how to tell an employee “no nose rings”

A reader writes:

I have had a wonderful front desk receptionist/medical biller for six years. She always goes out of her way and is extremely dedicated. Well, yesterday she came in with a nose ring. I don’t know how to handle it without hurting her feelings. She’s had a tough life. Please let me know how to get rid of the nose ring.

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • How do I poach an employee from another company?
  • My contact misrepresented me to get an in with my boss
  • Should I speak up about my lazy colleague?
  • Employer wants to interview me on the same day that I have a major work event

{ 180 comments… read them below }

  1. KellyK

    One thing that makes a real difference with the nose ring is whether you already have a dress code that spells out that they aren’t permitted. If you don’t, and you want to ban them, you really need to include that in an employee handbook. Someone knowingly flouting the dress code is very different than someone getting a fairly normal piercing and wrongly assuming it wouldn’t be a big deal.

    1. Tiny_Tiger

      Exactly this. I have multiple (read 3) facial piercings that I leave in when I go to work. There is no official rule in our employee handbook that says you can’t have piercings and tattoos showing at work and thus far they haven’t implemented any rule that says otherwise. If this is something that you really feel shouldn’t be allowed, have it added to the handbook ASAP. If you let it go for too long it’s easier for the employee to raise an objection when you do start to enforce it. But definitely keep Alison’s advice in mind about the cultural norms starting to change as well. Do you want to potentially pass up good candidates because of body modification?

      1. DArcy

        If you’re going to change the employee handbook, it should go without saying that you should be upfront with your employee that this is a new policy and give them a reasonable amount of time to come into compliance with it.

        1. Anonhippopotamus

          Nope. If I’m hired for a job the way that I am, I’m not going to suddenly change my appearance because someone decided that they no longer like the way that I look.

          1. Anonhippopotamus

            Meaning that it’s completely unreasonable to change the employee handbook when it relates to a person’s appearance and force them to change. I would refuse.

            1. KellyK

              In some cases it is unreasonable, but it might also be that it should’ve been in the handbook all along. Like, if you got hired at a very conservative bank or law firm that was just lax about appearance rules until they realized it was costing them customers, it would make sense for them to update it. Or if something has changed, and it’s now a problem where it wasn’t before. (My former workplace went from being a location where nobody ever saw a customer to a place where high-level meetings were held recently. They made dress code changes as a result, going from jeans every day to business casual. I did have coworkers with subtle nose piercings, but I can easily picture more dramatic ones being a problem during that transition.)

              A decent boss would empathize with the fact that this sucks for you and see if there are exceptions or work-arounds, but it might be out of their control.

          2. Vicki

            I worked in a programming group Large Financial Company. We had a great receptionist / admin whom we shared with a sales group. She did not dress like big finance thinks women should dress (think colorful clothing, one or more tattoos or piercings, colorful hair). Occasionally some new manager would remind her of this.

            She would then remind the manager that she was a Very Good admin and this being downtown SF, she could probably get another job without much trouble.

            OP, if you need to change your documented dress code because you don’t like the nse ring, you need to take a step back and figure out _why_ this nose ring bothers you so much. It’s her nose, not yours.

            The very sweet nurse-in-training on my floor when I had gallbladder surgery had a tongue stud. It had no effect on her competence or capability.

    2. Charlie

      Also, there’s a major difference between a slim, minimal nostril ring and some enormous punk-rock septum ring, feel me?

      1. seejay

        Yep, this. Small nostril piercings are totally the norm these days… no one bats an eye at them. When I had mine done 25 years ago? Yep, people freaked out. Now, not so much.

        The guy I went on a surprise date with a few years ago? The big honking double zero steel bar horn thingamajig going through his septum? Yeah, that was a shocker. I’m pretty easy-going but even I couldn’t stop staring at that. It could have even been beyond 00 and into the half inch thickness, I have no idea. There was no second date.

        Nose rings can also be cultural so it’s sticky territory to start stepping into.

        1. Amy G. Golly

          I’ve had a nostril piercing for going on 15 years, and it’s been years since it’s occurred to me that an employer might take issue with it! (Of course, I’m a public librarian: a profession mildly notorious for eccentricity in dress.)

          1. seejay

            I used to think librarians were so conservative and stuffy, then I started meeting young women in the profession about 10 years ago and wow, that field got weird all of a sudden. I know at least a half dozen women in it now and all of them are on the non-conforming, eccentric side. The mildest one of the bunch has only two tattoos (out of all the bodyart possibilities) but is into extreme sports (mountain biking, downhill skiing and motorcycling).

          2. bohtie

            ditto. I’m an archivist for a pretty conservative corporation and I have two nose piercings, a relatively small (12g) septum ring, and 1/2″ stretched ears, along with a ton of tattoos. Admittedly part of my reputation is that I am odd-looking (there’s no rules in our dress code about piercings or hair, so last year I had a purple Mohawk, and my boss said it was awesome – he knows I’d knock it off if he told me to regardless but that doesn’t mean I won’t try ;). No one, literally no one, has ever cared, except to compliment me on my jewelry (I like wearing sparkly opals and things like that, especially in my nose). Ever since I got the nose piercings especially I notice them much more on other people and I’d say I see at least a few every day at my company, they’re really common because they’re typically very small and unobtrusive. If it offends OP that much, she could ask the person to switch to a stud that would be less visible (plus, excuse me while I nerd out, but there’s some schools of thought that say rings are not ideal for healing new piercings anyway). The whole thing sounds kinda knee-jerk; if it ain’t in the handbook, you can’t expect an employee to psychically

            1. bohtie

              I cut myself off! Anyway, what I was gonna say is that you can’t expect an employee to read your mind, because even if you’re appalled by the thought of facial piercings and consider them inherently unprofessional, not everyone feels that way.

        2. Vicki

          “The big honking double zero steel bar horn thingamajig going through his septum? ”

          There’s a guy I used to see at some tech meetings who had one of these. I always had to resist the idea of grabbing hold of it and literally leading him around the room by the nose.

        1. michelenyc

          You can also flip the septum ring (horseshoe style) up into your nose and you can’t see it. That’s what a lot of my friends do. Also I had my nose pierced in the early ’90’s and I work a very small, flat nose screw. It took my mom 3 months to notice it.

          1. PK

            +1
            I’m a mid level professional with a septum piercing. It stays flipped up in my nose. Only my boss knows about it and only because he ran into me outside of work.

      2. marymoocow

        I actually understood this the other way. I have my septum pierced and it’s really easy to hide. Nothing enormous or punk rock about it. I just flip the jewelry upwards and nobody knows it’s there. I assumed the LW was referencing a nostril piercing, which can’t be hidden.

          1. LawPancake

            Totally off topic, but Mary Moo Cow was the name of a fictional kids show on the PBS show Arthur… and why I remember that is a complete mystery!

    3. k

      Yeah, it would be easy for someone to assume that visible piercings are not considered unprofessional, assuming your handbook doesn’t list specifics and says something like “professional dress” or “business casual”. I’ve worked in several environments where that was the dress code, and there was never an issue with small tasteful jewelry including the facial variety.

      1. LavaLamp

        My boss flipped when she found out I have tattoos. I’ve got two; one easily hidden on my back and one on my wrist. When she noticed the wrist tat she asked me “but what will you do when you’re old?” I looked at her and had one of those moments where I came up with something g brilliant. I told her I’d be the coolest old lady in whatever nursing home I end up in. And I was honestly surprised she never saw my other tattoo since this happened when our AC was broken and I was wearing tank tops every day because my building was over 80*F.

        And I work in construction; a good 70% of my coworkers are sleeved. Tattoos aren’t a big deal around here. I’m so glad the world is becoming generally more acceptive of these things.

      2. Emma

        It’s also very much worth considering whether you need to ban *all* facial piercings; if you can compromise by saying something like “plain metal studs only, no rings”, that will go a long way towards softening the blow for the employee, since they’ll be able to keep the piercing and wear more visible jewellery in it outside of work.

        (Nose piercings collapse super fast if they don’t have jewellery in them, like half an hour for a new one)

    4. Lils

      “That said, be aware that the norms around this are changing really quickly, and facial piercings are increasingly accepted in corporate settings. It’s worth taking a fresh look at whether you truly do need to ban them; your patients may not care about it at all.”

      I’m so glad this is becoming the norm! Who cares about nonconventional appearance when people are competent and provide good customer service? I’m 40 and have always lived in the conservative American South. I’ve had my nose ring for 20+ years and this is the first job I’ve had where it wasn’t forbidden or frowned on to wear at work. This attitude accompanies other more important changes in tolerance, like for people in nontraditional relationships or people who don’t attend church. My weird hobbies and atheism aren’t a problem for me now, and neither is my facial jewelry…I do NOT miss the 90s!

    5. INTP

      I agree with this, especially because I believe you are not supposed to take the jewelry out of the piercing for a certain amount of time after getting the piercing. If you’re in a conservative environment and you just can’t allow the piercing, I guess you have to do what you have to do, but I think it’s pretty crappy to neglect to specify this rule in the dress code and then require someone to remove the jewelry after they’ve already paid for the piercing.

      1. Anon Millennial

        I dyed my hair black earlier this year and my boss made a big deal out of it. Apparently, my industry is so conservative that that’s a no-no. It wasn’t in the handbook though so I can see how the receptionist could make a mistake about facial piercings.

        1. INTP

          Another good example of why employers need to proactively put these things in the employee handbook or dress code and not just correct employees who show up with modifications that they don’t like. Fixing a recent dye job can be costly and cause a lot of damage to the hair, not to mention the price of the original hair color or piercing or whatever it was. It’s just not fair to employees to not proactively communicate what won’t be tolerated in the workplace.

          1. Shazbot

            ^This. I love green and blue and purple hair, but sure, that’s not a go for some companies. But in 2016 I don’t understand how a company can still insist on the shade-of-natural-color drapes matching the carpet.

            1. krysb

              I rocked purple, green, and blue hair up until a week or so ago; I went back to my real color because it’s just getting too damaging for my hair. Luckily, I work for a company that is cool with funky hair, piercings, and tattoos, even though our customers are very conservative.

          2. Marisol

            I think they would say something like “unnatural-looking hair colors” and then have to navigate the subjective assessment of what looks unnatural or not. Some dye jobs are obviously not natural, whether intentionally so or not, even if it’s a “normal” hair color, and some you’d never know by looking.

            1. Artemesia

              LOL there are pretty much no natural adult blonds — a few, but really almost every blond you see bleaches/colors her hair.

              1. AnonEMoose

                I’m one of those exceptions. I have never bleached or colored my hair. It’s darkened as I’ve gotten a bit older (when I was a kid, it was almost white), but I am still definitely (and naturally) blond. So is my sister.

          3. Lucie in the Sky

            I work at a Japanese company in America. People who are Japanese here have been sent home for coloring their hair (the expats) and had to come in with their hair back to normal black. The local workers have all levels of natural hair colors that are obviously colored for some of them including platinum blondes and bright reds. It’s a weird double standard that makes me uncomfortable.

        2. marymoocow

          That’s crazy. My hair is naturally black. How can they frown upon something that most people in the world already have?

        3. tink

          …This doesn’t make sense to me at all. I’m used to the “no unnatural colors” being a fairly common rule, but black hair is normal enough that it shouldn’t cause more than mild surprise, like “Wow, AM went from platinum blonde to jet black hair, that’s different for them!”

      2. designbot

        I was just coming down to mention this–if the OP is at all flexible on this issue, it would be a kindness to say that she can leave it while it heals but not wear it to work after that, as long as it was a good faith misunderstanding. Otherwise yeah, she’s out of pocket a decent amount for something that at this point has only been painful and you may prevent her from ever getting the enjoyment out of if you make her remove it now.

        1. KellyK

          Yep, 100% agree. If she got the nose piercing in disregard of actual, written rules, then she was taking her chances that it wouldn’t fly. But it really sucks to be out the money for something that she was never informed would be a problem.

      3. SevenSixOne

        Management at OldJob was understanding about the healing process and didn’t make a co-worker remove her brand new nose ring as long as she’d stop wearing it to work once it was fully healed… and as long as she covered it with a bandage.

        The dress code didn’t explicitly forbid nose rings and the nose ring wouldn’t be a health/safety hazard for the work she did, and the bandage was WAY more noticeable than the teeny stud it was “hiding”.

        1. SimontheGreyWarden

          That was what I don’t get; the bandage is way more noticeable. I had my upper ears pierced (one of them three times, one of them once and then let it grow closed because it was crooked). One place I worked, women could have one set of ear piercings and men none. I didn’t have them gauged, but you could see the indentation for the piercing for one of the upper ear ones pretty clearly. My boss wanted me to put a bandaid over it or make up on it. It was healed but had a tendency to bleed if I didn’t wear earrings every couple days (found out eventually I am allergic to most posts and quit wearing earrings all together) and I didn’t want to rub makeup into it! I never did wear a bandaid and ultimately it ended up being no issue, but still….really?

      4. NotAnotherManager!

        I work in a very conservative industry, and visible piercings (other than ears) and tattoos are still frowned upon. The people who write the manuals are really confused that they have to tell someone you can’t wear your eyebrow ring. There is definitely a sense that one wanting to work in BigLaw should just know that it’s not appropriate (like knowing that one should wear a full suit to court, etc.). Reasonable? Maybe not, but that’s the prevailing attitude and why it may not be in the employee manual. People here would look at “no facial piercings” in the handbook as akin to the ridiculous warning labels that tell you not to spray insecticide directly into your eyes.

        We are starting to see people with small nose studs — my assistant has one that is barely noticeable — but they are all staff, no attorneys, save one who is of a culture where nose rings are common. I have no idea if it’s officially against the dress code and am not planning to look it up unless someone complains to me about someone having one.

    6. Gene

      One other note, this letter was originally printed over 3 years ago. Not a long time geologically, but quite a while in social acceptance terms.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Yes! I actually added the “be aware that the norms around this are changing really quickly” paragraph to the Inc. version; it wasn’t there in the original.

      2. krysb

        In 2011, my company didn’t allow visible piercings or tattoos, hair had to be a “natural” color, and there were no casual days in case clients were in the office. By 2013, literally all of those rules were dropped.

        1. Sarita

          This is interesting to me because when I started at my current job in 2012, it was business dress with heels for women (business casual with flats if you weren’t client facing) Mon-Thurs and business extra-casual (as in dark jeans with flats or loafers but no tshirts, hoodies, sneakers, etc.) for casual Friday.

          By the end of summer, 2013, we were allowed to wear jeans every day, there was no more rule about women wearing heels, and street clothes up to and including tastefully ripped jeans were A-OK on Fridays.

          I’m in California so this was more us adapting to the local climate than anything else (it was HOT that summer), but not only did it last through winter, it also became the rule in our corporate office on the East Coast. Was 2013 the year for corporate dress codes to relax or something?

  2. HeyNonnyNonny

    From someone with an eyebrow piercing, thank you. A lot of my job is very public-facing and in my industry, facial piercings are generally widely accepted (I even interview with it in — it’s arguably a perk for my particular interests as it makes me look edgy and cool to my target demographic). I can understand to a point why it might be frowned upon, but I’d hope these rules would only be imposed when absolutely necessary.

    1. Charlotte Collins

      I’m going to guess based on the description that this is a medical office. Since a lot of patients prefer “calm competence” to edgy in their medical professionals’ look, I can understand the OP’s concern. (A lot of medical offices have safety rules regarding jewelry, too.) Personally, I think a small diamond stud nose piercing looks very nice on a lot of people, but that’s often a traditional thing for some people, rather than a fashion statement.

      I think it really is a “know your audience/customer” kind of thing.

      1. Marillenbaum

        I would argue that the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. Calm competence comes mainly, in my mind, from behavior and demeanor; a receptionist with a nose piercing who is neatly and cleanly dressed, and behaves politely and professionally with patients and staff can still reassure patients that they are in safe hands.

        1. Charlotte Collins

          Yep. And I totally agree. I think that small studs look really nice on a lot of people’s noses. However, since the OP doesn’t say where she lives, that might not be the mindset where she is.

          And I was just responding to the looking “edgy and cool” comment, which might not be what the OP’s office is trying for.

          Visible piercing and tattoos are so common where I live and for my age group that I actually feel like the edgy one for having no tattoos and no more than 5 piercings (in my ears).

        2. Justin

          A small nose ring might not concern anyone but if you go too far down the “personal expression” path I can see people being concerned if it’s something serious like medicine or their finances. Not that that’s right or wrong, but it could be an issue.

          1. the_scientist

            eh, I know a highly respected ER doctor who has two full sleeves of tattoos. He often gives conference talks/lectures with his shirt sleeves rolled up so they’re visible. I don’t know what he does in the hospital, though.

          2. Kristine

            Personally, I’d prefer if my medical professionals or accountant had tattoos or piercings. It makes them appear more approachable, less stuffy.

          3. Kathryn T.

            People with tattoos and piercings need medical care, too. I think it’s just as likely that a provider who had tattoos or piercings could make a patient feel MORE comfortable, rather than less.

        3. AnonEMoose

          If it was a fairly simple stud, it might not even really register with me. Nostril piercings are pretty common these days, at least where I live. Septum piercings less so.

      2. Moonsaults

        It’s a regional thing as well because in the liberal cities, you see office staff in medical offices with nose rings frequently enough. We’re used to what “edgy” really means around here, nothing about a nose stud says that :P

      3. Temperance

        One of the nurses at my doctor’s office has an amazing Captain America tattoo. I complimented her on it, and she let me know that many of the seniors who come in actually harass and verbally assault her on it, calling her disgusting, asking why she would destroy her body, etc. They will sometimes even refuse to let her work on them. (She’s fine with it, because she said that younger patients are often easier to deal with and don’t harass her.)

      4. zora

        Omg, I specifically selected my previous Internal Medicine doctor because an acquaintance told me she had piercings and tattoos and wore Doc Martens. She was the best doctor ever, and I’m still bummed she moved to another city. I much prefer medical professionals who are young and unconventional, because then I feel like they will understand me and not treat me badly for being/looking unconventional.

  3. Ihmmy

    I’ve had a pierced nose for 14 years now and both current and last job included working at the front desk / reception area. No one said boo about them. It’s less of an issue than you probably think it is, unless you’re in a very conservative work place.

    1. Dawn

      Yeah like… I have seen so many nose rings in the corporate world, at all levels of management, in both public and private sector jobs. I took mine out seven years ago when I moved to DC thinking I needed to in order to look more professional and now I’m mad that I did because I actually really liked it!

      1. seejay

        You can get it repierced pretty easily if it’s been out long enough. Just let the piercer know since there could be scar tissue and they can check. If so, they can always do the other side or move it up a bit. I have two side by side so it’s not like you can have it just on one single spot.

  4. DrNoseRing

    I am a doctor, and I have a nose ring – and it’s not that uncommon for other health professionals, as well. Every once in a while elderly male patients will ask about “that thing in your nose,” but otherwise no one seems to care. To be fair, I live in a quite liberal city.

    1. AMT

      Yep. I’m a mental health professional and was hired at a large public hospital with partially green hair. I’d be surprised if it’s an issue for any but the most cantankerous patients.

      1. ChocolatePorridge

        Yep, I’m a therapist working in government healthcare (NHS) with piercings (these days just a nostril ring, but I used to have five in one ear, one in the other) and several large tattoos and it’s never been an issue. I choose to cover my tattoos up at work mostly as they can be a talking point and I want to keep the focus on my patient, not on the meaning of my tattoos. But if I’m not directly in therapy with someone and I’m just around patients I don’t hesitate to take my jacket off if it’s a warm day.

        The nostril ring, never even considered it to be something a person would notice… certainly nobody has ever mentioned it in my role. However as a bank teller my old boss wasn’t keen and a few of the older, stuffier customers would say things like ‘you’d be such a pretty young girl if you hadn’t ruined your face like that’. When I worked in fast food all piercings had to be out for hygiene reasons which I was totally fine with, but it seems insane that in 2016 people at work are sometimes judged more for their appearance than their abilities.

        A lot of it has to do with companies putting profit and the potential for ‘offending’ certain customers over taking a stand and respecting their staff’s right to look like individuals. Things do seem to be changing though, I know many of our doctors, nurses, social workers and therapists with visible tattoos and piercings.

    2. Charlotte Collins

      This is also true where I live, but the OP might be in a more conservative area, otherwise I wouldn’t even think it would occur to her to mention it.

    3. Brogrammer

      Personally, medical professionals with facial piercings or tattoos put me at ease. I’m often concerned that a new doctor will think poorly of me for some of my more “alternative” leanings. A minor but fairly unconventional fashion statement can signal that a provider is safe and trustworthy.

      1. k

        I agree. I think it’s important to trust your medical office and feel like they won’t judge you. Having a visibly diverse staff can help to ensure that the most patients can find someone to relate to.

        1. Fire

          The problem is, for some people having a visibly diverse staff is in itself “unwelcoming”! Which is gross, sure, but still A Thing in ole ‘Murica and those people VERY much make a fuss about it.

      2. Augusta Sugarbean

        My first thought was “yep, the nose ring on the receptionist should go” but you have a fair point. What are the patients going to think? If it’s a younger crowd, maybe the nose ring is fine and, as you say, actually a benefit. If it’s a geriatrics office, maybe not.

        Maybe that’s not the best measure though. I had a friend in college who didn’t shave her legs (radical at the time) and her grandmother thought she was just being quite modest and proper!

        1. Black Sunshine

          My mom runs a dental office in a small town in the rustbelt. She recently just colored here hair one of those hip light lavender shades. Also, she lets her coworkers have nose rings / whatever. (Hell my cousin has a nose ring and is a minister in a small town in the rust belt!) — it’s amazing how much times have changed in the last 10 years.

      3. Pixel

        On the flip side, I’m as vanilla as can be looks-wise. Body modifications are just not my thing, I even took out my earrings after a few months of non-stop infections and decided to just do what feels right.

        I hope none of my clients think I’m stuffy/rigid/judgemental just because I don’t even have pierced ears.

        1. Hrovitnir

          From my perspective, it’s not that not being pierced counts against you, it’s that visible signs of being “alternative” actively signal the person is less likely to be judgemental or obstructive. A conservative appearance is neutral to me unless it passes some sort of arbitrary line I can’t really explain, in which case my wariness will be up a notch until you prove I can trust you.

          Medical professionals have a lot of power over you and don’t always have your best interests at heart (even if they think they do), so wariness is to be expected.

  5. AMT

    Re: #2, I don’t know why there’s such a taboo around “poaching” employees. An employee is not a possession. The only “victims” are companies who aren’t willing to offer competitive wages and rely on misguided loyalty to retain employees.

    1. Edith

      Yeah, it really only counts as poaching if you’re using your notice period to start a competing paper company and you’re trying to get all your coworkers (except for the HR rep, of course) to defect.

        1. AMT

          Hang on, I just remembered that someone at my wife’s company recently did something vaguely similar. He left the company, but used the company’s enormous contact list to advertise his consulting services. AFAIK the legal department is looking into it.

    2. Elysian

      Pretty much! I once worked for an employer who wouldn’t let a certain subset of employees go to professional conferences because they were afraid we would meet people and get “poached.” It just showed how insecure they were! They were also dysfunctional in so many other ways though, that this part hardly surprised me. (They also wouldn’t post our email addresses on the website for the same reason which is…. pretty strange in my industry.)

    3. INTP

      Yeah, to me this is just offering someone an opportunity, not poaching.

      I would consider “poaching” to be exploiting information or contacts you have due to an existing business relationship to hire someone, and even then it isn’t always wrong. For example, hiring an agency or consulting group to do a certain project for you, then hiring the agency’s employee that is doing most of the work and dumping the agency. Or a vendor hiring their contact person from a client company. If there’s no relationship between the employers, there is no obligation and hiring each other’s employees is not poaching.

    4. Koko

      Speaking of competitive wages – I know this is an old question, but anyone in a similar situation should disclose salary range up front. If this guy you want to poach is as good as you say he is, he’s probably already well-compensated and enjoying his work. You have to give him some indication that what you’re offering him is better than what he’s already got. When you’re pursuing a specific desired candidate you can’t be coy about compensation.

  6. Edith

    #4: I had an employer that would email out a list of everyone who was up for an internal move (the nature of the work meant that almost all internal moves happened at the same time once a year) and provide forms for us to fill out if we felt we had some insight to offer. It could be positive or negative and it was voluntary and anonymous. I thought it was a great system.

    1. Judy

      Was it just who was up for moves, or also which positions? It seems odd to solicit insight on Jane, rather than insight on Jane for the role of Teapot Manager.

      1. Edith

        It was to fill a certain number of open slots in one position that was essentially a very slight promotion involving a little authority over one’s coworkers but without being in management. Kind of like a team lead. And my original comment was poorly worded–the team leads are the ones who are given the opportunity to weigh in, not everybody. In fact, I didn’t even know about the practice until I’d been a team lead myself for the better part of a year and was asked to weigh in on the next batch of applicants.

  7. Juniper

    Re: nose ring — I think of a nose ring as pretty low on the scale of “edgy” style choices. While many people wouldn’t necessarily categorize it as conservative, it’s not a face tattoo, you know?

    I don’t think there is a way to “get rid of the nose ring” without the risk of hurting your employee’s feelings, especially since it sounds like a policy against facial piercings wasn’t already codified in an existing dress code. If she is dressed appropriately, hygienic, etc., I would just swallow your personal feelings about nose rings.

    Maybe there are circumstances about the OP’s office that we’re not privy to (does it service an unusually conservative population?). But honestly, I wouldn’t blink when it comes to a front-desk receptionist with a nose ring — and even considering the more conservative people in my social circle, I don’t think they would, either.

    1. INTP

      And besides hurting feelings, I’m pretty sure that if you don’t leave your nose ring in most of the time when you first get the piercing, you risk the piercing healing and closing. So the employee has also spent money on a piercing that was presumably not against any written rule, and then you are telling them that they have to let it heal away. I’d be pretty pissed if I were the employee in the scenario.

      1. Blue_eyes

        Even after it heals, nostril piercings close up very quickly. Much more so than ear piercings do. I’ve had a nostril piercing for more than 10 years now, and I couldn’t leave mine out for more than a few hours for YEARS after I got it. Right now I have to remove it for work, so I do, but I have an alarm on my phone to remind me to put it back in after work. If I left it out continuously for a few days it would start to close up.

        1. Hlyssande

          A friend of mine’s super cute nose ring healed shut in the few hours she was under anesthesia for a relatively short surgery. It really does happen quickly.

        2. crazyladylocks

          I’ve had mine re-pierced 2 times, after they got pulled out.

          SO painful! Both being ripped out, and having it re-pierced.

  8. Katniss

    I wish people would get over the immediate, childish reaction to tattoos and piercings of “ewww, it’s different, so it must be bad!”

    Not at all saying the LW is doing that, just that those reactions are still fueling workplace dress codes around things like tattoos and piercings. I of course accept that when I decided to get tattoos I accepted that some people wouldn’t react well to them, but I still find it ridiculous that there are so many offices where I’d have to wear long sleeves forever because apparently a tattoo that says “breathe” or a symbol from a book are so horribly offensive to people who should really just MYOB.

    1. Tiny_Tiger

      Acceptance that others will have negative reactions to body modification definitely does not equate to appreciating them or accepting that those views any less ridiculous or even discriminatory. I’ve had someone call me childish for expecting others to be mature enough to look beyond my own modifications and see that I can be a good person and a hard worker. All I could do was shake my head at them.

    2. Kristine

      I know what you mean. I work in a customer-facing position and have to cover my tattoos (on my upper arms). I knew when I got them that this could happen so I wear 3/4 and long sleeves without complaint. But I also think that hiding tattoos in order to look “more professional” just stigmatizes tattoos more. There’s nothing inherently unprofessional about them, right? We only think there is because of dress codes that reinforce that stigma.

      1. Chinook

        I am another one who knew she would have to be able to hide her tattoo when she got it. that bit of information helped me decide on placement and style (back of the leg, outline of Eeyore only, easily hidden by tights or pants). I have learned that the best way to destigmatize the tattoo is to hide Eeyore for a few months while people get to know me and then let him come out of hiding. Considering I am an otherwise stereotypical church lady (I even own the pearls for clutching), proof that this has worked is that I have had people come up to me after mass and comment on how happy they were to see someone “respectable” with a tattoo and how it made them feel more welcome. And for the more conservative types, they see it as just another part of who I am instead of something that defines me.

      2. Charlotte, not NC

        I think context is really important. If you’re talking about a certain generation, there are still people alive who were tattooed against their will, and unpacking the implications of that time period is incredibly complicated. People too young to remember the 1940s don’t have that knee-jerk reaction to the concept, and acceptance of the practice will grow as those folks pass away.

      3. Bob Barker

        There’s nothing inherently unprofessional about tattoos, but the number of unprofessional ones is nonzero, and it’s a lot easier to have a blanket ban on tattoos showing than a ban only on crappy, misspelled, violent, or naked-person tattoos.

        The people with gorgeous, tasteful art lose out, but they’re the ones who already know to be reasonable about it. The dude with NO RAGRETS tattooed on his neck? Not so much.

    3. pope suburban

      Yes. I am very, very tired of this notion that there is any credibility to the idea that tattoos make an employee less capable or personable. I’m not saying that everyone has to like body modifications, but I do think it’s reasonable that people keep their opinions to themselves at work– just like I refrain from commenting on people’s clothes if I don’t like them, and don’t engage in discussions of politics or religion at work. This is usually the point at which I hear, “But what about face tattoos? What about lewd tattoos? What about gory tattoos or hate symbols?” To which I respond, “What about them?” and “The issue is lewd, violent, or hateful subject material, not tattoos in and of themselves.” I’ve been very lucky that working in law (Both public and private), people tended not to notice my earrings and only had nice things to say if they did. I’m sure that I’ve run into people who didn’t love what I’d had done, but they were all politic and rational enough to assess my work on its quality, and my job performance by my behavior.

    4. Annie

      I work for a municipality and I’ve been countering this in our hiring practices by talking very frankly with white people about white biases (I’m also white). I find it helps people snap out of their knee jerk reactions and reflect on if they are ok with continuing to replicate our colonial heritage. Since most people in my community self-identify as middle-class and friendly it’s a rude shock to think about how our work norms are related to our WASPY forefathers and so far it’s worked to make our front line staff more diverse in many ways (hair colours, styles, pericings), I’m still working on economic and ethnic diversity but at least it’s something to start with

  9. StellaMaris

    It sounds like this is a medical office or environment. If your “wonderful” employee does good work (e.g. answers the phone, helps me with appointment booking, gives me the information I need in a timely manner, etc.) then I don’t care if she has a nose ring, five earrings, tattoos, purple hair, or no hair at all. A wonderful employee is a wonderful employee regardless of physical appearance.

    Unless it’s specifically in your employee handbook, back off.

    1. Sassy Sally

      +20!! This is a perfect response! When I interviewed at a huge local foundation for their prestigious summer internship while I was in school, I dressed to-the-nines professional and left in my nose ring of the hoop variety. I felt that my nose ring had nothing to do with my ability to do a job and do it well. It was never an issue and I did end up getting a spot in the program.

      Later, I met with a potential employer (also in the nonprofit realm) for a non-customer facing position and when offered the position (one I couldn’t make work during the times asked) I was asked if I would be able to comply with their facial piercing and tattoo policy. I declined the position with an additional note that my nose piercing (which I would have willingly chosen to wear a stud rather than a hoop) and my tattoos (2 small & coverable, but one on the top of my foot, difficult to cover) did not impact my ability to perform any function.

      Now, I work for one of the largest names in the global market and while I typically wear my stud (and there’s never been concern about my tattoos) I once left in my hoop after wearing it out to a concert and then mentioned to my supervisor that I didn’t realize it before I left and I would switch back the next day. He didn’t bat an eyelash and told me he doesn’t care. He does understand that some people may perceive me differently and that I should be conscious of those perceptions, but I am glad to see that the negative stigma attached to piercings and tattoos is on the decline in recent years.

  10. Stellaaaaa

    The nose ring thing is tough. Employers have to stop expecting their employees to read everyone’s mind – “She should have known that this is inappropriate in a medical office” doesn’t hold up. OP says that this employee hasn’t had an easy life. It’s possible that she’s still catching up on professional norms.

    I think you could ask her to only wear certain types of nose rings to work. You could also possibly ask her not to wear the nose ring to work after the piercing is healed and won’t close up, but I wouldn’t go that route. Nose rings are inherently temporary. People don’t tend to wear nose rings for the rest of their lives like they do with earrings. I wouldn’t alienate a good employee over a nose ring that she might stop wearing in two years.

    1. seejay

      I beg to differ.

      Got my nose pierced out of rebelliousness when I was 15 by a dude with a piercing gun in the shopping mall. Got yelled at and grounded by my mom. Took it out but managed to keep the hole open by jamming an earring in it at night and when she wasn’t around.

      I’m now 41. I still have the same hole that was put there by the dude with the piercing gun. There’s a second one next to it that I had done by a professional when I was 24.

      I know at least a dozen others who had their noses pierced in their early 20s and still have them in their 40s.

      1. Charlotte Collins

        If you were in the state that I was in at 15, your piercing was illegally done. And you’re really lucky he didn’t actually damage your nose cartilage. (I used to do piercings in a shopping mall…)

          1. Charlotte Collins

            Yep. It was more of a PSA for those who might not be aware… There are levels of training for this sort of thing.

            I did enjoy doing it, though. But I had to actually argue with people who didn’t understand why I wouldn’t and couldn’t just do any old piercing that they wanted. (I sure as heck wouldn’t trust a 20 YO at their summer job with more than my earlobe…)

        1. seejay

          Well, from another country for the first part so legalities are really up in the air. It was in a small town, so there wasn’t even anyone in my town/city doing professional piercings. It was in the early 90s so any sort of alternative body piercing was hard to get in the first place, especially if you weren’t in a metro city in the US. Considering almost all my upper cartilage piercings were done with a piercing gun and not a needle, I’m pretty up to par on the damage done by the gun at this point (and my ear cartilage is pretty messed up but fortunately not visible), but at 15 when all I cared about was looking like Slash from GnR, I was going to hand $15 of my hard earned paper route money over to anyone who could put that butterfly backed stud into my nose. Considering all the other stupid things I did at that age, that was probably the *least* damaging of them all.

          Rest assured, I’ve had my tragus, second nostril piercing, upper to lower conch industrial, other earr cartilage locations done after aged 24, nape, and a half dozen other locations in various areas done by professionals with appropriate gauged needles in sterile environments and at the appropriate age. ^_^

          1. Charlotte Collins

            I just really hate the thought of people actually injuring themselves (by accident) for a fashion statement.

            Also, I work in government health benefits. The rise in hepatitis C among the older population in the US is partially related to some of the safety issues regarding piercing and tattooing. (As well as other issues that older generations didn’t have to deal with…)

            1. seejay

              Yeah I know *a lot more* about it now than I did at 15… back then, all I cared about was that I could get it done and it was a lot easier to get someone to jam a piercing gun up my nose to shoot the stud through, compared to trying to do it myself. To compared, I *did* manage to pierce my own ear myself with a really big sewing needle in the middle of class (and still have that piercing as well) and managed to pierce a boyfriend’s ear as well with the same method. Teenagers are very stupid. I’m probably lucky I managed to not get anything really bad out of all that, but I’d say the underage drinking was probably riskier than anything else I did at the time. XD

              Fortunately the ear piercings (with the gun) that I was getting done every six months was pretty sanitary (within reason) as I was going to better salons that actually would clean the gun with alcohol and weren’t doing shady nose piercings in the mall. The guy that was doing that was literally the *only* shop that was doing it in the city because it was so new and rare. It’s possible that tattoo shops were starting to get into it, but teenagers didn’t have the $50+ (probably more at the time actually) to pay for that. $15 was a lot at the time and I remember saving up just for that and how much it pissed me off that my mom grounded me until I took it out (only for me to keep putting it back in when she wasn’t around just to keep the hole open until it healed, since I wanted it so badly, I refused to lose it).

              Yeah, it was something I wanted that badly at that age. It really didn’t matter what sketchy guy was going to do it, I wanted that. >< That's why I still have it today and eventually got a second one next to it for the unique look.

        2. Moonsaults

          Really though, this could also turn into a PSA about never ever getting a “gun” piecing ever. Go to a piercing shop. I went there for my ears because I got mine later in life and no thanks to a teenager with a gun in the mall!

    2. Security SemiPro

      This^

      Take a strong, hard, honest look at the actual, current needs of the position. Not how it was trained 20, or even 10 years ago, or what social/professional norms were. Look at now, look at what you need now.

      And if that comes down to “nose rings are out” apologize for the restriction not being in the handbook, explain that it was an oversight you’re addressing with the handbook and tell the employee, pointing out the specific needs that must be met here. (“I think its just more appropriate” is not a specific need of the job.)

      If it, as I suspect, comes down to “nose rings should be subtle/small”, sit down with your staff member, say you’ve noticed her new piercing and you’re going to be adding guidance to the employee handbook about how facial piercings need to be limited to nostril and eyebrow only with small jewel or ball studs only in order to uphold hygiene standards (or whatever) Again – precise things that matter for this job.

      If it turns out that it does not matter at all (not client facing, the clients are all pierced and tattooed themselves, etc) then you let it go. My staff is only rarely client facing, and usually as “the deep internal experts we are only bringing out because you, Client, will understand and need their expertise” so they can dress/look however they want. They are supposed to be unique characters.

      1. Phyllis B

        Jenbug, this is what I was going to suggest. My daughter used to work as a hotel desk clerk and she wore a clear stud when she was on duty, with mgr. approval. Alas, an eagle-eyed guest noticed and complained to management. So they asked her to remove it.

    3. Cathy

      I’ve had my nose piercing for 25 years. I don’t plan on getting rid of it anytime soon.
      Although I am contemplating an industrial ear piercing..

      1. Kristine

        I got an industrial a year ago and I love it! It was sore for a good 3-4 months as it healed, but it did heal just fine and I think it looks cool.

        1. aeldest

          I want an industrial so bad but am terrified of that healing time–even my lobes took about 4 months to heal, so looking at a probably 6+ month healing time on an industrial sounds awful :(

          1. Kristine

            Everyone heals differently, but thankfully mine wasn’t as bad as most people said it would be. It took about 3 months before I could sleep with that ear to the pillow, and about 6 months before it stopped hurting when touched (had a couple unfortunately run-ins with a comb during that time). I also had to put Neosporin on it daily for the first couple months because little nodules would form near the holes. But after 8 months I was totally free and clear. If you really like the look of the piercing, I think it’s worth it!

          2. seejay

            Only thing I’d recommend about an industrial is getting both piercings done at the same time and the bar put in both (at the same time). I was still young and didn’t know much about it, and the information was still new at the time, *and* I got an unconventional one (lower to upper conch) so I had the holes done separately thinking that it would be easier to heal the piercings first, then put the bar through once they were healed. Drawback is that the holes aren’t lined up straight, the bar doesn’t fit right, puts pressure on holes once its in, really mucks up the healing. It took me two years to get it to heal properly and there was a high chance I was going to lose it regardless. I fought with it, went for multiple consults, and was super insanely diligent with care and upkeep, and I *finally* got the scarring and infections to go away and it healed up perfectly. I’ve had it for 16 years now and it looks great and I’ve had zero problems with it once it healed. I only wish I’d done it all in one shot in the first session!

      2. Ostara

        Get the industrial! I’ve had mine for 9 years and I now work in Govt. and honestly nobody has noticed it. Be very careful with migration/rejection – I had two that migrated out of my ear and refused to take them out so it could heal. My upper cartilage split and the kids in class used to call me Splinter (TMNT), hah.

        1. LavaLamp

          I *had* an industrial. My ear got swollen and the cartilage around the bottom piercing. . . split. That was fun, doing redneck surgery with pliers because I couldn’t get a good grip on the earring. I do still have the top part though.

      3. marymoocow

        I have my industrial. It took years to heal and it gets stuck in my hair a lot. I like it but it’s a hassle sometimes.

      4. SimontheGreyWarden

        My dad and my sister got industrials together. She’s now an amateur in a sport where she had to let it grow closed (not because anyone made her but because of the risk of it getting ripped out) but my dad still has his. He takes it out for work but wears it the rest of the time. He was in his late 50s getting it.

    4. Sassy Sally

      The other option would even be for a clear retainer stud. A hassle, yes, but would allow for a little closer compliance if they can meet in the middle on what the “rules” are.

    5. Franzia Spritzer

      I disagree with your statement “Nose rings are inherently temporary.” I’ve had my nostril pierced for 31 years and my septum pierced for 20 and I have no plans to remove either. Just sayin’

  11. jm

    Unfortunately, if I were judged by a co-worker for the amount of time I spend surfing the internet, I would probably be considered a pretty crappy worker, like the person OP#4 is judging. However, I get my work done quickly and efficiently, and receive excellent performance reviews. The role I’m in now is just not very challenging for me, so it may appear that I’m playing on the internet all the time, when I really have nothing to do because I’ve completed all my work. And yes, I’ve spend a decent amount of time teaching myself new programs…which may also look to my co-workers like useless internet surfing.
    Could the employee OP#4 is concerned about actually be a good worker with not enough to do, or be assigned to tasks that he/she can easily and quickly complete? Maybe he/she is applying for the new position because he/she is bored, and seeking more challenging work. (I hope to make a similar transition early next year!)

    1. AnonMurphy

      I wondered about this too – I tend to work in furious bursts cushioned by downtime, during which I’m responsive to emails but also doing other stuff. I’d almost recommend the ‘if it doesn’t impact your work, don’t let it bother you’ approach, but since this is a potential hire, any chance you could touch base with current coworkers about whether they find this employee gets their stuff done?

      1. OhNo

        Well, I feel like that’s the point of bringing it up with the hiring committee – so they can look into it further and get more feedback on the perceived issue. It’s not the OP’s job to do all the leg work and present them with a complete case against this coworker listing everything they’ve ever done wrong. Ideally, they should be able to just voice their concerns and have the committee take it from there.

        That said, this hiring process sounds like one where anything short of a written confession (preferably notarized and delivered via certified mail) won’t do much good, so…

        1. jm

          Wouldn’t it make more sense for the hiring committee to ask the employee’s manager about his/her work performance? And then the manager could provide input about whether the employee meets expectations, or is constantly below par due to goofing off.

          I get that OP doesn’t want to work with someone who could be lazy or inefficient, but unless OP has somehow supervised the employee and has personally observed the employee failing to meet standards, or unless it’s common in this org for peers to provide input to hiring committees, I think OP might be overstepping.

      2. AndersonDarling

        Ditto. Just because someone isn’t busy now doesn’t mean that they never want to be busy. If I was bored with my job then I would look for a promotion, it’s a natural progression.
        The LW didn’t say that the co-worker was refusing to help colleges, ignoring requests, missing deadlines, or sabotaging others work. She’s just bored and finds stuff to fill her time. For all we know, the co-worker has had discussions about her lack of work and the manager may have encouraged her to apply for the promotion.

    2. Augusta Sugarbean

      OP#4 says coworkers in her department are expected to cover each others’ tasks to a certain degree. I don’t really understand that setup but I think it’s fair to be concerned about a known slacker employee that will be moved to a position in the OP’s department.

      1. she was a fast machine

        I think the point is that OP doesn’t actually know if this person is actually a slacker, or if they just complete their work faster and have more downtime.

        1. Knitchic

          This. We had a supervisor who thought if you weren’t working at top speed from start to finish you were being lazy. Everyone takes breaks or slows down at some point. As long as the work is being done and done well a few breaks really shouldn’t be a big deal.

          1. she was a fast machine

            That’s exactly why I’m a bit wary of the situation as laid out by OP. I’m very similar to this person; I work at a high speed and consider myself very competent. I get my work finished with plenty of time to spare and then go looking for additional work. When there is none, I’ll look for training on systems or items I’m not familiar with or learn troubleshooting tips or just anything that might help my department, which I guess does look like surfing the web. That used to really bother my previous boss, who would constantly tell me that we had too much to do to be doing that, and then would offload supervisor responsibilities to me, which I had no authority to do. He was one of those people that worked at a snail’s pace and just couldn’t understand basic things, and it seemed incredibly foreign to him that I could work fast enough to complete my work and have time to learn new things. He even outlawed a couple of training blogs because he was convinced I was wasting time on them when I could be “really working”! So then I just switched to surfing the net on my phone because there was quite literally nothing else to do.

  12. seejay

    Unless there’s *serious* potential repercussions to having facial piercings / coloured hair / non-conventional looks, as long as it’s not that way out there, let it go.

    I would say I’ve been lucky for most of my career in that I’ve had really easy-going work environments where no one really cares what I look like, since I have 15+ piercings above the neck (mostly my ears, but my facial ones are pretty reasonable: two nostril piercings and one tongue ring) but I tend to dress casually with a weird bent and my coworkers have a habit of betting on what colour my hair might be on any given Monday (it’s ranged anywhere from black to red to purple to green to pink). Sometimes I’ve even had it half shaved. The tattoos can be covered up but I don’t bother all the time since I wear shorts for biking and sometimes my jeans or pants are rolled up and show my calves. Plus I don’t like shoes/socks and will sit at my desk barefoot which will shoe off the foot tattoos. No one cares. But of course, I live in a very liberal city and I’m a software engineer so we tend to get a pass in that area.

    That being said, when I worked for a bank in the forensic field, and previous as a PI (also in forensics), it was expected that I might have to testify in court regarding evidence I collected. I knew that this was a possibility and also that the case mattered more than my image. I was prepared to present myself in whatever light was necessary to make sure people focused on the evidence and not what I looked like to make sure that I was taken seriously.

    In short, yes, your appearance shouldn’t ever matter, but unfortunately sometimes it does and depending on what job you’re doing, you have to take that into account and how important it is. I cared about the job I was doing when I was in forensics and I liked being the weird quirky chick most of the time. I had no problems toning it down when I needed to and being “professional” for court though if it called for it because the evidence was what mattered and presenting that first was the most important thing.

    But also weigh how serious one thing is compared to everything else. I was in the forensic field 15 years ago. A nose ring may have caused ripples in the courtroom. I doubt it would now. It won’t (shouldn’t) in an office (provided it’s a small stud, not a huge honking septum ring). Unless you’re in the middle of serious Conservativeville.

  13. Lady Blerd

    My one question about the nose ring is : is it not allowed in that office/dresscode or is it just bad in LW’s opinion? Becuase I eep reading the question and I don’t see it specified and from the wording it sounds like LW’s personal preference.

    1. ZVA

      Yeah, this was my question too… The letter is brief but the phrasing (“Well, yesterday she came in with a nose ring”) makes the writer sound like she’s taking it for granted that everyone will understand a nose ring is bad and why! Which makes me suspect it’s a personal preference—or, at the very least, that she’s operating based on assumptions and not on an official dress code.

      If she does ban the nose ring and there’s nothing about it in the dress code (or the office doesn’t have one), I’m inclined to think she should be apologetic about it… Like “I’m really sorry that I wasn’t clear about this before, but we don’t allow nose rings here, so I’m going to have to ask you to remove it”… If the employee had no way of knowing, it’s perfectly reasonable for her to assume a nose ring is OK, and it would stink to have to remove it while the piercing was still healing.

  14. michelenyc

    LW#3 welcome to fashion! It is a very common thing to have people you hardly know ask for favors and even name drop to get what they want from your company. The one great thing about working with a larger brand or a luxury goods brand is 99% of the time you honestly have zero control over what and who they are willing to donate to! With smaller brands it is a bit tougher but at the end of the day it’s the designer that will make the decision who they want to be associated with. I agree with Allison it really is only a big deal if you make it a big deal. The only thing I would say is have you actually been to one of her events to know that it is the wrong way to go? A lot of those charity events are attended by people of all income levels. I have been to many of them and I was definitely not in the upper echelon at many of the events!

  15. Doe-eyed

    I would also read lightly as this has the potential to be a cultural thing as well. Many of my Indian coworkers have noserings and it is a very personal and traditional choice. So seeing her with one, freaking out and changing the dress code may be seen as unreceptive to other cultures (if this is applicable – if she got it because she decided it looked cool obviously the cultural undertones are irrelevant).

  16. PolarBearGirl

    OP#1: As someone who has spent way more than my fair share of time dealing with doctors’ offices, hospitals, and medical providers, I can assure you that if your receptionist/billing specialist “goes out of her way and is extremely dedicated,” your patients absolutely do not care about her nose ring. She is a valuable ambassador for you with her manner, her professional demeanor, and her dedicated work ethic, particularly since visits/scheduling and dealing with billing questions can be extremely frustrating for your patients. I have switched medical professionals – even in the midst of serious health conditions – because the front-line staff have been rude or unresponsive to questions, and the frustration from dealing with that has outweighed the value of seeing a particular doctor. Do not lose sight of the ways in which this person is an asset to your office because she isn’t choosing to dress at the office the way you might.

    You can always say, “Hey, Jane – great new nose ring. We’re going to update our dress code to get with the times and suggest that if people have facial piercings, they keep them subtle like yours.”

    1. Lil Lamb

      This is a really good point. Plus if you create a new rule to single out Jane she might feel targeted. Nit-picking about something like this seems kinda petty.

  17. ZVA

    I have my doubts about #4. LW lists a series of behaviors but doesn’t specifically say that this woman’s work suffers because of them… All she really says is that she “has no respect” for someone who spends time on social media during the work day. Is this woman failing to get her work done, or doing it poorly? If she’s as bright and intelligent as the LW says, maybe her current role isn’t challenging enough, or maybe she completes tasks quickly, which leaves her with a lot of free time… Sure, saying you’re working from home when you’re not is not cool; I’m not necessarily saying this woman is blameless. But something about the letter feels off to me. It seems like it may be more about the principle of the thing than how it shakes out in practice.

    1. AndersonDarling

      The LW wouldn’t have any respect for me. I spend a lot of time surfing the web while I’m waiting for work orders.

      1. MT

        Also, I had to laugh at “I have no respect for her, but I do like her.”

        LW had an oddly-specific tally of his coworker’s behaviors (including hours and lunchtime!). What “productive” ways could LW be spending that time instead of meticulously observing and calculating a coworker’s habits?

    2. SusanIvanova

      I assumed that #4’s coworker didn’t get things done because I had a coworker like that. Coworker Coffeecup interviewed awesomely, could talk endlessly about all sorts of things in the industry, and yet never got anything done. On my team we’d also cover for each other since we had some overlap in skills, so from the outside it didn’t look like he was causing any damage – all the projects got done. On the inside – they got done because we’d ask another teammate when he flaked on us, or even hit up Google and find an answer in 2 hours that we’d been waiting 2 weeks for. We all eventually refused to work on any joint projects with him and never offered to take any of his projects when we had free time – something we did with each other because we had different busy cycles. Because if we had, he’d have taken credit for the fact that they got done despite not having been the one to do it.

  18. overcaffeinatedandqueer

    Nose rings are a big deal?

    I’m a lawyer, so I would not get facial piercings, or dye my hair not-usual colors, because I would want to take them out at work any time I was doing client or court stuff. But, I’m also young and low level and so don’t do a lot of court or public stuff yet.

    I do have a very unique haircut; it literally could not be any shorter than it now is, or I would not be able to style it, full stop. I have side-shaves (done with broad clippers), on either side of my head; no designs shaved in or anything, but it’s only 3/4 inch long in the sides. It’s fully shaved up to the base of my skull in the back, and layered from 3/4 to other lengths in the back. Then, I part on the left, and so I have a detached, sort of “wave” on the top of my head. On top, my hair is 3 inches. I can fluff it up or lay it back, and I have also short bangs.

    But for me, I think, hair grows back. And tattoos can be covered. I have an LGBT-related tattoo, but when getting it, I checked to make sure it would be covered by clothes (one doesn’t usually wear shorts or short sleeves in a law office anyhow). Even so, small facial piercings would probably be ok for lawyers my age where I am; just take them out for court, networking, and some clients.

    OP doesn’t have to go before any judge, or necessarily do a ton of work with VIPs and/or older/conservative people. Given that, why are her rules more conservative than mine?

  19. EZ

    #1 – I would add that, if she *just* got her nose pierced, it is actually in her best interest not to remove it or even change to the jewelry until it has healed properly and completely. Otherwise, there is a very real risk of infection, scarring, and/or other complications, that may cost her quite a bit to get treated.

  20. Love my nose stud

    Oh, man. I worked in an office without an official dress code of any kind and asked my boss if it would be okay if I pierced my nose. (I should have just done it, but whatever.) He didn’t know and brought the issue to his bosses, both women in their 30s, as I was at the time. He was told that “if she has to ask, she should already know the answer.” Which I found a pretty obnoxious response.

    I got two rather enormous conch piercings instead – they’re ear piercings, but they’re through the center of the large “shell” of your ear. I had very short hair at the time. I think it was probably much more noticeable than a nose ring would be.

    I finally pierced my nose a couple of months ago – without asking anyone’s permission – and nobody has said a word. I wish I’d done it sooner!

  21. MH

    For the Nose ring, I have the perfect solution.

    1. Build a time machine.

    2. Go back in time and put it in your employee dresscode. If you haven’t, to suddenly say it now is unfair.

    3. Alternatively, go back 10 years when this might have been an issue.

    I have two full sleeve tattoo arms. I work in customer service. I can cover them up if I go to anything recruiting-wise, but other than that I’m good at my job, so no one cares. I wear a collared shirt and tie every day.

    Lighten up.

  22. Cat steals keyboard

    #2 Just a thought but are you sure he actually writes the blog himself? It could be ghostwritten.

  23. Jilly

    Re OP#1 – The problem with body modifications is that they are “edgey” on some people and completely normal on others based on cultural backgrounds so making a rule about what is “normal professional” is kinda hard. My mom is very against piercings other than a single hole in each ear. She always told me and my sister that if we were South Asian like my uncle (Indian), it would be totally okay with her if we got our noses pierced and connected them with a chain to earrings so heavy they were hung from the ears rather than from a post through the ears. However we were East Asian (dad’s side) and white, so we were SOL.

  24. Regina 2

    Others have already brought this up, but I’ll speak up as someone who is Indian — nose piercing is a common cultural practice. In my grandmothers’ time, it was common to pierce BOTH sides of the nose. For that reason, I remember when I myself asked about this many years ago, I was told I would be the exception in otherwise conservative workplaces because of the cultural context.

    I’ve had my nose piercing for about a decade now; I had it done maybe a year after I entered the workforce. The hilarious thing is, most people don’t even know I have one. I just had a conversation not two days ago with a colleague who I’ve worked with for over a year, who was flabbergasted I had a piercing. I had to turn my head to profile and point it out. The piercing is pretty small, and I suspect most interviewers I’ve spoken with over the years haven’t noticed it either.

    I will say I think that the appearance of an otherwise conservatively dressed Indian person with a nose piercing compared to the perhaps more “unconventional” Western body piercing look would come off differently to employers, but it seems like a complete non-issue in every work place I’ve been in. Plenty of non-Indian colleagues have had nose and multiple ear piercings (i.e. something else that’s outside the old “norm”). I don’t think I’ve ever seen employee handbook policies about piercings either.

    1. Red Reader

      People miss stuff you wouldn’t expect, it’s hilarious. My mom said to me one day when I was about 33, “Oh, you lost the earrings in one side!” I haven’t worn earrings in my right ear since I was ELEVEN, and my mother, from whom I have never been estranged or otherwise out of long-term contact and with whom I lived until I was 20, had never noticed.

    2. Katie-Pie

      Yup, I’ve had my nose ring for 6 years and every few months someone or other who has known me for a significant amount of time goes, “When did you get your nose pierced?!” Um, 6 years ago. I find it hilarious, and also a relief that it’s so well-placed that people miss it. The girl who pierced it did a fantastic job.

  25. Shazbot

    L4:
    If I read this right, the OP here is not anyone’s manager, but a colleague. So:
    “She spends a lot of time during the day surfing social media forums”
    …Why don’t you focus more on your own work, OP. Look at *your* computer screen, not hers.

    ” when ‘working from home,’ I know she is not;”
    …You “know” this how, exactly? And it affects you how, exactly?

    “and she is being paid for full time work but actually only available for work for a maximum of 30 hours (minus the hour’s lunch she takes most days).”
    …You’re timing her lunches. What exactly is it that you’re supposed to be doing, and is *your* manager aware that he/she is paying you to time your colleague’s lunch?

    “I realize this person is being poorly managed”,
    …Yeah, there seems to be a lot of that going around.

    “I have no respect for someone who exhibits this kind of behavior.”
    … See every response above.

    ” I do however like her; she is very sociable and fun.”
    …So basically you’re smiling to her face and cutting her down behind her back. What a great person you are.

    “The interviews will apply a rigorous marking system based on the application form and interview, and will not take into account what this person is like. ”
    … Let it go, OP. Someday you might want a promotion, and you’ll be glad no one gets any input on what you’re like.

    1. Temperance

      Eh I used to work with a guy who spent hours per day on ESPN while I was hustling. You can bet I turned him in and complained to our boss, because I was working so hard and he wasn’t.

  26. Anony Mouse

    I know that this won’t go over well here, but I’ll admit that I find tattoos and facial piercings ugly.

    *DON’T JUDGE ME*

    However, do I care if a receptionist in an office I go to has them? Not if they are friendly, competent, and do their job well, and as long as they are well groomed and look neat and tidy.

    1. ArtK

      No judgment here. There are some that I find horrible and others very nice. Taste isn’t the issue here.

      1. MT

        Same feeling as ArtK.

        There are colors I don’t care for, fashions I don’t care for – hell, there are entire regional accents that just hit me the wrong way!

        But there is a marked difference between “not for me” and “I should never have to see this in front of my face, ever.”

  27. ArtK

    OP, unless you’ve gotten strong complaints from patients, I’d let this go. When I visit the doctor, I’m far more concerned about what’s up with *me* than what the receptionist has in her nose. I’m far more likely to notice whether the receptionist is pleasant and efficient or not. I’d swap a nose-ring for a crabby receptionist any day of the week.

    As Alison says, social attitudes to this kind of thing are changing very rapidly. Make sure that the issue isn’t your personal opinion rather than the piercing having any real impact on the smooth running of the office.

    BTW, I’m an “old fogey” in that I’m in my late 50s. Tattoos and piercings don’t bug me in and of themselves, although there are some that I find unattractive. But that’s my taste, not some social thing.

  28. Biff

    Out of all the things that make (as a customer) raise my eyebrows, complain, or, gasp, take my business elsewhere, tattoos and body piercings have so far not played a part. I really care about answering phones promptly, handling billing correctly, people knowing answers, that sort of thing.

    Also, I’d like to point out that as we get more and more people from elsewhere working in all jobs, we have to be sensitive to the fact that some piercings and tattoos are cultural, either to the employee, or their extended family. For example, if your fiance’s hindu grandmother can’t wait for you to get a nose piercing so you can wear traditional wedding jewelry (maybe even hers!) you probably aren’t going to be turning down that sort of welcome/acceptance.

  29. Fabulous

    I’ve have a nose ring for 8 years and I’ve only ever had one problem in an interview with it this entire time. It’s small and most people don’t even notice it. Heck, even I forget I have it most days.!

    But, YES to everything that’s been said about its upkeep early on. You cannot remove the ring for at least 3 months without infection or complications. As someone who only waited two months before changing it out, I can tell you they don’t joke around!! Took another 2-3 months to clear up again afterwards, and I’m sure I have tons of extra scar tissue in my nose around the piercing. I’ve had the same stud in for the last 6 or 7 years and have not removed it for anything.

    1. Fabulous

      I should also mentioned I’ve worked as a receptionist twice, as well as a client-facing financial associate. Only ever had comments from people saying how cool it is :)

  30. Erin

    For the nose ring. I’m not sure how long you have to leave it in to ensure it won’t close when you take it out, but maybe there’s a compromise in here somewhere.

    Say, she has to leave it in for four weeks and then can take it out for work without worry of it closing – can you allow her to do that? And possibly have her put a bandaid or something over it during that time?

    (I have my lip piercing and keep it out virtually all throughout the work week with no problems of it closing.)

    1. Erin

      Also! Another possible compromise would be to have a small stud instead of an actual hoop. That seems to be the most acceptable facial piercing in the workplace. If you need to tell her to take it out you need to, but if there’s a compromise in here and you can work with her on it…that would be better. :)

      1. LipRingGal

        I have a lip piercing too. For the first year I only wore it on the weekends to avoid looking “unprofessional”. 6 years later I wear it daily unless I know the customer is coming in the office. Most people don’t care & honestly probably don’t notice since it’s a very small stud.

  31. NewHerePleaseBeNice

    I’ve had a nose stud since I was 19. I’m now almost 40, and it’s still there. I can honestly say I’ve never removed or covered it, and it’s not held me back in any job I’ve had – including being a senior Exec Assistant to a Director, and a customer facing role in local government.

    My mum, on the other hand, still hasn’t forgiven me for the piercing :)

  32. specialist

    Nose piercings. Ugh. This is a medical office. In some it doesn’t matter. In others it is very much a BIG DEAL. That is the case with my office.

    I do not allow facial piercings to be seen, other than earlobes. Earrings should be smaller than a quarter. No visible tattoos, ever. Hair should be styled in a professional manner and of a color naturally found on humans. It doesn’t have to be your natural hair color, but it has to be reasonably natural looking and well-kept. No open toed shoes and all must wear socks or stockings. (Those are a state requirement.) Sleeveless shirts are not an option, and backs and midriffs are not to be exposed. In general shirts should not be cut below the 2nd rib. No visible undergarments. This is solved for the staff by wearing scrubs–they get to pick the colors and I buy them. This is actually considered really lenient in my field for this area–my competitors actually require everyone in the same uniform color every day and the staff do get bored with it. Usually this is black, sometimes with another color on occasion. I also get my staff fluffy cardigan-type jackets to wear in the office for when they are cold. No hoodies. No shirts with logos. You can wear your team earrings or necklace, as long as it is tasteful. Any nail polish is to be subdued, no black, blue, green, etc. Make up is to be subdued and professional. I am the final arbiter of what is tasteful. I remember once having one staff member who thought that white jeans passed for pants. No. I had the office manager order her appropriate scrubs. There are other regulations, sometimes conflicting, at the other sites I attend. They can get really involved. I’ve mentioned the underwear inspector previously.

    The office has to be acceptable to as many different types of patients as possible. Even if only 1 out of every 10 patients had a problem with the nose piercing, that is still 10% of your patients who are put off by it. Who needs that many extra complaints about something stupid? My staff know the deal and are plenty comfortable with it. That’s the way it is in this field.

    The response for this would be really tricky. The person is a biller/receptionist, so does have a patient-forward position. Given that this is a trusted person and that the OP wrote in instead of having the piercing immediately removed, I think this office can be more forgiving in this area. I would recommend that the employee switch to a clear dot for work hours. If necessary, use a bandaid until the piercing can be switched to a clear dot.

      1. Specialist

        That is the way it is. In a previous time, they hired people who were really young and beautiful for the front desk. I had an issue with that once when I was employed. The “cute” receptionist was dumb as a box of rocks. My staff don’t fit that mould, but then again, neither do I. The lack of adequate support was part of the reason I left that position. This isn’t as tight as the flight attendant restrictions. Does anyone else remember the deal with the airline employee who wanted to wear a little American flag pin after she got her citizenship?

        Some of the hospital regulations are crazy. You are supposed to wear your ID, and now they are using these to open the various locked doors. So in some areas your ID needs to be attached on one of those clips with the spring loaded pull chain. And in other areas it should be on a lanyard. Then in other areas you are supposed to not wear it outside your clothes. So if I didn’t hide it in my bra I would continually be locked out of things. And there are strict regulations on jewelry, hats, what constitutes PPE. There is actually a professional organization “fight” right now on the traditionally male skull cap type surgical cap. In England they have a bare below the elbows thing. Many places require no artificial nails. And there is an ongoing war against men’s neckties in the hospital. Then there was the huge kerfluffle over V neck scrubs as opposed to round necked scrubs. Men had to wear one scrub top frontwards and one scrub top backwards so as not to show their chest hair. And they have fluffy little beard covers that hang from their ears. Tshirts under the scrubs are not allowed. You really have to work to get the young students to understand that yes, socks are required.

        Now, if you asked me if I personally care about the nose ring on the front desk staff of most of the areas I visit, I don’t care. I wouldn’t ever get one, but I don’t care if others have them. Same with tattoos. I don’t like the cheap badly done ones, but for the most part I don’t care. However, that’s not the world I live in at work. There are expectations on what the patients expect and I have to meet them.

      2. Erin

        To be fair. I once did a report on tattoos/piercings in the workplace, and while they are becoming more acceptable in a lot of fields, medical was one very glaring exception. And what Specialist is describing does sound very industry specific.

  33. Franzia Spritzer

    On the topic of LW#1 Many of the comments above indicate quite a few women are working in professional environments with tattoos and piercings. I’ve always read “professional appearance” in a job posting to mean neither tattoos nor piercings are acceptable, and have stopped reading and then skipped to the next job posting. I’ve passed on applying for jobs in which I otherwise meet the listed qualifications. I have a poised, polished and professional appearance and demeanor, and I have visible tattoos and my nose pierced.

    What do you all consider to be the outer limits of acceptable tattoos? For context I have tattooed hands. Before you call attention to life choices, I tattooed my hands ever so smartly when I was just 14, at a time when my life and well being were not particularly hopeful. I’ve gone through the motions of tattoo removal with limited results, (due to my super-expert application and extra-practiced technique).

  34. Susan

    I literally know nothing about nose rings, but do they have any sort of placeholders you can put in? When I was a kid, I got my ears pierced, and I also played soccer. I couldn’t just take my earrings out per the rules or my ears would close, so I got these clear plastic things that I put in just for the game. No one could tell I had anything in my ears.

    I had some luck googling “clear nose piercing retainers.”

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