

            1. MK*

              You can take that stance if you like, but I doubt a manager would be convinced by “I know the dress code says no neon-colored clothes, but it says nothing about hair, so I naturally assumed it was ok to dye mine neon-pink”.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                That would be a valid argument if we knew the dress code said “no iridescent clothing.”

          2. Liza*

            MK, “unconventional” hair colors have been reasonably common since at least the 80s, they’re hardly new! (I had blue and purple hair for a while in the late 90s. I could only afford Manic Panic, so the color faded pretty quickly, but the purple faded to lavender and the blue faded to sea green, so that was nice too.)

            1. Kelly L.*

              This. The even cheaper version was Kool-Aid. My sister tried to dye her hair blue with Kool-Aid in the 90s. It did not go well.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                I dyed mine red once with food coloring–I had a hell of a time getting it out. Lucky it was in the summer, so I didn’t end up going to school that way because back then, they probably would have had kittens.

            2. MK*

              Are you saying that in the 80s it was common to walk into a doctor’s office and see stuff with purple hair? I know they are not new, but in most workplaces they didn’t become common till very recently.

              1. Kelly L.*

                No, that dyeing one’s hair those colors started about then, and as such, it’s had 30 years to become mainstream enough to see in an office.

              2. Cat*

                I’m starting to wonder if my environment is more conservative than I thought. I’m a regulatory lawyer in D.C. and can’t remember seeing anyone with brightly colored hair off the top of my head at my office, the offices of similar law firms, or the regulatory agency we practice at–lawyers or staffs. I am not opposed to it; I have just assumed it is still banned at most places because of that.

                1. Lily Rowan*

                  I have a friend who is a partner in a conservative area of law in NYC, and she had a hot pink strip of hair at her nape a few years ago — she could pull it into a tiny ponytail and it was hidden under the rest of her hair at work. So it’s not that she didn’t have it, but you probably wouldn’t have seen it at work!

                2. Barefoot Librarian*

                  I think it’s just one of those things that is HEAVILY dependent on the specific professional environment in question. I’ve worked at state academic libraries, medical college libraries, and private college libraries, and even though I worked essentially the same job in all of those places (a faculty librarian), the etiquette on colored hair was vastly different. Attitudes have ranged from acceptance to minor eye rolls from the upper administration to it being outright unacceptable.

              3. One of the Sarahs*

                Well, I grew up in London in the 80s, FWIW, and have a vivid memory of a nurse with pillar-box red hair treating me. I loved it so much it burned into my brain.

          3. my two cents*

            they had a ‘no crazy colors’ rule when i worked the phones at Eastbay’s call center back when i was 16 – almost 16 years ago. if they have published rules about tattoos and piercings, they could have added something about hair colors – but they didn’t, likely because it doesn’t actually matter. it’s more likely that it’s the OP that’s clutching their proverbial pearls over it.

            1. Kelly L.*

              I’m kind of amused by the idea of restricting hair colors at a call center, where a customer will never even see you! :D

              I did work telemarketing for a little while one summer in the mid-00s, and people looked every which way.

              1. my two cents*

                even more amusing – we used amber monochrome crt displays, and we had 1 windows pc per 10 employees so that a team lead could have access to the internet to check stock or sales…IN 2002!!

              2. One of the Sarahs*

                No joke, I was banned from wearing DM boots in a call centre, when blokes were allowed to wear them (I talked it down to being able to wear them with trousers, like the guys, but not skirts), and the only reason my DM shoes weren’t banned was because the manager couldn’t say “they’re not girly enough” with the office equal opportunity code. I was fuming, esp as I had to leave at 11pm and get 2 buses with 2 walks between, to get home from work.

          4. Rusty Shackelford*

            Yes, policies can and do change. But when that happens, it needs to be made official, instead of keeping it secret until someone breaks it.

    2. Erin*

      I disagree, I read it as she wrote the policy herself, therefore she must be pretty high up, and has power over altering the policy. She’s not just trying to give advice to a naive young coworker. She is a manager trying to enforce a written policy that she herself implemented.

    3. Vicki*

      I really want the OP (and her management) to think this through Very carefully.

      I am imagining myself in the position of patient and having a medical assistant with colorful hair would really make my day.

      On the other hand, I cannot imagine a situation where it would bother me – not a hospital, not a bank.

      I hope the OP can let this go.

  8. Amber*

    #3 “Those in the smaller department all make about 5-10% more than those in my department, but we do completely different functions.” I’m curious why was this comment was included? It has nothing to do with your questions and seems to be something that you might be unjustifiably upset about.

    1. Bee Eye LL*

      OP #3 here – my point was that the other group are a higher paid, and arguably higher functioning department. It’s not like they are a bunch of janitors keeping track of how many garbage cans get empty. I assure you it’s not a jealousy matter.

      1. Heather*

        Sorry, this comment irks. My mom did janitorial work for years and supported me, my sister, and my sister’s three kids on minimum wage. Just, the tone…ugh, so snobby. Ok, mini rant over.

        1. Colette*

          I don’t see it as a comment about the value of janitorial work, just that reporting would be expected to look different in that environment.

      2. Lily in NYC*

        If they are higher-functioning, then that could explain it. You just don’t know enough to have a valid opinion on this – maybe your boss’ boss is the one who wants the reports. Maybe your team isn’t performing as well as you think it is. Maybe your boss is trying to justify getting another person added to the head count. I’ve fallen into the trap of making assumptions using snippets of information and then finding out that everything I thought was completely wrong. I also suggest doing some thinking and figure out why this bothers you to the point you want to make a complaint – if it’s only because it seems “unfair” then I would try to stop that train of thought if you can. If you show your frustration about this, I promise you it will not have the results you hope for and will only backfire on you.

      3. TootsNYC*

        Actually, I think that “higher functioning” and “better paid” might well be part of why they aren’t asked to do the same record-keeping and reporting. And that it might be a sound reason.

      4. Stranger than fiction*

        Do you actually know for sure they don’t do any reports? Maybe you just don’t see them or who they go to? Anyhow, I agree with others that if their job functions are totally different, you can’t really compare apples to apples like this. If there’s other evidence they’re “skating” through their day while you guys toil away, then yeah that’s something to be concerned about.

        1. Bee Eye LL*

          “If there’s other evidence they’re “skating” through their day while you guys toil away, then yeah that’s something to be concerned about.”

          Ding ding ding! You read between the lines.

          I didn’t want to come out and say it, but I know for a fact that their output is very very low. They’ve also had more turnover in the past 3 years than we’ve had in 10. The people who left all said they were bored because there wasn’t enough work to go around.

          If my manager were to start showing his bosses just how little this group does, it could result in jobs being cut and so maybe he is protecting them. I don’t know for sure. I just feel like the middle child here.

  9. Mike C.*

    OP2: A few questions –

    We’ve told him this is a bad idea, but he’s unwilling to see that it could be a problem…

    Why do you see this as a bad idea, and what problems are you afraid might come up?

    Instead, we arrived at work this morning to find that he had called the candidate over the weekend to “unofficially” offer her the job without first consulting with HR to secure official offer paperwork.

    As a mid-career professional, this would have set off a number of alarms and I wouldn’t have accepted the position.

    This is confusing to me – you say you work at a large company, so why would you be wary of a job offer directly from an executive? Sure I wouldn’t quit a current job right then and there, but presumably an offer from someone that high up is serious enough to consider and wait for actual paperwork, is it not?

    I understand if you’re concerned about compliance and legal issues and certainly you should step in if those arise, but otherwise what is the harm being done here? I would certainly be concerned if several highly sought candidates turned down offers and would want to involve myself more – I think that’s only natural until a root cause can be understood and dealt with.

    1. Jeanne*

      The fact that it was an unofficial offer makes even more sense. The boss calls to say I really want you for the job; the offer with numbers and benefits will come in a day or two from HR. If the job candidate is in demand, it’s good strategy. I don’t see the problem either. I think the manager is managing.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        This is how my offer happened — the hiring manager told me she wanted to hire me and I’d get an offer in a day or two as soon as HR finished it out. And then I did.

        1. doreen*

          I work for the government and even there , typically the hiring manager makes the phone call. Not until HR gives the OK, but the manager makes the call.

          1. Wendy Darling*

            I think HR had given the OK, they just needed a day or two to finish all the paperwork. The gears of HR grind considerably more slowly than the gears of the team I was on.

        2. Windchime*

          This is how mine worked out, too. The manager and I had several phone interviews (we knew each other personally from a previous job). She made me the offer on the phone and told me that the written offer would come shortly. Because she was someone I knew and trusted, I accepted and gave my notice before the written offer arrived. If I hadn’t known here, I probably wouldn’t have given notice before receiving the written offer, but the verbal offer would have been enough to keep me from accepting something else for a few days.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        Yeah, because maybe one of the root causes Mike mentioned is that HR takes too long to get back to candidates or something like that. So the Exec is concerned that people are being left hanging and then accepting other offers or moving on or whatever.

      3. Ethyl*

        Yeah, this is how ALL of my job offers have ever happened. HR should really not be in the position of being in charge of hiring day-to-day employees.

        I once had an initial phone interview with an HR person and it was a huge disaster. They didn’t know anything about the very technical work I was interviewing for, and were reading questions submitted by the tech team to me, and then apparently transcribing my answers verbatim because they kept asking me to spell terms that anyone doing the work would be highly familiar with. It was just not at all a good use of anyone’s time, and I can’t imagine it got any useful information to the team, either.

      4. Doriana Gray*

        This was what happened with one of the two job offers I had back in December. The hiring manager knew I was up for promotion into another division in my current company, so she called me and told me to please hold off on making any decisions as her HR department was slow, but she really wanted to offer me one of the positions she had open.

    2. SC in SC*

      This is exactly how our hiring process works. HR/Recruiting does the initial contacts. My team covers the phone screens and interviews. Once we decide on a particular candidate I handle the negotiation and verbal offer (with some guidance from HR) as the department head. After that we send the candidate an official offer in writing. I’ve always found it beneficial since it’s easier for me to answer their questions, address concerns, lay out the vision for the group, sell the position, etc.

      As for making the offer on a weekend I see no problem with that other than you need to be careful abou sending the wrong message about work-life balance. However, my experience has been that most candidates are happy to get an offer no matter when it comes. You just want to be sensitive to the issue that you’re on a candidates “personal” time and be flexible with the call.

    3. BRR*

      I’m not sure why the lw would consider it a red flag. If the candidate has a job, it would be nice to be called on the weekend so they could take it. I think the issue is multiple candidates have turned down offers. It’s not clear why and that’s the thing they should explore. I’m wondering if the department is just at the BEC stage with the CMO.

    4. Colette*

      The issue I see is if the manager is committing to salary without running it by HR to make sure it’s in line with what the position should pay and that he’s not changing the salary based on a protected class (e.g. John needs more than Mary because he has a family to support). Those are issues with not looping HR in, though, not because he made the offer.

      1. Noah*

        Depends on the company. I, as the hiring manager, have complete say over my employees salary. HR doesn’t get any input. We might ask them to research a range, but they don’t get to say “you will pay between x and y for this position.” The only person I have to answer to is my boss, HR is a resource and I value their assistance, but that doesn’t mean they run the show.

        1. LBK*

          Yeah. I would be pretty alarmed if HR were setting everyone’s salaries. Compensation should be the manager’s purview.

        2. Mike C.*

          This is what I keep coming back to with support organizations like HR and IT. They’re incredibly valuable resources, but they shouldn’t be getting in the way to actually running things.

          1. Stephanie (HR)*

            I’m in HR, and I agree with this statement. In my current organization, things that are usually done by management (offers, terminations, disciplinary actions, raises, etc) are done by HR with the manager present. This creates a very big level of fear and animosity towards our department, even though we are often just essentially puppets of either the manager or the policy.

            (The reason we work this way is because the industry we are in seems to tend towards manager who are well trained in their technical skills of the job and not management skills. This is a fixable problem, but our particular facility chooses to band-aid with HR rather than address the actual problem.)

            In defense of the OP, however, I would say that a senior leader undermining an existing process in such an underhanded way seems extremely sketchy, and the leader could have addressed changing the procedure in an entirely different way. If my job is to hire people, and a senior leader goes behind my back to do it, that will raise flags. After all, it is from senior leadership that HR receives it’s directives.

            1. Jadelyn*

              +100 to your last paragraph – I don’t see the issue here as being about what HR’s role *should* be, so much as that there is a clearly established procedure at this organization that has HR in that role currently, and they had a manager deliberately go around that procedure rather than letting it work the way it was intended to work.

              Should the process be changed? Probably. But it hasn’t been, so a manager deciding on his own to say the hell with process and do things his own way without letting anyone else know, is definitely an issue.

      2. Natalie*

        Would an unofficial phone call offer even include salary? Every one I’ve ever heard of is a quick “hey, we’re offering you the job, HR will be in touch with details”.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          My experience has been the same, but I always found it annoying because I usually have questions for the hiring manager and felt like HR was acting as sort of a go-between/gatekeeper.

        2. Windchime*

          I got my salary information when I got the verbal offer (over the phone). HR has the salary bands and job descriptions, but the hiring manager has the leeway to determine where to place the prospective employee in the band.

      3. TootsNYC*

        I have always known what the salary range for a position would be before I even started interviewing.

        True, I get that via HR, but i also know that if Sally leaves, and I’m hiring her replacement, I can offer roughly what Sally made.

        And I don’t need HR to tell me how to make sure I don’t offer more money for an illegal reason. If I offer less, it’s because I think I can get them to take the lower salary; if I offer more, it’s because I think I’ll need it to entice them.

    5. BananaPants*

      As a mid-career professional, to get an offer solely from HR would actually be a bit of a red flag! It would come across as the hiring manager not really being too involved in making her hires, or not caring enough to call and make the unofficial offer herself.

      1. Kate M*

        Exactly. I expect to hear from HR only after I’ve accepted the offer, if I need an official letter or to sign paperwork or have questions about benefits or something. It would put me off if the offer didn’t come from the hiring manager.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian - Chatty MILs Anon2*

        I’d feel the same about an offer from HR instead of from the hiring manager. I’d worry that it was a place where too much control and power rested with HR, and that is more of a red flag to me than a manager actually managing would be. A place with an over-reaching and un-checked HR department is scarier to me.

        1. Navy Vet*

          This. At last awful job the HR “director” (I use that term losly, as she was the ONLY HR person in the entire company) completely took over all the screening and hiring. And my manager was not able to even see the Career Builder or Monster (Or other search boards) resumes if he wanted to. He was annoyed because she brought a candidate in (who was dating her niece) and he didn’t think this person would be a good fit and wanted to speak to other applicants. She told him there were no “good” resumes. It was pretty obvious that she was not bringing any other applicants in to get her nieces boyfriend hired. I suggested to him that as the VP, he might just have the authority to get the password from her….But he didn’t do it, for whatever reasons.

          For the record. He was not a good fit. In fact, clients reported to me that he would brag to them about how he got the job because his girlfriend’s aunt was the HR director and he was sleeping around the whole time. That woman was the absolute worst at screening people.

          So, I can see why management would want to have more authority over the process.

      3. Barefoot Librarian*

        This exactly! I’ve always received a call from a manager or upper level exec during to deliver a job offer. HRs involvement usually happens after I’ve accepted the verbal offer over the phone. It would seem very odd to get just an offer via letter from HR. In fact, that might be part of the reason they are loosing good candidates at the offer stage.

        1. Barefoot Librarian*

          Ignore that randomly inserted “during”. I think I was typing something about “during the offer stage” and changed my mind.

    6. LBK*

      My company does all hiring-related conversations via HR and I loathe it. It sets up such a weird, impersonal filter between the hiring manager and the candidate, which feels particularly odd once you’ve had your interview and have established a connection and then get kicked back to some HR person you’ll never meet for next steps and/or your offer. It’s even more frustrating as an internal person with more direct access to the hiring manager, where we’re both sitting on our hands waiting for HR to move the process along because the hiring manager isn’t authorized to actually make the offer.

      1. Mike C.*

        Mine does as well, and it’s obnoxious. We’ve gotten to the point where hiring managers aren’t even allowed to look at all the applications. Many of my managers made a habit of sitting down on the weekend with some wine and reading through them all just to make sure they weren’t missing out on interesting talent.

        My favorite story involves being picked for an internal job by the hiring manger, being denied by an outside group for “not having enough years of experience” and the job going unfilled. It’s still unfilled, six months later.

    7. sam*

      I was going to say, I’ve never had a job offer *not* happen this way. The offer is made by the actual person I’d be working for (or some variation thereof – first law firm job was done by a partner I had interviewed with), with the caveat that all of the bureaucratic details would follow from HR.

      I mean, generally I assume that the people making me job offers are working with some coordination with the HR department (and that is certainly the case at my current company, where there is very close coordination), but HR is providing a supportive role to the person making the actual decision.

    8. A.J.*

      I’m really surprised at the number of comments here saying that offers typically come first from the hiring managers. I guess I’ve worked for too many large corporations because I always thought it was completely normal for HR to manage the entire process. I dont think I’ve ever seen the hiring manager do anything more than a few minutes of interviews.
      Even with the startup I interviewed with last month, their recruiter made me a verbal offer via phone and followed up with an offer letter. I actually turned down that offer for several reasons, but I think if I had had the opportunity to speak with the hiring manager things might have turned out differently. I thought it was strange that I had such little interaction with the manager– just a 30 minute interview (out of 5 total hours of interviewing)– and never heard anything from him again. I really got the feeling that he was somewhat of an absent manager and that was a concern for me.

  10. Augusta Sugarbean*

    There are all kinds of legitimate reasons that your director might ask for different reporting from your department than he does from the other department.

    Legit reasons like what? (Serious question.)

    1. Bee Eye LL*

      There actually isn’t different reporting. What department submits weekly reports and the other does none at all.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Examples: they do higher level, or work centered around longer-term goals, or they’re better functioning, or their work is more autonomous. It makes sense for managers to tailor their communication systems and reporting systems to the specific work and specific people, not to just have one blanket system used for all regardless of context.

    3. UK JAM*

      I’ve been in a situation where we were the department not reporting, while departments that reported tot he same manager did report. It was simply because we’d been in different reporting structures before, and they had got a routine of reporting while we did not. The manager actually didn’t care about the reports so he just let it be.

    4. hbc*

      There’s been a problem in the bigger department in the past (or still is) so there’s more concern about those numbers. There’s a policy that every department with X people gets a report. Someone in the bigger department once collected that info to brownnose and it’s become habit. They’re both easily summed up in graphs but only one is a direct line item in the budget seen by the board. Only the large department has a parallel in another location so those numbers can be compared directly. That’s for starters.

      I don’t see a problem with *asking* the boss why one group does a summary and the other doesn’t, but it should be a genuine question with the knowledge that there are at least a dozen good answers. Anything smacking of “It’s not faaaaair” is not going to go well.

    5. Hillary*

      i used to do a lot of reporting that my counterpart across the aisle didn’t for a couple reasons. One was that all the data tools existed for my stuff while the project to build them for theirs was partway through a years-long saga. Another was that my data gave leadership a near real time snapshot of the customer experience.

      Even within my area I did some reporting weekly, some monthly, some quarterly and some annually. It all depended on what leadership wanted to see.

    6. Graciosa*

      The possibility that jumped out at me – both as a reason for the difference in reporting and a reason why the OP is bothered by it – is simply that the director does not have the same level of confidence in the management of the two departments. The director has a limited amount of attention, and it would not surprise me to hear that he or she is focusing it on an area that is perceived (rightly or wrongly) to be more likely to be a problem.

      This would be totally normal. If you think about it, the high performers are not the ones who need a lot of supervision (they need coaching and opportunities more than supervision).

      This possibility is one reason that the OP cannot complain about the treatment. It looks clueless and whiny.

      What the OP could do would be to focus on the business impact (if there is one) and have that discussion, or to focus on performance and have that discussion.

      If generating the reports consumes more resources than the value would justify, that’s a legitimate reason to get rid of them that has nothing to do with the other department. The difficulty is that the director is the one who gets to assess the value, so if he or she says they are needed, the discussion is closed.

      The performance discussion would be another way to address this – making sure that the OP and director are aligned on goals for the department and the assessment of how the department is performing to those goals. This never mentions the reporting at all (unless the director raises it) but having the discussion should help surface any unspoken concerns from the director.

      At the very least, feeling clearly aligned with the boss may help the OP feel more comfortable in role and less concerned about how the director is managing other departments.

      1. TootsNYC*

        What the OP could do would be to focus on the business impact (if there is one) and have that discussion, or to focus on performance and have that discussion.

        Or, the OP could take this concept to his boss, from yesterday’s comments:

        The idea that the presence of the monitoring itself becomes a negative that influences people to give up, care less, show less initiative. It sets up a dynamic in which the manager focuses only on the flaws, and therefore SEES only the flaws, and things spiral down.

        (link in the reply)

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I agree. The director is taking these reports to his meeting, so I think we can assume that whoever holds the meeting has asked to see it. They’re not always going to say why, and it doesn’t necessarily mean anything ominous or indicate a lack of confidence in the department’s performance.

    7. Augusta Sugarbean*

      Thanks for all the examples! (But now the word report looks weird. Report, report, report.)

    8. Steve*

      Can you just ask your manager why they do different reporting? Not lodge a complaint, just say that you noticed the other department doesn’t do the same report that you do, and you’re curious why. He might explain the perfectly valid reasons. Or he might decline to explain (in which case you’re no worse off than you are now). Or tell you the reasons and you’ll find them arbitrary and invalid, which might make you even more annoyed, but in reality in that case you won’t be any worse off, either.

  11. Bee Eye LL*

    I am the OP for #3 and the response was what my gut has been telling me – leave it alone. I know that by complaining what I am really saying is that I don’t agree with how things are being run.

    1. Barbara in Swampeast*

      I guess I don’t see what the problem is unless your department is not meeting its goals. Upper management is seeing your department’s numbers and the other department is not getting any notice at all. I see that as a plus.

    2. BRR*

      I understand you feel that it’s unfair and if I was in your position I would feel the exact same way. If you think the other team should have to file reports so it’s even I would say let it go. If it’s because your reports are time consuming and you want it to be even so that you save time by not having to do then that might be different. You could bring up how much time it takes every week and ask if progresss can be reported in a quicker way and see if that will meet his needs.

    3. Court*

      Definitely drop it. I’ve been in the position of having one of my staff hyper-focused on how I was managing a different group of employees. What they were experiencing was the difference between my management style of average vs. very high-performing employees. Anything that sounds like “but it’s not fair” puts my hackles up, and I’m sure whatever a “formal complaint” entails would leave me very annoyed.

    4. Sharkey*

      Even if misguided, I think your reaction is natural and it’s often easier to see the “right” answer when it’s someone else’s issue rather than your own. It can be hard to not compare, but it often does lead to a lot of unnecessary unhappiness when you do. For all you know, someone in that other group is unhappy they don’t have to write these reports and therefore it feels to them like their work is being overlooked while your group gets to highlight and document your accomplishments to senior leaders.

  12. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

    I mean, as someone with a bright pink undercut and sixteen tattoos, I’ll take a medical professional with blue/purple/green highlights over the condescending “stop whinging about your eighth blood draw for the day, you’ve got no right to complain, you’ve got all those tattoos” any time.

    I would really add to the voices encouraging OP#1 to consider whether this hair colour is truly unacceptable. The director of HR high-fived me when I came in with the pink undercut — and I work in government. Alison is so, so right. The world is changing its outlook on stuff like this.

    1. I Get That Reference*

      Yeah I found the kerfluffle about hair color kind of odd – I work in a government healthcare setting and wild colors don’t draw a second glance here. Heck one of the bigger departments does dyed locks for people for cancer awareness as a fundraiser!

    2. Natalie*

      I switched dentists because I had one that wouldn’t stop complaining about my labret piercing, despite the fact that (per all the dentists at the practice I’m at now) it has caused no damage to my teeth.

    3. KR*

      When I got my tattoos, it tickled. The needle didn’t bother me at all, it just felt like it was scratching my skin. Piercings? A little scarier but the needle was out before I even knew what was happening. If I need to get a shot or blood drawn though, I come close to passing out or throwing up. It’s the people who don’t have any tattoos or piercings that don’t understand how different they are from medical needles!

      1. bkanon*

        Heh, I’m the opposite. A few years ago, I had to get rabies shots. The doc (and the dozen people watching because they’d never seen it done before) were all pretty giggly at my reactions to the pain/needles. Multiple tats and various piercings, so the rabies needles were nothing to me personally. Of course, I’ve been known to fall asleep during a tattoo -it’s relaxing!- so I told them not to judge average pain reactions from me.

        1. the gold digger*

          I had to get the rabies series (all 14 shots) when I was five years old. My mom and the doctor who lived in our apartment building who was giving me the shots every night would have to drag me out from under my bed and sit on my hands and legs to give me the shot.

          Y’all, those shots hurt.

          PS That doctor, after his wife died and my dad died, became my mom’s gentleman caller. He died a few years ago and I still miss him. Lovely man.

          1. fposte*

            For the appalled, I’ll note that the rabies shots have improved considerably in the intervening time. They’re no fun if you hate needles, but they’re pretty much on a par with other IM shots now. (And yes, I had them.)

      2. Elizabeth West*

        My biggest one is on my upper arm and it didn’t really hurt until the artist got around toward the back, where the skin is thinner and more delicate. Then, OW! But I’d sat there for three-and-a-half hours listening to thrash metal, so I figured I could take it. o_O

    4. lfi*

      this. this this this. i had a very bad experience while in the hospital at 16 and having blood taken or getting shots causes me to hyperventilate. but tattoo number 5? yeah it hurt like hell but i could also tell him to stop.

  13. amapolita*

    Re #2, I don’t necessarily agree with Alison, contingent on the size of the organization. I do think that hiring managers should be engaged in the process described, but it doesn’t sound like the CMO is the hiring manager.

    At my old job, C-level execs and VPs often interviewed entry- and mid-level candidates for non-management positions. It made sense when the company was a startup, but as it grew, they never changed tack. Suffice it to say that this was emblematic of a larger problem within the company – management was unwilling to hire talented people and get out of their way.

    A new grad may not recognize this, but it might be a red flag for some (again, mostly in the case of a larger company).

    1. Bookworm*

      I had a similar feeling in response to this. How this is coming across will depend heavily on where the CMO is in the reporting structure to the people he’s offering to.

      I definitely think the hiring manager should always be the one to extend the formal offer…so if the CMO is not the hiring manager (which is how I was reading it) I agree that there needs to be some gentle push-back.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The OP says this is for jobs on the marketing team, and this is the chief marketing officer, so I’m assuming the jobs are at least in his line of reporting. But yes, if they report to a more junior manager under him, that manager should be doing the offers. Still not HR though.

        1. SL #2*

          Hah, my eyes skipped right over the part where OP 3 said they work in marketing. I work in healthcare consulting and I’ve been reading CMO as “chief medical officer” this whole time and very promptly became worried about having the executive clinician do the hiring at clinics!

          1. LQ*

            I read marketing and still missed that CMO would be chief Marketing officer! I’ve been trying to figure that out. It makes so much more sense if this person is in the hiring line, even if he wouldn’t be the direct manager. I’m totally on board with the Not Weird answer.

  14. Mando Diao*

    I don’t love wild hair colors on health care professionals (I just don’t – I’m not interested in debating this point) and even I think OP1 should cut the employee some slack. She dyed her hair after working there for a while because no one ever indicated that she wasn’t supposed to.

    Keep in mind that colors like blue, purple, and green fade really quickly. She’ll need to touch it up in a few weeks. I think you could talk to her about going for a more subtle look on her next salon visit, but don’t force her to dye over it now or pay for a salon visit before her next scheduled appointment.

    1. Anonymous 123*

      Agreed. I personally don’t like wild hair colors, but I don’t see the need to force my preference on others.

    2. Kelly L.*

      I am fine with wild hair colors, but I agree with your recommendation. Make it a “for next time” thing, and then you’ve gotten the point across without burning her money. And then put it in the dress code or handbook.

  15. Kathryn T.*

    OP1, consider that people who have tattoos, piercing, “crazy cartoon hair,” etc. ALSO need medical care, and that the presence of someone with some of those cultural markers on your staff may well make them feel more comfortable and more welcomed. I am a 40 year old suburban housewife with two young children, and some of the most professional and compassionate medical care I’ve ever received has been from people with Manic Panic hair and gauged piercings.

    1. Mookie*

      Very much agree. Also… I kind of expect technicians and medical professionals involved in direct care to look like this? I may just be exceptionally fortunate (and/or incredibly prejudiced) but irrespective of age and gender identity, they always seem to me very well turned-out (possibly, for those that don them, to compensate for the scrubs which are grim for me no matter how cheerful the print).

      “Oil slick” hair seems tasteful to me. Not, possibly, appropriate for everyone in dour-er and more formal settings, but they are incredibly beautiful in person and it takes a skilled and subtle hand to do them well. I can’t get enough of this pastel goth revival. Good stuff.

      1. Anonsie*

        Very much agree. Also… I kind of expect technicians and medical professionals involved in direct care to look like this?


    2. Afiendishthingy*

      My sister has had “crazy cartoon hair” for decades. She also doesn’t trust most doctors to “get” her or know what’s best for her; clearly that goes beyond hair color but encouraging individuality among the office staff couldn’t hurt.

      1. Shell*

        I’m probably being exceptionally slow today, but genuine question: how does colourful hair correlate to improved patient understanding? I can totally understand if, say, a heavier-set nurse or doctor may understand the perspective of a heavier-set patient (the difficulty in weight loss, not blame every single thing on said weight, etc.), but I’m at a loss as to how more colourful hair helps in understanding the patient’s perspective.

        I know it’s probably a correlation and not a direction relationship between hair colour/medical issue, but my headache is making it hard to think.

        1. A Cita*

          It’s not a correlation around understanding health issues in the way that you’ve described here (and the way it might with respect to weight). I think you’re extrapolating “improved patient understanding” with improved quality of care (which is what the weight issues get to–because presumably an over weight provider isn’t going to assume any health issue a patient comes in with is necessarily connect to weight). It’s about trust in your physician and feeling comfortable around them–feeling like you won’t be judged, that you’ll be heard, that you have something in common with your provider, it humanizes them. And all this actually, quantifiably matters and has an impact on health outcomes (lots of evidence around if you don’t trust your provider, feel like your provider judges you, feel like your provider isn’t human, don’t have anything in common with your provider, you’re less likely to adhere to their care advice or come in for follow-ups or trust their opinion which all has huge impacts on health outcomes). This an important area of research and policy translation going on right now. I know. It’s part of what I do. :)

          1. fposte*

            I wonder what the deficit/credit balance is on something like piercings and unnatural hair colors that are really opposed by some and really embraced by others? And does it matter which medical personnel have which modifications? Mostly people here are talking about experiences they’ve had with nurses, phlebotomists, techs, etc. In my neck of the woods, that’s pretty common, but I don’t know that I’ve ever seen those on doctors around here. And it’s not just an age thing–I’m not seeing it in the younger doctors either. It’ll be interesting to see if that changes, but I wonder if there’s a strong enough association with support staff for that to be a reason in its own right for doctors not to want to present that way.

            1. A Cita*

              It’s a really interesting question. I think the move is to have a lot of diversity on care teams, so that a patient might be able to have at least one person they feel they can identify with, and there are plenty of other choices if they don’t like their provider. On the most macro level, that means having historically underrepresented minorities in those roles, and we’re doing a lot of work to increase that pipeline, but it also includes others. As for why creative hair color in particular is not seen as much in physician level providers, I can’t say definitively. But there’s a whole host of issues at play, including that hospitals, and particularly teaching hospitals are incredibly hierarchical. I wonder if that will change over time though? I know of a few examples of physicians with creative color, but you’re right, they aren’t a significant proportion. On the patient level, the evidence points that alignment of some sort doesn’t depend on the position of the providers and staff, just that it happens at a minimum. Though it’s probably most important in the person who is treating you (which in many cases isn’t a physician–and in fact, many patients tend to not be able to tell the difference in roles in their providers–no idea who the attending is, who’s a physician and who’s a PA, etc.).

          2. Anonsie*

            Oh yeah, I know exactly what you mean. I’ve actually gotten into the habit of looking as put-together and fresh as possible when I go to my own medical appointments because looking frumpier, more “alternative,” or young/trendy, many folks assume a lower level of self control and are less likely to work with me in the ways I want them to. They assume I’ll be less likely to stick with something or deal with after care, less likely to handle something difficult in the first place, etc. I’m always relieved when I have techs with more decorations, I feel less… I don’t know, judged? More respected overall?

            This reminds me, I used to notice a direct relationship between how good I looked when picking up my birth control prescription and the amount of warning stickers they put on it before handing it to me.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      This is a good point. I actually like when I have a nurse or doctor who is overweight like me because I assume they understand what a struggle it is and won’t blame every medical condition on my weight instead of taking me seriously.

      1. BananaPants*


        In general, I like it when medical professionals (including lower level staff like phlebotomy techs or medical assistants/CNAs) look and act like real people. That includes all kinds of body types/shapes and physical appearances. Not everyone is a magazine cover model – myself included – and I like that folks could show a bit of individuality with hair color in a way that cannot possibly cause infection control issues, the way nails very easily can.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        YES, OH MY GOSH. This is so very true. Nurse is carrying a few extra pounds = instant sense of greater comfort and trust.

            1. LBK*

              Well, from what I’ve heard about the rampant drug use in the food services world that may not be a sign that they don’t eat a lot.

        1. Katniss*

          Oh awesome! This is perfect timing as I’m considering a new color once the pink I currently have fades. Thank you!

          1. Barefoot Librarian*

            You’re welcome! I’ve had great results with them on my girls’ hair (they are both in college and can get away with it) but be advised that they don’t seem to work great for some ahir types. It’s probably a hair chemistry/texture issue. I know it’s the same with Manic Panic and some of the other diy funky hair dyes. I’m sure you already know that! I’d definitely recommend a strand test, but if you are able to use them, they rock.

    4. Tinker*

      Yeah, this is a thing. I’ve got some piercings that aren’t visible to the general public, and also some unconventional aspects to my life that sometimes need to be disclosed to my doctor. When these things come up, I often have it at least a little bit in the back of my mind of — what if this person gets weird, or they start taking me less seriously or whatever? It’s not a completely theoretical concern, either — I’ve run into at least one medical person (in an non-work context) who was intensely disrespectful and condescending about my being poly and also claimed that she treated her own patients as badly if not worse, and I’ve had some questionable reactions from my own doctors in response to certain (distinctly relevant at the time) disclosures. A bit of flavor in the office is one of the things that make me feel a little more at ease with them.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Just being female with a male doctor can bring up these issues sometimes, though I’ve noticed it’s less prevalent with younger physicians than older ones (generational thing?). My clinic is staffed by residents so I often feel like I’m being treated by Doogie Howser, but they’re all learning very up-to-date stuff.

        I care far less how a health care professional looks than how he/she listens to me and treats me. That’s the most important thing.

    5. MsChandandlerBong*

      Yeah, I’d much rather have a medical professional with blue hair than one who doesn’t know which tube to use for a sed rate (this actually happened, and I had to tell him which color top to use).

    1. Lady Kelvin*

      CV is typically used in academics, it includes publications, presentation, professional organizations, and is a more complete picture of an academic career than a resume, because we have different metrics we are evaluated on. Also, CVs are typically 4-5 pages for an entry level person, and can be much longer for established academics.

      1. Lady Kelvin*

        Compared to the 2-page limit for resumes. Which is really hard to meet when you are applying to non-academic jobs and you are used to submitting resumes.

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      I’ve always used them interchangeably I think in certain fields like academia a CV is more comprehensive and might list all papers written, research projects worked on and that sort of thing. Where as a resume is more edited highlights.

      1. Liz*

        They are not interchangeable. Coming from the UK to the US, that’s something I had to discover when I started job-hunting. An academic CV is certainly more comprehensive than most, but if you take out all the publications/committees they invariably list, it’s closer to a British CV.

      2. Liana*

        I’ve heard them used interchangeably before, although I really don’t think they should be. A CV is much more thorough – as you mentioned, it includes papers written, research projects in progress, all jobs held, etc. A resume is highlighted relevant experience.

        For example: As part of my job as an admin to several doctors, I edit/update their CVs. For the most senior physician, his CV is almost 50 pages long because he’s at the top of his career. For the other two junior physicians, theirs are closer to 10 pages. This is all completely normal. However, as a non-medical professional, who may not end up working in healthcare long-term, I have a standard resume. Using the terms interchangeably can end up causing a decent amount of confusion for some people.

    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      A CV is a curriculum vitae, which is supposed to be exhaustive and thorough, while a resume is, as Alison has often pointed out, a marketing document — and you can leave things off of it, such as short-term and/or irrelevant jobs, and you’re expected to keep them to a shorter length.

    4. IrishGirl*

      It depends on the context/location. Here CV is the only term used, and it’s generally 2 pages long for most people. There are other differences from the US CV/resume; it’s common to have secondary (high) school on your CV until several years post-university for example.

        1. Sunflower*

          (accidentally hit submit too soon!)

          Yes- CV’s are really only used in the US in academia and can be pages and pages long(I believe they are kind of supposed to include everything). Resumes are for pretty much everyone else and are more of an overview of your skills/accomplishments

        2. Mallory Janis Ian - Chatty MILs Anon2*

          The CV’s do include everything, that’s for sure! Looking at my boss’s CV, for example, I can see the date of his first-ever invited lecture way back in 1996, and he has done tons of them since. Every single one of them is on there. And every time he does anything new (lecture, article published, invited juror for a design competition, etc.), it immediately goes on the CV.

  16. Lady Kelvin*

    Phew, I was worried that I would be alone in my opinion but I think OP #1 needs an attitude update. Colorful hair, when tasteful, is not “cartoon hair” but a harmless statement of personality. I wouldn’t ever assume that someone is irresponsible, crazy, unreliable, unable to perform their job, etc etc etc just because they got some highlights in their hair. By making employment decisions based upon something as superficial as hair color you could/are missing out on good quality employees. Plus why are you going to punish someone for an unwritten and un-communicated rule? I’d feel very put out if I double checked the policy, saw there were no rules about what color hair I was allowed to have, and then told that I broke the rules because they were put into place after I spent a lot of money getting my hair dyed. I’d definitely start looking for a new job, because I’d start to wonder what other rules there are that I don’t know about.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      This. There is nothing that drives me more thoroughly bonkers than “Oh, you broke the rule that only existed in my mind, now this is going to severely hurt you financially/professionally/etc.”

      If this is a medical field, things like piercings, manicures, tattoos, jewelry may well be all restricted for functional reasons — so let your employees have at least a little self-expression! Hair color is harmless (well, other than to the hair involved) and expensive.

      To be honest, if I were this employee? I’d say screw the re-dye requirement and just start wearing a wig to work.

      1. Megan*

        This is a really good idea. As a healthcare employee, I’m restricted from wearing make-up, any nail cosmetics, any jewelry, and any hair product. My clothes scrubs with a specific color. Dyed hair seems like a pretty reasonable thing to allow, since it doesn’t interfere with my work the way other restrictions do.

        Side story: I ran the idea of dying my hair an unusual color – just the bottom half, so it would be visible while my hair was up – by my manager, and he put the kibosh on it. Said it was “extreme”. Next day, a colleague came in with teal hair, with no reaction from anyone so far – she’s even had it touched up since then, so I assume she hasn’t been spoken to. This really is an example of how it’s better to beg forgiveness then ask permission sometimes.

        I do wish I could ask about this though and try my case again, but it seems petty.

        1. katamia*

          Yep. This is why I didn’t ask beforehand when I got my nose pierced when I was working as an office assistant. (People were surprised but fine with it.)

      2. Natalie*

        That makes me wonder if hair color is even unofficially restricted in the first place. OP might consider checking in with some other managers as to whether any of their employees have dyed or otherwise “unprofessional” hair.

  17. Julia*

    OP4, if your boss is so strict about separating work and personal life, could you try that angle? You know, “Boss, I don’t think I should be working with a relative?”

    1. AnotherTeacher*

      I was thinking that, too.

      I have been in the same situation, OP4, and it makes me feel a little better to hear someone else has faced the same dilemma. In my case, I did as Alison advised and said that the family member and I are estranged when asked to contact her. The person who asked (not my boss) understood and didn’t press for details.

      1. OP4*

        Wow-it makes me feel better to know I’m not the only one who’s dealt with this! Thanks, AnotherTeacher!

        When I mentioned to my supervisor that the person they wanted me to contact was a relative, my supervisor got really excited-in spite of the fact that they are into the separation of work and personal lives, I think they thought that we would now have more of an “in” and more access to my relative. I’m just nervous that it will affect me negatively if I essentially admit that I’m not on good terms with one of their (presumably) big donors and someone who is active in helping the organization.

        1. hbc*

          Well, it’s not a plus, but if you’ve only got issues with one person in the whole world of people you might encounter, it’ll be fine. They’d deal if one donor happened to be your angry ex or former stalker or enemy from high school or something.

          I think you just need to straighten out 1) whether you *want* to deal with your relative even if s/he wanted to, and if yes 2) how likely your relative is to want to deal with you. If you could deal with the person professionally and s/he’s the oblivious type who thought maybe you were just busy, you can say you’d like to make other arrangements but will manage if necessary. If there’s no chance of it going well, you need to make clear that you can’t be the person working with your relative.

        2. PontoonPirate*

          I think that framing could be useful to you, actually. You could explain that your estrangement may make your relative less likely to continue donating/participating if you were the point of contact. In the interest of continued donor cultivation, suggest it might make more sense for your boss or another colleague to take over the professional relationship.

  18. Julia*

    OP1, could your employee wear a wig to work? If her hair style really is unacceptable, that is.

  19. Keeping My Nose Clean*

    Is OP #1’s employee a visible minority by any chance? If so, said employee has poor judgement – depending on what group you’re from, unnaturally coloured hair is just going to be read differently (e.g. “ratchet” instead of trendy). Hell, I’m careful with bright nail colours in case they give someone the wrong idea. It might sound sad, but I’m just being realistic – it’s in my best interest to go full-bore on respectability politics. Also, if the employee isn’t 110% fantastic at her job…well, that oil slick hair is going to play into her overall image a bit differently.

    In any case, if there’s no policy on hair colour, you ask your superiors if an unnatural colour is okay before you dye your hair; even if they say yes, don’t believe for a second that dying your hair won’t have any negative effect on the way you’re perceived at work. This isn’t about paternalism, it’s called using your judgement as an adult and making your employability a priority. It’s not fair, but you have to earn a living, and responsible adults don’t make unnecessary choices that play directly into people’s conscious or unconscious biases. There are always unwritten and uncommunicated rules – even at the most easygoing of workplaces – and you can and will be punished for them.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      wait, you’re not suggesting that the employer take into account the employee’s race when determining that this is unprofessional, right?

      1. Keeping My Nose Clean*

        No – I’m suggesting that an employee should be aware of the double standard around how unnatural hair colour is perceived and act accordingly.

          1. Just Another Techie*

            I do not at all play with respectability politics (I’m a latina with peacock blue hair, and fuck anyone at my workplace who can’t deal with that) but at the same time, people who chose to play that way are doing so for a reason. It offers you safety and protection in a hostile world. An oppressed person adhering to majority-rules norms of “professional” or “acceptable” appearance might be making a tiny contribution to the problem, but nowhere near as much as the majority creating and enforcing those rules and more importantly her life/body/financial security/personal safety should not be required to be the battleground on which this war is fought. Social Justice Warrior of the Week doesn’t get to order someone to put her well being on the line for the cause.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Thank you. I’m seeing a lot of “wow,” etc. in response to Keeping My Nose Clean’s comment, but she’s speaking to her experience as a person of color, and I don’t think white readers (including me) should be doing the race equivalent of mansplaining to her.

              1. Kelly L.*

                Sorry, I misread and didn’t catch the brief “I’m,” and thought she was white and ‘splaining to POC. My apologies.

                1. Keeping My Nose Clean*

                  Thanks – I wouldn’t dare write something like that if I weren’t a POC.

              2. KR*

                Yeah, I totally missed that Keeping My Nose Clean was a person of color. I should have stayed in my lane and I’m sorry.

      2. KR*

        I second this (!!!). It doesn’t matter if her hair might make her look ratchet. She can either dye her hair or she can’t. Skin color has no bearing.

      3. Oryx*

        I suspect that Keeping My Nose Clean is referring to something someone else mentioned upthread — colored hair on POC is often viewed through a much different lens than colored hair on white folks. Even colors that are considered natural on other people, like red or blonde, are often deemed “unnatural” on POC. So even if I can get away with dying my naturally blonde hair red, my POC office mate might not (example only — my workplace doesn’t give one iota of care towards colored hair, tattoos, piercings, etc.).

        1. Keeping My Nose Clean*

          Thank you for understanding my comment.

          Just because something’s nominally allowed at an office doesn’t mean that a POC won’t be disproportionately hurt by doing that thing. Yes, it’s bad and I wish it weren’t the case, but as a POC sometimes it’s easier to let the status quo win rather than risk my professional reputation.

          1. Calliope*

            I don’t think this is a useful response to the OP, who is the manager/supervisor, not the employee, and should not be considering race in her decisions about what to tell this employee.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              Yeah, that’s the part I’m not getting. It’s the supervisor who asked for advice, not the employee. And race shouldn’t factor in at all in how the supervisor responds.

          2. J*

            I understood what you were getting at! But I think the way you say it here would have been more useful advice if the hair-dyed person was the one writing in. Saying “Yeah, your employee should dye her hair back if she’s a minority” is not good advice. Saying “watch out for how your perception of your employee might be being affected by her ethnicity” IS good advice though, so I’m glad you commented.

          3. Laurel Gray*

            While I understand the point that you are making, it is up to friends/family of the OP’s employee to make this point to them and not the OP (if in fact the employee is a minority). As black person I totally believe there are things I can’t and shouldn’t even try to get away with in the workplace. The adjectives used to describe my behavior or style will be similar to the one you put in your initial post – ratchet – along with “ghetto”.

    2. Megan*

      I was pretty annoyed at your second bit, but after I thought about it for a second, I’ve got to think a bit more about if I’d got a white privilege blind spot on this issue. I’ve never considered that nail colors might be considered poor judgement.

      This aside, my judgement as an adult tells me that if my employer says that something is okay, and in fact is not okay with it, then I’ve paid a price to find out something valuable about them. My employability is supported by strong skills and experience, and my hair is fluid and changeable. It seems like a good risk to me.

      1. Keeping My Nose Clean*

        And I think you just stumbled upon the reason some people might be reacting so badly to what I said, which is really unfortunate.

        1. Grapey*

          When you said “If so, said employee has poor judgement” I jumped to a white person saying that about a POC.

          Judging by another comment you refer to yourself as a POC so there’s no more “white person telling POC what to do” vibe (in which case I would step up as another white person and say cut that out) and just a “this is what I do to protect myself” vibe.

        2. Just Another Techie*

          Same here. My reaction changed entirely once you said you were a POC. Which uh, says something about my assumptions about the commentariat here that I should examine.

          1. Keeping My Nose Clean*

            Yeah, this. Funny plot twist: I started my career in a pretty conservative field looking not at all conservative – long twists with copper highlights, almost stereotypically Millenial hipster glasses – knowing full well that it could make my professional life a bit more difficult. For a long time I was happy with where my career was going, but then I decided to try an experiment: I straightened my hair, and more or less immediately advancement opportunities fell out the wazoo.

            I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years being bitter about that, but now I’m like, F this, two can play at this game. It’s all kind of sad, given that it is an ethnic-specific tax on progression in a white collar career, but what the hell else am I supposed to do?

    3. Minion*

      ” responsible adults don’t make unnecessary choices that play directly into people’s conscious or unconscious biases.”
      That’s a bit of a sweeping statement, don’t you think? It’s also a generalization that is entirely wrong. Responsible adults make choices every day that are completely unnecessary and play into people’s biases. We all know that tattoos are pretty controversial. People who hate tattoos often have very negative ideas about people who have tattoos. Responsible adults still get tattoos knowing that there are others who think they’re “trashy”, irresponsible or that they have bad judgment. Same with unusual hair colors. I’m a responsible adult and I just made a choice to have my hair dyed red with blonde highlights and some bits of purple peeking out underneath. I’m a finance director in my 40’s. I also have tattoos and am planning more. And, while anecdotes don’t necessarily prove anything, I think the facts will back up that more and more responsible adults are making choices that play into other people’s biases and they’re doing it with the full knowledge that some people are going to be put off by it.

      1. Calliope*

        Yes, this. Responsible adults don’t always make choices about their appearance to avoid playing into stereotypes about minority groups to which they belong. Sometimes people are perfectly aware that the way they dress will be negatively perceived by some prejudiced people, and decide to dress that way anyway. That’s not “irresponsible” or juvenile. It’s a choice about what’s most important to you.

    4. Roscoe*

      Ugh, this is a tough one. I get your point. I’m a black man myself. However, I don’t like the idea that “as a minority, you should know better because people are judging you more”. In a practical sense of what parents tell their kids, I agree with you. On an internet job board, I don’t know. Plus, you know NOTHING about these people. For all you know its a black run doctors office and the OP is a black woman herself. So without more context, I think your comment is pretty out of place.

    5. Xay*

      You know, I’d buy into this if I hadn’t been hired by a Big 4, conservative consulting firm while I had waist length locs with red and bronze highlights.

      I’m unmistakeably black, from the name at the top of my resume to my skin color and at the age of 37, I’ve learned that jumping through hoops trying to manage other people’s biases is no way to live. I present myself as a professional in my quality of work, a neat and clean appearance and appropriate dress – if all of that can be undone because my hair isn’t a “natural” color, then I don’t need to work in that environment. I’m not sure what your advice has to do with the manager who wrote in, but if the end goal is to judge the employee more harshly if they are a POC because of their hair color, I think that is wrong.

      1. Laurel Gray*

        Well Xay, not only are waist length locs on a black woman absolutely gorgeous, but dyed locs most of the time makes them look even better (two of my sisters work in CorpAmer with colored locs currently). I think locs are becoming more respected and acknowledged as a professional (and clean!!) way for people to wear their hair. I agree with your comment about jumping through hoops to manage others’ biases, but I can’t deny that our window of opportunity can already seem halfway shut so we really should be more conscious about our appearance and perception as sad as it may sound. I think Keeping my Nose Clean mentioned points that should be considered as a POC in the workforce. What could be “trendy” on a white person could be called “ratchet” or “ghetto” on a black person.

        1. Xay*

          Keeping My Nose Clean explicitly said that the employee has poor judgment for dyeing their hair a nontraditional color in the workplace and not playing the respectability politics game as a response to a letter written by a manager. If we are going to get to the point that “we” don’t have to play the respectability politics game, then maybe we shouldn’t reinforce it as or to managers.

          1. Laurel Gray*

            You’re right, she did explicitly say that and I don’t agree with that, it’s unfair and agreeing with the perception really doesn’t help us either. Yet, I’d be lying if I said I don’t understand where that line of thinking comes from. I’d love the day when respectability politics is an equal game.

    6. Sue Wilson*

      The employee might not have the same concerns, values or hang-ups as you. That doesn’t mean she has bad judgment. That means they are willing to consider dismantling a system rather than propping it up.

    7. Faith*

      “It might sound sad, but I’m just being realistic – it’s in my best interest to go full-bore on respectability politics.”

      You know, I’m a busty white woman (49) and have always felt this way. We can always talk about how ‘I feel it looks professional’ and ‘people shouldn’t judge’, but they do anyway. That’s the idea behind Malloy’s Dress for Success books DECADES ago. Most of the judgments are snap judgments and people may not even realize that they make them. So it goes beyond color/race (although I agree there’s more of an issue there).

      The only ‘fun’ I allow myself is wearing cats eye reading glasses in different colors/patterns, some with sparkles. Other than that, I’m very conservative in shoes, clothing, hair, make-up and jewelry. Since I have no innate fashion sense, I use a personal shopper at Nordstrom’s to get the right look, so I too pay a bit of a tax. I need garanimals for professional women.

  20. Workfromhome*

    I Disagree a bit with the approach and phrasing here.
    I realize that the dress code didn’t spell this out so it’s not your fault for not knowing it, but I do need you to revert back to a more natural color.”

    I don’t think it right to ask them to revert their hair color (make and effort or spend dollars ) to accommodate a policy that doesn’t exist especially when its not something truly offensive. It would be similar to having no policy about short sleeved shirts and then saying “I know you will need to pay $50 for a cab but we need you to go home and put a long sleeve shirt on because it looks more “professional”

    Its the company’s fault for not including hair color in the policy. They obviously thought about these type of appearance issues by including tattoos and piercings in a written policy. Its not an unreasonable assumption that if something like hair color isn’t in the policy that there is some leeway after all if you went from brown to blond it wouldn’t be an issue.

    The sensible thing to do here is to say “Jane we have appearance policies covering nails tattoos etc. hair color is also something that matters but we really should have spelled that out. We are going to change the policy to include hair color which would make your current hair color inappropriate. I wanted to give you a heads up so you don’t waste time or $. It would make sense to let the current color grow out or to keep it in mind for the next time you change your hair color”

    Then change the policy, let everyone know and let Jane either grow her hair out or change to an appropriate color when she was planning to have her next hair coloring. Yes you would need to deal with the hair color for a few weeks but if Jane is an otherwise good employee why lose the good will simply to have here hair color which isn’t overtly offensive and won’t hurt your business change a few weeks sooner?

    Why should Jane be out 2 or 3 hundred $s simply because someone made an oversight in the policy? At the very least you might say “Jane its our fault you didn’t know, but its really important you have a different hair color. We’ll reimburse you the cost of changing your hair back if you will do it in the next X weeks and we will change the policy so there is no doubt going forward.”

    1. Jen RO*

      I think this is the best approach – change it going forward and just tell the employee to keep the new policy in mind at her next appointment.

    2. Puffy*

      I agree, but cost of money aside I think it is just thoughtless to request. Dying your hair is not a gentle process, it damages the hair and you can’t just redo it the next day if you want to change back without consequences – there are no guarantees that putting the old colour back on with look good, it could turn into an aesthetic disaster.

      I think that it also should be considered that she doesn’t have bright rainbow hair, it is jet black and changes tint in the light… it can be less noticeable if she ties her hair up when at work (a very simple request). For all management know, none of the patients may have a problem with her hair being different and I imagine some patients may feel more at ease (especially children).

      1. ceiswyn*

        Seconded that re-dyeing hair isn’t like applying a coat of paint.

        I had a friend who dyed her hair something relatively conservative but obviously not its natural colour shortly before she also got accepted for a summer job somewhere ultra-conservative. She tried to use an off-the-shelf box to bleach her hair back to its original colour.

        Reader, her hair went bright verdigris.

        1. KH*

          I was going to say much the same. I have somewhat mousy pale brown hair (now streaked with gray) naturally. One time I tried to go red using a box from the pharmacy and it came out absolutely horrible, clashing with my skin tone in a way that made me look jaundiced and ill (with bright spots of red on my cheeks from natural color). I went to a professional, and the process of stripping out the cheap color left me with something resembling straw, both in texture and in color – but the stylist didn’t want to add in more color at the risk of totally damaging everything and leaving me with 1/2″ stubble all over my head.

          Undoing a detailed and in depth dye job, especially if there have been multiple bleaching/coloring steps in the creation of it, can result in something horrible and dare I say, freakish looking. Even if done by a professional.

          If the dress code went into great detail on dress, makeup, piercings, and tattoos, and didn’t say ANYTHING on hair, it would not be unreasonable to assume that hair color wasn’t an issue.

    3. J*

      As a general observation, I think it’s interesting that while most people here don’t have a problem with the dyed hair in itself, there does seem to be some division of opinion as to how to interpret the spirit of the handbook rules; specifically, what the absence of a specific hair-related rule means. Some people (including the letter writer) think the presence of numerous rules about appearance should mean that “keep your hair conservative/natural” is common sense and should go without saying. Others (including me) think that the presence of detailed guidelines for everything BUT hair means that management doesn’t mind what you do with your hair. I think the handbook would have done a better job of laying out guidelines without being exhaustive if it had explained the underlying principles of the rules — is it about health and safety? About conservative appearance? About representing a particular community?

      1. J*

        Thinking about it, even my high school dress code did this — they had a bunch of explicit rules, but also stated that the general principle was that we shouldn’t wear things that would be distracting to other students. What this meant in practice could and was debated, but we at least knew what we were debating about. Whereas here, the letter writer is like “Use your judgment, we can’t spell EVERYTHING out” whereas the employee would probably think “I did use my judgment! I looked in the handbook and saw that all the guideliness seemed to be hygiene-related, so I figured that a muted hair color was fine.”

        1. Mike C.*

          Ha, I always loved how the rules about “don’t be distracting to students” always turned into abject slut-shaming.

          1. J*


            And yet! Debating whether spaghetti strap tops are “distracting” — or whether they are more distracting than some other type of clothing — is STILL a more productive conversation than debating whether spaghetti straps are “appropriate” without defining what appropriate MEANS.

          2. KR*

            Yeah, the whole notion of not distracting other students is not a good justification for school dress codes and it’s unfortunate how schools perpetuate sexism like that.

            1. O*

              I agree with that! All I’m saying is that if a policy is going to say “this list of rules is not exhaustive, there is room for ad hoc judgment calls,” you have to specify on what basis those ad hoc judgment calls will be made, at least nominally.

        2. Natalie*

          My company’s handbook has a similar line to cover jewelry, which as far as I can tell is because they don’t want to ban a facial piercings across the board but want people to keep it a minimum of fairly common ones.

  21. Momiitz*

    #1. Maybe the employee could wear a bouffant hat like we do in the operating room. It’s professional in the medical setting and it will cover all of her hair.

    1. Amtelope*


      If I’d just spent several hundred dollars on a hair dye job, covering it at work would be a lot more palatable to me than re-dying it.

  22. AmyH*

    OP#1: I asked my hairdresser about dying my hair this way. It’s less of a dye and more like a paint. It’s not going to last nearly as long as permanent dye for what it’s worth.

    1. Heather*

      I get the front of mine coloured every six weeks (currently it’s turquoise with bright blue highlights) and it DOES last. Now, my hair’s largely grey so the colour clings better than to other colours of hair (I think they usually bleach hair first but mine is naturally pre-bleached :) but I am going in tomorrow for my next cut and the colour is still vibrant. Friends who do theirs on their own do see quicker fading, but if she got it done professionally I’d expect it to last like mine. So expecting it to just fade out isn’t necessarily a good plan.

      I do NOT think OP#1 should make her employee change her hair. I have met our town’s mayor and other dignitaries with my hair like this and universally they’ve all loved it… it’s time for OP#1 to relax her ‘crazy cartoon hair’ concerns. Things have indeed changed!

    2. Almond Milk Latte*

      Your hairdresser must be talking about a specific method, because I have similar hair that ends up fading from blue/purple/green to bright magenta to pale pink and stays that way permanently. This could potentially last a while.

  23. DuckDuckMøøse*

    #1 : I think it’s a slippery slope to mandate hair colors and styles. Where is the line? I think a lot of people would say someone with black hair going to blonde isn’t right. That’s not natural. And which shades of red are acceptable, and which aren’t? I abhor certain hair styles, but in a medical setting, all I really care about is cleanliness. Is there a way they could style the hair for work, that would minimize the effect?

  24. Court*

    #2 It’s very common (and IMO preferable) for the manager to make the unofficial offer. If I was your CMO, I would be rightly concerned if a number of candidates were dropping out at the offer stage after I had to turn them over to HR. He may micromanage in other areas, but stepping in here is just smart on his part. Maybe they are flukes, but based on how your HR department’s culture comes across, maybe they’re not and you’ve got a pattern emerging.

    1. Just Another Techie*

      Exactly. I’d be very worried that HR was doing something wrong too if I had multiple candidates turn down offers. Something is going badly wrong somewhere in your hiring flow.

  25. Roscoe*

    #1 I don’t know. This type of thing bugs me. You didn’t list it in the dress code, but now you are mad about it and going to make her change? I understand that you can’t think of everything, but hair color requirements are THAT hard to anticipate and put in a dress code. I’ve had plenty of jobs where that was clearly spelled out. So you dropped the ball, now she has to pay. Would it be the worst thing to talk to her, let her leave it for the month or 2 that it lasts, but tell her you’d prefer her to go back to a “natural” color once the dye job passes? This is your mistake, not hers.

    #2 This seems to me like your HR department is the controlling one. Basically you are mad that the manager, who is actually in charge of this person, wants to give out the offer? I’ve never had HR give me an offer. They’ve done initial screens and set up interviews, but the offer actually came from the manager. I liked that because it seemed to me that the manager could actually tell me if they were excited to have me on, as opposed to HR just going through the motions. Maybe your org should look into WHY they are so determined that HR do this stuff.

    1. F.*

      I can perhaps shed a little insight into why HR needs to be included in the offer process. I and the HR manager for a fairly small (<50) company, and the owner likes to make job offers, even for entry level positions. The problem is that he does not consistently follow legal regulations and internal policies regarding pay and benefits and forgets exactly what he has offered. The last time he hired a sales person, he forgot to mention our mandatory drug screen and background check and forgot to tell me about the promised automobile allowance. Fortunately, this was only a verbal offer, but it reflected poorly on the company when I sent the official, written offer with the contingencies and without the auto allowance. I then had to explain to the candidate about our policies and had to revise the offer to include the allowance. For entry-level positions, he has promised the candidate a far higher rate of pay than even our most experienced employees earn in the same position. This leads to a great deal of resentment when the more experienced employees find out. If the hiring manager (or owner) wants to make verbal offers and "sell" the position, I think that's great, but they need to be sure that they are doing this in a way that is consistent with company policies and practices. That is why HR's input is so vital.

      1. TootsNYC*

        yes, but that’s because the owner is a dip.

        If the owner had his act together, he wouldn’t make those mistakes.

        If the Chief Marketing Officer had made those mistakes, that would of course be a problem. But there’s no indication that this is the case. It’s just the fact that he’s interfering at all.

        1. TootsNYC*

          and I meant to put quotes around “interfering”–I don’t think it’s interfering.

          (Though I agree w/ Alison that if the Chief Marketing Officer is making the offer to someone he won’t personally supervise, he really should have left the person’s actual direct boss-to-be to make that “unofficial offer” phone call.

          1. Steve*

            It’s still better to have it come from someone in the future employee’s chain of command, than from HR. It might even make the candidate more likely to take the offer (they might feel special getting attention from an executive).

            Last time I was on the job hunt, I did get an offer through HR. I asked to have the hiring manager call me and offer directly, because I wanted to gauge their interest in hiring me. I wasn’t getting a sense of that through talking to the HR person.

            The whole #2 story was funny. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. “And then this weekend happened… the hiring manager MADE AN OFFER TO THE CANDIDATE dum dum dum!” Nowhere in the question does it show any evidence or negative outcomes of the hiring manager working on hiring directly.

  26. Gwensoul*

    For the Ghost writing, the only thing I can think of that might be an issue is to make sure there is nothing in your contract about it. I know one acquaintance who was not allowed to tell anyone, even on her resume, the specific pieces she wrote, but I don’t know how common those clauses are.

  27. Noah*

    #1 – It is strange to me as well that there is a dress code policy as exacting as this but it does not include hair color. I can see others’ point that she should’ve known it might be an issue based on this policy being so specific in other ways and also company culture. However, it also seems really unfair to force someone to spend a lot of money to ruin what they already spent a lot of money to create. Especially when it is not outrageous by any means to the majority of the public.

    #2 – FWIW, I have always been called or emailed by the hiring manager and offered the job. Usually they say that HR will be contacting me soon with the official letter or to answer any questions about benefits, etc. I don’t think HR needs to be completely out of the process, but your organization sounds like HR is taking over. It is very normal for the hiring manager to run the majority of the hiring process.

    #3 – Different department will always have different levels of reporting. We have one operational department that produces daily reports for upper management. Others it is weekly, monthly, or quarterly. If you feel the reports you create are unnecessary or take up too much of your time, then maybe speak to your manager about that. Pointing to another department and saying “but they don’t have to do it” will come across as childish. I agree that in many cases reports are done for reasons that no longer exist. It might be possible to revise the report to make it easier to compile or alter the frequency once you determine exactly what management wants/needs to see.

  28. Allison*

    #1, Before I say anything, I get my hair dyed a very unnatural shade of red. I like that I’m able to do this, but I also understand that it wouldn’t be acceptable in all industries.

    I do see the need for medical assistants, who will be working directly with patients (as opposed to doing office/admin work all day) to look relatively conservative while working. I get rules on visible tattoos, makeup, piercings, etc., and a rule about wild or unnatural hair color would have been a good idea, and considering the fact that you have a conservative dress code, it would have been a good idea for the employee to check before making an expensive, long-term change to her hair.

    The fact is, it can’t be reversed quickly, so it’s fair to tell her you want it changed back as soon as she reasonably can, or you could tell her she needs to let it fade and not get it re-done, and have her wear her hair up and/or covered for now.

  29. Rusty Shackelford*

    #1 – I don’t understand how you can expect to stand on a policy that does not officially exist. It’s not like you can say “we shouldn’t have to put that in writing,” because obviously you DO have to put some things in writing. And if strict adherence to hair colors that could occur in undyed hair is not in writing, then it’s not policy. (Am I overreacting because I desperately love oil slick hair and mother of pearl hair and wish I could pull either of them off? Quite possibly.)

    1. Student*

      I understand where this is coming from, but there are a lot of things that aren’t in a handbook that are, nevertheless, not acceptable at work. Many of these unstated expectations are culture-specific and job-specific. I think as long as the OP changes the manual going forward to accurately convey what’s acceptable for hairstyles in this workplace, and gives the employee a reasonable amount of time to change her hair back, the OP is well within normal on how to handle this kind of thing. Professional adults don’t need every expectation listed in a huge book – they can and should have conversations like the one AAM suggested to work through reasonable misunderstandings or unexpected developments.

      I find it sad the employee can’t dye her hair neat colors too, but this particular argument of “You didn’t tell me I specifically couldn’t do this!” is a huge pet peeve of mine. I’m sure the employee handbook doesn’t say that it’s unacceptable to, say, whistle all day, or to pick your nose in front of clients, or print everything on purple legal paper with little teapots along the border instead of normal-sized plain white paper. However, the manager should have a conversation if an employee starts doing any of these things to explain expectations, then monitor for compliance (and only add a passage to the employee handbook about it if there is reason to think it’ll be a common problem).

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I tend to agree. Granted, I’m in D.C., which is really conservative when it comes to fashion, but the OP really isn’t an outlier in feeling the way she feels about this. It’s really, really common.

        I think the commenting population here isn’t representative of mainstream opinion on this — which is definitely shifting toward finding unusual hair colors more acceptable and not clutching pearls over it, but still isn’t “it’s outrageous if your employer doesn’t allow that.”

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I don’t find it outrageous or inappropriate that an employer wouldn’t allow unusual hair colors. I just find it odd that they wouldn’t put it in their policy, if it’s that important.

        2. Observer*

          Actually, I’m quite conservative about what should constitute work appropriate appearance. But, if you have a dress code that is fairly specific, as the OP indicates “I shouldn’t have to tell you this” is NOT reasonable. Also, you can be as conservative as you like, but please don’t pretend that there is a risk that doesn’t exist (ie the OP claimed that it’s a problem because if she had to represent the org in court, it would prejudice the judge.)

          I don’t think I’d be thrilled if one of my co-workers showed up with peacock hair. I know that my boss would NOT like it. But, if he asked me about it I would tell him not to make her get rid of it, but to change the policy going forward.

      2. Erin*

        Really good point. I had suggested OP change the policy, grandfathering in the employee which I still think is the right course of action. But yeah, there must be some wording she can add like, “and additional restrictions not necessarily specified in this document.”

      3. Rusty Shackelford*

        I agree that “you didn’t say I couldn’t!” is annoying. But in this case, it’s not as if the employee handbook forbids green hair, so she decided to dye it blue and pretend she didn’t know any better. I personally think it was reasonable to assume that if the employer cared about hair color, it would have been indicated in their otherwise rather specific guidelines.

        1. KH*

          Yes. Exactly. When you go into detail on piercings, tattoos, and other issues and completely LEAVE OUT hair color/style entirely, then it’s not unreasonable to assume that since so much thought and detail has been put into other areas, hair is a more open/flexible item.

          Also it’s not like the employee went bright pink or lime green. In the grand scheme of hair dye, a black with an “oil slick” iridescent overlay is reasonably subtle.

  30. Temperance*

    Re #1: Your handbook specifies how employees should dress down to how their nails should look, and is highly specific on other matters as well. This, to me, would signify that there are no real limits regarding hair color and style choices.

  31. disconnect*

    OP 1, my daughters go to a school with uniform requirements, and their dress code explicitly lists what is allowed and disallowed with hair. If it actually is part of the policy, it actually needs to be listed in your employee handbook.

  32. LQ*

    #1 When I go into a super conservative doctors office I always wonder if they keep up on medical practices like they keep up on style. Style is an easy thing to see, someone wearing current hair or clothes makes me feel like the environment is that Old Things Are Good and New Ways Are Bad. I’m still going to try to ask some questions to see if the dr is 20 years out of date on their actual information, but I’ll be much warier if everything else looks 50 years out of date.
    AKA demanding that everything looks like it is from the freaking 50s might loose you some patients too. It’s not the 1950s anymore. And it’s closer to the 2050s than it is the 1950s.

    1. LQ*

      Ack…that’s backwards. “someone wearing current hair or clothes doesn’t make me feel like the enviroment is…” that’s what happens when you get distracted!

    2. Persephone Mulberry*

      Your comment immediately made me wonder (in a humorous way, not a judging way) what you’d make of my sister in law, who is heavily into Rockabilly and on a daily basis looks like she walked out of the pages of Vogue 1954. :D

      1. LQ*

        Depends if I ask a question about current medical information do they know it? Are they still acting like the world should be stuck back in the 50s and that that was the BEST TIME EVER and nothing bad happened then?

      2. Allison*

        There are a ton of people out there who are super into retro clothing, vintage furniture and cars, old music and movies, swing dancing, etc. but are super progressive socially, and many of them work in the tech industry. Some people into vintage culture do bemoan the loss of old-school social conventions but they seem to be a vocal minority.

    3. MK*

      I am afraid you pretty much validate the OP’s concerns, because your post is all about how much appearences do matter. And I doubt the absence of unconventional hair colors among the stuff would make anyone think the practise is stuck in the 1950s; industries that place a lot of stock in these things are usually going for “classic” and/or “conservative version of what is in fashion”, not “let’s make the office look like we are filming a period drama”.

      1. LQ*

        I have definitely run into practices that were clearly stuck in the 1950s and people in the world who think those were the good ole days. I’m still going to ask more questions and dig deeper. That 1950s doctor likely doesn’t think that I should be there without my husband and that I don’t have the right to make decisions about my own body and doesn’t believe in birth control. Not my kind of doctor.

        1. MK*

          Or, you know, he simply likes the 50s aesthetic. Or believes furniture and decor isn’t important and prefered to invest in other things. You are making assumptions based on appearence; and statistically, there will be more people who will be put off by a ultra-modern doctor’s office than a conservative one.

          1. LQ*

            Yes, and if a doctor was ever on top of things when I asked those questions and didn’t give me grief when I asked about IUDs or other simple modern medical interventions I’d agree.

    4. Allison*

      I don’t think rules against visible tattoos, piercings, and certain hair colors necessarily mean they want everything to look like the 50’s.

      1. Laurel Gray*

        I agree. I also want to add that many here are advocating that these things should be more accepted and we might be overlooking the fact that they don’t look good on everyone who chooses to sport them. I’ve seen terrible color jobs that weren’t originally done properly or maintained. Cuts and colors that just don’t work well with the person’s features. Stupid, stupid, stupid tattoos, and piercings that were a bit egads at first glance. I admit I see this more with younger people than older.

        1. LQ*

          You think I’m bad for wanting my doctor to be up to date on medical procedures but are judging people for “stupid” tattoos or cuts or colors?

          1. Laurel Gray*

            Where did I say you were bad? I was agreeing with Allison’s comments about rules. And good for you if you’ve never seen a stupid tattoo or a terrible dye job or hair style on a person in your lifetime.

  33. Persephone Mulberry*

    #5: I want to emphasize what Alison put in parentheses – assuming you are in the US, your instinct about a single bullet point highlighting a few notable topics or publications is actually the correct one. I would have a comprehensive list ready to go – either as a supplemental attachment when you submit your resume, or to offer up during an interview, but don’t take up actual resume real estate with more than a couple of your best examples.

    1. BRR*

      I like this. My husband recently applied to an administrative position at a university and used a resume. They responded back asking for a cv and he had it ready to go already.

  34. JoAnna*

    If I were a patient, I wouldn’t be at all fazed by a medical assistant with hair like that. I’d be rather impressed, actually.

    1. Lauren*

      It would certainly provide a welcome distraction if the medical assistant had to draw blood from me or give me a shot.

  35. Erin*

    #1 – Gosh that sucks. I’m sure it was not cheap for her to get those highlights, and now she has to pay again to change it back, after she spent money, loves it, probably showed it off, took pictures…and it’s not even in the policy, which she presumably checked before doing this? (She probably should have checked with you too, but since it’s not the policy, she probably felt she didn’t need to.)

    Obviously you know your industry, coworkers, etc., better than any of us and it’s your judgement call, but I agree with Alison and others that you should’t push back unless it’s really, really necessary.

    Here’s a suggestion: Amend the policy or employee handbook or whatever. You didn’t think you had to specify hair, but clearly you do. Change it, make her aware of the change, but let her keep her hair as she’d be “grandfathered” in.

    In other words you could let this one go, since it’s legitimately not the employee’s fault, but you can prevent it from happening again in the future.

    1. Erin*

      …two after thoughts I want to add:

      For what it’s worth I do sympathize with you. I wrote a piece maybe about a year ago about tattoo acceptance in the workplace. While it is getting more and more acceptable, the medical industry was one area where employers are still more likely to take a conservative approach. Obviously the hair thing falls under the same umbrella. So, I believe you that it’s not a work norm in your environment and there are reasons behind that. But I have to stick behind my original comment.

      Also FWIW, I have a lip piercing I take out for work (which I’m fine with doing – I’ve never asked or tried to see if I could wear it). Years ago, it was more prominent (think large ring versus small stud). I realize in hindsight that when I wore it all the time, including to brief retail jobs I had, and to college and to meet with professors, and to meet friends of parents and etc., I made a more conscious effort to be polite, professional, and pleasant. I really did try harder to make people take me seriously and make my work stand out.

      So, just throwing that out there. Your employee may end up working harder and being motivated to do better at her job because she’ll have a stronger (possibly subconscious) desire to prove herself and her worth.

      1. lfi*

        i do the same thing with my septum ring.. always turn it up at work. if people see me outside of work they are always shocked i have one.

    2. KR*

      I’m with you on the policy issue. If this were me, I would check the policy and assume that there was no problem with dying my hair crazy colors. If someone came back after the fact and said my hair wasn’t acceptable, I would have a problem with that.

      1. Erin*

        Yeah, if it were me I would have thought, Is this okay for work? I’m going to have to find out. I can ask my manager – or, wait, there’s actually a written policy for this stuff. Perfect, I’m good to go. :/

  36. Mockingjay*

    #1: I wish people would concentrate less on appearance and more on the quality of work. If the hair is clean and styled appropriately for work (pulled back or up if need be), who cares what color it is?

    I have had white hair since my 30s. As in Barbara Bush white. I dyed it until a year ago when I developed an allergy to the paraphenylenediamine (PPD) in the dye.

    Since then, I get constant comments on my hair from bosses and coworkers: “Your hair is very striking.” “Your hair is very attractive.” “I like that you let your hair go ‘natural.'” That’s really nice of you boss, but I didn’t stop dyeing it to please you. Rather, I’m trying to have a conversation about our current workload and the upcoming contract while you are in town for your brief monthly visit. Can we please focus on the task at hand?

    1. Erin*

      Ugh, I don’t disagree. But I think it can be a matter of how things SHOULD be going down and what is realistically, actually happening. Appearances shouldn’t matter at work, but usually, to some degree, they do.

  37. Laurel Gray*

    Does anyone work at an organization where women/men higher up on the food chain have bold hair color/style? Colors are becoming more accepted in many industries but not in management (or at least I have yet to see this). I can’t picture a mid or senior manager in an organization (that isn’t creative/start up) with bold hair color, however I could totally picture hair color and personal style keeping someone from a promotion.

    1. Argh!*

      The higher ups where I work all have gray hair – they don’t even dye back to their natural colors!

    2. Kelly L.*

      I think this is something we’ll increasingly see changing! A lower-level employee who likes bold color will get promoted, either by hiding her style until she’s promoted, or in spite of any misgivings about her style, and then once she’s in, she’ll promote people with bold hair who might not have been promoted before, and I think we’ll see this process happen a bunch of times in many different places.

      1. Laurel Gray*

        I really hope this is the case. I work in a conservative field and my career trajectory will probably mean being in conservative environments for a long time so I really hope this changes. Jessica Rabbit or King Triton hair/beard on senior executives will not (should not!) effect a conservative company’s bottom line. I would love to see an older black senior executive in the Frederick Douglass do, with the authentic skunk streak down the side and all!

    3. some1*

      When I worked in publishing the Creative Director had extensions with all kinds of colors.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      A friend of mine is a partner/co-owner of a medical clinic. She’s in her 50s. She has pink streaks in her hair. But I think you see it less in people higher on the food chain not because they all consider inappropriate, but because they may simply consider it youthful, and by the time you work your way up the ladder you may think you’re too old for it.

    5. MK*

      Judges. Not a lot of them and not anything particularly outrageous, but I have seen some with unconventional appearence choises. However, and this is a crucial point, judges in my country are appointed for life and their professional independence is explicitly stated and extremely well-guarded by the constitution; there is literally no way for them to be affected negatively by somethings like this, they can afford to make choises that, say, a lawyer who has to inspire confidence to their clients possibly wouldn’t. So, I am not sure it’s a very good metric.

    6. CMT*

      Not exactly the same, but a lot of the management where I work have multiple visible tattoos. Which is great, since I do too! It’s something we’ve bonded over.

    7. Al Lo*

      My title is Senior Manager (with an upcoming bump to VP in the next while), and my next hair color is blue, teal, and purple. Earlier this year, I had dark purple with bright purple streaks. I’m under 40, but on the senior management team of my company.

      Interestingly, we’ve been having this debate recently . Not for our staff, but for our student performers. Staff can do whatever they like, but the conversation has been around what on stage consistency needs to happen. We are not like some dance companies where we go for a very consistent body type and coloring, and we want the kids to express individuality, but our old policy had a clause about hair color that seems archaic and out of touch now. We want to appeal to and serve a very broad constituency of students and performers, and we don’t want to alienate someone who has a different hair color.

      It’s much more common this year than it has been in the past, starting with our early elementary choirs, and going up the line. We’ve come to the conclusion that we take it on a case-by-case basis as to how distracting it is under a spotlight in a group of hundred people on stage. Some of our older performers choose to have more conservative hair colors for other roles and other performance opportunities that do dictate appearance more stringently than we do.

      It’s absolutely common, when auditioning for a role, to be asked if you would die or cut your hair. Sometimes a show will provide a wig if you aren’t able to do it naturally, but altering your appearance in a minor way for a role is a very common thing in theater. We don’t need that kind of character specificity, and since we’re not going for a cookie-cutter look, we’ve chosen to not enforce hair color unless significantly distracting on stage.

    8. Noah*

      I have a Director level title, one step below the VPs. I currently have bluish hair, more like denim, darker at the roots more blue towards the tips. I also have an industrial piercing in one ear. FWIW, I’m in a relatively conservative industry (airline). However, the company I work for is newer/younger than the majority of the industry. If I worked for a more traditional airline I imagine it wouldn’t be acceptable.

  38. Argh!*

    re #1 – I know someone in the job market with a very unnatural hair color. He’s not having any luck with his search. I’ve considered advising him to change his hair color but certainly he has to know that hiring officials may not appreciate it…. I think.

    1. Laurel Gray*

      I wouldn’t be surprised if his hair color is holding him back. It’s one of those things I don’t expect any hiring manager to actually offer as feedback. Which is why many people cut their hair low, dye it a safe color, shave the beard etc while interviewing and when they get a job, they grow it back and change hair color. Black women go through similar with natural hair styles (think afros and certain styles of braids) when looking for work.

    2. Roscoe*

      Well, as much as I’m against using that as a criteria, I think its not too smart of him to do that while job hunting. For every manager who will have no problem with it, you’ll probably have another who has a certain negative opinion. If thats one of the few data points they have, in that manager’s mind, its a negative.

      And as much as I’m arguing against OP #1 for their general judgmental attitude, I truly don’t have a problem with a company having that policy. There are a lot of reasons I can see it. Hell, I’ve worked for a couple like that. HOWEVER, they made their appearance guidelines VERY clear, so if you violated them, you obviously didn’t look at the handbook

    3. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Unfortunately I think it may be hurting him more than if he were a woman. Though women get the short end of the stick with a LOT of appearance-related things, we do have a bit more leeway for individuality/creative looks even within a professional context.

      Context does matter, of course – if your friend is on the west coast applying for tech jobs, I’d say the problem is more likely his resume. But if he’s applying to law firms in Wichita, then his hair could indeed be an issue.

    4. Noah*

      I agree with others. I would not have an unnatural hair color during a job search. Also, the fact that he’s a man instead of a woman is most likely not helping things here.

    5. Amy UK*

      How desperate is he to find a job, though? When I had unnatural coloured hair and was job-hunting, I wasn’t that bothered not having success because I didn’t want to work for a company that had issues with my hair anyway. It might be that your acquaintance feels similarly.

      I doubt anyone in the world is going to have failed to connect the dots between “my appearance is unconventional to the point people stare in the streets” and “I’m job hunting and not found anything”. It’s more likely that they just don’t care.

  39. Betty (the other Betty)*

    Plenty of people have weighed in on the hair color issue, and I agree with most that a. it isn’t a real problem unless it is somehow creating issues with customers/clients/patients, b. it was reasonable for the employee to think that coloring her hair would be ok given that hair color was not addressed in the employee handbook but lots of other things were, and c. the employer would be way out of line to insist that the employee re-color her hair immediately.

    I wonder what the reaction would have been to me the last time I dyed my hair? My hair is very dark, but now in my late 40s it has a lot of grey. Last time I dyed it I chose a very dark color which matched my natural dark color but ended up turning all the grey to a bright blue. Accidental but pretty awesome! And no, I would not have attempted to dye it again right away to cover the blue.

    1. Kelly L.*

      I once tried to dye my hair a normal-looking red and it came out burgundy. It actually looked pretty awesome, but it wasn’t the intended effect. I was in college at the time and slinging burgers, so I don’t know what the effect would have been in a fancy office, but yeah, dye accidents happen.

      Right now I’m in the opposite situation–I wanted a dramatic but still vaguely-natural red, and it came out so close to my natural (kind of dark reddish blonde?) that no one has actually noticed. :D

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        A friend (who is Chinese, with very dark hair) tried in college to bleach his hair to a pale yellow because he thought it would look cool. It went badly, and his hair was a shade of orange you’d normally find on a Muppet. He was not happy.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I was going for an overall light red a la Emma Stone, but it ended up more golden blonde with strawberry tones. I like it a lot, but it’s not exactly what I had in mind!

      3. Oryx*

        I had the exact same burgundy situation happen! I was also in college so it was okay (although my mom, who hated the fact I was dying my hair red, was less than thrilled when I came home with that color).

    2. KR*

      I once dyed the bottom of my dark blonde hair bright purple, which involved bleaching it. The purple looked great for less than a week and then faded out so the bottom of my hair was bleached blonde/pink. It ended up looking a lot better with my hair then the purple would have! Hooray!

  40. Grey*


    Instead, we arrived at work this morning to find that he had called the candidate over the weekend to “unofficially” offer her the job without first consulting with HR to secure official offer paperwork.

    As a mid-career professional, this would have set off a number of alarms and I wouldn’t have accepted the position.

    As a candidate, I’d be more impressed than alarmed. It’s useful to know who you’ll be working for/with.

    Is it possible that other candidates turned down their offers because they were unable to meet with, or speak to anyone outside of HR? That would set off an alarm bell for me.

    1. Erin*

      Agreed, I would be impressed the manager took the time out of his weekend to personally extend me an offer.

      Weird that he “needed a few days” though, and then suddenly couldn’t even wait until Monday to at least touch base with HR about it. That does signal to me he’s being a little shady or trying to circumvent something.

      1. some1*

        I received an offer at a former company on a Thursday evening – that actually worked out better because I was employed and was able to give the conversation my full attention.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I wonder if he’s feeling frustrating and that he’s being pushed around by HR and the rest of his department. And his “I need to think” is a way to push them out of the interaction/process, and the call over the weekend a way to seize it back for himself.

  41. Mianaai*

    regarding OP#1: I think the key here is that a medical setting is extremely different from an office setting in that many personal appearance restrictions are actually necessary for health safety reasons rather than just “professionalism”. From my contact with the medical field (I collaborate with clinicians frequently and had many friends in med/nursing school during uni/grad school), if I was presented with a dress code covering nails, hair products, perfumes, makeup, clothing, jewelry, hairstyle (e.g. must keep hair up), piercings, and/or footwear, I absolutely wouldn’t bat an eye and I wouldn’t assume that restrictions on any of these had a bearing on hair color. They’re not about professional appearance but instead about health safety. Long nails harbor bacteria and can make manual tasks difficult and nail polish can chip and be unsanitary. Patients can have reactions to hair products, perfumes, or makeup. Clothing, footwear, jewelry, and hair also can reasonably be constrained for health reasons: long hair can trail into things or get caught, open-toed shoes increase the wearer’s risk for harm from splashed/spilled chemicals, etc. Piercings are often thought of as unsanitary as well, although that’s debatable, especially if they are fully healed and properly maintained. There is, however, no medical reason that I know of to restrict employees’ hair color. The “no tattoos” portion could be interpreted as easily covering “no unnatural hair colors”, especially as (some) tattoos are more widespread and culturally accepted than brightly colored hair at this point, at least in my area. But, again, in a health care setting tattoos (especially new ones) might be frowned upon due to the risk of needle-borne diseases – I’m not sure about that one, however.

    In an office setting, though, if an employer specifies dress code on all of those items I would assume that they simply forgot to mention hair color and would expect that to be restricted as well.

    So, I think this is a policy that’s extremely clear-cut from an office culture point of view and not at all clear from a medical setting point of view. The employer really should try to rectify this, by re-examining their dress code and coming to a decision as to what they consider absolutely necessary for their office, communicating this clearly to employees, and offering at least temporary leniency if they decide to make the rules more strict, to give employees time to comply with the new policy.

  42. Master Bean Counter*

    #2. What your boss did is very normal. Especially if you have candidates that have a hard time getting past the HR process. It’s always good to talk to them first to see if they are even interested. And the Saturday call isn’t that unusual. I actually appreciated the one I got from my supervisor at the government job. Calling during the week would have made it awkward at work. I wouldn’t have time to talk and have the conversation we had on that Saturday. I got a big heads up about issues the office was having and what the challenges would be for the job. The manager wanted to make sure I was okay with everything before he started the wheels on the formal process.

    1. KR*

      I once got offered a job at 8:30PM on a Friday night. I was knee-deep in homework but it was interesting to think what it would have been like if they called and I was at a karaoke bar or something.

      1. the gold digger*

        Genuinely curious: Why would you even answer your phone if you were at karaoke and otherwise busy?

        (My husband and I argue about this all the time. He thinks a ringing phone is a command to answer no matter what. I think a ringing phone is something to answer if it’s convenient for me.)

        1. Lily in NYC*

          I just had this argument with my mom yesterday. She lives in FL and was complaining about all of the GOP robo-calls she’s been getting (6 Rubio calls in one day!). I was like – you have caller ID, why are you even answering?

        2. KR*

          I imagine I might step out and answer because I would be expecting a call about a job and wouldn’t want to risk not getting the job. It was an entry level job, so you always run the risk if you don’t answer that they’ll just move on to the next person and never consider you again. Any other time, I don’t answer the phone if I’m otherwise busy.

  43. BioPharma*

    #2: just a story to add: After the HR screen, I came in to chat with the HR in lieu of a phone call. The hiring manager pretty much offered me the position (said “well good, I’d love for you to join us”). It was too good to be true and hard to believe, then in a couple days received an email from HR about my on-site visit. (Wait, so was I delusional??) I later learned that the hiring manager DID in fact pretty much offer me the position, but “got a talkin’ to” by HR and/or team that all candidates need to meet other people. This was part of a long job search, so what an emotional roller coaster that was!

    1. No Longer Passing By*

      Hat didn’t advise you about the “change in circumstances ” and instead acted like it never had happened??

  44. Sadsack*

    Re: hair color, Does the person complaining here actually have the authority to make the suggestion to the employee about her hair? Does the OP have the backing of other management on this issue? Are other employees who may report to others in the org held to the same unwritten standard, or can they style their hair freely? I worry that it is just OP’s opinion of what is profesdional and may not actually be something that upper-management would be willing to judge.

  45. Liz W.*

    OP1: Showed the hair color to my boss and she told me to go for it. We’re the most conservative department in a conservative plant.

  46. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I should have thought to post something about this at the start, but better late than never: Posts about hair color tend to get a lot of comments. They also tend to get people sidetracked into conversations about what hair color/style they like/want to try, brand recommendations, etc. Please resist that here and keep comments focused on the question in the letter, since this is likely to be an unwieldy comment thread otherwise. Thank you.

    I’ll also put this up at the top so people see it.

  47. newworldofwork*

    One week after we hired a woman to work in our professional firm she started coming to work dressed “goth.” She had interviewed with professional attire, etc, but now was coming to work with black heavy eyeliner, pale face, blood red lips, black leather, etc. We were a small office and had never needed a dress code “policy” but we put one together fast! Her attire did in fact affect her ability to do her job, because she was a sales professional meeting with lawyer and doctor’s offices and other professional firms, and one of our clients told us he would not do business with us anymore after she showed up there like that.

    1. KT*

      This one touches a nerve for me, only because I’m an accidental goth. I am naturally ghastly pale with pitch black hair (Dita Von Teese coloring). If I wear red lipstick, people tell me I look like a vampire. If I wear black, I’m goth. Geez, I wasn’t trying to make a statement, it’s just this black sweater is warm and it’s chilly in the office, blegh!

      I was so happy when I started freelancing when I could wear what I wanted. Leather blazer? Rock on. Dark red lipstick? You got it. Many of my clients are lawyers, doctors, and pharmaceutical companies, and if they don’t like it, they don’t have to hire me. Most move on and recognize I do great work, even if people do doubletakes.

        1. KT*

          :) I think goth looks are beautiful, but I’m too lazy to put together outfits and looks. So I’m a jeans and a black t-shirt girl by default–which just plays into my accidental goth rep *sigh*

      1. Chinook*

        ” I am naturally ghastly pale with pitch black hair (Dita Von Teese coloring). If I wear red lipstick, people tell me I look like a vampire”

        This happened to my sister when she dyed her hair black. She had no clue how white (think peaches and cream without the peaches) her skin was until she dried her hair. I learned her lesson and stay far away from black dye (and eyeliner) otherwise I too will look like the living dead.

        1. KT*

          Meh, I just embrace it. I like my weird zombie coloring :) I have so many people (including strangers!!!) who have come up to me and said “You’re coloring is too severe, you should go lighter”

          But I don’t care, and I have to deal with myself in the mirror.

    2. brighidg*

      Well, that’s just a lack of sense/imagination on her part. You can still dress professionally and add goth touches without going full goth.

    3. Observer*

      That client sounds like they would be hard to please, if they dropped you completely the first time she showed (as opposed to telling you that they don’t like the way she was dressed.)

      In any case, this is different than what the OP was describing. She is dressing in relatively extreme (for lack of a better word) and representing you to an apparently conservative client base. That certainly justifies a dress code. AND it’s a lot easier to implement than getting rid of a color job of this sort.

    4. No Longer Passing By*

      Something similar happened to me. Interviewed woman wearing a suit. Extended offer and I completely did not recognize her when she started. She was bald and wearing a dashiki. I had to step out with my HR Rep and ask who was the person being onboarded.

      As a natural-haired WOC myself, I can appreciate the cultural references but there is a problem if you inherently misrepresent yourself during an interview. It struck me as deceptive because she clearly knew what typically would be viewed as work appropriate and then stopped caring once she got the job (how does she know that she wouldn’t have gotten the job if she had interviewed with the bald head?). I think the norm is doing as the employee did in Scenario #1: work at the place for a while, check out the policies, look around at other employees, and then make 1 change, right? Not just show up as a new employee completely deviating from what you showed in an interview. I can imagine your shock when your new hire showed up.

  48. CMT*

    I know there are a thousand comments about #1 already, but I’m going to add that I don’t trust that the LW can have a conversation about this in a neutral tone. If she’s not positive that she can address this without coming off as condescending or judgmental, she should just drop it.

    1. fposte*

      I can understand that feeling, but I’m not sure I accept the implications. Managers have to say a lot of stuff that can’t just go unsaid if they can’t keep their opinions out of their voice.

      1. katamia*

        But in this case, especially given the uncertainty over whether the coworker with the dyed hair has really done anything wrong or unprofessional, there’s a real chance that the damage done to a relationship with a coworker OP otherwise seems to like (especially couched in the “fit” terms OP uses in her letter) would outweigh the potential benefits of the “Your hair color isn’t professional” message. If there are no complaints (and I suspect there haven’t been, or else OP would have mentioned them in the letter), then all we have to go on is that OP thinks it’s unprofessional, which may or may not reflect reality. This isn’t the same as having a “Please don’t swear at customers” or “Please stop wearing 3 gallons of perfume and giving everyone migraines” talk.

        Also, we’re not sure what OP’s role in relationship to the coworker is. I initially read it as OP having some form of authority over her, but reading it again now, I’m getting the sense that OP is just a “concerned coworker” without that authority. And even if I’m wrong and OP is an authority figure, I can envision a lot more ways that this talk could go wrong than could go right.

        1. fposte*

          I think if the OP doesn’t have authority, she shouldn’t bring it up at all, no matter what her voice would sound like.

          But if this is a decision about enacting a policy for the practice and the OP has authority and is acting with the will of the owners, then she needs to convey this information to the staffer. I think what’s being gotten at here is that it sounds like the OP reads this hair a particular way and that people think she shouldn’t. But if the practice reads it a particular way too, the priority is conveying that message. There’s no “I couldn’t tell her the policy without sounding snotty so she’s exempted from the policy” loophole.

          1. katamia*

            No, there isn’t any kind of loophole. But if OP does have that authority, then delivering that message in the tone used in this letter will probably damage her relationship with that coworker. And I think “There’s a very good chance the coworker will take this tone badly, and this is something I should be careful about when we discuss her hair” is a valid thing for the OP to consider.

            1. fposte*

              That I totally agree with. It’s just not the same thing as saying that she either has to get the tone right or she can’t talk to the employee at all.

  49. Ineloquent*

    Also on LW#1 – I get the sense that you’re not the top dog at your practice. Do be sure that you aren’t painting your own desires on the office. Your management may be totally ok with the hair, so it’d be remarkably inappropriate for you to squash this girl if you aren’t sure. Even so, I’m with most of the other commenters that it shouldn’t matter and making her change will likely lose you at least one employee.

  50. Vicki*

    At one point, I had a 6-month programming contract at a Large Financial Services Firm in San Francisco. My group was on the 31st floor, not customer-facing.

    Our admin was brilliant and also very… unique. I don’t recall any piercings, but her clothing was not financial-sector business somber.

    She mentioned, once, that occasionally, new managers would try to have “the talk” with her abut the way she dressed. She would then remind them that a) there were no customers on our floor, b) how she dressed did not affect how she did her job and c) if they didn’t want her, a lot of companies would.

    That always ended the “talks”.

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