haircut drama, avoiding video chats with clients, and more

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

1. Haircut drama is disrupting my office

I’m a manager in an Human Resources department for a large company. Back in December a new employee started in our office. “Nina” wears her hair in a pixie cut. Another employee, “Mika,” got obessed with Nina’s hair. She talked about how great it was all the time. Mika’s hair was a single length and almost down to her stomach. Nina was flattered and she showed Mika several photos of herself with the cut, which she has had for three years. She was honest about the maintenance and what goes into having the cut. Mika decided to get it and even went to Nina’s salon to get it done.

However, Mika hates the cut on herself. She has cried over it while at work and this makes everyone uncomfortable. She said she has spent hundreds on vitamins to make her hair grow faster, and she is also getting into more personal territory because she has been telling everyone about how her husband is upset that she spent the money they were saving for a vacation on an expensive wig without telling him. Mika says her husband supported whatever she wants to do with her hair and it’s not about her hair but about her spending the money without telling him. Several of her colleagues have told me Mika’s random crying and oversharing of her marital issues are making them uncomfortable. Nina has said she was flattered at first but has become annoyed and uncomfortable with Mika because Mika still likes Nina’s hair but cries about it on herself. This is Nina’s first job after college and her second job ever. I see why she is uncomfortable because while Mika is not her boss, she is not her peer and is senior to her. Nina says Mika blames her for talking her into getting the cut (even though Nina did no such thing) and then will cry and apologize to her for being harsh.

I really want to be understanding to Mika, but this situation is becoming untenable. No one wants to be around Mika and I am fairly certain Nina is job hunting. How can I gently speak to Mika about not crying every day or oversharing her marital issues with her colleagues, especially Nina?

Oh my goodness. It sounds like at this point you need to tell Mika that it’s becoming disruptive and she needs to keep this out of the office. I would say it this way: “I know you’re unhappy with your haircut, and I’m sympathetic. However, at this point continuing to talk about it in the office is becoming disruptive, and I’m sure you can understand it’s making things particularly uncomfortable for Nina. Going forward, I’d like you to keep conversations about your haircut out of the office. I know that might seem like an odd thing to ask, but it’s become such a focal point that it’s truly disrupting the office.”

Ideally her manager should have this conversation with Mika rather than you. But as HR, you can coach her manager in how to do it. (But if you feel her manager won’t do it effectively — if she’s inexperienced or terrible at delivering difficult messages — you could step in and handle it. But make sure that her manager is looped in and ready to back you up on this.)

2. Do I really need to video chat with clients?

I am a consultant who has regular contact with clients across the country, much of the interaction taking place over conference lines, interspersed with in-person visits. One of my client organizations has recently transitioned its email system over to Google. They utilize the Google chat to make calls and present documents on their screen. However, many of the employees of this organization use the video function to communicate, and several have asked me — multiple times — to participate in the video chat to simulate in-person meetings.

I often work from home when I am not traveling, which usually means I am wearing sweats/pajamas with no makeup and a cat walking across my screen. I typically keep a piece of paper taped over my laptop camera to avoid accidental video sharing. Is video chat normal for virtual work? Am I obligated to participate in the video chats and give up my at-home comfortable style?

An increasing number of offices do use video chat, so yeah, I’d say it’s fairly normal — or at least not abnormal. But whether or not you’re obligated to participate depends on how much standing you have as an outside consultant. If they value you and your work enough, it might be no big deal to decline. If you have a ton of standing (i.e., you’re in demand and they’re thrilled to be working with you), you could just say, “Oh, I don’t do video chat — sorry!” If you have less standing, you might be better off referencing, uh, a software or other issue that has messed with your computer camera. (I actually once disabled my computer’s camera and then couldn’t remember how to re-enable it, so that’s a possibility.)

Of course, you should pay attention to cues. If they seem really irate about it, you’re probably better off sucking it up and doing it (although if that means that you have to deal with makeup and showering and so forth when you otherwise wouldn’t, you can always factor that into the rates you charge them).

But in general, the more in-demand you are, the more ability you have to say “no, I don’t do that” (the same thing with showing up for all meetings in a hoodie or only being reachable from 3-4 and only on Tuesdays, or whatever).

3. Open-toed shoes at job interviews

I see a lot of articles about interview clothing that mention you shouldn’t wear open toed shoes to interviews. The consensus seems to be that it’s deeply unprofessional, but why?

Most standards of professional dress are somewhat arbitrary; they’re conventions because they’ve become conventions, not necessarily because there’s any inherent logic to them. (Why are skirts okay but shorts of the same length aren’t? Why is the same shirt okay for work when it’s made out of silk but not when it’s made out of cotton?) The open-toed shoe thing at least has a bit of logic to it: showing your toes is generally for less formal settings, and interviews are typically considered a formal setting.

It’s also worth noting that there’s no men’s shoe that exposes toes that would be considered professional attire. That’s not always a perfect comparison — women’s work wear shows other body parts that men’s work wear doesn’t expose, like shoulders — but it’s something.

4. When someone can’t attend a mandatory meeting

I am a student boss at a university and we have a mandatory scheduled meeting and I said if you can’t make it then you can’t work this quarter. I have someone who has one day left of sorority rushing and she really wants to be more involved but has a prior commitment and can’t make it. What should I tell her? I want her to be able to work this quarter.

I’d say don’t schedule mandatory meetings for people who don’t work for you full-time. When people aren’t full-time, and especially when they’re students, they have other commitments that are highly likely to interfere with this kind of thing. You’re much more likely to retain the people you want to retain if you make it easy for them to attend — which in this case might mean holding two or three sessions of the meeting, so that people have multiple times to choose from.

5. How to calculate “years known” with references

I’ve come across several job applications that ask you to list “years known” for references. I’m sure I’m overthinking this, but what exactly are they looking for? Is it how long we worked/interacted together, or how long it’s been since we met? For example, let’s say you worked with Fergus for five years, left that job five years ago, and haven’t really kept in touch. Would you still say you’ve known them for 10 years even though you he can only really speak to “knowing” me for those five years? (I realize this question could be avoided by just keeping in touch with people. It’s something I’m working on for the future!)

It’s how long it’s been since you first knew each other. (Or really, knew each other in a meaningful way. If you met in passing 10 years ago but didn’t really work together until seven years ago, go with seven.) So in your example, you’d say 10 years.

{ 475 comments… read them below }

    1. Janelle*

      Seriously. Also if anyone really believes that going from longggg hair to a pixie will be an easy transition they are fooling themselves. She sounds a bit unstable frankly. Also, good for them but it is a smaller group of women who can pull this off. Usually wish very defend features. I know I couldn’t manage it but truly enjoy seeing women who can.

      Also, I’ve cried over a haircut bwfofe, no doubt, but every day at work!? Woman needs to gat a grip. I hope she at least donates that hair.

      1. Janelle*

        Ugh my nails are wet. Pardon my phones typos. I so miss blackberries with the keys you actually feel.

      2. Bryce*

        Even if is does look good on you, that big of a change is going to be startling until you get used to it. I do double-takes in the mirror when I just take an inch off.

        1. CMF*

          I’ve gone from waist to shoulder-length (to donate), and it took several months to figure out the proper amount of shampoo/conditioner I needed, and to remember why my ponytail was so much lighter.

          1. Annabelle*

            Yeah, I went from waist length to chin length last year and it took 3 or 4 months before I could look in the mirror without having an “oh my god” reaction.

          2. SarcasticFringehead*

            Same, even though I love shorter hair (I keep just cutting more and more of it off) and would never go back to long hair even if I could make it grow in overnight – it’s a huuuuuuuge change.

          3. SusanIvanova*

            I did that when I was getting ready for my karate black belt test (October. Texas. Heat reduction a must!), and then felt slightly off-balance every time I did a fast turn and didn’t feel the hair move.

        2. K.*

          I cut off my hair at the roots (it was about an inch long and the cut was intentional – Black woman cutting off chemically straightened hair) ten years ago and I kept startling myself. Not only was it the shortest it had been literally since birth, I hadn’t seen the curly texture since I was 12. The first time I washed it I used about 4x the amount of shampoo I actually needed!

        3. Your Weird Uncle*

          The thing that always makes me laugh when I go from long to short is how much I flip my hair out of my face (by flipping my head) when it’s long….then when it’s short, I do it out of habit but there’s no hair there! So I just look like I have a really exaggerated tic.

        4. Serin*

          Hell, I still look in the mirror and expect my hair to be brown, and I gave up coloring it four years ago.

      3. Anony McAnonface*

        I’m fairly chubby and pixie hair is super cute on me. I think it’s a common conception that short hair is only for skinny or angular girls, but that’s nonsense. It’s like saying short hair is only for skinny boys. I mean, it has to be the right cut, but short hair can be cute on just about anyone.

        And as someone who has had some truly awful haircuts, there is a time and a place for wailing and rending of garments, and the office is not that place. Absolutely the manager needs to put a stop to this.

        1. neeko*

          Janelle said that it was a smaller group of women. Not small women. I’m assuming she meant, not a ton of people can pull it off – not that only thin women can have short hair.

          1. Anony McAnonface*

            She said “with defined features” which I took to mean angular (which generally is thinner people). Either way, I stand by my conviction that there’s a short haircut out there for everyone, not just a small group.

            1. AliCatLady*

              I can second that it definitely is the type of pixie that can work on you. Originally I had cut my hair cropped, like around two inches, and it looked awful on me and my round face. AWFUL.

              Thankfully, the next time I cut my hair, inspired by Audrey Tatou, I asked to keep it in a shaggy layer that, once it grew out, could adapt to a bob style. That second pixie I took, I ended up getting many compliments on.

              What I have noticed is how much a pixie cut can open up one’s face. My best friend of over a decade told me she almost didn’t recognize me with the second pixie cut.

              I’m sure it must have been similar for Mika, but…she needs to get a grip. I always hated it when people make their own choices and then take it out on other people when the results didn’t go as they expected.

          2. Janelle*

            Yes smaller group of women. And usually more angular faces. Many can pull it off. Size has no determination. Also that’s my opinion. Many think Scarlett Johansson looks good with the new shoet hair and I just disagree.

            Believe me, I’ve had hair trauma, and I’ve cut enough to cry before. Point was that she seemed to not think it through. I know a lot of stylist will slowly shorten someone’s hair if they are going from long to a pixie or super short just to ease them in and make sure they will be able to take it.

            I look like a drowned rat when my hair is just greasy. It would be soooo bad on me. Ha

            1. soon to be former fed*

              I think its more head shape than features. I have delicate features, not angular at all, but an egg shaped head with small forehead. I have worn my hair very short for thirty years and get nothing but compliments. I can’t imagine wearing my hair any other way, its my signature look with bold earrings, and you would be surprised at the different styles I wear.

              As a Black woman, short and sassy hair has been a part of our culture for a long time, the present day penchant for weave notwithstanding.

              1. Karen D*

                Right. My head shape is all wrong for short hair, my jawline is too bulky. I don’t look elfin, chic or majestic, I look like an awkward prepubescent boy.

                But when the right head shape is there, it’s almost a crime to cover it up with hair. The first time my niece chopped hers off, it was a revelation, and she stuck to her super-short cuts even when the trend was for long heavy straight hair.

        2. krysb*

          Ditto – the pixie looked great on me. The only reason I grew my hair out was because of the upkeep required to keep a pixie cute.

        3. JeanB in NC*

          I have done my fair share of wailing and rending of garments – I went to a Paul Mitchell school for years for cuts & color, and believe me, they are not all A students!

        4. Had Matter's Pea Tarty*

          I’m chubby with a round face, and long hair makes me look 12. Pixies for life.

      4. Sarianna*

        Why would you say it can’t be an easy transition? Was for me, this year. I used to have buzzed hair before my friend who cut my hair started grad school… then I grew it out to classic (below-the-butt) length. Decided I was sick of it after ten years, which was a couple months ago, and went from classic to pixie in one go. It was more of a surprise to the stylist and to my coworkers than to me, I was fine. And then I went from pixie to side-buzzed at the next haircut, because pixie required using more product than I was willing to pay for over time! LOL.

        1. Breda*

          Well, that’s a different situation: you were returning to something you knew you liked from something you no longer wanted. I’ve done this before too, and it can be kind of a relief! But Mika was trying something brand new and completely different, which is always a shock, even if you also love it.

        2. Annabelle*

          I think for lots of people a drastic change is actually a rough transition. Hair is a huge cultural signifier of femininity and going from long to short hair can be overwhelming, especially if you’ve never had short hair as an adult before.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            The first time I got a pixie cut, I’d only had waist-length hair for as long as I could remember. I was fine with the change (I wanted something drastic, so I was happy that that was what I got).

            My then four-year-old son took it hard, though. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “You don’t look like a good girl anymore. You look like a bad girl!”

        3. Kc*

          I totally agree! I cut off over 10 inches the same day as my university graduation ball. I looked fabulous. Never regretted it for a second, because I knew what I was getting into. I thought about it ahead of time.
          I understand it is very hard for some, but it should not be so hard that you can’t stop crying at work. Anytime I have cried at work I have gone to the washroom or closed the door to my office. No need to bother my coworkers and make them uncomfortable.
          If this company has any form of counselling they may want to offer it to this woman. She is reacting more like there was a death in the family. Hair grown back. Come to think of it I cried a lot when my grandmother passed away, we were close and I even lived with her for a time, but I never cried at work. Counseling may really help this woman deal with her feelings in a more professional and productive way.
          Best of luck op! This is a hard situation, and not fair to any involved, but hopefully with some advice and counseling this woman can feel in control of her life again.

        4. Lissa*

          Yeah, I was fine with it but I think a lot of people aren’t to the point that when I went from midback to extremely short the hairdresser asked me multiple times if I was sure, and my best friend who was there at the time even got in on it, saying I’d wanted it for months! And I loved it Immediately. Though got some odd reactions from people…so I can see why some folk would not react well.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think Mika did buy a wig—that’s why she’s now complaining about marital strife.

      But OP, I agree with Alison. Mika really needs to rein it in, if for no other reason than to stop making Nina feel awful for doing absolutely nothing wrong. I understand people sometimes tie up a lot of their identity into their hair/hair style. But given that all Mika can do at this point is grow it out (or wear a wig, or put in weave), she has to figure out coping strategies that don’t include alternately using her coworkers as therapists and scapegoats.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I suspect her co-workers’ opinions of her are lowering daily. That’s a definite workplace problem.

        1. Tuxedo Cat*

          That and if she spends a considerable amount of time at work being upset over it or discussing her issues, she can’t be getting that much done.

      2. Artemesia*

        I don’t understand why the boss didn’t rein this in about 3 days in. There is no excuse for creating misery for Nina and everyone else who has to hear this crap. It was never acceptable for her to be weeping in the office about a hair cut even once; it was never acceptable for her to be whining about her marital issues even once. But certainly after 2 or 3 days of this, she should have been told to cut it out completely and stop disrupting the office.

        So often good employees are driven out by the failure of management to rein in people who make everyone else’s life miserable.

        1. Myrin*

          I am wondering about the timeline of this whole situation, actually. The feeling I get from the letter is that it’s been a couple of weeks at least but looking more closely and clinically, all that well could’ve played out over like four days. OP, can you clarify?

        2. sstabeler*

          I don’t entirely agree. weeping over it ONCE- in a “my god, what have I done?” sort of way- is fine, since it’s entirely possible she had just realised she hated it. Whining about marital issues… it depends.

          I agree she needs to knock it off, though.

      3. Kathleen Adams*

        Honestly – and I don’t wish to sound harsh here – even an actual tragedy gives someone only so much leeway for dramatic emotions at work. If someone’s parents, spouse or child dies, or someone breaks up with their SO, of course we expect some of that pain and sadness to leak over into work, even to the point of tears. We’re at work, but we’re still human beings, and we should be able to expect kindness, sympathy and support from our coworkers in our times of need.

        But even with an outright tragedy – and a bad haircut is not a tragedy of any kind – there is only so much we ought to expect, and Mika has far exceeded her allowance. She is starting to act like a crazy person, and she is adversely affecting her coworkers. She has to stop it right now.

        1. SignalLost*

          I had my car broken into at work and a couple things stolen and it was a surprise to me when someone I see infrequently commented on it and asked how I was doing less than a week later, after getting a (paid) day off and dealing with police and insurance and getting the glass replaced, because the break in was clearly no longer even a joking excuse for a mistake or whatnot. People, including me, had moved on, even though I was still privately angry and grieving, since the thieves left my wallet and stole years of completely useless-to-them handwork. Hair is … not even in that minor of a sympathy category.

        2. Annabelle*

          This. People endure terrible things and still manage to act at least some professional. I get that hair is a big part of some people’s identities, but at some point you have to at least try and move on.

        3. Finding Nemo*

          The day after one of my family cats passed away, I was weepier than I expected to be and I asked my supervisor if I could be excused from answering the main line phones for the afternoon. I was still fine to work, I just wanted to be in the privacy of my office where I could wipe away the occasional tear from my eye without worrying about talking to customers, which is what I’d been doing all morning. He refused, claiming that no one else could do it today (which was a lie because then he and the other three people who are on the phone rotation went out to a two hour long lunch, leaving me stuck on the phones, crying and with no lunch break).

          I think allowances should be made depending on the circumstances; but days of crying over a haircut and then marital problems are definitely too extreme.

          1. FormerEmployee*

            My condolences on the loss of your cat. Your supervisor’s reaction was appalling. When I found out that a co-worker in my dept. had lost one of her long time dogs, I got her a special card. Pets are family members, too.

        4. Finding nemo*

          The day after one of my family cats passed away, I was weepier than I expected to be and I asked my supervisor if I could be excused from answering the main line phonecalls. I was still fine to work, I just wanted to be in the privacy of my office where I could wipe away the occasional tear from my eye without worrying about talking to customers, which I had been doing all morning and I didn’t want to continue into the afternoon. He refused, claiming that no one else could do it today (which was a lie because then he and the other three people who are on the phone rotation went out to a two hour long lunch, leaving me stuck on the phones, crying and with no lunch break).

          I think allowances should be made depending on the circumstances; but days of crying over a haircut and then marital problems are definitely too extreme.

      4. TheBeetsMotel*

        Exactly. Your decisions regarding your appearance are no-one’s but your own.

        I went pixie once, and decided I didn’t like it not too long after. What could I do, except suck it up and wait for it to grow out? It certainly wasn’t going to grow any faster by wailing and gnashing my teeth. And to be crying about it every day at work… oh my goodness.

        I found positivity in the fact that going real short have my hair a fresh start, free of damage. Perhaps Mika can look at things that way?

      5. Elizabeth West*

        she has to figure out coping strategies that don’t include alternately using her coworkers as therapists and scapegoats

        Yes. They’re not responsible for either her own actions (getting the haircut) or her emotional reaction to it.

    3. MommaCat*

      I’m guessing her hair was a huge part of her identity; she did buy a wig, the cost of which is causing marital issues, which are probably compounding the identity issues caused by the bad haircut. But she should still leave the drama outside of the office.

    4. Specialk9*

      I was cringing in sympathy over crying at work *once* over the disastrous haircut. (My pixie cut somehow involved buzzers, not artistically snipped strands… I was more ‘dandelion puff’ than ‘gamine’ – I ugly bawled, once, at home.)

      But crying more than once at work, over freaking HAIR?!

      It’s a useful lesson in ‘I adore this look on YOU’ vs ‘sadly this isn’t going to look that good on me’. And she needs to shut that whole thing down.

      1. Clewgarnet*

        I once took an emergency day off work thanks to a horrific haircut – went in for my usual pixie cut and got a new stylist who managed to turn me into David Mitchell. And much as I admire his wit, he’s not exactly my style icon.

        1. Alli525*

          Also had to take an emergency day off, but due to a bad color job – I’d gone to a school instead of a regular salon, and the very green stylist turned my hair basketball orange. And then gaslit me into thinking it wasn’t THAT orange… until I got home and my roommate was like “no yeah you can’t go to work tomorrow.” Luckily they fixed it for free but STILL. Basketball orange!

          1. Brandy*

            I had a bad dye job were the stylist had another stylist join in to get the blond highlights done faster. I had tried a hair school. I wound up one side blond and one side brown with blond highlights. The school decided to go to lunch and so I was told to come back after lunch. I wound up across the street crying into a whopper at an outside table. They redyed the other side back to brown and put highlights in. I thought my hair would fall out from all this. But my hair held and no more tears.

            Also a stylist at Supercuts (because I only wanted an inch or two off) cut my hair to ear and not Here, she wasn’t paying attn. But no tears. Especially not at work.

            1. Barefoot Librarian*

              My horror story cut involved my regular stylist being out and (surprise!) the most popular girl from my high school was working that day. I hadn’t seen her in 10 years or so, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell her she couldn’t cut my hair.

              Anyway, my sense of dread gradually built as I watched her cut and my ongoing suggestions didn’t seem to be changing the trajectory of the unfolding tragedy. I kept telling myself that it wasn’t that bad and I just needed to restyle it at home. When I got up to pay though, the friend that was with me said “let’s go Darth Helmet” (everyone needs a friend this honest) and I burst into tears. I ended up going somewhere else to have it fixed because I didn’t trust anyone in that salon lol.

              1. Barefoot Librarian*

                On the bright side, this led to my first ever pixie cut and I’ve been hooked every since. ;)

            2. JB*

              Oh god, Supercuts is awful. I’m a man with very easy hair and they still once managed to screw mine up so badly (uneven buzz cuts look like absolute crap, especially if you were expecting just a trim) it’s the only business establishment I’ve ever made a scene to get a refund at.

                1. Specialk9*

                  Brandy, I recommend you try it at home. Start with something even simpler, like bangs/fringe.

                  Report back. (Snicker)

                  Not that I haven’t said those exact words myself, right before… Regretting them. More than once.

              1. bad cuts*

                I’m female, fairly broke and also cheap, and am very easy-going about my hair. I’ve had it all lengths, colored it, even shaved it all off once just to see what it felt like. My philosophy when I try something new is “eh, if I hate it, it’ll grow out eventually.”

                For awhile I was getting my hair cut with clippers using the 1″ setting. I went to First Choice Haircutters on another broke friend’s recommendation. It’s a walk-in, $14 haircut type place.
                But I mean, how hard is it to screw up a job where you just use clippers, right? All fine and good the first few times, and one of the women told me it was the “second longest” clipper size because I could never remember the measurement (inch? inch and a quarter? inch and a half?). So this one time I go in and say “I want it cut with the second longest clipper size”. The woman cutting my hair decided I meant the second longest clipper size AT HER STATION. I knew something was wrong with the first swipe, but it was already too late. By the time she was done, I was ready for my first ugly cry right then and there. She’d cut it to 3/8″.

                Fortunately, my philosophy held true anyway – it grew back. And I found a different inexpensive place to get my hair cut.

                1. mrs__peel*

                  One of my male friends once got the 1-10 haircut scale backwards, and accidentally asked for a “10” instead of a light trim. He came back looking like he had just started Marines boot camp.

              2. Turquoise Cow*

                I have super, super curly, frizzy hair, and most of my childhood was a battle with my mother to get it into something resembling a presentable look.

                She took me to Supercuts once. The stylist looked at my hair with kind of a deer in headlights expression and called over a more experienced supervisor type.

                I’m absolutely willing to pay good money for a good haircut because my hair is not easy. And let’s not talk about the idiot who decided to give me layers. Ugh.

              3. SignalLost*

                Depends on the stylist, as we all know. I’ve had two great stylists at SC, and one I’m lukewarm on but everyone else is complimenting the hell out of her work, so hey. But the guy I used to get via “luck” the draw was awful – my favourite part was how he would tell me he knew how I liked my hair cut, in this totally “we are super BFF” tone, when … he was literally not doing the thing I was saying I wanted. But because he was so bad, I did learn to make appts with the other one I liked until she left and I went to another good stylist.

              4. Steph B*

                Eh, I’ve honestly been going to Supercuts and the like for years (since broke grad student days) and it has always turned out OK for me. The one time I went to a fancier salon (per my mom + sisters’ insistence that I ‘spoil myself’), it actually turned out not so great.

                I am just not super fussy about my hair — I found a length that I like and basically go in every 4-6 months to get it trimmed back to that length / clean up the split ends. I’ve been noticing more greys in my hair recently, but honestly would rather just let myself age gracefully than get into the coloring cycle.

                I don’t fault other men/women for spending more on hair, it just hasn’t ever been such a big thing for me or my husband.

            3. Renee*

              Crazy enough, my stylist is at Supercuts. My hair is curly and I’d try new stylists at other places, pay $75, and then end up with her fixing layers because stylists always layer my hair that can’t be layered (it’s springs waaaaaaay up so I get huge gaps). Finally I just gave up and I only go to her and I’ve been going to her for years now. She’s the manager and she loves it there and will only leave when she moves up to the training program (which will happen eventually), and she’s promised to tell me. What’s more, my teen daughter for whom hair is so important omg mom you don’t understand will only go to her. I made the mistake once of going to another stylist there when she wasn’t available and nope, definitely not as good.

          2. many bells down*

            I accidentally home-dyed mine neon orange once, too (the box said “cinnamon”, what I got was “atomic tangerine”). I had a deadline that meant I *couldn’t* miss work for just that, so I put it in a bun and went in. My boss could barely keep a straight face while talking to me.

            My high school reunion was that week, too, so I put some dark brown over it and it came out ok.

            1. Blue Anne*

              Ha, nice!

              It’s amazing how forgiving dark brown is. I went from bright pink to dark brown overnight once to get to an interview. (My laid-back tech workplace immediately started gearing up to find my replacement.)

            2. Clewgarnet*

              My hair was atomic tangerine deliberately for a number of years!

              Nowadays, it’s a nice purple fauxhawk, with my natural dark brown on the clipped bits.

        2. mrs__peel*

          “who managed to turn me into David Mitchell”

          Yikes! I think I’d (slightly) prefer the Robert Webb….

      2. EddieSherbert*

        I had a similar bad haircut job and sympathize (when it’s already really short, there aren’t a lot of options)!

        … my solution was to pull out SO’s buzzer and go full-on Sinead O’Connor. It actually looked pretty good and I got more compliments than I have in a long time for my hair (I think most were just people being like “wow, that chick is gutsy” than anything, hahaha).

        I’m actually doing it again soon, but for a charity (St. Baldrick’s) this time!

        PSA: My work is extremely casual, and I could wear hats if I hated it, which helped me decide to do the buzz!

    5. INTP*

      It sounds like she did buy a wig…and now she has a marital problem from the expense of the wig to blame on Nina and make drama about at work.

    6. GreyjoyGardens*

      Seriously! Bad haircuts happen, and, yes, it takes a long time to grow out pixie-length hair, but it *will grow back*. And Mika needs to get a grip – she chose to get her hair cut, Nina didn’t frog-march her to the hair salon.

      I strongly suspect that there’s a lot more to this than just hair. Mika may well have some problems in her marriage and she’s flailing around blaming the bad haircut. But whatever is going on with Mika and however she feels about her hair, she’s got to leave Nina out of this and act like a professional at work.

    7. PizzaDog*

      Right? Thank G-d I was working in a call centre that allowed me to wear a beanie the last time I got an awful haircut (remember Rihanna’s bob? picture it with bangs.)

      Hair grows back.

    8. TootsNYC*

      she DID buy a wig–that became part of the drama.

      I think there was a serious clue when Mika kept going on about Nina’s haircut. What an education for the poor kid!

    9. jeff*

      Has Mika never had a bad haircut? I have heard the phrase “it’ll grow back” more than once in my life directed at me. And, it did. Mika has other problems with self esteem which are not the office’s responsibility to deal with or solve.

      1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels (formerly ancolie)*

        Not to excuse Mika, because she’s way out of line here, but just in response to your question: Yes, it is quite possible she’s never had a bad haircut before.

        She had waist-length hair. If she always has had long hair, she might always have just had a trim to get rid of split ends instead of full haircuts. She might have always been very cautious with her hair, figuring keeping it long is less risky than trying something new and hating it.

  1. OP #1*

    Thank you for the response and the great advice Alison. (One small point of clarification, I am Mika and Nina’s manager). Your script is helpful and exactly what I was looking for.

      1. OP #1*

        Unfortunately the company does not offer an EAP or anything along those lines. Mika has worked here for over a decade and has never caused drama or acted like this before she got the haircut. As her manager I don’t feel comfortable telling her she needs to see a therapist or probe whether or not she is having other issues. She has told me (voluntarily, without me asking) that she doesn’t have any issues with mental health and her marriage was good before she caused problems by spending the vacation money, but I have tried to gently discourage this line of thought because I’m her manager and don’t want to get into such personal things.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          I think you’re absolutely right to discourage this line of thought, but it sounds like doing it gently just isn’t working and you’re going to need to be more direct.

          That doesn’t mean you’re being unkind, or not being understanding, though it may feel that way – it means you’re doing the right thing for you AND her by setting appropriate boundaries. It is absolutely okay to do that.

        2. DCR*

          I’m going to gently put back on the idea that Mika never caused drama before she got a haircut. It sounds like she was harassing Nina about her hair for quite a while before she got her own haircut – that is it self a form of drama, although not as drastic. Has she harassed other co-workers about thing in the past? Their clothing, a new purse, etc.

          1. ZVA*

            I have to say, “harassing” seems like a stretch to me. OP does say that “[Mika] talked about how great [Nina’s haircut] was all the time,” but adds that Nina was “flattered” by it… Talking about someone’s haircut “all the time” does seem excessive to me, but we have no evidence that Nina considered this “harassment” and it just doesn’t seem helpful for us to treat it as such.

            Behavior can be eccentric, excessive, even annoying, without being harassment; it seems to me that sometimes the comments jump straight to harassment as if other categories don’t exist, which I feel like isn’t useful to letter writers — which, after all, is why we’re here…

          2. Sadsack*

            Is harassed the right word though? Maybe she was fixated on Nina’s hair because she really wanted to do something different with her own hair and really liked Nina’s. Now it is obviously a bigger issue, but it may not have exactly been harassment before.

          3. JulieBulie*

            Yes! That struck me too – as I was reading the letter, Mika’s obsession with Nina’s haircut was a very large red flag, even before the haircut. Nina was very nice to indulge Mika, show pictures, etc. but I would have been extremely uncomfortable with someone being so focused on my hair.

            I mean, if you like pixie cuts, you can find a zillion of them on the internet… so I wondered if this might have been something more personal.

        3. Jesca*

          Hello OP!

          I just wanted to point out that I can definitely see how you would have no problems in the past with Mika, and now do. I once read somewhere (and please forgive me, as I forget) about people who literally grow attached to their long hair. It is almost like a comfort blanket for them. Often when they remove this type of security from themselves, they can become very irrational and emotional people. Basically, she is experiencing extreme loss that may seem very trivial to other people and is obviously not prepared to deal with loss in a socially acceptable way. I think if you were to be direct with her, it may help her see the need to move past the loss of her hair. I would be very firm in the sense that it is distracting and making people uncomfortable while also letting her know that you understand that she is experience what she perceives as a strong loss.

          1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

            I just want to second this. I went in for a cut once that ended up awful. Somehow the stylist heard “long layers that frame my face” and did a cut that resembled a mushroom sitting on my head. The fix was not quite a pixie, but a very short style that happened to be how my mother wears her hair. It is beyond jarring to look in the mirror and literally see another person (in my case my mother) starring back at you. I wasn’t crying at work every day but it took up a lot of mental space and I will probably never again cut my hair shorter than shoulder length. I could barely look in the mirror until my hair grew out. I know people think it’s just hair, but I learned for me it’s part of my identity. To suddenly no longer be able to see yourself is not a mentally easy thing to adjust to.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Same. A stylist give me a chin-length cut once. My hair was red at the time and I looked like a cross between a horse with bangs (I have a long face) and a damn Raggedy Ann doll. I hated it. Never ever ever again. I could barely stand to look in the mirror until it grew out; there was nothing I could do with it to make it look better. It really messed with my head for a little bit.

              1. Jesca*

                I once asked for an inverted bob. This was like 15 years ago before inverted bobs became a “thing” again. I had just seen a pic from like the 70s and wanted to mimic the style (I was really into metal then and would color my hair in odd ways that looked good with the inverted bob haha.) She cut the longest lengths at my cheek bone! My head looked like the tip of a penis, which NO ONE seemed to want to let me forget in my highschool … Ever since then, I pay a lot for hair cuts!

              2. uh*

                I covered up the mirror for 2 days after my last haircut. . . It was horrific. I did NOT mention it at work though.

            2. Lily*

              fun fact: when my hair grew out, my stylist made me some actually pretty cute haircut to make it look more intentional – but when I came home and styled it myself, it looked like my grandma’s haircut, down to the colour. Now, my grandma’s haircut is pretty acceptable. Nobody else would see the tragedy – they just saw a cute half- length cut.

          2. ThursdaysGeek*

            I’ve had one haircut in my life: when I was 6 my mum gave me a pixie. I’ve had hair down to my rear since junior high school and I’m approaching retirement. It’s not just a comfort blanket, it’s a part of my body, like fingers and toes, and I’d consider cutting it off like I’d consider cutting them off.

            This discussion has helped me see that it would be a strong loss, perhaps in more ways that I have even thought.

            1. Jesca*

              My grandmother was like this. She got a short cut in the 80s and it affected her so badly, she never cut her hair again to the day she passed away. It was unbelievably long. She would twist it up into a bun every day.

        4. neverjaunty*

          OP, you keep referring to “gently” telling Mika things. It’s absolutely correct that you should not be rude or cruel, but as a manager, “gentle” should not be your priority in communication. You can be kind while still being direct and firm.

          1. fposte*

            Yes, excellent point. The problem here isn’t that she’s upset, it’s that she’s upsetting. And in case your reluctance is this specific–it’s okay if she cries when you talk to her. Hand her some tissues and keep going. Your mission isn’t to make sure she doesn’t cry when reprimanded.

            1. TootsNYC*

              The BEST “bedside manner” I ever encountered was exactly this.

              It was a doctor, but the effect was the same. I found it so respectful.

              He handed me the tissues, he said, in a -slightly- sympathetic tone: “If I were in your situation, I’d probably be crying too,” and then he just went on with the conversation as if I were not crying.

              One underlying message was that he thought I’d be capable of handling my own emotions, and that probably I’d just need a little time and a little “normalcy” to do so.

              And another message was, “I think it’s reasonable for you to be upset,” which was very validating and freed me up from the mental defensiveness about my emotions.

              And it also meant I didn’t have to spend energy trying to get my emotions under control, which would mean focusing ON them; I could be distracted FROM them by our continuing conversation.

              So if she starts crying, hand her tissues and say, “I understand, this is upsetting for you,” and then just keep going.

              (If mental health coverage exists in your benefits plan, I think that even as your manager, you could say, “If you decide you’d like to reach out for a session or with a counselor, so you have a safe place to wrestle with your emotions, remember that our insurance plan covers those visits.”)

              1. Not a Morning Person*

                This is such good advice. Difficult messages can be delivered with care and concern. No emotion or tears shouldn’t be the predominant goal. Some things are difficult to handle or to hear but still need to be said.

              2. a Gen X manager*

                omg, TootsNYC, this is SO helpful! I have an employee who is going through a horrible, scary time with her daughter and I am frequently at a loss for what to say that is supportive, but still professional.

          2. NW Mossy*

            As a supplement to this, remember that when you’re talking, you have both the words you say and the way you say them. You can speak very plainly in a kind tone, and that’s what you need to aim for here.

          3. PersephoneUnderground*

            This- as a cryer, I immensely appreciate it when someone can treat me mostly normally while I’m crying and not like unexploded ordnance… I’ve learned to say “I’m sorry, this just happens when I’m stressed, please continue.” It would be terrible if I never got important feedback because my manager would be afraid I’d cry.

          4. TootsNYC*

            I agree. Also, if “gentle” was going to work, Mika would probably have been able to reign herself in before now.

            Now she needs the assistance of kind but firm boundaries. From you.

            (I wrote above about not liking the “I’d like you to…” wording; I think something firmer is needed here. And this is not about you the person, which is how “I’d like…” can come across, especially to people who aren’t recognizing boundaries appropriately.)

        5. Observer*

          You are COMPLETELY correct to discourage this over sharing. But I think you need to start being less gentle. Her behavior is just over the top. And she knows it – why do you think she’s telling you how “normal” she is?

    1. Engineer Girl*

      So let’s get something straight right now. This isn’t about hair. It’s about Mika acting like a child and not accepting personal responsibility and consequences of her actions.
      The blaming, impulse control, over sharing are all rooted in the same problem. And by the way, just because someone insists that they don’t have mental health issues doesn’t mean they don’t have them. People don’t have meltdowns after a single incident.
      Your job, as the manager, is to have shut this down yesterday. It sounds like there’s been multiple incidents where Mika has blamed Nina. That should have stopped after the first incident.
      Put Mika on a PIP.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It doesn’t sound like anyone, or at least not OP#1, has come out and told Mika very directly to cut it out. It sounds like people are avoiding her and expressing concern to their managers, but it doesn’t sound like that information is flowing back to Mika. If no one has really taken her aside, yet, then it seems harsh to start with a PIP. If this is a situation where she’s been given clear instructions to cut it out, then it seems like escalation might be useful. But without additional information, starting at the severe end of the discipline spectrum seems disproportionate.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          You’re right. I’m annoyed that OP 1 has let this devolve so far. Mika has disrupted multiple people. The STOP IT discussion should have happened long ago.
          That said, this is beyond professional behavior.

          1. eplawyer*

            As soon as she started crying all the time over hair, it should have been very firmly shut down. It’s hair for goodness sakes, it will grow back. It’s not like she lost the Rice Sculpture Account.

            Bad haircuts happen. I am living with one now. Just got it Friday. It’s so bad my non-observant SO noticed it. He said “nice haircut” at first but I pressed him and he admitted it looked terrible. Oh well. I got more important things to concentrate on.

            1. CityMouse*

              I lost my hair all the way up to the scalp due to a babysitting incident (kid ripped some of my hair out) when I was a teenager. It sucked, but I got over it and it grew back. This really should have been addressed earlier. One day of upset is one thing, it sounds like this has been going on for weeks.

              1. Lynxa*

                I’m so glad I’m not the only person that has happened to XD

                The kids sucked my (very long) hair into the brand new vacuum with fancy brush attachment. I had to cut my hair out of the attachment.

            2. Annabelle*

              Yeah honestly, bad haircuts happen. I’ve had some terrible ones, including a style that made me look like a second-rate Joan Jett impersonator. Someone needs to tell Mika to focus on her job, even if she’s sad about her hair.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I hear you—I think the managers have dropped the ball (so far) by not shutting this down early and completely. I know that Mika should know better, but it sounds like she’s totally failing at using her “workplace / professionalism filter” at the moment. Hopefully OP can use the framework Alison has provided because from a coworker’s perspective, the behavior sounds exhausting and discomfiting.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes. And this isn’t really PIP stuff anyway. PIPs make sense when you need someone to improve their work and are setting clear goals around what that should look like. But when it’s behavioral like this, you can just tell them to cut it out and can still impose consequences if they don’t.

          1. Artemesia*

            THIS. The manager needs to have shut this down the first time it happened and if she thought it would go away after one awkward day, then she should have shut it down the second day, HARD. Why the reluctance to manage?

        3. rudster*

          A PIP is a *Performance* Improvement Plan. OP doesn’t mention anything about Mika’s performance, only that her emotional outbursts are disruptive. If Mika is continuing to do her job to expectations, a PIP is not the appropriate tool to deal with this.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            Acting appropriately at work **is** absolutely part of performance. Behaving professionally is part of the job.
            That said, she needs a clear “stop it” first.

      2. Layla*

        I think it’s pretty harsh to put Mika straight on a PIP. Her behaviour needs to be addressed first. And especially as OP 1 said above that she has been a good employee up until very recently.

        1. Say what, now?*

          Agreed. This thread is devolving. Let’s just take a step back and let the OP take first steps before we go there.

    2. Orlando*

      If you’re the manager of both of them then maybe you could also have a talk with Nina about this- you know, to offer some reassurance that she didn’t do anything wrong. I’m just pointing this out because this is her first job out of college and a more senior colleague is placing blame on her. I don’t know Nina’s personality, but a lot of people would need some reassurance in this situation.

      1. winter*

        +1 Especially when you suspect she is job-hunting. It might/will probably not stop her in that case, but at least she’ll know that she acted professionally and it’s her colleague who’s out of line. (Of course the latter shouldn’t be phrased that way.)

      2. One of the Sarahs*

        And even if Nina *did* encourage Mika to get a haircut, it *still* wouldn’t make this kind of reaction justifiable. Nina definitely needs support, and maybe some scripts so that she feels comfortable saying “I’m sorry you feel this way, but I really need to focus on my work right now”

        1. GreyjoyGardens*

          This! Even if Nina said something like, “Go for it! It will look so cute on you!” that doesn’t take away from the fact that Mika is a grown woman, who made the decision to get her hair cut. Nina didn’t *make* Mika go to the salon and didn’t collar the hairdresser and say “Cut this woman’s hair into a pixie, NOW!”

          Nina needs support and to be backed up on “it’s not her responsibility how Mika feels about her hair.”

      3. SpiderLadyCEO*

        Agreed. It would be helpful for Nina to know that her boss is in her corner, and doesn’t think she did anything wrong.

      4. Observer*

        The problem is that from Nina’s perspective, it doesn’t matter. She is being put in the middle of a drama that she had no part in creating, and she’s even being blamed and then expected to sooth the person who is making all of this drama. And no one has done anything to help her. When her manager comes to her and tells her that they know it’s not her fault, she’s going to want to know why this harassment is being allowed to continue.

        OP, you REALLY need to rethink your management style. You’ve allowed “drama” to get the the point that a good employee is job hunting. Does this make any sense? Have you thought about the morale hit that is already happening because of this ridiculous behavior? And how that will be multiplied if Nina winds up leaving because she just got harassed out of a job for no good reason?

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      Wait, you ARE their manager? Then you need to make Mika stop NOW.

      Since you’re their boss, I wouldn’t use Alison’s suggested language of “I’d like you to keep conversations…” Instead, tell her flat out “I need you to stop talking about your haircut issues in the office. Can you do that?” If she protests, handle it as you would any performance issue, because it’s disruptive to the office.

      1. fposte*

        Agreed that if you’re the manager the conversation needs to be more directive. I’m not sure whether it’s because there’s crying involved or because it’s not specific to work output, but it seems like you’ve been shy about stepping in. The thing is, the employees who are being bothered by the out-of-bounds behavior count too, and they’re being punished because nobody’s reining Mika in.

    4. TootsNYC*

      My only problem with the script is the “I’d like you to…” phrase. It just sounds too optional.

      When someone is pushing the boundaries like that, I think they need firmer language. You can keep the tone kindly, but “It is important that you…”—at the very least, “I need you to…”—is important.

      And when “reprimanding” people, I like to emphasize that it’s the -job- that needs these things done properly; the office or the workplace that needs certain behaviors. It’s not about me and what I want; this is not a preference or up for negotiation.

      1. fposte*

        I think it was based on the idea that the OP wasn’t Mika’s manager, which turned out not to be the case.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, I think it may also be a formality thing. Open-toe shoes are generally considered less formal than closed-toe shoes in non-social settings (i.e., sandals and peeptoes can be appropriate at cocktail hours or weddings, but they’re often not work appropriate).

    And of course, there’s an entire school of thought that’s anti-toe-cleavage, even if you’re wearing closed-toe shoes. I think they go a little too far.

    1. Safetykats*

      At my job, it’s also a safety thing. Closed-toed shoes in the office, substantial footwear in the field.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Also, sometimes it means people will smell your feet. And that they’ll see the upkeep of your toes and maybe judge you on them without intending to (which is perhaps not ‘fair’ but we do judge people on how they look at interviews and that’s why we don’t all turn up for them in pyjamas). It’s probably really hard not to have some sort of reaction on some level if someone’s toenails look overgrown or unkempt. Or if you’ve chosen a colour of polish that’s too quirky or too glamorous for that particular workplace – see above re the pyjamas.

        1. Specialk9*

          Can I just say how much I adored Alison’s comment on how attire conventions can be totally arbitrary, and the examples? She just nails answers.

      2. Westward*

        Absolutely this. If someone showed up for an interview in my building (engineering for construction) in open-toed shoes, they would seem wildly out of touch with the norms of our field.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Certainly that’s a thing, but I don’t know that it gets at what the OP is asking, which is why they’re not considered professional for job interviews.

      4. JulieBulie*

        Right – parts of our building require closed-toe footwear for safety reasons. Even if the job/interview is in an office and not in one of those areas, it’s sometimes necessary to go through one of those areas to get from one office to another. (Only alternative is to go outdoors to the other entrance, but that’s not good in inclement weather.) So it’s better just to keep the tootsies covered.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      I just want to point out that there are safety issues with open toe shoes. If they give you a tour of the lab facilities etc it could be a problem. Stiletto heels also cause problems on steel grates etc.
      I’ve found that a close toe shoe with a low stack heel is a safe bet. That can handle lots of walking with no fear of slips or pokes.

      1. CityMouse*

        I will also add – if you don’t normally wear heels – don’t wear them to an interview.

    3. Lady Kelvin*

      I have abnormally ling toes and cannot find a pair of dress shoes that don’t have toe cleavage that I remotely like. Every pair of flat and pumps I own show toe cleavage to some degree. I hope the anti toe cleavage people understand that sometimes you have no choice.

      1. Corrvin*

        Mary Jane style shoes tend to have more coverage of the front of your foot. (And they’re SO comfortable.)

          1. Not a Morning Person*

            That depends upon the shoe, but, yes, definitely harder to find cute Mary Jane style shoes. I have narrow feet and typically like having the strap so that I don’t walk out of my shoes. Often even the narrow width shoes don’t fit well enough to stay on.

      2. (Different) Rebecca*

        If you have a young fortune to drop, try Fluevogs. There’s some quite fashionable, yet entirely innovative styles that might suit.

        1. Specialk9*

          A cheaper – but not cheap – corollary to Fluevogs is Miz Mooz. Also L’Artiste by Spring Step, and *some* of the Pleaser shoes (eg Flora, though as a brand they tend toward fetish/exotic dancer, which is why the line of Victorian booties makes me laugh).

          I have to say that the one pair of used Fluevogs I wore was very heavy, a lot like my 90s Doc Martens or my steel toed boots. A co-worker hit a crazy sale recently and said hers aren’t that heavy, so the materials may have been innovated over time. A pair of Fluevogs can circulate for a long time – they last, and are in high demand for resale.

        2. Catherine from Canada*

          Fluevogs aren’t all that expensive, if you lurk the site and get them on sale. Besides, they’re well made, last almost forever, and with the different shoe families to fit different feet, incredibly comfortable.

          (Says she with 15 pairs, all but two bought on sale. One was a special edition shoe for the opening of the Ottawa store, the other are called “Catherine.” What choice did I have?!)

          1. IrishUp*

            I’ve also had good luck with Fluevogs on ebay. But I second the point that these are VERY well made shoes, most models are made in fair-wages places (they did a brief flirt with production in China which their very loyal fan-base was not happy with), and they are unique and stylish. And comfy. Worth it, if they fit your roll and budget.

      3. Justme*

        I’m completely anti toe cleavage on myself. I don’t care about it on others. But I cannot stand it on myself.

        1. cornflower blue*

          I have incredibly strong feelings against it, yet I realize they are in no way logical. It’s just visceral. Sandals and strappy dress shoes don’t bother me…toe cleavage in a pump drives me crazy. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          1. Not a Morning Person*

            I have similar feelings; to me toe cleavage looks like the shoe is too small and the foot is crammed in. It feels wrong somehow.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              That’s how I feel about toe cleavage. Not that it’s inappropriately revealing, just that it makes it look like the shoe is too small.

              1. Anna*

                I am currently wearing a very comfortable and appropriately fitted shoe that shows a tiny bit of toe cleavage on the outside two toes. If I were limping, I’d be right there with you, but if I’m walking comfortably? No.

          2. CMart*

            It looks like a butt, and naked butts in public make me uncomfortable.

            That’s why I assume I’m skeeved out by it at least!

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I have a friend who has strong positive feelings about toe cleavage. She will not buy shoes (particularly heels or formal shoes) unless there’s toe cleavage. She’s literally the first person I’ve ever met who proactively seeks out shoes that emphasize the cleave.

      4. Health Insurance Nerd*

        As a hiring manager, I would not think twice about toe cleavage (or open-toed shoes, for that matter). As long as the shoes are well maintained and office appropriate, you’re good!

      5. SusanIvanova*

        I have a pair of dressy boots that have just the right heel for the situations where I need to wear a dress – mostly choir events, or the occasional party, both of which involve lots of standing. It does put an extra restriction on dresses: do they work with the boots? But my feet are very grateful.

    4. Competent Commenter*

      I always find the discussions of interview attire here bemusing. I mean, I believe y’all but it just doesn’t line up with my experience. I’m 50 and know about no white shoes after Labor Day and other out of date etiquette but had never heard about no open toed shoes in interviews until this post. And the idea that women must wear a suit, which I’ve seen expressed here a lot…just not how it’s done in my industries (formerly nonprofits, currently major public university) in my area (Northern California). Even our Dean didn’t wear a suit when she interviewed! We are much more casual here.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        I am in Northern California and in my industry (aerospace) you would definately wear a suit with appropriate shoes suitable for going in labs etc.
        It’s very industry specific.

      2. AdAgencyChick*

        So heavily industry- and region-dependent. I think much of the advice Alison gives (no armpits, closed-toed shoes, a suit) comes from her being in DC, where everybody seems to have to dress like a politician. In advertising in NYC, you can show up to an interview in a sleeveless dress and slides, no problem. I’ve even interviewed people and been interviewed in jeans, because if you’re coming to the interview right before or after work, wearing something formal is like a neon sign telling your boss, “HI, I’M INTERVIEWING!”

        My husband has to dress more formally for his interviews (and for work) than I do, so, again, industry-dependent.

        1. SpiderLadyCEO*

          Yes, this. I come from Florida, and while we tend towards more formal/more coverage, it’s also so hot so much of the year, sandals and sleeveless tops are appropriate most of the time. It’s better to show up at work in a light sleeveless blouse then drenched in sweat in sleeves IMO.

          1. JulieBulie*

            Dunno if it’s still the case, but in the 80s at least, toe cleavage was against the Disney dress code. (Office/professional, at least; but I assume they forbade it in the parks as well.)

            1. SpiderLadyCEO*

              I am both not surprised and very amused. I imagine them checking everyone’s feet as they come in. “Oh, her shoes have some cleavage. Not family friendly.”

        2. neverjaunty*

          While it’s industry-dependent, Alison is giving advice that works for MOST industries; she isn’t being weirdly stuffy.

          1. Competent Commenter*

            Oh I totally get that! Not disagreeing with her, just noting how different my personal experiences have been. And as others have said, heat is an issue here too–it can be over 110 degrees here in the May to October range.

          2. paul*

            And I suspect it’s better to be a tad bit conservative in your dress than a tad bit too casual, least as far as interviews go.

        3. Specialk9*

          I was watching a BBC show about police in a (I believe) made up Caribbean island, Murder in Paradise, with the actor who played the ghost in Being Human, Lenora Crichlow. Anyway, her police uniform is short sleeves and a skirt, though very official looking. It’s hot!

          1. Specialk9*

            Uh, ‘it’s hot’ was a weather reference, not a commentary on how cute she is. (Though I guess both are applicable, the alternative seems kinda sexist.)

          2. Koko*

            The Cuban military wears very tight-fitting and, well there’s no other word for it–sexy uniforms. Even the men are in tight shirts and slim-fitting trousers, and the women are in tight shirts with mini-skirts and fishnet or other loud-patterned black stockings.

            1. Emi.*

              Oh golly, the (male!) French Foreign Legion used to wear these itty-bitty booty shorts that showed pantylines.

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yeah, very industry-dependent. I’m in NorCal, and when I was in nonprofits (including legal nonprofits), a suit was way too formal. But for the past 5 years, I’ve worked at places where suits are required, especially at the interview stage (even if the post-interview stage has a less formal approach to attire). In many circumstances, I think it’s a “know your industry / region / audience” decision.

      3. GreyjoyGardens*

        I live in northern CA and IME it’s a lot more casual than many other parts of the country, especially in the nonprofit and tech sectors. I still always wear closed-toe shoes to interviews or the first day of a contract job because many workplaces have a safety issue with open-toed shoes, or at least flip-flops.

        (And if you’re going to wear open toed shoes make sure you don’t have dirty feet and overgrown toenails! Yech. Feet don’t have to be professionally pedicured, but they need to be clean and cared for if you are going to expose them.)

      4. Shadow*

        No open toed shoes to me just sounds much more conservative which I think is the dress here that many prefer.

      5. Radiant Peach*

        I’ve worn open-toed shoes to interviews and it hasn’t really affected me one way or another! The positions have generally been in offices with fairly young or just less formal staff though (I’m in an education-related field). I’ve never worn sandals but I’ve always thought peep-toe shoes are appropriate as long as your feet are clean and well-groomed. Closed-toe pumps just seemed too unseasonal in the warmer months.

    5. Koko*

      Definitely. I’ve never worked in a place more formal than “business casual + jeans” and I live in open-toed shoes at work. I personally hate that nearly all closed-toed women’s dress shoes expose the entire top of the foot, so I don’t own any of those. All my “dress shoes” are dress sandals. In the winter I wear nice-looking leather boots or ankle booties with a small heel.

    6. Turquoise Cow*

      I’ve worn fancy dress sandals to interviews and gotten the job. However, I wasn’t interviewing in an especially conservative office or field.

    7. Emma*

      I’m sorry but I don’t like open-toed shoes in a business setting. I don’t want to see anyone’s feet at work! I wouldn’t consciously hold it against someone, but I don’t like it and it could affect my opinion of them overall. So I would avoid it in interviews for people like me. And if you MUST wear open-toed shoes, well-groomed toes are a necessity so you don’t gross out your coworkers like me even more. Doesn’t need to be polished, but I don’t want to see your callouses and dried skin…ick.

  3. Apollo Warbucks*

    #2 At my old job we used google hangouts and when someone stole my web cam I could still join a call just with audio and screen sharing so maybe there’s away you could set up your computer so you don’t have to use the video function but still get the benefits of screen sharing and being able to talk to co workers.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      Google hangouts have some funny backgrounds and hats, glasses, beards, snorkels and eye patches you can over lay on to the camera picture.

      I have been to a number of meetings with a massive beard and eye patch on, and very occasionally a snorkel / diving mask.

      I doubt it would fly in your organisation but last company was very laid back.

      1. Barefoot Librarian*

        I love it! I am in Google Hangout meetings all the time. I’m going to have to find that feature next time. :)

    2. OP #2*

      Yes, I use the program’s voice and screen sharing capabilities. More often than not, I am actually sharing my screen, so the video would really just be for hellos at the beginning of each call.

      1. SpiderLadyCEO*

        Can you keep the tape over your camera? It’s become more common, so people might understand, and just say hi/hello.

        You could also maybe say the camera doesn’t work? Then they don’t have to see you, and you can do your job.

      2. Wren*

        If I were to make a technical excuse for declining to video chat, I think I would cite something like bandwidth demands rather than Alison’s suggestions of,”Sorry, I disabled my camera, and can’t figure out how to re-enable it,” since they may consider one problem more fixable than the other. Who knows, though; claiming video slows things down might also get you flack.

        But I’m giggling because this reminds me of how my parents would just shrug and say, “Sorry, it’s broken,” when my siblings and I were very small and people gifted us battery operated beeping/singing toys that my parents would then not supply batteries for.

        1. JaneB*

          At work my monitor doesn’t have a web cam, I have to set that up separately & it’s a pain, so just saying I don’t have a cam might be an option?

        2. the gold digger*

          Sorry, I disabled my camera, and can’t figure out how to re-enable it would never fly in my job. I work with a bunch of engineers and there is nothing they like better than the chance to solve a technical problem.

      3. memyselfandi*

        My suggestion is to attend one meeting in person to show you are on-board and then excuse yourself from the video on other occasions. “I’m so sorry I can’t connect by video this time.”

      4. Nerdling*

        Then I would definitely just blame it on bandwidth and carry on not using it. It’s a legitimate issue – I game online with a group of friends every week, and we use Hangouts to talk; none of us uses our cameras because it causes too much lag.

    3. Brett*

      If you click on the camera icon in your google hangouts window, it will disable transmitting your camera.
      You can do this _before_ you join the chat.
      I always do this with internal hangouts because 1) I don’t like being on video chat and 2) the bandwidth usage required for video chat has significant impacts on other work I am doing at the time and tends to lag screen shares coming into me.

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#5, I usually deal with the gaps in interaction when I describe how I know someone. So I start the “clock” from when I first meet them, but I get specific about the capacity in which I know someone and the length of time I knew them in that context. So for example: “I first met Wakeen in 2005, where I managed his work in the Teapot Department for four years. Since then, . . . .”

    1. Liane*

      This is good for when it comes up in an interview, but in this case I think the OP is asking about application fields with only space for a number. These often have a larger field for “Relationship” where I suppose you could put a few words about the most relevant part, like “Manager for 5 years” for a 10 year old relationship.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Ohhhh, I always forget that people apply through software. Apologies if the comment is unhelpful :(

    2. Liane*

      This is good for when it comes up in an interview, but in this case I think the OP is asking about application fields with only space for a number. These often have a larger field for “Relationship” where I suppose you could put a few words about the most relevant part, like “Manager for 5 years.”

    1. Taylor Swift*

      Right, but presumably you’re going to know before if you’re interviewing for a job in a lab or food service, etc.

  5. Naomi*

    I sympathize with OP #2. I work from home, and recently had a Skype call scheduled first thing in the morning with a contact outside the company. We started the call and I saw her face pop up in the video screen, and I nearly panicked because I was still in my bathrobe and bed-head! Fortunately I hadn’t turned on video on my end, and the caller agreed to a voice only call, so hopefully she never knew the difference.

    1. babblemouth*

      “I’m sorry, there’s something wrong with my computer’s camera, I can’t turn it on.” White lies are totally ok in those situations.

  6. Helen*

    Re: #4, +1 to Alison’s answer. If you have any control over this, you should consider not having mandatory meetings. If the workers are part time and/or students, they have other commitments that could interfere with their ability to attend (it is different if your workers are full time or have regular hours/workdays). If it is not you who is making the decision I would say it is something you could reasonably push back on to whoever is in charge.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I think it’s worth considering what you want to get out of them attending the meeting – is it to get particular training or prove they’re reliable or something else?

      What if someone can make it but then they’re sick?

      1. Feotakahari*

        I used to work in a school dining hall, and there was a single day of the year when new employees would be taught all the food safety procedures. On that day, I started coughing up blood and had to go to the hospital. I was allowed to keep working (good), but there was no alternate training date (bad), so I was stuck on dishwashing duty for the rest of the year.

      2. Antilles*

        prove they’re reliable
        If this is the goal (whether for OP or the administration above her), it’s a bad one. The fact people can attend now doesn’t actually prove anything about reliability.
        First off, this meeting is probably held early in the semester before classes really kick into gear. Being reliable with a mostly-blank calendar is a lot easier than being reliable when you have a paper and a midterm and 3 activities and etc.
        Secondly, even awful workers can usually keep things together and show up on time for a short, one-off thing. The fact they can be prompt and reliable on their very first day when they’re trying to impress you doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll still be prompt and reliable for that Friday 8:00 AM shift when they were up a little late the night before and it’s a little chilly outside.
        Third, as you’re seeing here, sometimes fantastic employees just can’t make that one mandatory time. Especially given that under normal circumstances, she would be pre-planning her work schedule to fit with her other commitments, rather than being stuck with just this one and only time slot available.
        (Note to Ramona: I know you were just naming potential justifications, but if this part of OP’s reasoning, it really shouldn’t be.)

        1. Tuxedo Cat*

          When I think of the beginning of the academic year, I think of students trying to hustle to get a lot of stuff done including any issues with financial aid. They may genuinely be reliable but can’t make a particular day and time because they have to meet with someone

    2. A Person*

      I don’t know, a few mandartory meetings a year, probably to keep student workers up do date with policy etc. seems pretty reasonable to me. This seems like a situation where the session should be run more than once.

      I do seasonal contracting for one company and every time a new event comes up, we have to go in for orientation and to get materials (we’re paid for this time). The company offers about 10 orientation sessions over about a week or so to allow everyone a chance to attend. They also are generally accomodating to people who can’t make any sessions.

      1. Lars the Real Girl*

        I think anyone is carte blanche against mandatory meetings. But what’s different in this scenario is that there AREN’T multiple options and there is no accommodation for any reason to miss it and if you do, you don’t get to work for an entire quarter. That’s a pretty big deal.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          Agreed! I remember in college having mandatory “floor meetings” if you lived in the dorms – but if, for example, you had a night class and couldn’t make yours, you could sign up for another floor’s meeting and still be good.

        2. Trout 'Waver*

          I totally agree. All our ‘mandatory’ meetings are in multiple times, dates, and locations to accommodate everyone, and we’re all full time and mostly on core business hours. I can’t imagine doing mandatory meetings for part-time student workers without multiple time slots.

    3. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      The only way to get 100% attendance at mandatory meetings is to have several meetings scheduled at different times and dates. It’s frustrating even for full-time people to make time for these meetings. It took my last job over two weeks to coordinate a mandatory meeting because they chose to have it during summer vacation time.

      1. Specialk9*

        Yes. Student boss, we all struggle/struggled when we were learning the ropes. Most of us messed up the authority lines – too much, too little. In this case, it sounds like you are trying to defend a strong line you drew in the sand, because you said it and don’t want to be seen to have backed down even though there is a really good reason. You want respect, I’m guessing. But to your workers, you’re being rigid and arbitrary. And your behavior determines whether students get to make money, generally desperately needed.

        Easily solved though by scheduling more sessions, and being very comfortable when acknowledging that it was an oversight on your part. That will not diminish authority at all.

        1. yasmara*

          I unclear, though, if student boss drew that line in the sand, though, or if it was drawn for her by the non-student bosses. When I was a student boss, I didn’t make any of the policies but it was my responsibility to communicate them to the other students.

          1. Specialk9*

            Oh, good point! But in that case, wouldn’t the non student bosses be the decision makers for an exemption?

      2. Solidus Pilcrow*

        The only way to get 100% attendance at mandatory meetings is to have several meetings scheduled at different times and dates.

        This 100%. My mom used to work night shift — 11pm to 7am. When did they have mandatory meetings? 12 noon, for night shift. People either had to wait around an extra five hours (unpaid) or come in during their sleep time.

      3. Emi.*

        Yeah, this is what my school always did (for work and for mandatory meetings before club travel).

    4. Sam*

      Regardless of what OP decides to do, it’s best to be consistent moving forward. If she’s going to change the rules for this one student, she should be reconsidering them for everyone. Because they will talk to each other and it will lead to a lot of “Why are we required to do this when our friend isn’t?” kinds of questions; even if OP feels the individual circumstances are quite different and merit different responses, many of them won’t perceive it that way.

      If OP works with a small number of students, then it might be feasible to do a doodle poll to find a time that works around everyone’s prior commitments. Otherwise, having two meetings and requiring attendance at one might be easiest.

    5. Artemesia*

      Me too. No mandatory meeting should be held that is not during working hours. If a preliminary meeting is necessary then you make arrangements for people with conflicts during those times. At a college sorority rush is a reason to not be available for an out of office hours ‘mandatory meeting’ for some on campus job; whether you think sororities are a good thing or not, they are part of campus life. You wouldn’t require students to skip such things or class for some feckless ‘mandatory’ orientation meeting (or even a fabulously useful one) without making other arrangements.

      1. Anonymoose*

        That doesn’t work though if there is a large student assistant population and the hours for the department are, say 8am – 8pm. That means that there are several shifts in which assistants are either on or off at any given time.

        And I agree about sororities. They’re engaging in their campus community in an expected way. It would be the equivalent of someone volunteering for a banquet for their intended major – while not totally required it can add value to their experience and is therefore an acceptable campus commitment.

      2. DArcy*

        I disagree. Sorority rush is a social event, and as such do not reasonably preempt work meetings. Actual classes yes, but social occasions no.

    6. A. Non*

      I’m required to have mandatory meetings, though we’re student volunteers and not student workers. I offer a variety of dates and times, and if someone can’t make any of those (unlikely, I run them anywhere from 4-12 times per month) and asks, I’ll schedule it specially for them.

      To be fair, my ‘meeting’ is about 20-30 minutes and only involves three pieces of paper per person, but it can be done.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Is this a real question? I’ve had mandatory meetings on days off throughout my career (although most of my jobs haven’t involved “usual days” to work). Yeah, it meant coming to work for an hour or whatever and wrecking up the rest of my day off, but I got paid for the time, and the meetings were rare, so it never struck me as terribly unreasonable.

    7. Anonymoose*

      MAndatory meetings can be essential parts of student assistant onboarding, however, so I don’t think you should ignore them. Rather, I think you host the meeting two seperate times and that if they can’t make either meeting, THEN they can no longer work. I’d have one in the AM and one in late PM (like 5 or 6pm) so that all schedules can fit it in somehow.

      I used to do this with my students and it really helped increase attendance. Don’t forget: they’re students #1, workers #2. And while rushing isn’t necessarily an academic part, it is part of the collegiate experience and they shouldn’t be docked for doing exactly what they’re doing.

      That said, I would keep my eye on any of your greek rushers as that first semester is going to be brutal for them. Greek life really takes up a lot of time, especially when you’re new to it.

  7. JamieS*

    Re #5: for those of you who actually have experience hiring is there any real purpose to asking specifically how long someone’s known a reference or is that just something some applications ask that’s not that well thought out? Like when applications ask for every job ever including that 2 hour stint at Pizza Hut 30 years ago when you were 15. I can understand asking to only name references you’ve known at least a year (or some other specific amount of time) but does it make a difference if I’ve known a reference 5 years as opposed to 10 years?

      1. teclatrans*

        Right, but asking how long you’ve know them doesn’t provide that information. My last employer before I went into academia employed me 15 years ago for 2 years, then mentored me for the next few. We lost touch almost a decade ago. Saying I have known her for 15 years is correct, but not reflective of what info is most useful. So, if thebwuestion is years known, then it seems not well thought out to me.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Right, I would ask more specifically, “How long did you manage her?” and in other cases “How long did you work together?” But that’s generally what people are getting at — have you known the person for a few months or a substantial period of time.

  8. Myrin*

    Would it be appropriate for OP #1 to reassuringly approach Nina about this issue as well? To let her know that she’ll see to this issue being dealt with?

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Is it Nina’s business though?

      More to the point I think the doing is what counts here. Actually go ahead and deal with it and Nina will see that.

      1. babblemouth*

        Mika *made it* Nina’s business whether she likes it or not. Nina can’t seem to escape this, so it’s not unreasonable to let her know this is going to end.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, I would. She should tell her she sees what’s been happening and that she’s going to ensure it stops, and that she’s going to do it in a way that should ensure no additional hassle for Nina … and she should tell Nina to tell her if that’s not the case. Especially since the OP thinks Nina is job hunting over this.

    3. Jeanne*

      I thought so too at first. But it sounds to me like things are too far gone. Nina is out of there as soon as she gets a job offer. She’s being constantly harrassed for something not her fault and not her problem. Management has done nothing. Nina is gone.

      1. Specialk9*

        I don’t know, a lot of people would find it reassuring the knowledge that this crazy situation is recognized, it’s officially recognized as not their fault and in fact mistreatment of them, and that management is acting. That might be enough for Nina to say, welllll, not ideal, but otherwise I like it here, maybe I’ll see how it goes.

        But OP, you NEED to act. You have 1 chance with Nina. And other people will be next to go.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          Especially in a first job. Otherwise she won’t know this sort of thing is unusual if some other kind of drama pops up in the new job.

  9. MadGrad*

    For lw2, I’d vote to just do it. I mean, most people shower and make themselves presentable for work most days anyway, and you can change right after the meeting if it’s a bother, so why not? If several people have asked you already, then clearly it’s valued by your client and might be a pain to fight. Is this really worth the capital and potential awkwardness?

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      But the letter writer doesn’t want to do it. As an ex-freelancer I really understand why – if you want to dress down on those days it’s kind of a hassle to change that. Remote workers aren’t most people, who have to look presentable to go into offices or whatever every day.

      I remember one of my editors once said to me that getting dressed when you work from home is a nice idea but in reality when she did it she used to add and remove random items of clothing as she got warmer and colder.

      Plus there’s the cat. Cats aren’t interested in professionalism. Or closed doors. I have interviewed a) the head of the OED while holding a bag of cat poo (my cat insisted, scratchingly, that I clear the litter tray out immediately) and b) a Canadian politician while dangling a mouse on a string.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        PS now I work full time in the charity sector. I never schedule work from home days when I have meetings as I just can’t seem to get dressed when WFH.

      2. nonegiven*

        My son has had to introduce his cat to video chats. She mostly lays in the window watching birds but I think she sometimes comes over to see who he is talking to.

      3. HannahS*

        That’s hilarious and I very much would like to know which politician! (I understand that you probably can’t tell me. Funny image though!)

      4. CityMouse*

        I have found people forgive cats pretty easily, though. I will say that cats are attracted to video chats because of the noise so it happens a lot. I do try to shut my cat out of my home office during breaks.

        But I do think putting on a decent shirt isn’t a huge ask, even for someone who works at home. You’ve already got a ton of benefits from full time telework, engaging with a client on such a basic level isn’t a huge burden. It’s easy to lose perspective working from home full time, but them asking for face time really isn’t a big request here and refusing is going to look weird.

        1. WellRed*

          Yes, one can dress down without staying in pajamas. Frankly when I work from home, I still get dressed though I might not spend time on hair and makeup. Or shoes. It transitions me from sleep to work mode.

          1. Koko*

            Agreed. I also have a dog that needs to be walked in the morning, so I get up and put on jeans and a t-shirt that I don’t mind being seen in public wearing, which is also a level of dress in which I’m comfortable joining video conferences. My company uses v-con extensively as we have a lot of remote workers, but we also have a casual dress code even for those in the office. Hoodies are a common sight, and though I’ve never seen anyone in pyjamas, who knows, maybe they had pyjamas on and threw a hoodie on top for the call!

            1. Ruh Roh, Raggy!*

              My old company’s dress code was incredibly lax, but they specifically forbade pajamas. I always wondered about the history of that little codicil.

        2. TootsNYC*

          True–all you need is a shirt and a comb.

          I wouldn’t worry about makeup or even a fancy shirt–just not obviously your PJs. They all know you work at home.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It might be worth it to the OP. To some people, a big benefit to working from home and working for yourself is that you don’t need to dress up. But it really depends on how much standing and capital the OP has. If she doesn’t have much, then I’d urge her to save it for something bigger. But if she has a ton to use, there’s no reason she can’t spend it on this if she wants to. The more in-demand you are, the more you get to the make the rules about how you work.

    3. Samiratou*

      I’m sympathetic to wanting not to have to be presentable at times, but as someone who highly values being able to see people, I would recommend the LW2 do it sometimes, at least. It’s not the norm for my office to use webcams for everything, yet, but we are moving in that direction and if it’s part of the office culture you’re working with, it may limit your options with that company if you refuse.

      People aren’t dumb–they’ll see any ongoing issues with webcams or software as an obvious dodge and speculate. Or if there are other consultants they have access to, they may prefer to use people who are more willing to work with video conferencing.

      Certain types of consulting or freelancing, where you get a set of requirements and produce an output are on thing, but more strategic or ongoing consultancy initiatives are definitely aided by in-person contact, and if you can’t have in-person, at least being able to see the person you’re working with does help with making connections and building trust, etc. It’s not a requirement, necessarily, but LW might be limiting her options by categorically refusing to do a face cam (the tradeoff may be worth it to her, and that’s totally fine, too!).

      1. Jerry Vandesic*

        Maybe this job isn’t a good fit for the OP. If the clients want video but the OP doesn’t, they might need to find a different kind of job.

        1. Alli525*

          I don’t think it’s so much about OP needing a different KIND of job – more like the OP should consider whether she wants this particular client to be a client.

          1. Jerry Vandesic*

            Good point. There are many kinds of clients, with each having their own quirks and demands. If the requirement for video was widespread then that would need to be addressed, but if it’s a rarity then maybe just move onto another client.

    4. Kitten*

      I see your point – I work from home 80% of the time at the moment, and I always make sure I have actual proper clothes on and have brushed my teeth. But… I always put contact lenses in when visiting clients, and wear my glasses to work from home. I also always do my makeup to meet clients (I have a youthful face otherwise), but leave my face bare when working from home. Yes, I could go and take my contacts out and scrub my face once the meeting was over, but it’s additional effort, expense (for contacts / make-up) and time that wasn’t previously a part of my day, and cuts into how much work I get done.

      The other issue is the background of your calls. If you don’t have a separately enclosed office, you can end up working from your kitchen table and your webcam could be looking out over your kitchen (where there are cats / pots waiting to be washed / flatmates wandering about) – that’s distracting. Additionally, my boss doesn’t care where I work from when I’m not in the office, so I sometimes cat sit or work from my boyfriend’s house – the change of setting would lead to questions that don’t necessarily affect the quality or quantity of my work.

      Personally, I’m with OP and Alison. I just use voice and screenshare chats and ensure my webcam is covered so even if someone starts a video chat, they won’t see anything.

  10. N Twello*

    Video chat programs are great. Usually, there’s no long distance charge and you can share your screens. It is unreasonable to not agree to use that software.
    But… you don’t have to have your camera working. I always cover my laptop’s camera because of hacking concerns. I do video chat and then if anyone asks why they can’t see me, I just say that I don’t have a camera.

    1. Still Here*

      Meh. No looks at the talking heads anyway. Someone is always parenting one applicant or another to the group. So screen – sharing and audio are more than good enough. Just make sure you have a professional – looking profile picture set for whenever someone checks who has signed into the meeting or is currently speaking.

      1. winter*

        Yeah I was coming here to add the profile picture part. In some programs, when you don’t have video switched on your profile picture will be shown when you talk. This is still a step up from “no picture, no camera” (in case OP hasn’t added it yet).

      2. CityMouse*

        My boss will do group meetings (most people work from home) and everyone has to use their video to confirm the tech is working, but they’re allowed to use a stand-in for them (like a toy or a picture) by pointing their webcam at it.

    2. Lars the Real Girl*

      She isn’t saying she won’t use the software, just that she doesn’t want to use the “video” part of video chat.

    3. OP #2*

      I do use the program and I have a professional head shot set as my profile picture. More often than not, I am actually sharing my screen so people wouldn’t be able to see me anyway – it would just be for hellos at the beginning of the call. I also cover my camera due to hacking concerns (and one unfortunate incident my colleague had of the video starting automatically when she was still brushing her teeth!).

        1. Koko*

          I recently discovered when I got a promotional branded one in a swag bag at an event that you can actually buy nice professionally-made webcam covers!

          The one I received is a little plastic hollow/open rectangle with a sliding piece, one half of which is solid and the other half of which is open. It has adhesive to fix it over your webcam, and then when you want to use the camera you slide it so that the open rectangle reveals the lens, and when you’re done you slide it the other way so the closed rectangle blocks the lens. The main reason I like it is because it blends in so well that it looks like the laptop was built with it, it doesn’t flap around or lose its adhesive over time the way post-its do, and if my camera turns on when it’s closed folks just see a uniform black screen and not what is obviously the back of a post-it, all of which read just a bit more professional in settings where I need it – like carrying a leather portfolio instead of a three-ring binder.

          You can find them by searching “slide webcam cover” on Amazon, they cost about 5 bucks.

      1. Sam*

        If it’s just for hellos at the beginning, I would be extremely resistant, as well! Going to the trouble of looking presentable for a two minute social nicety would be frustrating.

  11. Ann O.*

    I know this is not the most important factor of the Mika/Nina hair issue, but I am stuck on the question of exactly how expensive Mika’s wig is (or how inexpensive their vacation was?). Or why she didn’t just get a fake braid or fake ponytail if she didn’t have the money for a nice enough wig.

    I’m also surprised the hair stylist took someone from stomach-length hair to pixie cut without a lot of talking to her about it. My understanding was that stylists are really reluctant to do that dramatic of a chop because women often have a hard time with it. There can be a lot of unrealized emotion caught up in hair.

    1. TL -*

      I’ve had my hair chopped off a couple of times and I’ve never had a stylist say anything more than “big change!” and move the ends of my hair up to show me how short (and I usually chop off a foot or more.) I would find it really insulting if they were reluctant to cut my hair how I asked, frankly.

      1. babblemouth*

        Yes. I once went to get a few inches chopped off, after having thought about it for a long time. The hairdresser spent most of the appointment lamenting that it was such a shame to cut beautiful hair. I never went back. If you’re a hairdresser and cutting hair makes you sad, maybe get a different job?

        1. Allison*

          After moving four years ago, I picked a stylist based on the chalkboard sign outside her shop that said “short hair is fun and feminine!” She was happy to cut my hair to the length requested and said it looked great on me, and that kept me going back . . . until she started pressuring me to buy makeup from her.

      2. CoffeeLover*

        Same here. I’ve gone from mid-back to pixie and everything in between. I’ve never had the hairdresser question my judgement (other than suggesting minor tweaks). Honestly though people are too obsessed with their hair. It’s hair. It grows back. I’ve had my fair share of awful cuts and dyes in the past (some self-inflicted :P), but you gotta move on.

      3. Specialk9*

        Yeah me neither. But I always donate my tresses – at that length they’re tresses – to Locks For Love. Who’s going to argue with that?

        But the feeling of no hair where there’s always hair, or hair ends where there were none before, is very startling. I swing my head secretly a lot, feeling how different it feels.

        1. Zuppa da clams*

          I would argue with that. Locks of Love throws a majority of their hair away, from what I’ve been told. If you’ve ever had dye or heat touch your head, forget it, it doesn’t make a great wig.

          1. fposte*

            It looks like they still can sell it for operating costs rather than throwing it away outright, but you’re right that most of it doesn’t go into their wigs.

          2. Allison*

            I’ve also heard that they don’t give the wigs to kids with cancer, they sell the wigs to raise money. Don’t hold me to that, but it’s something to look into. LoL is definitely the most ubiquitous name for hair donation, but I’ve heard there are lesser-known organizations that do more good. Donating hair is great, but make sure it’s going into good hands.

            1. Lars the Real Girl*

              The “scandal” (eye-rolling emphasis) is that they don’t give wigs to children with cancer, but for children with long-term alopecia (hair loss) – usually resulting from other diseases (since cancer hair loss is usually chemo-related and temporary.)

              I’m sure there’s also some money making involved – but that’s what I remember people being up in arms about.

              1. sb*

                The other problem being that those of us who enjoy having longer-than-currently-stylish hair get basically told that we’re greedy for not donating it to LOL, which is ridiculous — people who get their pixie cut retrimmed every few weeks aren’t told they should grow it out and then donate when they go back to the pixie, but those of us who keep it long are.

                1. TootsNYC*

                  ooh, I hate that.
                  There is someone upstream who said, “I hope she donated the hair!”

                  And THAT makes me annoyed. It is SO covetous.

              2. Zuppa da Clams*

                The controversy was that millions of dollars of hair are unaccounted for each year, basically because a lot of the hair that’s donated is not usable wig hair. Like 80% has to be thrown away or sold to other places who can use damaged hair. It’s not that Locks of Love is a “bad” charity, it’s that donating your hair to them can be an empty gesture because you’re not educating yourself about what you’re giving to them. Another issue is nearly all hair collection charities are inefficient and much of what they are able to use doesn’t end up with any type of person in need. And they usually have to sell some for administrative costs.

                I don’t see the problem with helping a kid with alopecia versus a kid with temporary hair loss due to treatment, but some people want to donate for that specific reason I suppose.

              3. Mona Lisa*

                They will only give wigs to children with “long-term hair loss,” which means they are often left over with a not-insignificant amount of product that they’re able to sell at a profit instead. Wigs for Kids and Pantene Beautiful Lengths are better organizations for hair donation than Locks of Love.

            2. oranges & lemons*

              Yeah, there are a number of organizations that will take donated hair, so it’s worth looking into. I sent mine to a local cancer organization. As far as I could tell, most want chemically untreated hair, though, and it usually has to be over a certain length.

    2. Gen*

      I’m also surprised, but the hairdresser might have tried to talk her out of it which is adding to her distress. I recently went from shoulder length bob (which I hated) to a pretty-out-there asymmetric pixiecut and my hairdresser had a panic attack and cried! She’s had so many bad experiences with people wanting their hair short then getting upset that she just couldn’t do it. In the end a male colleague did it and it looks amazing, but I had to show them photos to prove I’ve had short hair before and my hair grows back very fast.

      At this point reasons don’t matter, the cut is done, she just has to deal with it :/ and leave her poor colleague alone!

        1. LawPancake*

          I would be out of there so fast! Sure, if someone is coming in for a big change make sure they’ve thought about it but asking someone to prove that they’ve had short hair before?! Totally off topic, I’ve found with my pixie length hair, barbershops are more consistent than more woman marketed salons, not to mention faster and cheaper and sometimes you get a nice hot towel around your neck.

    3. LN*

      I often get large amounts of my hair cut off, and I do get some resistance from stylists occasionally. Even when I tell them I’ve had the same haircut a million times, they can be really wary – but ultimately they’re not going to refuse business from someone who insists that it’s what they want. I had a whole group of stylists on a slow day in the salon hovering over me and commenting on how dramatic my haircut was and how they’d be crying for weeks if they got that much cut off, etc…but I still got my cut, lol. (It was…weird. I know some people get emotional about hair, but I don’t. It’s…just hair! It grows back!)

      1. All Too Familiar*

        LOL, my suggestion is to first cut your own hair at home to pretty short, but badly done cut. Then go in (making sure you have an appointment already booked so that you don’t have to walk around like that) and get the stylists to fix it up properly! They won’t be sad about you losing so much hair; they get to be happy about fixing it up!

        1. Mona Lisa*

          Oh, this is a brilliant idea! Last time I did a donation chop, I was at the salon for 3 hours. (My hair is curly so I go to a Deva salon. They only cut curly hair, but it’s easier for hair to be straightened when cutting for donation purposes.) This would save me a lot of time by getting the basic cut out of the way and letting them move on from there.

      2. oranges & lemons*

        Yeah, I usually find stylists are really concerned about making sure I’m not going to regret getting my hair buzzed, even though I already have short hair–it just grows out fast.

    4. LN*

      Oh – and premium wigs can easily cost thousands. This was probably more of a “hundreds” scenario but either way, it could really eat into a vacation fund.

    5. Optimistic Prime*

      It varies. My hair has never been stomach-length, but I’ve gone from long hair to short a couple times. Some hairstylists react with trepidation and ask me several times if I really want to do it. Others just gleefully chop it off.

    6. Dr. Ruthless*

      The last time I cut off a lot of hair, the hairdresser asked me if I was sure (yes) and if I’d just been through a break up (no). I imagine she still would have done it if I’d answered the latter in the affirmative, though (but who knows! Maybe not!)

      1. Chicken Superhero*

        When I had my biggest break-up, I dyed my hair red. It turned out to match the inside me in a way that blonde hadn’t, so after a few years I figured it was permanent and switched to henna. People are shocked it’s not natural. :)

      2. CMDRBNA*

        I recently got my hair cut (from mid-back length to like…between neck and chin length) and the salon makes you fill out a questionnaire asking if you’ve recently had a big life change.

        I regret cutting it because it needs more futzing with it and I think it makes me look older, but whatever, it’s hair and my hair grows really fast.

          1. Turquoise Cow*

            Yeah, sounds like they’re trying to cover themselves legally. They want to be able to hold up the questionnaire and say “no, you specifically told us to do that!” when an irate or crying customer comes back.

        1. cornflower blue*

          So would they refuse to cut it if you DID have a big life change? I mean, lots of women get the “mommy cut” and I think making a person counts as a big life change. Does that salon say “Sorry, let the baby yank your head all over for now, you can’t change your hair until your life calms down!”

          So many questions.

          1. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

            Yeah, I went from very long to very short one time because radiation was making it fall out and I wanted it short so giant strands of hair weren’t falling off of me. None of their business! I did tell them though since I thought it might be unnerving if pieces came out during the cut.

        2. Blue*

          Short hair seriously requires so much more work! I had a similar transition, and SO MANY people asked me if I cut it because it’d be lower maintenance. Um…no. I have to say that I can’t really blame stylists for being extra cautious and making sure you’ve thought it through. I kept my hair around chin length for several years, and even though I loved it short, there was a moment of internal panic half-way through every single hair cut I had. I can only imagine how some people less sure about their decision respond! (It’s worth noting that I always kept my mouth shut, though – I learned that I need about 3 days to decide if I actually like a cut, and even if I don’t, it’ll grow enough for another hair cut in 2 months, anyway.)

    7. Knitting Cat Lady*

      I had short hair most of my life.

      I grew it out in my teens to see how it was and absolutely hated it.

      When I went to get it cut off the hairdresser asked if I was really sure about that. More than once!

      I went from around bottom of shoulder blades to a pixie cut.

      These days I go get a haircut when I can’t stand the length anymore, so usually about every two months.

      And I get 6 mm on the sides and 12 mm on the top. Buzzcut, really.

      I like how that feels.

    8. SchoolStarts!*

      The stylist likely double checked, then shrugged her shoulders and cut it. I’ve been asked “You sure?” and I confirm I’m sure and then I’m free from hair maintenance for months. I love my hair when short, then I grow it out, fuss over it, then cut it off again. It’s a cycle. I know some ppl get attached to their hair like it’s a part of who they are, which is why lots of ppl don’t get pixie cuts because they can’t handle it (or their partners won’t like it, another common thing I hear). My personality and who I am at my core is not tied up with my hair so off it goes and I looooooooooooove it.

      That said, I’ve also seen it suggested in many a magazine or stylist show that to go from long to short, do it in stages – stomach to shoulder, shoulder to bob, then the pixie if you want it that short. That way you get used to it.

      Did she buy the wig to cover the hair?

      1. Julia*

        I do that, too. Get a swanky new cut, close to shoulder length, enjoy it, love how it looks, then think that I want to braid my hair/do more elaborate styles, which I never do, and feel too lazy to get maintenance cuts, and voila, half a year later I have frizzy ends and cut them all off again.

        I take pretty good care of my hair, but is is super fine and wavy, plus I can’t sleep on silk pillowcases because I need dust mite allergy ones, and the damage just happens. It’s too bad, people used to compliment my hair so much when I was in my teens, but I guess texture really does change. And now I’m starting to turn white…

        1. Marillenbaum*

          Feel free to ignore this if it isn’t relevant for you, but I use a silk cap instead of a pillowcase (no allergies, I just want my bedding to match).

      2. Xarcady*

        At one point, I had hair that was well past my waist. And one morning I just decided dealing with it was too much work and scheduled a hair cut.

        I wanted a chin length bob. The stylist asked me once if I was sure. And then he proceeded to cut 4 inches off and asked me if I still wanted more off. I said yes. He cut another two inches off, I told him to go ahead and chop it all off. But he insisted on 2 inch increments. My guess is that he had had some clients with bad reactions from going from long to short.

        Me? I was thrilled with the short cut.

        1. SSS*

          I went in to get my hair cut off one time. I only needed about 5 inches cust, but the stylist was too afraid to do the haircut. She did the entire haircut (back and front) cutting off only 1/2 an inch. Then started over and did the entire haircut while cutting off only another half inch. Then repeated this over and over…. After I was in that chair for over 2-1/2 hours finally another stylist noticed that I wasn’t getting anywhere close to finished and she pushed the original stylist out of the way and did the full haircut properly.

        2. Emi.*

          Ha, this is how I buzzed my husband’s hair for the first time–I just started with the longest clipper attachment and worked down a quarter-inch at a time.

      3. Ann O.*

        Doing it in stages seems smart. Gives people a chance to back out if they realize it’s too much change.

    9. DeskBird*

      I don’t think you can put a fake ponytail on a pixie cut – pixie cut usually means it is too short to gather in any way. At best it would make you look like you had a weird mullet.

    10. SarahTheEntwife*

      I hate it when stylists try to talk me out of haircuts. It’s just hair. Really. It’s so patronizing when they act like I don’t know what I’m doing. Even if I did hate it, that’s my own damn fault and I’m a grownup who can deal with a bad haircut.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Except that the stylists sometimes have to deal with clients who are angry or regretful and “why didn’t you talk me out of it?!” So sure, they shouldn’t argue with you, but I don’t see why a brief ‘are you sure’ is patronizing.

        1. disconnect*

          Because it denies the customer’s agency. Because women already have to justify everything else in their lives. Because they already probably thought about how their parents & kids & husband/bf/s.o. & coworkers & boss & army of Randos With Opinions will react. It’s small, sure, but it’s another microaggression.

      2. NaoNao*

        I feel like people who are saying “it’s just hair” maybe haven’t had a truly awful hair cut or dye job, or perhaps are very confident in their other physical looks. I’m someone for whom my hair is part of my physical identity, and when I messed up a home-dye job and the faded color wound up looking very rough, I was jumping out of my skin to get it corrected.

        I don’t know about others, but I’ve struggled with my self esteem when it comes to my skin and my body, and my hair being awesome was always a point of pride for me. So when that got messed up I was really, really down. No amount of “it’ll grow” helped. I had faded turquoise, pink, and purple hair with yellow and dark brown roots with plenty of gray in there. Yeesh. It was very shabby and rough looking. The exact opposite of what I wanted.

        It is a uniquely sad experience to look in the mirror and be reminded of a mistake or something you feel is ugly, that you can do *very little* about. You can’t grow a pixie out in a week. Fried, broken, dyed hair can’t be “put back”. Fashion colors that don’t flatter are hard to correct. Box dye that turned your hair flat black is expensive to correct and could cause more damage. And so on.

        I don’t think a stylist is being patronizing per se when they consult with you about a dramatic cut. They study head shapes, hair textures, and colors for a living. They are aware that pixie cuts or other extreme cuts (like a sharply angled bob a la Victoria Beckham) don’t look Instagram-worthy on everyone and that what you may have pictured in your mind might not be the actual outcome.

        My stylist who color-corrected me insisted on a consult so she could steer me towards the color I have now, assess my hair condition, and set my expectations. I’m glad she did.

        1. JAM*

          I don’t know. I lost most of my hair to cancer (not bald but more like receding thinning hair that made me look rough but not obvious that I was going through treatment) and since then I’ve had some bad haircuts. At the end of the day, it grows back. I was scared to death when I had the hair loss during chemo but there came a point afterwards where I realized the worst hair day ever had happened and it wasn’t as bad as I thought. If you have a bad haircut, it sucks but you can almost always find ways to style it (even with most pixies) and just keep rolling with it until you get to a cut you can tolerate or even like.

        2. SarahTheEntwife*

          I’ve had bad haircuts. Usually when I let the stylist talk me into doing something other than what I asked them to. I’m not particularly happy about my appearance most of the time, but hair is something that I can play around with relatively cheaply and temporarily, so it’s really disheartening when people try to steer me to something “safe” because they think they know better. By all means, warn me that this style I like would take an hour of styling every day if I don’t seem to realize that, but let me decide whether it would look good on my head.

          The first time I got a buzz cut I didn’t know all the trimmer setting terminology so I asked for hair between a quarter and half an inch long…and had a very frustrating conversation where they kept showing me pictures of pixie cuts and asking me how I wanted to style it. I finally asked “but won’t it just be fuzzy if it’s that short??” and they finally realized I meant what I said in the first place. And instead of being all excited with me that I was doing something dramatic they were worried I’d be upset and grudgingly gave me the haircut I wanted.

      3. JulieBulie*

        I agree with you – and I’ve had bad haircuts, bad dye jobs, bad perms, and generally a bad hair life. The thing is, I’ve also had good cuts, and they grow out way too fast and then the stylist can’t replicate what I had before… so I’m almost as bummed out by a good cut as by a bad one. Because I know it grows out! Whether I want it to or not!

        But I’m guessing that for every one of us pro-haircut people that a stylist encounters, they’ve also encountered a Mika or two, and I can understand why that makes them very cautious.

      4. Rusty Shackelford*

        I hate it when stylists try to talk me out of haircuts. It’s just hair. Really. It’s so patronizing when they act like I don’t know what I’m doing. Even if I did hate it, that’s my own damn fault and I’m a grownup who can deal with a bad haircut.

        A stylist who tries to talk you out of a haircut has probably dealt with clients who weren’t grownups and couldn’t deal with it, and doesn’t want to live through that again. Please cut them some slack. No pun intended.

      5. LizM*

        I can see why they do it. My sister is a stylist and she’s had people scream at her for giving her exactly what they asked for when they ended up hating it. One time she got a phone call from a client’s husband screaming at her for ruining his wife’s hair.

        She’s still establishing herself in her town, so a bad Yelp review can have serious consequences for her ability to attract new clients.

        She also understands how different types of hair react to different cuts and how they look on different faces. I would want her to tell me if there was something about my hair that could make a cut look different than I expected. That’s part of why I go to a professional, trained stylist and not a Super Cuts.

    11. Anon today...and tomorrow*

      ” There can be a lot of unrealized emotion caught up in hair.”

      Yep! My sister had hair she could sit on through high school and just before heading off to college decided to go shorter. She’d prepped herself and talked it through with the stylist but when those scissors made that first substantial cut my sister gasped and started crying. I was with her and remember her doing one of those laughing/crying things where she kept shrugging and saying “I don’t know why I’m crying.” In her case, she loved the new look and never looked back once the tears were over, but yeah, there was a lot of emotion wrapped up in her hair that she wasn’t even aware of.

    12. BananaRama*

      When I went from mid-back to pixie and I was telling the stylist what i wanted, she gave this really awkward chuckle and kept constantly making sure I really did want it as short as I did. She said she could count on one hand how many women liked going from long to the extreme short hair after it was done. She said she hated cutting that much hair off because usually it was a lot of drama.

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        Yep….my stylist said the same when I made a similar transition. The first stylist I spoke with refused to do it. I later found out that she refused for the exact reason you mentioned, which typically resulted in the client wanting a refund and screaming at the top of their lungs until they got it. Stylist #1 also refused to do extreme color changes….almost black to platinum blonde, etc.

    13. K.*

      Wig prices vary a lot. A high-quality, human hair, “can’t tell it’s a wig” wig can cost thousands, easily. You can get a wig for $29.99 but odds are great that it’ll look like it cost $29.99. I’m guessing Mika bought a wig in the former category.

      1. Eli*

        Yep. When my mother was going through cancer treatment, she had a few VERY nice wigs made that matched her original hair perfectly. They were not cheap at all, I believe they were made from Scandinavian hair or something along those lines. (She still has them on head molds in a closet, it’s quite creepy.)

        1. Former Retail Manager*

          so glad your mother is okay. When I was a kid (in the 80’s) my mother still had all of her wigs on those awesome styofoam heads as well. My mother was an avid wig-wearer in the 70’s and into the early 80’s. Real hair wigs that she’d take to her beautician to have styled every couple of weeks. I LOVED the wigs. Wearing them, sticking straight pins in the styofoam heads, making my stuffed animals wear them…fond wig memories. I recently looked into purchasing wigs, just to change up my look….goodness…..they are not affordable anymore. I wish I could afford a few high quality ones.

          1. Eli*

            Thank you, it’s been 10 years now since she finished treatment and nothing has popped up again!

            Wow, your mother sounds amazing. I’d love to see a collection like that. Makes me think of Amy Sedaris!

      2. JAM*

        I know I was quoted between $300-$500 for most passable wigs, some really nice ones for $800 and the full human hair for over $1200. Extensions probably would work better for most people dealing with a bad haircut versus a medical issue since there were so many other issues with trying to wear one.

      3. Girl needs to get a grip*

        When I had chemo, I looked at a lot of wigs. It’s true you can spend anywhere from $10 to thousands. However, there is a fairly low point of diminishing returns. You can spend $80-$100 on a synthetic that will actually look and retain its shape better than a natural hair wig. People like the idea of natural hair, but it is harder to style and maintain. I definitely found that the wigs that were sold in specialty cancer shops were WAY MORE EXPENSIVE than similar wigs sold in costume or cosmetic shops. It’s a crappy industry that price-gouges sick women.

        So Mika bought a really expensive wig for no good reason. She’s overwrought over something stupid, and compounds the problem by making everyone around here miserable. I kind of want to tell her off, or at least to get therapy.

        FWIW I wound up not buying a wig at all, just wore scarves on my head until I had an even layer of stubble, and I got nothing but compliments on my bald head. Random men would tell me how sexy my head was, and I’m an average-looking middle age overweight white woman.

        1. Ann O.*

          Yeah, I’ve priced out wigs before and I always thought the $100-$200 range were the nice ones. I use cheap synthetic ones because I only do it for stage, but I didn’t realize the nice wig range went up so much. And I’ve gotten compliments on my nicer synthetic ones with some people thinking I had actually cut my hair.

    14. JulieBulie*

      I have a hell of a time getting hair stylists to cut my hair as short as I like. It is not easy. But I can easily imagine Mika going in there all full of enthusiasm, and the stylist thinking “oh good, finally a client who knows what she wants!”

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Julie, try a barber just once, and see if you like what they can do. They will certainly not balk at short hair!

        (I used barbers for about a year once. First I went to the one in the gay neighborhood, because a barber friend worked there. Then she moved on but I liked the experience, so I tried another barber near my downtown workplace. They were mildly surprised when I walked in all female and everything, but gave me no grief and did give me a good haircut. I went back there a few times. Not sure why I stopped – probably I changed jobs.)

    15. SignalLost*

      What bothers me about that is when a stylist looks at my three-inch hair and refuses to cut an inch off because I’ll hate it because it will be “so short”. Like, no, the only reason I’m not doing this at home with a razor is I am supremely lazy, don’t have a razor, and can’t guarantee I could get the mohawk straight in the back.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        When I was in my early 20’s, I got a crew cut (from shoulder-blade-length) and the stylist asked if I was sure. I told her, “Yup, I’ve been planning this for 2 months, just wanted to wait until after Halloween!” and she was fine.

        (That cut did not suit me and I didn’t repeat it, but I sure did like getting it.)

    16. Elizabeth*

      I already have short hair (like, short pixie length) and stylists are STILL reluctant to cut it as short as I want it when I go in for a trim. I’m like “It’s hair, it will grow back, don’t worry about it!” but somehow this never assuages their fear.

    17. Jess*

      I recently tried to grow out my hair and got as far as barely-jawline before I went in to get my pixie back. The stylist did ask more than once to confirm the length, until I told her it was my original length. I didn’t find it patronizing (though ymmv), due to a story my mom likes to tell:

      My mother used to cut hair, and once cut the hair of her sister’s friend as a favor. The woman had waist-length hair and wanted a shoulder-length cut. Mom went slowly, asking her every few inches if she wanted to continue, and the woman kept saying yes, yes. Finally, at the agreed-upon length, the woman burst into tears and blamed my mom for cutting it too short.

  12. t*

    #2: I frequently work remotely and, while I resisted at first, I find video drives better engagement from everyone in a meeting. When my meetings are video enabled, I strongly encourage video participation.

    Funny story, I have a video phone at my home desk. It only functions when the other party also has a video phone. When it first arrived, I was very conscious of it, but as I didn’t have any meetings with people with video phones, I quickly forgot about it. Fast forward to Friday, where I was my most casual self. I have a 1:1 with my boss, who has one of these phones. As soon as his face popped up, I was completely self-conscious…and then he made a comment about the t-shirt I was wearing. He’s awesome and meant nothing by it but to joke, but ever since then, I’m dressed the same at home as I am in the office. :)

    1. Bartlet for President*

      Interestingly, there is actually research that demonstrates that video calls don’t add to the sense of people feeling connected. A nonprofit I worked for made a HUGE deal about everyone must always have video on for calls for the sake of engagement and fostering a sense of connectedness between employees. They finally backed down on the policy after people started circulating the studies showing it had little to no impact (and, in some instances, worked in the opposite).

      1. Catherine*

        If I’m on a video conference I’m way less engaged–I’m watching my own feed really closely to make sure I’m not making weird faces or anything!

        1. One of the Sarahs*

          Me too! I do a lot of freelance-related skyping, and I pretty much never turn on my camera, because I’ve never been able to stop the distraction at “WTF ma I *doing*?”

          1. CoffeeLover*

            Haha I always make my video small (there’s an option in Skype to make your video thumbnail size and in the corner so you can barely see what your face is doing). Otherwise I can’t stop looking at myself either!

            I don’t like talking on phones and prefer in person conversations so I actually like using the video feature. It makes me feel more like I’m talking in person and less like it’s a phone call. Of course, I wouldn’t insist if the other person did want to or couldn’t use video.

            1. One of the Sarahs*

              Even when it’s small, I can’t stop being horrified by myself! It’s super-distracting, and I also worry I look like I’m not paying attention when I’m writing notes etc.

    2. Clewgarnet*

      I work from home 3 days out of 5 and not having to expend energy on looking work-appropriate is an absolute lifesaver. (I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrom, so spoons are an issue.)

      I spend a good proportion of the day on conference calls via Lync. Thankfully, everybody I have calls with is just as videophobic as me, but I’d have no hesitation in claiming I couldn’t get my camera to work if somebody tried to get me to use it.

    3. OP #2*

      I mentioned this elsewhere, but most of the time those on video are very clearly looking at something on another monitor. It seems to be those who don’t use the video function who participate more.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        If someone asks, that might be a worthwhile way to pitch it: “I find I work better in these meetings without the video function enabled”.

  13. Ruth (UK)*

    1. I’m finding this oddly coincidental timing as just the other day I cut my hair (myself) from very long (nearly to my bottom) to just touching shoulders – the last time I cut it other than a tiny trim was… Never, though I had shorter hair when I was a young kid.

    I’m still getting a bit of a surprise from it so I can vaguely sympathise with Mika on that point. Except for me, cutting it has made me feel weirdly powerful. Until that point I felt like my hair was part of me, or part of my identity, or maybe like a limb. It was almost like cutting it also severed that feeling for me and now I feel like it’s just a thing I have on, or with me. More like an item of clothing or jewelry, that can change.

    The thing I’m a bit baffled about with Mika is… Unless she has a condition that prevents this (and as long as it was, I doubt this), her hair will just grow out again if she lets it. The money on vitamins is a bit extreme but at least suggests she realises this is the case. It’s not like she’s done something permanent. But her reaction seems extreme enough it’s as though she doesn’t realise this.

    As an aside, a good piece of advice I was given about hair from someone who now has short hair which used to be long: don’t change it too much at once if you want to go short: cut it a bit shorter each time you have a cut so that if you change your mind at some point, regrowing time is shorter to get back to how you last had it

    1. Lars the Real Girl*

      But growing your hair from a pixie cut to the length it was before can be a multiple year process (and an awkward one during that pixie-to shoulder length phase). I think you can intellectually understand that your hair will grow back, but also see the timeline as daunting.

      I can sympathize with how upset she is, it’s just inappropriate to bring ANY of it into the office.

      1. Chicken Superhero*

        I sympathize too. I’ve done the pixie to long several times (donated hair). It takes yeeeeears!

        1. CBH*

          Totally off topic a bit. But I am surprised the hairdresser would cut such an extreme length or at least make the person aware of the drastic change it will be; even mentioning it would take years for hair to grow from pixie to stomach length again. When I cut my hair from tush length to shoulder length my somewhat new hair dresser suggested we do it in stages – a few inches here, a few there. The results were less dramatic and shocking to me!

          In addition I’m not saying there are not suppliments to help with hair growth but it seems like to Mika these suppliments are more for emotional support, like she is doing something to help her with a bad decision.

          1. Observer*

            This has come up a few times. And we really don’t know that the hairdresser did not tell her. It’s clear the Mika is not acting in ways that reflect reality. I mean, she actually blamed Nina, although this is totally not Nina’s fault, and spent a huge amount of money on a wig basically on impulse.And a good really long with costs a LOT of money.

          2. oranges & lemons*

            Eh, it sounds like Mika really did think through the haircut, but she was just upset that it turned out not to be a good fit for her. I understand that part, but repeatedly bringing it up at work is bizarre.

      2. Someone*

        Yeah, it can take really long. As a teenager – about a decade ago – I had short hair, just above the shoulders (was fashionable back then) I’ve grown it out since, and if you added the trimmed tips since then it’d be about waist-long now. So I guess pixie cut to significantly-longer-than-shoulder-length would take me about as long.
        Which is why I will never again cut my hair that short if I can help it. It takes just too long to grow back and I do like having long hair.

        1. Kc*

          Takes me less than a year to grow about 8 inches, so it definitely varies by person. I routinely (every year to 3) cut off 10 or more inches depending on trims. We can’t assume this woman has slow growing or fast growing hair.

      3. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

        Yes, it can be daunting… but, this reaction still seems a little extra to me.

        I got the absolute worst haircut of my life last year (it was supposed to be mid-length and maintenance free, but I looked like Dana Carvey in Wayne’s World. Or Austin Powers. It was HORRENDOUS). I have had all kinds of haircuts from buzz cuts to hair down to my lower back, but man, this cut was awful and took forever to grow out (I need bangs, but she made the whole top of my head into bangs, so I still have some weird layers).

        Anyway, while I have never HATED a cut so virulently in all my life*, I managed to not cry at work (or at home) or make other people’s lived uncomfortable because of it, so I know it can be done. This person seems a little unhinged.
        *Including the time my cousin helped trim my short hair and created a bald spot over one ear

        Also – mine was right before (in preparation for, in fact) my 30-year high school reunion. So the photos from that make me cringe so hard. At least she wasn’t like, getting married the next week or something. If she was, that might mitigate some of the crazy for me.

        1. many bells down*

          I went in for a trim just before my wedding, and I told the stylist I was getting married in a few days… and she spent the entire cut ranting about how her boyfriend had just dumped her. I was terrified.

          She didn’t mess up my cut or anything but boy that was an hour I spent paralyzed in fear.

        2. Nerdling*

          About two and a half years ago now, I took photos in to a new-to-me stylist at one of the pricier salons in town (my previous stylist there was on maternity leave). She assured me she could do it. I sat down and let her go to town. I’m seriously nearsighted and rarely wear contacts, so I put everything in the stylist’s hands when I take my glasses off; I’m not going to see anything until the finished product. She promptly cut my hair down to mayyyyybe two inches on top and buzzed the sides for a cut that was supposed to leave me with closer to three inches on top to fauxhawk and clipped but not buzzed sides. She then styled the top sticking straight up all over, in a vaguely flat-top fashion. First time I’ve ever walked out of a salon in tears, and I’ve been getting my hair cut short for over a decade now. I HATED walking into work the next day because it was so bad. I didn’t cry, but it was close, and I got mad/sad every time I looked in the mirror for weeks. (Didn’t help that she told me I should have known the texture of my hair couldn’t support the original cut I wanted when I saw displeased. Which is horsepuckey, because I’ve been rocking that cut off and on ever since once I found a competent stylist at a different, considerably less-expensive salon.)

          I can see being incredibly upset over a haircut. I just can’t see taking that out on anyone else.

    2. Marmite*

      I had 14 inches of hair cut off recently, going from waist length to shoulder length. I had no problem with the adjustment but I work from home so it took about two months before the majority of my colleagues had seen me in person and commented on the haircut. As the weeks went on I kept forgetting some people hadn’t seen me in person and looking at them blankly like, ‘what haircut?’ before realising it was the one from two months ago!

      1. only acting normal*

        I went from waist length curls to a pixie and forgot about it before seeing some friends – they were pretty shocked! I also got blanked by some work acquaintances who no longer recognised me. But the best reaction was a colleague who did a double take and said “Wow! You’ve lost a lot of hair!” :-D

  14. misspiggy*

    Re OP #2, I’m the same. I always join calls and webinars with my camera off. If everyone is on camera, I just apologize and explain that keeping myself on camera while taking notes requires bending down to my laptop’s webcam in a way which hurts my back. Most people in an office are either in a conference room with a central camera, or they’re not taking notes on a laptop.

  15. MsSolo*

    I wonder if Mika making s big change to her physical appearance is symptomatic of wanting to make a different change in her life. I know it’s a stereotype, and god knows I’ve gone from mid back to pixie a couple of times just because I got sick of maintaining long hair, but I feel like the wig issue might be the visible tip of a marital dissatisfaction iceberg. Her level of upset is disproportionate to a bad haircut (do you know how cute hats have got?) but is she’s subsuming her upset over the prospect of other changes into it it might explain why she’s going on crying jags in the office. I would definitely tell her her current behaviour is inappropriate, but brace yourself for more further down the line when whatever’s really going on in her life bubbles to the surface,

    1. Specialk9*

      It wouldn’t surprise me. My hair became this massive symbol to me when I was trapped in a desperately unhappy marriage. It still has some resonance, though not like before, but it’s this freedom flag, this ‘ah this is my true self made visible’ thing.

      1. many bells down*

        Yeah I have totally had a period in my life where my hair was part of my identity. It was really long and curly (kind of like that painting “The Accolade”) and I was “that girl with the awesome hair” for so so long.

  16. Lilo*

    For #4, I used to be a student manager myself in college (I was a student but also a supervisor and did training). You really have to be more flexible with students. Sure, this example was sorority rush, but what if it was something for their major? That should put it in perspective. For a part time student job, you cannot act like your job should be their first priority because it simply isn’t and shouldn’t be. If you aren’t flexible, people won’t want to work there. If there isn’t a very very good reason you can only do this meeting once and not have a make up session, you’re just being overly rigid and costing yourself an employee for no reason. Honestly, this would probably be true in the adult world too but is especially true for students. Don’t set priority tests for no reason.

    1. Wintermute*

      you nailed it when you called it a “priority test”.

      I think, LW, that this is really the key for dislike for these on the part of many of us later on in our career because we’ve ALL had, or at least heard of that jerk of a boss who thinks that “you should be lucky to be working” and “your job should always be your priority” even though you’re working summers at a taco bell while you get an IT degree or a pre-something degree to go on to higher education and eventually a well-defined job path.

    2. One of the Sarahs*

      The “priority test” is a very good point, but it can also be because the manager doesn’t want to, or feels she can’t, hold multiple meetings or do individual training. This is completely impractical when dealing with part-time or other kinds of shift workers, in any business.

      OP, if you want to do this to make your own job easier, you need to understand that this is not good practice, and that it would always be very difficult to have everyone who works for you in one room when you have full-time staff (as holidays and sickness prevent this), let alone part-timers.

      And I’m sure you would do this anyway, but just in case: if you need people to attend training, or want them to attend a meeting, and it’s not during their shift time, you need to be paying them for their time.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        The “priority test” is a very good point, but it can also be because the manager doesn’t want to, or feels she can’t, hold multiple meetings or do individual training.

        In which case, it’s a priority test for the manager as well. Is it more important to have a wider pool of employees and retain them long-term, or is it more important to minimize the time she spends in these meetings/trainings?

    3. paul*

      Yep. Acting like your p/t job should be your priority over schooling is one of the best ways to drive away student employees.

    4. J*

      On the flip side, when I managed a team of students many years ago, I did have a mandatory meeting for student employees. I was upfront about it during the hiring process and made no exceptions. The job was an in-demand position with one of the highest pay rates on campus. This wasn’t so much a priority test as it was that the training provided was intensive, worked most effectively with a large group, and I was unwilling to do it more than once a semester.

      I could be flexible during the rest of the term, but I would not make an exception for the training. I did lose a handful of students–we had a strong performing arts program that required a lot of students–but not enough that it damaged the program in any way.

  17. MsManager*

    Re: letter #2

    My boyfriend is hearing impaired (not Deaf, but hard of hearing) and needs to read lips. He cannot participate in conference calls unless there is a video element. I’m glad his WFH coworkers don’t refuse to get on video.

    1. Database Geek*

      I’m hard of hearing and was thinking of that too. Also it just might be easier for some people to focus if they have a video to watch instead of just listening on the phone.

    2. a1*

      And you don’t have to get fully dressed – just slip on a headband (or put hair in a ponytail or something else easy) and a nice top/blouse – takes < 5 minutes. Keep PJ bottoms and slippers on, etc. That said, if they expect you to do this all day every day, that would be a problem. But once in a while? I don't know. I say this as someone that works from home occasionally and not all the time.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        I used to do this! I worked in international college admissions and had to interview students in China over video chat, often starting at 5 or 6 AM in my time zone. I wore a sparkly headband and threw on a decent-looking blouse over my pj’s, and it generally worked out fine.

    3. Purplesaurus*

      I’ll assume best intentions of OP and suggest that she probably wouldn’t have an issue using video chat for this scenario vs. just because.

      1. OP #2*

        Correct – I assume this is not the case because these individuals don’t ask their boss to use the video function (boss does not use it) and they have not mentioned it. I absolutely would use it if reading lips is helpful.

          1. Purplesaurus*

            By requiring that they request it, you put the onus on the person who needs the accommodation.

            But, that’s how it works. I have issues sitting all day and need a standing desk. That’s not a default accommodation, and I had to request it.

          2. Observer*

            That’s really not fair. Asking someone to inconvenience themselves ALL THE TIME because someone MIGHT need an accommodation makes no sense. Now, it OP were dealing with the deaf or hearing impaired community, then common sense would dictate that she assume that this is likely to be an issue. But that’s not what is going on here.

            Also, flip this over – some people have good reason to NOT want to be on video – including people with speech impediments who find that people watching them speak (or appearing to watch them speak) makes the problem worse. Why should these people have to request to not use the webcam any more than the person with a hearing disability should ask for it to be used?

            1. SignalLost*

              I agree with Observer. I’m sure it was on this site that someone wrote in about not wanting to video chat because of their facial assymetry being so distracting to themselves and unpleasant to watch others react to. It isn’t helpful to assume that only one side of any interaction is inconvenienced and the other side should preemptively inconvenience themselves. I think it’s different if OP’s clientele are all, say, blind; OP should go to the effort to create print materials in Braille. But this is not that situation.

            2. LBK*

              Agreed – video is still a very uncommon way to conduct business, so it feels a little out of line to expect that everyone will conduct every call via video when possible on the off chance that one of their clients is HH/deaf. I don’t think it’s comparable to asking people to use a mic because using a mic when addressing a crowd has been a standard thing for decades.

          3. JM60*

            The onus should be on the person who needs accommodation to all for it, rather than for everyone else (including people who have conflicting needs for accommodation) to always inconvenience themselves in case the other person need some accommodation. Besides, in most cases, there are other, more reasonable ways to accommodate people with hearing issues in situations like this that don’t require someone to give up a huge perk of the job they chose. The person with the hearing problem could use transcribing software. Or, for one-on-ones, use instant messaging instead. As someone with mild auditory processing disability (APD), but not to the extent that I’ve felt I need to ask for accommodations, I greatly prefer written communication over oral communication.

            Although I am one of those people who can have a hard time understanding those I can’t see, I’d be annoyed at best if I had to turn on a camera when I worked from home.

    4. Naomi*

      There are still ways to make it work, though! I have a hearing impaired coworker, and during voice calls he has a transcriber on the line who takes notes for him. (Also, if OP #2 has a client who needs this sort of accommodation, I assume the client would explain the reason for preferring video chat if OP asked for a voice call.)

      1. JM60*

        I mildly have auditory processing disability (albeit, not to the degree that I’ve needed to use transcription software), and I’d be annoyed if I had to use a camera when I worked from home. Most people like me tend to prefer written communication over oral communication, and I think it’s usually much more reasonable to have the person with hearing issues use transcription software than have those who work from home give up Ana at many might see as a big perk of that arrangement.

        Also, unless people working from home expect to have to turn their camera on from time to time, suddenly having to do so and look professional can’t easily be done with a moment’s notice. I work from home a couple days a week, and although I’m a low maintenance guy, I would have to substantially rearrange my work area for it to look semi professional. My work area at home isn’t designed to have a good back drop, it’s designed to be a good place to work, play on my PC, to exercise, or to exercise while working or playing. Having to worry about looking like a professional environment would be pretty inconvenient, as it would require substantially rearranging furniture that would make it worse as a work/play/exercise area (unless I invested in some draping to conver up the background).

        1. a1*

          Unless there’s evidence of illegal activity, I don’t think it matters what’s in the background. They won’t see much of it anyway. Who cares if it’s exercise equipment, appliances, a chair or a wall?

    5. Kara Zor-El*

      I was just coming here to say this! I’m hearing impaired as well, so I always ask vendors and coworkers to turn their video on so that I can read their lips. I promise I’m not judging your outfits and animals (my own cats like to hang out right by the laptop, meowing, if I’m WFH…)

  18. CityMouse*

    I do work from home part time and sometimes have to do video meetings and – dress up for them. Really. It’s not hard. You just need to wear a decent shirt for it and brush your hair (video resolutions usually isn’t good enough for makeup to make a difference). Ask to pre-schedule video chats, and it takes about 5 minutes to switch your shirt.

    I do find that I tend to make sure I shower and get dressed when I work from home, even if it’s just jeans and a t-shirt, because I don’t do my best work in PJs. Everyone is different – but you can go straight back to PJs after the meeting.

    1. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

      Yup – I train online, and as long as my hair is clean and brushed/tied back, and I’m wearing a clean top, no-one’s going to know/care that I’m wearing my fluffy slippers and sitting on the sofa with my cat. It’s not like you have to spend hours getting dressed up.

    2. a1*

      I just made a similar comment above. It takes <5 minutes to change a top and put on a headband. But again, if they expect this all the time, it could be more burdensome.

  19. Widgeon*

    #2, many remote workers do this and it’s not hard. As others say, just brush your hair and wear a decent top. IMO working remotely doesn’t excuse us from at least being somewhat presentable on a required basis. It conveys a lack of professionalism to say that you aren’t willing to be presentable to clients on occasion.

    I have children and pets. The door is locked and the laptop table swiveled to face a blank wall background. Yes, I have opened the door after to find disaster, but that’s the price to pay for perks of remote work.

    1. OP #2*

      Unfortunately I don’t have the luxury of locking out my husband and pets, as my office space is not a separate room with a door – the downside of living in a small condo.

      I dress professionally when I am on-site with clients, which is more than half the time.

      1. caryatis*

        You can presumably tell your husband not to wander by. I don’t think the camera would capture enough of the room for pets to be visible.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Or, people know that you’re working from home. If he walks past in the background, they may not even notice. Now, if that cat comes up to you, they’ll be distracted (never work on stage with animal, after all), but they know you work from home–they’ll get over it.

    2. edj3*

      I’m on video conferences pretty frequently and when I take them at home, my kitties take turns parading across my lap. In fact, I gave a talk to a college class via video conference and yes, all three cats took turns walking across my lap–and everyone just cracked up.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        I used to work in college admissions, and we’d do a fair few interviews over Skype. Once, I was interviewing a student whose cat decided to walk along the back of the sofa and just drape himself over the kid’s shoulders. I could see him panic, and then just decide to brazen it out and not acknowledge the cat’s existence AT ALL, even as it sat there like a stole for the entire half hour. I was so delighted!

        1. mrs__peel*

          That’s so great. I would absolutely hire that guy, if it was a job interview!

          My aunt and uncle (who had a law firm) interviewed an attorney once whose hard contact lens fell out of her eye during the interview and was lost on the floor somewhere. Apparently, she handled it very calmly and with great aplomb, and they were so impressed that they ended up hiring her.

    3. LBK*

      I think this is kind of unfair – video conferencing as a normal part of remote work is very new since the technology for it hasn’t been great until pretty recently. Yeah, video calling has been around for a solid decade, but I’d lose my mind trying to conduct a serious business discussion over one of the choppy Skype calls I did back in college. There’d have been zero advantage over a regular phone call, and to be honest I’m not especially convinced there are advantages now even with the technology having been dramatically improved.

  20. Ian Mac Eochagáin*

    I had to do a bit of a double take at the start of the first letter as Mika is a very common male name here in Finland.

  21. CM*

    For #1, am I imagining this or have we heard a story before about a coworker who wouldn’t stop crying over their hair at work? I googled (also checked Dear Prudie and Carolyn Hax) and didn’t find it, but it sounds so familiar to me — not this exact story, but somebody else who cried about their haircut for weeks.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I think that’s just the human condition.

      If Mika had cried once at work despite herself, I think she’d get all the sympathy. When you do something over and over, though, you lose the one-off things-got-away-from-me excuse.

    2. teclatrans*

      Yes, I thought the same thing. It wasn’t a pixie, and there wasn’t a harassed coworker, but it definitely waa crying at work over a drastic haircut.

  22. Blue Anne*

    Well, I was going to get my stomach-length hair cut into a pixie this week, but maybe I should pass…

    1. Dust Bunny*

      It really depends on hair type. Turns out mine can’t handle it–I have moderately thick, super-straight, baby-fine hair that, if it’s shorter than three or four inches, stands out like a dandelion. But it’s kind of at the extreme end of straight/fine; most people don’t have these issues.

      1. only acting normal*

        I have very thick, fairly curly, “strong” (resistant to styling) hair that my stylist calls “difficult”. It looked very pre-raphaelite when long, and it makes a great pixie cut (a bit Audrey Tautou, but mine’s curlier when grown out). As long as the stylist can handle my hair type otherwise it is… not good.

    2. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

      I agree, depends on hair type, I could not achieve the look I was going for with very short hair. I didn’t know before going from very long to pixie that my hair does not lay flat against my head a la Sinead O’Connor, but instead grows straight out from my head like a kiwi fruit for almost a centimeter. So I need a little length or a lot of product. I agree with the poster above who said if going from very long to short, do it incrementally as you can always go shorter next time. Good advice!

      1. Alton*

        I love buzzing my hair in theory, but mine grows out really awkwardly if I go too short. It hits a stage where I always have a cowlick that can only be tamed by washing my hair. But as long as I keep enough length that it can lie flat, I’m fine.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      Can you find a fairly cheap pixie wig that you can wear around the house for a bit? Catch your reflection in mirrors as you pass and see how you feel about it.

  23. OP #2*

    OP #2 here. Thanks for the advice, Alison. I do use the calling and screen-sharing functionality, and I added my professional headshot to my profile. It’s not everyone in the organization who uses the video sharing – in fact, probably only about half of those with whom I’ve had calls, and some of them just have the video of them clearly looking at their other monitor and doing side-work anyway, which I find more disrespectful than just not turning the video on in the first place.

    It would be one thing if everyone looked at each other and had actual conversations, but more often than not someone is screen-sharing and those with the video are clearly not paying attention.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      For what it’s worth, they might not be looking at another screen in order to do other stuff — my camera is on my laptop, but I do my work on a larger monitor, so that’s where I have the video of the other people on a video call. So I’m never looking right at the camera, unless I really make point to.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yes, same! I just did a video conference with my new team and they are both remote workers while I’m in the office. I felt like I looked rude because they were both using their laptops and so were looking fairly straight on while my laptop with the camera is off to the side and I’m looking at a larger monitor in front of me. But I figured they would be able to know that was what was happening.

      2. Observer*

        This is 100% and issue – and it’s probably the reason why some studies show higher engagement, while others show lower engagement. When your camera and the screen that people are showing up on in the same direction, you often wind up with higher engagement, because people are looking at each other. Then the screen and camera are not aligned just so, it lowers engagement because everyone looks like they are looking elsewhere. Oops. Even when you KNOW why it’s happening, it still doesn’t work well.

    2. CityMouse*

      It is actually really hard to look at someone in a video chat because the screen and camera are usually in different places. That is not the participants’ fault.

    3. Yorick*

      You can’t look like you’re looking at the person unless you actually look at the camera instead of the video on the screen. It’s super hard to do.

      1. Tuxedo Cat*

        That’s what I found too. If I’m trying to look at a document the group is discussing or taking notes, it will more than likely look like I’m not paying attention.

        I had a colleague accuse me of that once and I had to show her my notes.

    4. Observer*

      I can see why you don’t want to do it. But, unless you are in a position where basic tech competence is not expected, do not claim that something is with your webcam or software. You’re going to look pretty clueless.

      Ergonomics and studies about lack of engagement are you best bets. Adding that you have *disabled* the camera (as opposed to it not working) because of hacking concerns might work, too.

  24. Lady Blerd*

    LW1: This reminds me of an episode of What Not to Wear in which a participant was so distraught that her hair was cut that they put in extensions for the final reveal. Not everyone can handle drastic changes in styles. Alison’s script is right on, Mika needs to deal with this on the own and not involve the rest of the office.

    1. Eli*

      I loved that show, but I hated how they always chopped people’s hair off! I get that it’s more dramatic, but really.

    2. Yorick*

      I remember that too. Everyone kept telling her “but hair is just an accessory!” I wondered why they didn’t remind her that it would grow back.

    3. K.*

      I remember an episode where a woman refused to let the stylist touch her hair, at all, in any way. She had long blonde hair. The stylist was like, “Not even a trim [which she needed, her ends were scraggly]?” and she said no. I remember thinking that I wouldn’t have colored it but that some long layers would have worked well (the all-one-length hair was dragging down her face) and that she definitely, visibly needed a trim, but she would. not. budge, so that was that. If I recall correctly the rest of the makeover didn’t go well either.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      LW1: This reminds me of an episode of What Not to Wear in which a participant was so distraught that her hair was cut that they put in extensions for the final reveal.

      Did the show give her extensions? I’ve seen an episode where the participant ended up getting extensions afterward (which was unfortunate, because she had some awful 80s mall hair that she was determined to hang onto and her shorter hair was much more flattering) but not an episode where she had extensions put on during the makeover.

  25. Dust Bunny*

    Dude, Mika has issues.

    I tried the pixie cut once. It looked great on Michelle Kwan. It made me look like a hedgehog and people called me “sir” for the next year or so until it grew out (I’m a woman). Sometimes we make bad hair decisions. It will grow out. Somebody needs to tell Mika to grow up.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      LOL this reminds me of the time when I was a kid and got the Dorothy Hamill wedge cut. It looked amazing on Dorothy Hamill. It looked incredibly stupid on me.

  26. Goya*

    #3 – My office situation is fairly business casual, heavier on the casual. The ladies frequently wear open toe shoes and it’s never been an issue. However, recently a newer male colleague wore leather flip-flops (as in nicer than random plastic/rubber ones) and no one could get over how unprofessional they thought it was! Myself included, it just felt “wrong” for him to be wearing flip-flops, even though that same day I and one other lady were wearing strappy sandals. Those double standards…I tell ya ;)

    1. Tuesday Next*

      I’ve just left an environment where shorts and flip flops where the norm (even for the most senior guy in the building, and we worked for a bank) and pretty much anything was acceptable (leggings with short tops, exposed tattoos, mini skirts, visible bra straps, pink / blue hair, and the aforementioned shorts / flip flops). I’ve moved to a more conservative environment, where most people dress in what I would call business casual. I still see some people in Ts and jeans though (but no shorts or slops). I don’t think I’ve ever worked anywhere where open-toed shoes would have been frowned on.

  27. Zuppa da Clams*

    OP#1, I’m with the other commenters who are expressing concern that this wasn’t addressed already. Has OP just been letting Mika do this at work so far with no intervention yet? I feel badly for Nina.
    This is really one of those letters where I wish I could hear what the subject is thinking. Like what is going on in Mika’s head that she thinks it’s totally reasonable to alienate a coworker like this?

  28. Jessie the First (or second)*

    You said you wanted a way to “gently” let Mika know she should stop being disruptive about hair, and in a comment you said you had “gently” once tried to let her know that she should back off on the personal comments about her marriage and, well, I wonder if you’re you being too gentle.

    Sometimes when people are trying hard to be gentle, what they end up doing is hinting and suggesting. But that means they are not actually *clear* to people about the message, about what they need. Mika has gone well past appropriate behavior for a while – first with obsessing over her colleague’s hair and now crying, to the point that you have several people coming to you to say they are uncomfortable and you suspect someone is even job searching over this.

    I would bet that you have been too “gentle” for too long in your managing. Stop worrying about “gentle” and go with direct, instead. Ultimately that is going to be kinder to your employees, because direct = they know what they need to do.

    1. TootsNYC*

      Also, I think back to my kids, and when they were upset. They found comfort, actually, in me being firm but kind: “I understand that you are disappointed, and I’m sorry. But it’s time to stop crying now.”

      They found it easier to get a grip on their own emotions; it was almost as if they relied on my strength and firmness.

      1. oranges & lemons*

        I always feel like some of that crying is performative, too–I once saw a kid fall over, pick herself up and carry on with no problem, but as soon as her parents came into view, she started bawling. Mika might have a bit of that going on as well.

        1. Blue Anne*

          And on the other hand, when I was a kid, every little thing made me cry and I desperately wished it didn’t because it made my dad really mad at me.

          It’s just so random and unknown I don’t think there’s any point speculating on this issue with Mika.

        2. FD*

          Pretty common in kids of a certain age. If a fall *really* hurt, a kid will start crying right away. But if it was more startling or just a bit painful, a lot of times, a kid will look to their parent for a cue about how they should react. An encouraging look, or a “Wow, that was a big fall!” with a cheerful voice often causes a kid to decide to get right back up and keep playing.

  29. stitchinthyme*

    I seem to be one of the few women in the country who doesn’t give a crap how her hair looks. But then, I just get a trim at the local Hair Cuttery (super-cheap place) every year or two, not a fancy cut-and-style. And I don’t have the time or patience to fuss with my hair every day…I brush it and that’s it (unless it’s hot, in which case I wear it in a ponytail). Why so many women stress so much about their hair is beyond me.

    I sometimes joke that I must have been switched at birth, because my mother would never *dream* of leaving the house without full makeup and her hair perfectly styled. I don’t do either.

    Not that I’m disparaging those who do, by the way! I just don’t get the super stress over all that stuff. It’s fine to want to look your best, but it seems like many women (like Mika) take it way too far.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      I feel the same :) (and have gone with the “Sinead O’Connor” look).
      And 99% of the time, no one else really notices or cares – most people probably thinks Mika’s hair looks fine, and the rest probably aren’t paying any attention to her hair.

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        I did the Sinead O’Connor look too!!! In high school. I was inspired by her and how fabulous she looked. Needless to say, I did not look fabulous….and I got called “sir” a lot. I didn’t wear much makeup back then, so that didn’t help either. It was a learning experience…in general short styles aren’t for me. There was no breakdown, just a learning opportunity. After all, I did it to myself, how could I be that upset?

        1. Steph B*

          I never went for the Sinead O’Connor look, but I did a super tight perm right before I went to college freshman year, as I had always admired a friend who had had curly hair through high school. I had had NO IDEA how much work curly hair was, didn’t have google/youtube to show me, and basically just had a really frizzy poof for the year until I grew it out long enough to cut most of it off, heh.

          And now it is looking like my youngest is going to be keeping her curly hair from babyhood, and I’m having to research what to do to make sure it doesn’t look like a big frizzy poof all the time.

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            Combs over brushes. Brushes really encourage the fluffy, and you probably want to discourage that.

            1. only acting normal*

              Strictly wide tooth combs only when hair is dry (or don’t comb at all if it’s short, just tease with fingers). Narrow tooth combs/tangle teasers just before washing or after conditioning (on wet hair). Don’t wash daily – every other day max. Rinse shampoo out thoroughly. A *little* product is your friend, too much makes everything worse. Easy on the heat styling – curly hair is more prone to drying out and becoming fragile.

      2. JulieBulie*

        Yes – it might be helpful for Mika to be told that most people aren’t as focused on her hair as she was on Nina’s. (I’m sure there’s a nicer way to say that.)

    2. Steph B*

      You are not alone. :) My mom/sisters convinced me once to spend extra and ‘splurge’ on myself at a fancy salon… and the cut was actually not any different for me. Since then I still do the whatever is cheap / available place.

    3. Julia*

      I guess a lot of women get punished for not looking super polished, so even though some of us don’t want to care about our hair that much, we have to. We’re not all vain for vanity’s sake.

  30. nep*

    Oh, man. Mika and her BS disrupting the workplace should not be tolerated for another second. It’s beyond ridiculous. Is she this childish in other ways? Sorry you’re facing this — hope resolved soon.

  31. Former Retail Manager*

    OP#3…I assume you are referring to open toes shoes for females. I own almost nothing but peep toe heels and have worn them to every job interview for which I was ultimately hired. Anecdotal, I realize, but in all but the most uber conservative fields, I think a peep toe heel with toes that are in good shape/well manicured (not necessarily polished), is perfectly acceptable for an interview. I should note that I wear a suit with long pants with my heels and very little of my shoe is visible to the point that an interviewer would have to be very astute or shoe obsessed (like I am) to probably even notice. I wouldn’t wear a peep toe heel with ankle pants though. I find it interesting how so many women’s clothing and shoe choices are considered acceptable or unacceptable in a professional environment.

    I will also say that while I have always been aware of the advice to wear closed toed shoes, and I work in a conservative field (accounting), I decided to do it anyway because I LOVE shoes (heels in particular) and that interest/hobby is a part of my personality. I decided that if an employer wouldn’t hire me over my shoe choice, then I wouldn’t want to work for them anyway. I realize everyone doesn’t have this viewpoint/luxury….just my opinion.

  32. ArtK*

    OP #4: Which is more important, the meeting or the “mandatory”? Alison is spot-on — if you have part time workers, especially people with bizarre schedules as students do, having a one-time, must-attend meeting is being very disrespectful to them. Scheduling it during rush is plain foolish — I’m surprised this hasn’t come up many times before. Schedule a couple of meetings at least, on different days and at different times. Pulling a my-way-or-the-highway over this makes you look inflexible and difficult to work for.

    1. Squeeble*

      Yep! When I worked at a university we would always schedule 2-3 options for students to attend mandatory trainings. Even then you’ll usually have a few students who can’t make any of them and will ask to get trained separately, which you can then feel fine to accept or decline, depending.

  33. assam*

    OP2 – I have done video meetings as both an employee working remotely and while managing a remote contractor. As an employee working remotely, I never use the video because I have a long history with my employer and it usually isn’t necessary.

    However, I do vastly prefer for our contractors to use the video because I don’t have a long history with them and seeing them physical lets me know that 1) they are, in fact, real people, 2) they take the work we pay them to do seriously (as well as the meeting itself), and 3) it is easier to communicate clearly with people you aren’t as familiar with when you can see their body language instead of just relying on voice or emails. Honestly, you really just need to invest in one nice top that you wear just for the meetings (no one will notice if its the same one every time, and no one should be able to see below the waist anyway).

    I also think, as a contractor instead of a full-time employee, you have a bit more of an obligation to go with the flow. If this one client insists on video calls because that is their culture, it probably strikes them as very odd and off-putting that you consistently refuse and no matter the quality of your work it may discourage them from hiring you for future projects.

  34. Lady Phoenix*

    Op #1: since you said you are their manager, you need to tell Mije straight up to cut this crap out or keep her drama at home. If she doesn’t after tge warning, write her upfor disturbing everyone and/or harassing Nina.

    Also, inform Nina that this is not her bad, to come to you if Mika acts up, and other strategies to get Mika off her back.

    I get that losing that much hair is hard, but Mika needs to not take it out on the workforce.

  35. Zuppa da Clams*

    OP #3-Definitely it’s case by case. When I interview, if someone shows up in peep toe pumps and a work appropriate outfit, it’s whatever. If someone shows up in Michael Kors heeled sandals and a sun dress, they come across as tone deaf. Some open toe shoes are office appropriate and others are not. If you really can’t tell, then don’t bother having a peep toe at all. I always go to the ‘office’ section of fashion sites to see what shoes they’re wearing.

    And even then, your office might be different. My own boss hated open toe shoes until I wore a pair she liked outside the office and told me I could wear them in. I ended up not wearing them much because my report saw me wearing them and started wearing heeled gladiator sandals to work, which my boss disliked, and the argument to wear them was I wore my Nine West peep toes and that her sandals were very expensive. I told her Uggs are also very expensive but not work appropriate. I stopped wearing open toe. Such a slippery slope.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      My own boss hated open toe shoes until I wore a pair she liked outside the office and told me I could wear them in.

      Ugh. “You can wear it if the boss likes it” is such a horrible excuse for a dress code.

      1. Zuppa da clams*

        On one hand, yes, it’s not great and on the other hand, it makes sense, it’s how business dress standards evolve over time right? Someone wears something and the person in charge says “Oh, that looked fine,” and it opens their mind about what is acceptable to wear. The times I would say it makes less sense is when your boss doesn’t have a sense of when the line is crossed-i.e. like fine with too casual or doesn’t see what’s inappropriate about that very short skirt, etc.

  36. workerbee*

    #1 oh dear god, Mika needs to grow up and shut up. This kind of helpless, over-the-top, whiny, little girl behavior might work with her husband, but it’s an obnoxious and attention seeking annoyance in the workplace.

  37. Ruh Roh, Raggy!*

    People have mentioned multiple times that in video conferences, they see the other person looking elsewhere, anyway.

    This *may* be true, but I eventually realized that many of us were using the laptop camera while the video display was actually on a separate monitor. When you’re paying attention to the people speaking (or document being displayed or whatever), it looks like you’re focusing off-screen.

  38. Ell*

    OP1, I am feeling for Nina in this situation. I’ve had a pixie cut for nearly a decade (I’m one of the few people who’s gone from mid-back length hair to a pixie in one sitting, immediately after I left an abusive boyfriend who wouldn’t let me cut my hair… and loved it immediately), and people always comment on it, especially now that it’s colored lilac purple.

    I’ve worked with women who talk to me the way it seems Mika talked to Nina, and it’s incredibly weird to feel like someone is so invested in your appearance. I’ve had to ask people to stop commenting on my hair/clothes/shoes/food/whatever because it crossed a line from conversation into uncomfortable obsession, and I cannot imagine the stress if someone went to get a haircut like mine and then hated it/blamed me for their own decision.

    You need to tell Mika that this level of obsession is unacceptable, and you need to candidly speak to Nina and say that you’re sorry that this has gone on so long, you’re dealing with it, and ask if there’s anything else you can do to make this right.

  39. jeff*

    #3 – the shoes. This is a weird one in that it is very gender based – for women, go ahead! For men, open toe shoes will look strange in an office setting. We were never told the gender of the OP.

  40. AnonNurse*

    I’m so glad I haven’t paid any attention to that shoe convention and it’s never been a problem. My favorite heels have usually been peep-toe pumps and that’s usually what I wear to an interview. I have never had anyone express any interest in my footwear other than a few times having people comment on liking them. I think if you are comfortable with what you are wearing, it’s still a conservative style, and it’s within the norms of the work environment in which you’re interviewing, it will be fine. Good luck!

  41. Diamond Minx*

    Catching up on the thread today, and reading the comments from people who’ve had hairdressing disasters – particularly with color.
    One thing people often forget is that “styling hair” can involve a bewildering variety of techniques, and some stylists are better at certain things than others.
    I have mid back length platinum blonde bleached hair (it’s healthy, my hair just takes well to bleaching), with a black streak in it. I pay a professional good money every month to keep it up, and when I need a backup stylist, (or need to find a new one) I specifically look for someone who is good with bleach.
    Not even just a good colorist, but someone who has other clients who they bleach out to pale blonde – because it’s far too easy to end up with a chemical haircut if you let someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing put bleach on your hair. I imagine it’s the same for people who get their hair straightened – that stuff is harsh, and you can melt hair with it really easily.

    (In the spring I decided to add a semi permanent lavender to it, which was fun, then I had her do an ombre with big pieces in purple, indigo, and pink. I wanted my normal platinum up by my roots, and the lavender had made my hair very ashy, so she had to color correct the upper parts of my hair. That was fun too, but now that it’s fall I’m back to platinum – and my stylist is good enough that she was able to strip the last of the unwashed out color without damaging my hair.)

  42. SVN*

    #4: I supervise students at a university, and I have “mandatory” meetings every semester. Note the quotes though. I tell them they’re mandatory so that they know they’re to be prioritized over, say, meeting up with friends, but part of supervising students is understanding they’re students and have other things going on, so I’m very lenient if they have an actual conflict. And I find that my leniency is typically repaid in loyalty. The cost of catching one or two people up on what happened at the semester meetings is way less than hiring and training a new person, and being a kind employer is a good way to keep good student employees, which can be hard given the nature of the jobs.

  43. Kyrielle*

    Oh man, I feel for everyone in #1, including Mika. I have my hair in a pixie cut right now for the first time. I loved it on other people’s heads. I dislike it intensely on mine. It’s not a bad cut. It’s a bad cut _for me_. (And, objectively, it’s not even that bad, and others have complimented me for it. But it makes my face look all wrong to me in ways I can’t even begin to describe. It’s just…not me.) And going from very long hair to much shorter is jarring, and also overwhelming because it will take a long time to get that long. (That said, if Mika were writing in, I’d note that it will look much more familiar in the mirror almost as soon as it gets below shoulder length.)

    But. You don’t get to dump that on your coworkers. This would be true even IF Mika hadn’t been emulating a coworker when she did it, but the fact that she was, and that she is casting blame, makes this especially hard for Nina. That’s just…not what work is for.

    I whined once or twice to friends, but I know the limit on reasonable tolerance for that almost anywhere is much, much shorter than the time it takes to grow out.

    LW #1, you really, really need to put a stop to this. It would drive me up the wall if it happened in my workplace, and I would be initially sympathetic. Poor Nina, but also everyone else.

    (Honestly, I wonder if Mika needs a referral to the EAP. I mean…disliking a hair cut has led to this sort of thing at work, and spending vacation money on an expensive wig? That’s…an awful large reaction to the issue.)

  44. LizM*

    I’m not sure I agree with Alison’s advice for #2. If a consultant told me they weren’t using our video chat function because they couldn’t figure it out, and they continued to use that excuse for more than a few days, I would think less of them. It reminds me of a coworker who kept handwriting comments instead of using track changes on the shared file because he thought Microsoft Sharepoint was too complicated.

    That said, I wouldn’t think twice if someone either just didn’t sign into video chat, or politely declined, saying that the bandwidth required created too much of a lag for her to fully participate.

  45. April*

    There’s no way I’m going to read all the comments to see if this is mentioned or not, but some places (like theatres) have a no open-toed shoes policy for safety reasons.

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