how can we convince our employer to allow nose rings at work?

A reader writes:

I work for a nonprofit that provides mental health services. I am writing in regards to a dress code issue. Several of my coworkers and I have small nostril rings (not studs). Our managers were informed by someone else that they had noticed that several on our team have rings, and that they would need to ask us to remove them and replace them with studs as per the dress code. Our managers said that they couldn’t even picture who had a ring when this was brought to their attention because they are all so unobtrusive. They said that they hated the fact that they had to ask us to remove them.

We each told them (separately and without yet having talked to each other) that while we are willing to change them, we wish we didn’t have to, and that it wouldn’t happen instantly because we will all have to go to our piercers to get our rings removed and studs put in (it is easy to injure yourself doing it on your own). Additionally, we all just really like our rings. I, personally, have had a stud in the past and dislike how they look on me. My ring is one of my favorite parts of my appearance, and I don’t have a lot that I like when it comes to that. Our managers have encouraged us to take this to the higher-ups in charge of the policy, as they do not see having a nostril ring as a problem, none of us have any other concerning habits related to professional appearance, and the piercings have not negatively affected our work with clients.

We would like to present a united front on this and are all on board to say something, but we are having trouble coming up with wording. This isn’t our hill to die on and we will change the rings if necessary, but we would like to have a change to the policy considered (it has been changed to allow visible tattoos and nose studs within the past few years, so there is a precedent for amending it). Do you have any ideas about how to push back on this in a professional and respectful way?

Depending on the client population you work with, your strongest argument might be that many clients respond positively to people who don’t fit a cookie cutter mold. If you have a younger/more alternative/not-very-stodgy client population, it could be compelling to point out that you have many clients who respond well to working with someone who looks more like them and people they know.

You could say something like this: “Would you be open to reconsidering this part of the dress code? We understand that a ban on nose rings used to be pretty standard to find in offices (this is you acknowledging that you get it), but that’s really been changing in the last decade (this is you pointing out something they might not be aware of). There’s much more acceptance of things like nose rings and unusual hair colors now, even in very professional environments. And particularly significant for us is that we often serve clients who come from backgrounds where piercings are normal. We’ve found that our own piercings make us more relatable and clients respond well to us. We’re hoping that we can update the policy on piercings to better reflect that fact and the way society has changed on this issue.”

That may or may not work, but it’s a reasonable and professional way to approach the issue. If they say no, at that point you do need to back off and accept that, but the reality is that professional acceptance of piercings — including nose rings — really is changing and maybe you’ll make some headway. Good luck!

{ 266 comments… read them below }

  1. STG*

    Good luck! Fellow nose ring’er (septum) so mine is a bit more obtrusive. I doubt I’ll ever see it allowed in law enforcement but I always enjoy seeing/hearing about other workplaces allowing them.

      1. Lady Phoenix*

        Yup. I think Emergncy Services are gonna have to deal with the lack of jewelery while on duty. Those become instant weapons or nuisances depending on the situation.

      2. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yup. It’s the same reason that you can have stud earrings but not dangly ones. No one wants the workers comp application for one of those babies getting ripped out.

      3. STG*

        I work at a desk all day so safety is less of a concern for me. Just wouldn’t expect it because of the typically conservative nature of LE.

  2. Rincat*

    I’m curious who the “someone” is. Was it just another employee who happens to not like nose rings, or is really particular about following dress code rules? Was it a client? Was it the CEO/president/top person?

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Me too. I’m also curious as to whether the policy specifically mentions having studs and not rings, or if rings just aren’t in the list of what’s allowed.

    2. Lil Fidget*

      OTOH Alison has said before that just because clients won’t tell you to your face that something is offputting to them, it doesn’t mean they are not thinking it. (I actually support the nose rings, but someone here has gone to all the trouble of actually complaining).

      1. Jesmlet*

        FYI, in the mental health not-for-profit community, client is usually the word that’s used to describe the individuals with mental illnesses. Generally speaking and in my experience, this is not the type of thing a client would bring up to management.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          I guess I can imagine a conservative community where people with mental health challenges come from a more conventional – perhaps religious? – background and might struggle to feel taken seriously and professionally by someone who is dressed in a way that doesn’t fit their standards of professional dress. But then why visible tattoos and studs but not rings, it all feels a little arbitrary.

          1. Jesmlet*

            Yeah honestly if I had to guess, it was someone else in the company, maybe lower HR? who is very by the book about this type of stuff.

          2. Free Meerkats*

            All dress codes that aren’t health and safety related (like I have to wear long pants, safety glasses, and hard-toe shoes) are arbitrary.

            I can hear now, “But what about … ?” Yep, if not health and safety, arbitrary.

            1. Penny Lane*

              Just out of curiosity – let’s say I wished to wear a low-cut blouse revealing a lot of cleavage. Such a prohibition isn’t health and safety related. Is it arbitrary?

              Like it or not, what you wear and how you present yourself (encompassing hair, makeup, accessories, etc.) does send signals — whether those signals are “I’m above caring about fashion” or “I’m a slave to the latest trends”, whether the intended message is “I’m solidly Establishment and will be conservative with your money, business, etc.” or “I’m full of creative flair,” etc.

              1. Free Meerkats*

                Yes, arbitrary. You aren’t posing a hazard to yourself or others, you’re just not projecting the image your employer prefers (assuming cleavage is against their dress code.)

                It’s their call, but it’s still an arbitrary code.

                I’m not disagreeing with anything you said. Personally, I don’t give a damn what my money manager wears, I only care that they do a good job with my money. And I think people who judge people’s ability based on what they are wearing or how they style their hair or nails have the depth of a mirage.

                1. Kathleen_A*

                  No, that’s not quite right. What “arbitrary” means is “based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system.” But if someone does have decent reasons to believe that something is unprofessional – if they aren’t just making up a rule out of thin air because they have a thing against flipflops, for example – and if they apply those standards fairly, it is *not* “arbitrary to say “You can’t wear tube-tops” (or purple hair or flipflops or slacks or racist tattoos or pyjamas or whatever) “because those things aren’t considered professional wear.” This isn’t arbitrary because there is a reason. You or I may or may not agree with the reason, but there is a reason, and therefore, it really cannot be considered arbitrary.

                  That such things can change over time doesn’t make them arbitrary, either. It just means that customs change.

                2. scorpysuit coryphefuss arterius*

                  This is in reply to Kathleen_A’s post^

                  Well, that’s often how the meaning of the word ‘arbitrary’ is popularly understood – which is important – but ‘arbitrary’ technically means moreso “based on personal (individual) decision” v. “based on popular decree/system/democratic mechanism” rather than v. “based on any reason.” Usually arbitrary things are based on SOME kind of reason. It’s just that it’s one person’s or entity’s reasoning, and it could be otherwise. In other words, it’s more about arbitrary v. necessary/natural than arbitrary v. having a reason behind it.

                  In this example, dress codes not based on safety/health issues are arbitrary in that 1) they are decided (more or less) unilaterally, and 2) that other choices, based on other reasons, are also available.

              2. Strawmeatloaf*

                You mean you can find blouses that aren’t low cut?!

                I’m only slightly kidding, but I swear the current “trend” that we consumers have to go through according to the fashion industry (they make what they want, not what we want) is to make sure that we have to wear 7 layers of clothing to be somewhat warm (in my case).

                1. Julia the Survivor*

                  I had some luck and found a couple of 1970’s “stick pins” which I can use to close the top of my blouse at a reasonable level. Like these with the plug on the bottom.
                  If that doesn’t work and if you’re not too curvy, you could buy men’s shirts and have them altered. I did that with v-neck t-shirts and they fit beautifully now!

            2. Traffic_Spiral*

              Piercings you can grab *are* a safety issue though. My mom worked as a community service officer and she wasn’t allowed dangly earrings. If they’re providing services to the mentally ill, it’s probably the same thing.

              1. Jesmlet*

                Every organization is different. No one policed my dangly earrings and cartilage piercings or my coworker’s eyebrow piercing when I was working with the mentally ill.

              2. Gadget Hackwrench*

                Besides which a small-diameter nose ring is gonna be pretty hard to grab. They tend to hug the nostril quite tightly.

            3. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

              100% agreed.
              So many dress codes are, when you get right down to it, racist, sexist, and classist- I will be THRILLED to see the day when all that really matters is that you are clean, and dressed appropriately re: health/safety standards, and THAT’S IT.

              PS Quite honestly, I’d trust someone in almost any kind of casual dress, no matter how trendy, outrageous, etc. before I trusted someone in a suit. All a suit says about someone is that they know how to put on an “office worker” costume, and says NOTHING about their honesty, integrity, work ethic etc.
              And some of the worst people ever wear suits! Enron executives wore suits. The Wall Street executives that almost destroyed the ENTIRE WORLDS economy wore suits. Crooked politicians wear suits (and often also make a huge deal about how conservative/family values they are.) Perverted religious leaders wear suits. Harvey Weinstein wore suits. Why on EARTH would anyone assume that a suit makes any difference in how a person thinks or acts?

    3. NW Mossy*

      Yeah, I think this really matters to understand how best to approach it, and I hope for the OP’s sake that this detail simply didn’t make it into the letter. I’d be more concerned if the manager didn’t at least acknowledge what stakeholder group (to use a horrible corporate-speak term) raised the issue, because people need to be able to understand where feedback is coming from to be able to respond to it effectively.

  3. Kittymommy*

    Now I want my nose ring back!!!
    Seriously, good luck and I’m in your side (probably doesn’t help much though).

    1. Liane*

      I think the OP and her coworkers read that column and said, “We DON’T do this. Let’s ask Alison for a better way!”

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Exactly, that was the same thing I was thinking. “This is figuring out how to advocate PROPERLY for a change in dress code!”

      1. Hills to Die on*

        I thought of that too, even though this is a different scenario. I’m just worried someone will take it that way.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      I am concerned it is going to come off as being overly focused on something minor, even though it isn’t minor to you. I think they are pretty progressive for allowing a nose ring at all, and I can see where they have likely made a concession by allowing a stud.

      I’m not sure what arguments can be made for rings versus studs that go beyond just liking them more (maybe they are less obtrusive on some people’s nose whereas a stud might poke out and be more obvious? Maybe they would be open to saying that only a thin nose ring in the nostril versus the septum would be okay? Pictures of how they look so the person deciding can see that they have a similar look & feel to the studs?

      Personally, I like them and I wish you good luck in getting the policy changed. :)

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I wondered if they thought the stud was easier to define, whereas an acceptable ring may not be. If they allow a ring in the nostril, then will someone want to make a case for a septum? Are you going to police the thickness of the ring? The diameter?

        Either way, personally, it seems fine to me. My former therapist was a therapist and mom of 5 with kind of a P!nk vibe going on, with more tattoos and a nose ring. I dress very conservatively, but I liked her a lot more than the stuffy jerk I had seen before.

        1. OhNo*

          That was my thought, too. It seems like it would be a lot easier to just say “studs are okay, rings are not” than having to define size parameters for the many different possible rings that are out there now.

          One thing that might help before bringing this to the higher ups, though, is knowing their style when it comes to rules. Are they comfortable making rules that allow managers to exercise some judgement, like listing just “professional dress”? Or do they need to have every single possibility accounted for, like listing out permitted sleeve lengths and shoe heights? That detail might change how you frame your proposal.

          1. Chinook*

            Is it possible that the issue with the ring vs. stud is safety related? After all, a ring can be snagged and cause damage to the wearer that is much more difficult to do with a stud. If the clients are potentially violent, thus could be an issue.

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              There are a lot of factors snagging depends on. I had an eyebrow stud back in my younger and wilder days, and that sonuva caught on everything my face got close to! My piercer had warned me repeatedly that a ring was less likely to get snagged.

              With nose studs, from what I understand there are some that simply pop in and out easily, but others that are hooked in the back? I think of that and shudder. A small ring is hard to grab.

              1. MM*

                I’ve had a nose stud for ten years and the only time it ever snags on anything is a towel when I’m drying off after a shower. And even that I’ve learned to avoid happening.

                (If it reassures you at all, mine is hooked, and even the one time the towel pulled it all the way out, nothing bad happened. It hurt for a minute–it’s not supposed to happen that fast or that way!–but it’s not like I was cut or anything.)

            2. JustaTech*

              A stud could also be making allowances for religious practice. When my high school banned facial piercings they had to revise the ban (1 day in) to allow for the girls whose nose piercings were a religious/cultural thing.
              But that would really depend on the community make up.

      2. LBK*

        My POV on that is generally that if it’s a big enough deal for management to ask their employees to change it, it’s a big enough deal for the employees to have an issue with it.

      3. VioletEMT*

        I’m also going to guess that the folks who wrote this policy don’t understand how nose rings work, and thing that changing your nose ring to a stud is as easy as changing earrings from hoops to studs. They don’t realize you have to go to a piercer to get them changed.

        1. Butch Cassidy*

          That was my read, too. While the LW just likes studs less, the larger issue is that now several people have to book time to go get the jewelry changed. (And maybe pay for it? I don’t know how that works.)

          1. pope suburban*

            Oh boy, an area of my expertise! It’s not typical to be charged to change out jewelry, but I haven’t been to every piercing shop in the world, so that may vary. I admit I have lived in laid-back, fashion-forward US western cities/states, to whatever extent that might influence things. It is also entirely possible if, like me, you hate the hassle, to learn to change jewelry out at home. It’s still sometimes a time-consumer, but it’s on the table. My bigger concern for something like this is that sometimes, having a piece of jewelry out for the duration of a shift will allow the piercing to heal over. Obviously this is very much a YMMV thing, but I had a nostril ring come out when I was asleep once, and by the time I woke up and discovered this, it had started to heal over. I was lucky to have a friend locally who was a piercer/tattoo artist, so he fixed me up and then I bought a seamless ring so it wouldn’t happen again, but…yeah, I could see this potentially being difficult for certain staff members, beyond the jewelry-changing hassle.

      4. Safetykats*

        I am so confused by a policy that allows studs but not rings. I don’t think a small ring is any more noticeable than a small stud. I have worked places that don’t allow facial jewelry at all, orthat limited the size of facial jewelry or the type of facial piercing, but this limitation just seems odd. I would politely push back simply on the grounds that a small ring is no more or less acceptable than a small stud.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I don’t think a small ring is any more noticeable than a small stud.

          To me, a ring is a LOT more noticeable.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            It depends a lot on the ring. A small, thin gold or silver hoop in a nostril can be quite subtle, while a brightly-colored stud can be glaringly obvious, or in more unfortunate circumstances can camouflage itself as a particularly unsightly zit.

            1. Yvette*

              I am guessing that it may be a safety issue as someone pointed out above. Kind of like how law enforcement uniforms have a clip on tie rather than one that ties.

            2. Lindsay J*

              I used to have a stud that was a rather large flower. Definitely less discreet than a small ring, and way less than a normal stud. My mom didn’t notice my regular stud for like a couple of weeks, even though I was living at home at the time.

            3. Kate 2*

              Especially when the gauge (thickness/weight) of the jewelry can vary. You can have an enormous stud or a tiny ring. I used to wear a ring that was so small and thin it was almost invisible. People were startled when they realized I had a nose ring, after knowing me for days or weeks.

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I don’t know; I work in law, which is crazy conservative, and I have a nose stud. I suspect it’d be fine if I switched to a ring. I think this is a dress code norm that has changed pretty significantly (along with visible tattoos) in many sectors and parts of the country, so the jump from stud to ring doesn’t seem egregious to me unless there’s a reasonable safety or other business-related reason to allow one form and not the other.

  4. Jackers*

    Is it possible this is a safety issue, vs an aesthetic issue? As in, nose rings are much easier to get ripped out rather than a stud, so they limit this to studs?

    1. Anon-The-Moose*

      Was going to say exactly this. I worked in an inpatient facility and there were dress code limits because it was a safety hazard.

    2. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      Considering they allow studs, tattoos, etc. this would actually make a lot of sense. I’d be curious if there were restrictions on earrings that could be worn, too. (Obviously we have no way of knowing.)

    3. K*

      I had this exact thought! I also have a job that involves providing mental health services and in my particular situation I’d definitely be wary about anything that could be grabbed or get caught on something easily. (Though of course there are also client populations where that wouldn’t be a big concern.) In that case, OP might be stuck, but it never hurts to ask….

    4. Graciosa*

      That was my first thought, particularly if the nonprofit provides mental health services. Grabbing a ring would be much easier than grabbing a stud, and could cause major problems.

      I think the OP needs to be prepared to evaluate whether there are safety issues at play here (any contact with patients?) and be prepared to hear that the company isn’t prepared to take that risk. A resulting injury would certainly be work-related if it happened on the job, and I can understand an employer not wanting to take an unnecessary hit on workman’s compensation rates.

    5. paul*

      That was my first thought; I know people that’ve done inpatient work and crisis intervention (as in, they’re there with the cops talking to people) and none of them could wear hoops or dangly jewelry of any type. I can’t recall if there was a rule about long hair or not though.

      1. sunny-dee*

        Different environment, but my dad worked in a mine, and they had rules on jewelry because of equipment used to process the ore. Long hair was okay, but it had to be securely tied back — like a french braid or bun, no loose hair.

        This policy also didn’t apply to every department; HR (for example) could wear whatever, while the lab where my dad worked had different standards (loose hair was okay, but you had to wear only cotton or natural fibers and close-toed, leather shoes).

        1. Jesca*

          It is really typical in more blue collar jobs to limit what people wear because of safety issues. I used to have to go on sites a lot. It is so ingrained in me now, that I never wear jewelry. I never considered this in a mental health environment, but it does make sense.

          1. Windchime*

            My dad used to work in an apple juice plant years ago, and almost lost a couple of fingers when his wedding ring got caught in some machinery. I don’t think he has worn a ring since.

            1. Cathie F*

              One of the late night talk show hosts — Jimmy Kimmell? – recently almost lost a finger when his ring got caught on something. It was quite a bandage. The next show, he warned everyone about how easily something like this could happen.

            2. tink*

              I know a few people that work in more machine-based fields that have switched to either not wearing a ring or wearing one of the stretchy silicone ones for just this reason.

    6. KC without the sunshine band*

      Same. We had a suggested (not required) rule in a vet’s office I worked at. It basically said if you wore hoop earrings, necklaces, or any other jewelry a pet could injure with, it was your own fault. I remember several folks wearing necklaces tucked down into scrubs, but nose rings and hoop earrings rarely made an opinion if at all. It just wasn’t worth the risk.

      1. Anja*

        I actually recently had a “On this Day” thing come up on facebook from the day when I finally decided I could try wearing earrings again. My dog was a rather challenging puppy and she was very intrigued by earrings.

    7. AKchic*

      Having worked in the industry, that would be my concern.

      I wouldn’t wear hoops or dangly piercings at all because it was a risk. I also worked with felons/addicts/violent offenders, so my risk was higher than most people. The days I went to the prisons I didn’t wear any jewelry at all (including my wedding band, since it is tungsten and heavy enough to be weaponized).

    8. Sunshine Brite*

      This. I was always surprised working in the community the number of mental health workers wearing infinity scarves and earrings/facial piercings. Always seemed like too convenient of weapons to me.

    9. VioletEMT*

      Ooooh, good thought.
      When I was a teacher, we had a mandate from admin that we had to wear our new ID badges on specific, district-branded lanyards. They replaced old name tags, which were magnetic. They were not breakaway lanyards, and the special ed teachers and teachers who taught classes with kids with behavioral health issue led a revolt because they were concerned a student having a meltdown or becoming violent would accidentally or intentionally strangle staff with the lanyards. When I was going to go assist in one specific special ed resource room, the teacher there advised me not to wear a necklace or hoop/dangly earrings that day. So a safety concern would make total sense.

  5. Blue_eyes*

    Good luck! I have to take out my STUD for work (I tried wearing a small glass/clear stud, and even that wasn’t allowed). My boss is just weirdly traditional about this ONE thing, but I really wish I could just wear it to work. It’s a small silver stud with a clear crystal, so barely even noteworthy to most people, and very common among women my age (early 30s).

    1. DecorativeCacti*

      My friend had to wear a band-aid over her stud. Because a band-aid in the middle of someone’s face is less obvious than a tiny fake diamond.

          1. CMDRBNA*

            Jesus, that is ridiculous! I have a few coworkers whose nose studs are their ‘wedding rings’ (they’re Indian). At that point I’m like, it’s not about something being noticeable anymore, it’s about someone’s dislike of a certain part of someone’s appearance.

      1. AF*

        I briefly worked somewhere that required their swim instructors to cover nontraditional haircuts. They deemed one grown woman’s short trim (like a men’s cut) as nontraditional and made her wear a swim cap over it.

        I didn’t notice that her hair was that short until she pointed it out, but I did notice she was the only person wearing a swimcap.

        1. Canto Bight*

          As I was reading I thought this was going to say she had to wear a long wig, but covering up short hair with a swim cap is somehow even weirder.

        2. Amelia*

          Wouldn’t that be gender discrimination, if they would allow it as a haircut on a man, but not on a woman?

        3. Jesca*

          Wow that seems oddly … I don’t know! I mean its just so weird. I competitively swam since like 5 and every swim coach and instructor I have ever seen had short hair – male or female. It was just practical for what they did on a daily basis!

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Ugh, that was the rule at my first high school job. Same for eyebrow piercings. Because massive band-aids are somehow less obtrusive/offensive and more conservative than facial piercings?

    2. Katie Pie*

      That is the exact type of stud I have. For Current Job, I took it out for the interview and before starting work the first day, because as much as I liked it, I was willing to forego for a job, and believed most of the world still held an old school view of them. That first morning they walked me around to meet people and one coworker had bright pink hair. That nose stud went right back in on my lunch break.

      Last month I kept it in for an interview, got an offer, no problem (I start there in a couple weeks). I feel like culture has shifted enough and I’m confident enough that I don’t really have to worry about it.

      (I’ve had the stud for 7 years. For at least the first 5 I had people who had known me since before getting it ask, “Is that new?” “Nope, got it 5 years ago.” It’s that unobtrusive.)

      1. Blue_eyes*

        I spent years working as a teacher, camp counselor etc. and it was never an issue. This is the only job where it’s been a problem, but I had been underemployed for 2 years before getting this job so I wasn’t going to make it a deal breaker. I was actually surprised that I was able to take it out and put it back in again each night. I’ve had it for 12 years now, but at least the first 5 years it would start closing up after even a few hours (noses close up way faster than ear lobes).

        1. Rainy*

          Tongues are bad too. I worked retail management briefly when I first moved back to the states because that’s what I could get, and I was supposed to take my tongue stud out, which over a long day made it pretty hard to get back in again. I wasn’t making enough to buy a spacer. :/

          Then I got a full-time job and they didn’t care what kind of jewelry I wore.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I had to take my tongue stud out when I became a lawyer, and it closed up super quick. :( I still miss it.

            1. Rainy*

              That sucks :( I work in higher ed admin now and no one cares–honestly most people don’t even notice. I’ve worked here 3 years and occasionally a coworker still says “oh, when did you get your tongue pierced?” or “when did you get wrist tattoos?”

        2. Katie Pie*

          Interesting. I take my stud out occasionally to soak in peroxide overnight and never have trouble popping it back in. But then, even my ears don’t close as fast as others’. I’ve gone years without earrings before.

      2. Red Reader*

        And people are that in observant. At least once a month, someone I’ve known for a year plus goes “oh, you lost an earring!” I only have two earrings in my left earlobe – I stopped wearing earrings in my right ear when I was 12. I am now spitting distance from 40. Literally nobody who knows me now, except my parents and biological siblings, has EVER known me to wear earrings in my right ear. And yet constantly it surprises people. Wacky.

    3. Fabulous*

      I’d like to see a picture of a glass stud, I can’t imagine what that would look like (except pretty)! I’ve had the same silver ball in for 10 years, it’s not even a diamond. I’ll probably have to cut it whenever I take it out since it’s got a small non-removable ball on the inside that keeps it in place, as opposed to a curl or L shaped stud.

  6. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

    The fact that the code has been changed to allow nose studs will probably help the case for allowing modest nose rings. The LW noted that everyone who wears a ring has one that is quite unobtrusive.

  7. Lil Fidget*

    Oh darn, I was hoping OP was going to say they don’t see clients – I think the case is really strong in that situation. But IME, organizations are extra picky about client-facing roles and they way these employees present themselves. I could see scenarios where the meetings might come across as less professional if the employee and representative of the company has a counter-cultural appearance. (On the other hand if tattoos are okay, I don’t see why this is the line to draw necessarily).

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Having a look that says counter-culture / anti-establishment isn’t such a bad thing in mental health services. Many people will see all services as part of the establishment, whether it’s a psychiatrist or a counsellor at a non-profit, and it can sometimes be really helpful if you look alternative.

      1. Chinook*

        But, depending on her clientele, having the majority of the people involved in mental health services could also make the clients uncomfortable because not everyone with mental health issues are counter cultural. In fact, I would wonder if they could treat some one like me (who is the opposite if counter cultural) in a way that is appropriate or even if I would fit in there. When you are searching for mental health help, seeing someone “normal” is often more of a relief if that is what you are aiming for.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          Yeah I used the example above of a community with a religious culture, for example. However, I feel like OP would have told us if this was the case (and again, apparently visible tattoos and nose studs are no problem).

          1. Orchestra Alum*

            I’m seeing more people in religious communities supporting tattoos and piercings so that often isn’t the case. I’ve had people I would never expect to complain be the first to go to management over petty stuff. This seems more coworker driven.

        2. Blue Anne*

          And I would have a huge sense of relief that maybe this was a person who would understand me. I think it’s got to be good to have a diverse staff so that many people can have that feeling, not only those who prefer conservative/normie help.

        3. Mad Baggins*

          Yeah I would feel uncomfortable too, but as someone squicky about needles, studs and visible tattoos wouldn’t make me feel better. Whereas they might make someone else (who loves piercings and tattoos) feel more comfortable. I don’t get drawing the line at studs vs. rings, usually the line is “no facial piercings, no visible tattoos, no unnatural hair colors” so why split hairs there?

        4. Kate 2*

          Yeah, but why assume someone with a nose ring is “counter cultural”. I had a nose ring, a tongue stud, and a belly button stud for years.

          I’m not entirely certain what you mean by “counter cultural” and “normal”, but I’m a homebody, I’ve never gone clubbing, I’m extremely traditional in my personal life, though politically liberal, I have never smoked (any kind) and don’t drink, I’ve never been drunk once in my life, I grew up in a tiny rural town (now I live in a big city) and I used to go to church, though I am now agnostic.

          I don’t think I’d have any problem helping “normal” people, and judging people definitively based on their appearance is something to be ashamed of, for anyone who does it.

          In my personal experience there has been a strong positive correlation between the number of piercings and tattoos someone has and how kind they have been. Of course I keep an open mind and try not to judge “normal” people, especially since I now look like them.

    2. Natalie*

      I think that would make more sense if the dress code prohibited all visible piercings, but it sounds like they’re perfectly allowed to have a visible nose piercing as long as the specific jewelry conforms. I’m having a hard time imagining a client population that would be fine with a nose stud but get the vapors at a nose ring.

      1. Rincat*

        This is my thought, too. Also, I’ve encountered way more people who have issues with tattoos than they do nose piercings, so it seems odd that a ring is what is being prohibited.

          1. Frank Doyle*

            I disagree, I think rings are far more noticable and obtrusive. I have my nostril pierced, and prefer a ring, but my workplaces have all only allowed a stud but not a ring (I’m in engineering).

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            I’m not “horrified” by either, but I find rings more unattractive than studs (I’m actually not a fan of either, but the ring makes me think of a pig or bull with a ring through its nose, which makes it even more unappealing to me). And it’s not without precedent – there are dress codes that allow simple stud earrings, but not hoops or dangling earrings. And as others have mentioned, rings could be a safety issue.

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              Are you thinking of septum rings? There are also nostril rings which have a very different look.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                Even nostril rings are very unattractive to me. I understand this is only my opinion, and I’m not suggesting they should be specified in a dress code simply because I don’t like them. I’m just saying rings = studs is not universally true.

            2. Rainy*

              I think you have probably seen dozens or hundreds of people with nostril piercings (as opposed to heavy septum rings, which is what you seem to be describing) and literally not noticed that they had a piercing.

              1. Fascinated*

                How interesting! Are you able to speak to everyone else’s experiences in this omniscient fashion, or is this a special case?

                1. Rainy*

                  Every person with piercings I know has had the experience of people who have known them for years asking if they got their nose/tongue/ear pierced over the weekend when they have in fact had that piercing since long before the person knew them.

                  Maybe you’re the sole exception?

                2. Ego Chamber*

                  What’s your point here, other than stating your disbelief in a really unkind way?

                  Rainy makes a valid point that most people will miss small details they’re not looking for, and several previous commenters have already posted their experiences of people who’ve known them for years suddenly noticing a piercing they’ve have the whole time, so this isn’t a an unlikely suggestion.

              2. Kate 2*

                Yes, I’ve had this happen too. People notice what sticks out, a tiny nose ring slips right by them.

      2. Triple Anon*

        The fact that they allow studs but not rings makes it sound like a safety issue. Rings are a hazard because they can get caught on things (or pulled on).

        In any case, I think LW should ask about the reasoning behind the rule and go from there. Maybe the job is safer than it used to be. Maybe the client population has become more diverse or friendlier towards people with piercings. Who knows.

    3. sunny-dee*

      I’m with some people up thread — my first thought is that this is a safety issue *because* they’re client facing and dealing with mental health issues. It may matter what type of issues they are — like, eating disorders are probably pretty safe, but maybe not substance abuse or suicide where the situation could possibly be volatile.

      1. Natalie*

        Yeah, the safety issue makes way more sense. I had an friend who worked on a mental health ward for years and she decided to take out her eyebrow ring after the first couple of times she was attacked.

        Although in that case, it’s such a simple explanation that management is being derelict by not explaining it.

    4. Jesmlet*

      My first job was in the same type of organization and I saw clients every day (clients being the individuals with mental illnesses. Halfway through me working there, we switched to the word “consumer” but that’s besides the point). They had no restrictions regarding jewelry or tattoos fortunately, otherwise I’d have had some problems.

  8. Wait, what?*

    If the managers are the ones telling the staff to take it higher up, why aren’t they the ones pushing this? I feel like the higher ups will be more receptive if the managers go to bat.

    1. HR Gal*

      The middle management is not demonstrating leadership here. Telling the OP they’re on their side while probably agreeing with upper management who issued the edict. I see trust issues here.

    2. Laura*

      In most cases, I’d absolutely agree, and maybe the managers should go with them. The difference here might be because the employees could actually show how unobtrusive the rings are while management alone could only describe it.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Management should still be involved. There’s no reason they couldn’t ask the decision-makers to meet with them and the ring-wearers, so they can see how unobtrusive they are.

    3. The Smile on a Dog*

      This is what I thought. Sure would be nice if the managers stepped up for (or at least with) their reports here. That’s good management and team-building.

    4. Camellia*

      Yes, came here to say this. “WE are perfectly fine with it, but YOU have to be the ones to talk to upper management.” Seriously?!?

      1. Camellia*

        Also, did they hire these people with nose rings already in place? If so, they have a stronger case for keeping them.

      2. Penny Lane*

        I’m willing to bet middle management doesn’t see this as a battle worth fighting, so they said some nice soothing words but don’t really intend to go to bat over this (unless there is about to be a mass exodus of their best players or something).

  9. B*

    I also think this is a “know your workplace”. At mine – very conservative, high level clientele, must be professional at all times – having anything other than a very small nose stud would not go over with the higher-ups and would be looked down upon for not knowing our office professional norms.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      Most places I have worked wouldn’t be okay with even that. Conservative nails, no more than i set of pierced ears on women and none on men, etc. But there’s room for a nose piercing here so I hope they will give a little on it.

    2. Chinook*

      Don’t forget that you can have low economical but conservative clientele as well who could be very uncomfortable in those circumstances as well.

      1. B*

        I wasn’t saying that you couldn’t or that I forgot that is possible. I was explaining the area in which I specifically work. And it is still knowing about your workplace.

  10. Alexi lynn*

    You also might want to mention that changing to a stud is not like changing an earring. I had no idea that you couldn’t easily swap in something new and maybe they don’t know either.

    1. Tasha*

      I was going to comment on this because while that’s sort of the text book response (“have your piercer help you with changing your jewelry”), that’s typically only true for newer piercings. Once it’s healed, I don’t see any reason to have someone do it for you unless the ring has to be opened with pliers or there’s some kind of mobility concern. Otherwise it’s really not any more difficult than changing an earring, you just have to pay more attention since cartilage can’t be manipulated the way an earlobe can (to push the jewelry in straight).

      Source: I have had multiple facial piercings for over ten years.

        1. Frank Doyle*

          Those captive-bead rings are REALLY REALLY HARD to do yourself and when it’s in the nose, it’s nigh on impossible. The number of times I’ve accomplished it is less than the number of times I was in tears of frustration because I couldn’t. I don’t even bother to attempt them anymore. I get rings with a little nub on one end instead. The “open” part of the ring is inside my nostril where it isn’t visible.

          1. dr_silverware*

            I had to do the same. There definitely are solutions to switching out the jewelry–for instance I have a plain surgical steel stud at home that has a ball screwing on to a post with a flared base, and every day I use a ring without the trapped balls.

            BUT, I think the ease of switching piercings is a red herring; it’s more, “I want to control my appearance and self-image even at work,” which is harder to find a solution for.

          2. Jadelyn*

            Ugh, they are such a pain. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve slipped and yanked on my ears while trying to get the damn bead set in place. My captive bead rings DO NOT COME OUT FOR ANY REASON short of actual incontrovertible medical necessity, because they’re so hard to get back in properly. I still wear them because I really like the way they look, but god they’re almost more of a hassle than they’re worth.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Amen, sis. Short of an all out infection or other necessity, my captive bead rings do not come out. It takes ages to get them back in when they’re in my ear, let alone if I had a captive bead ring in my nose.

              I think this is a situation where reasonable minds can differ about whether they feel the need to get their jewelry changed out by their piercer.

        2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Oh god yeah. The one time I tried to change out my eyebrow barbell on my own was a study in ludicrosity. Went back to my piercer every time after that.

      1. Canto Bight*

        I was going to comment on this too. I have a coworker who slips her Monroe piercing in and out when she gets into the office and several other friends with nose and eyebrow piercings they swap out regularly on their own, especially those who are waiters and need shift appropriate jewelry.

        There might be something that isn’t explained in the letter that accounts for both why this specific piercing need to be changed by a piercer AND why the office would ask it to be removed. If this is a large gauge septum piercing or something it will be a tougher battle to compare with a nostril stud.

      2. Queen of Pents*

        Yeah, I was going to say, it is really not that hard to change a nose ring. I tend to go back and forth from a stud and ring depending on if I want to draw less attention to it. If it is a new piercing and not healed, even the piercer probabaly won’t want to change it.

        1. Frank Doyle*

          Yeah I didn’t want to nitpick, but I also don’t think it’s a big deal to change out nose jewelry.

          I do hope that the OP gets to wear her ring though! My work won’t allow it (I’m in engineering; no one in my jobs ever had a problem with the stud, though) and my husband hates it so I rarely get to wear my ring, which I like.

        2. Aunt Piddy*

          I do too! I LITERALLY change out my nose ring like earrings. I did the same when I had a labret and a belly ring (among others. Ah, youth). Captive balls are annoying to deal with, but that’s why you buy yourself a spreader.

      3. seejay*

        It pretty much all depends on the jewelry. I have CBRs (Captive Bead Rings) that I can pop the balls on and off, but the downside to that is that the balls can fall out over time (which is why I have a small container with about 50 spares). The CBRs that are closed so tightly that they do need pliers to open, I can’t get the balls out of and don’t have the beads fall out, I could open myself with a set of pliers but I wouldn’t try to close them myself (since I’d risk injury and scratching the metal, which leads to bacteria and infection). My nostril piercings I’ve never had an issue with since I’ve always had nostril screws or studs in there and they’re easy to put in and remove myself.

      4. Ego Chamber*

        “Otherwise it’s really not any more difficult than changing an earring,”

        Respectfully disagree about the ease of changing any piercing being standard from person to person and piercing to piercing. I have segment rings in my ears (12 total), and I have mini forceps to change them, and it still takes me over an hour to swap them all out because a couple of the piercings are janky.

        I’ve also had multiple facial piercings over the past 10 years, and some have been easy to change and others not so much. I don’t begrudge anyone wanting their piercer to do it, especially since all my piercers have swapped out jewelry for free when you buy the jewelry from them (and I prefer to buy from my piercer).

    2. SL #2*

      I knew but only because I have an acquaintance who was adamant that he was going to remove his nose ring and let the piercing close up when he turned 30 (and he did). But I asked him, why is this a big deal, can’t you just take it out whenever, and he explained that he needed to go to a piercing shop to remove it safely, or to even change out the ring. But it’s generally not public knowledge! I wouldn’t have known either if I didn’t know said acquaintance.

      OP, Alexi and the other commenters are right; this isn’t as easy as going to H&M and buying a pair of work-appropriate earrings to wear the next day instead. Explaining (calmly and clearly) that changing the rings to studs involves piercing professionals, an appointment, and presumably $$$, and not just a glance in the bathroom mirror might help your case.

    3. Temperance*

      My nose is pierced, and I’ve switched the jewelry myself. I have a springy ring that I bought at Hot Topic, though. I thought that most people changed their own.

      1. Lynca*

        I know people that do and people that don’t. Depends on the jewelry and exactly where the piercing is I’ve found.

      2. Fabulous*

        The spring ones you can change yourself, along with L-shaped rings. My stud though has a non-removable ball on the inside that keeps it in place. I’ve been wearing for the past 10 years and would need metal cutters to get it out.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            I’ve known people who change those out on their own (so maybe it’s a different kind that I’m thinking of?). The ball or bulb on the inside of the kind I’ve seen is generally about 1 gauge bigger than the post. If it’s that kind, it’ll come out or go in, but it’s a bit of a stretch and some people would rather cut it off.

          2. Fabulous*

            When I got my nose pierced I had an L, then moved to a spring but it kept getting “sucked” into the hole (not sure how else to describe it…) and the piercing was having trouble healing. I switched to this ring when my hole was bigger and the small inside ball fit. Since the hole has healed better the small ball no longer fits through the hole, which I’m reminded of every time the ring catches on something – ouch!

      3. kc89*

        when I had mine pierced the employee said I could come back any time and they would switch the jewelry out for me, they said they sanitize it first and then put it in for you at no cost.

        I don’t plan on changing mind that often so if I ever do I’ll probably take his advice and have them do it.

        If someone changes it on their own all the time I imagine it’s quick and easy

    4. Tuxedo Cat*

      That part I paused at. I have my nose pierced, and I currently have a captive bead ring in it. I occasionally have switched to a stud (labret stud) for aesthetic reasons. It’s not as easy as changing earrings, but I’ve also never gone to a piercer to change.

      My nose piercing is over 15 years old. You might go to a piercer for newer piercings, but I’m not sure this is true. I support you wearing a ring vs a stud, but you might want to triple check.

      1. LavaLamp*

        Captive Bead Rings are evil. I have one in my cartilage piercing on my upper ear and that earring will not come out for any reason. It took twenty minutes of myself, and an ex boyfriend to get that thing in place.

        I can totally see going to someone else to deal with that.

        I don’t understand the “No Rings but yes to studs” thing either. They’re both a hole in your face, so they’re really being pedantic.

        1. Tuxedo Cat*

          I’m not sure what I’m doing differently, but I’ve not had any issues with mine. I have two cartilage, one in my nose. It’s not fun or as easy as putting in a stud in my ear, but it has been doable for me.

          I think the ring is more prominent to a lot of people; I’ve dealt with this myself. Unless you’re wearing an elaborate stud, it’s not as visible and for reason reads more professional than a ring.

  11. Fergus Formerly Known as the Artist Fergus*

    I want to read the letter when the employer bans genital jewelry. There goes my penis ring. Will I have to prove to was removed? LMAO

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Depends on whether the metal in your piercing is magnetic or not. I have titanium jewelry and I’ve gotten an MRI with the jewelry in with no ill effects.

    1. DataQueen*

      This reminds me of one story: I used to have my sternum pierced – a small, single-point crystal stud. A client complained to my boss that it was too provocative, but I guess he must have just said that I had my chest pierced. Next thing I knew, I got a screaming call from my boss asking why on earth the clients could see my nipples! I was mortified to explain the difference.

      1. Jadelyn*

        I’ve always wanted to get dermal anchors but haven’t bc I’ve heard so much about them migrating and rejecting and whatnot – but a single crystal stud in the center of the chest sounds like it would look so cool, I’m jealous.

        Not so jealous of the conversation with your boss over them, though. :)

  12. Sara*

    I know nothing about nose rings or studs, I assumed that was something you could do at home on a whim. They may think that they’re essentially asking you to switch out your earrings during the work day. I’m not sure how to politely word that when talking to higher ups (or if you should) but I’m happy to learn something new!

    1. Manders*

      Yes, that was my first assumption–I didn’t realize that nose rings can’t be swapped out that way, and I bet the higher-ups don’t realize it either.

      1. seejay*

        It literally all depends on the type of jewelry and the comfort level of the person who has it. I have no problems swapping out my nostril piercings, which I’ve had for over 20 years. I can swap out half my earrings myself as well, but most of my other piercings I’d need a professional to close the rings properly… I *could* open them up to release the bead with a set of pliers, but chances are I’m not going to be able to squeeze the ring back together straight to catch the bead in the right spot so it holds it securely (nor will I do it without scratching the jewelry which leads to bacterial problems).

        Barbell type jewelry or screws are pretty easy to swap in and out if that’s what you have for the location, so those aren’t an issue, but it’s the CBR (captive bead ring) jewelry that tends to be a lot more finicky.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          I’m confused. I’ve used CBR’s in the past and never tried to pry the ring open (I was specifically told not to do that for all the reasons you detailed about it potentially corrupting the jewelry), I just pull on the ball and it always snaps out with enough pressure—it can be difficult to snap it back in if it’s a really inflexible metal like titanium, but I’ve always been able to manage it.

          1. seejay*

            It depends on the gauge of the jewelry, if the balls have indentations or not, and just if it’s going to behave or not. I’ve had some balls break (they were made out of gemstone material), I’ve had them not actually snap into place, some of my CBRs have really pointed edges and the balls don’t really snap in right. In the thinner gauges, even putting the slightest pressure on the CBRs made the ring warp enough that the space was too big to hold the ball. I had 4ga CBRs in my bottom holes in my ears, then 12ga in the next ones, all the way up to 18ga in my upper cartilage and I’ve all the above problems with them over the years from fussing with the rings. Some of them I don’t touch the balls in at all because they’re way too delicate and dangerous to risk playing with (tragus: no way am I touching that one, it’s too small and tight).

            The ones I can snap in and out, I remove those when I have to, and I bought a 100 count string of hematite beads just so I’d always have replacements whenever a loose one would fall out (and to give you an idea, I bought that string 15 years ago and I’m now down to about 10 left). Others definitely are way too difficult and I wouldn’t even remotely try dealing with them. I had a bike accident a few years back and wound up ripping a few beads out when my head side-swiped a tree (which was fortunate that was all that ripped) and I had to go into a shop to get the beads replaced since I actually couldn’t snap any back in, *plus* I’d deformed a ring.

    2. Cheeky*

      I have a nose piercing- you can absolutely change jewelry out yourself (I do it), though I understand why people would prefer to go to their piercer. It’s not always easy to do.

  13. Anon-The-Moose*

    It can be a safety issue depending on the patient population. Are non-stud earrings allowed?

    I worked in an inpatient facility where we couldn’t wear hoop earrings, any “hoop” facial jewelry, long necklaces, or sweatshirts with strings because those things are easily grabbed by an agitated client. And even if you think it’s unobtrusive, all it takes is it getting caught on something in a scuffle.

    1. harlee quinnn*

      I also work in the mental health field and have had similar experiences at a couple of former workplaces. When I inquired, it was framed as a similar safety issue… so I found a nose stud that looks like a hoop on the outside. Still looks the same as my old hoop, but if someone where to pull it, it would come right out and not cause me any damage. Maybe this is a good direction to go!

    2. Rincat*

      This is a good point, and also part of the reason why I am wondering who made the complaint, and why. If it was for safety reasons, then I wouldn’t push back – but if they were just being nitpicky and didn’t like nose rings, I’d push.

  14. Muriel Heslop*

    When I first started teaching, none of my coworkers had facial piercings or visible tattoos – it was against district policy and generally considered “unacceptable”. In my second teaching job, I had a coworker with a small nose stud and a few with visible tattoos on their arms. When I expressed surprise, they told me that several secondary teachers in the district went to the board as a group and asked to have the policy reconsidered as teenagers related better to people who looked younger and more like people they knew. The district changed their policy! (This was about 2000.)

    Good luck, OP! I think you have a great case.

    1. Amber T*

      When I was in high school, I did a research paper on tattoos, and I surveyed most of the teachers about any tattoos they had (I left surveys in all of the department offices and got a pretty decent response rate). I kept it anonymous, but no teachers admitted to having tattoos. As an adult now looking back, I’m not sure I believe everyone was honest, and I don’t blame them. One response I got from one of the more… influential teachers (she had been there FOREVER AND WOULD NOT RETIRE) actually wrote on the survey that only convicted felons got tattoos. She actually sought me out and told me that she was pretty disgusted I was even writing about tattoos.

      I’m glad the times are changing… I think (and certainly hope) less people think that *only* convicted felons get tattoos.

      1. HS Teacher*

        Most of the teachers at thr school where I teach have tats. I’m one of the fee who does not. It’s my way of rebelling.

  15. Argh!*

    Nonprofits are usually funded by conservative, elderly, rich people aren’t they? If they are the ones who are offended or find it unprofessional, it’s probably a losing battle.

    1. LBK*

      Rich and older, maybe, but I’d be surprised if most non-profits are mainly supported by conservatives since my impression is that the missions of non-profits often run contrary to conservative values, at least for the non-profits I can think of off the top of my head.

      1. Who the eff is Hank?*

        I work at an arts-based nonprofit that works with children and many of our big donors are conservative (in the social/political sense). But I guess bringing art to children is a bi-partisan issue.

      2. sunny-dee*

        That’s … actually not true at all. (Spoken as a libertarian / conservative who is also active in charity.) Generally, conservatives oppose compulsory funding of social programs, but tend to be more active than liberals in charitable activity, both participation and funding. I mean, I do youth mentoring at church, and I donate (money now, in the past time) to food banks, clothes closets, and animal shelters, as well as artistic groups like very small ballet and music companies. The idea is personal v corporate responsibility — I feel I have a PERSONAL responsibility to contribute back to my community, but I would be pretty resentful and probably find loopholes if I were ordered by law to do it.

        * There are exceptions, of course. A religious conservative is probably not likely to support Planned Parenthood, just like a liberal atheist is unlikely to teach Sunday school. But I think that’s a good thing — people can follow their passion.

        1. grace*

          Yeah, there’s a ton of research on charitable givings by political affiliation, and generally conservatives are more likely to give.

          It’s more likely that older people are more finicky about appearance, but that’s not always the case – there’s a lot of younger people who also believe there is a time and a place for pushing the envelope. Personally I think a stud is less noticeable than a ring, which may be why it was initially allowed.

        2. Alice*

          The literature suggests that the key factor isn’t political identity but religiosity (religious identify and religious attendance).
          Hot off the presses:
          Margolis, M.F., Sances, M.W. Partisan Differences in Nonpartisan Activity: The Case of Charitable Giving (2017) Political Behavior, 39 (4), pp. 839-864.

    2. bluelyon*

      Arts may be dicey for that reason.
      But – philanthropy is something that happens on both sides of the aisle, does not skew as old as you seem to think it does when you broaden it to a national scale. Especially considering more recent trends of Gen X, and Millennial donors to not wait for major estate gifts but rather to give while they’re young and engaged.
      Beyond that, the elderly and the rich are generally not as uptight as they’re made out to be. For every Patty Simcox there was a Rizzo etc.

      1. bluelyon*

        That’s good to hear – I’m in development and my choices primarily revolve around whether or not I have a meeting.
        I’ve worked in several types of non-profits but museums haven’t been one of them.
        One thing I’ve noticed throughout transitions between org types is that donors would generally prefer good solid workers regardless of their hair color or tattoo status. (obviously there is always an exception but generally that’s held true)

    3. Ramona Flowers*

      I don’t know if that’s true in the US but I work for a mental health charity and we have a really diverse mix of supporters. People often donate to us due to personal experience and sometimes that’s because they lost someone to suicide.

  16. Who the eff is Hank?*

    Good luck OP! I want to re-pierce my nose but I know my current job won’t allow it. As someone with a more ‘alternative’ look, I think it’s nice to see companies who are willing to change these sorts of rules with the times and social norms.

  17. AstronautPants*

    I wish I worked at a non-profit where I could wear a ring or a stud in my nose! Higher education is so behind the curve on this, and it’s funny to me because I introduce donors to students who are covered in piercings and tattoos that they happily talk to and fund, while we can’t show either at work. I hope your tactics work, and that this changes for all of us soon!

    1. Murphy*

      Really? That’s surprising. I’m in higher ed and there are several people in my office with unnatural hair colors and visible tattoos. Not sure about facial piercings. I guess if you’re dealing with donors it might be different.

    2. The light shall break anon*

      That’s funny–I teach in higher ed and the dress code for faculty is so lax as to be almost nonexistent. I mean I couldn’t wear a bikini to work but other than that, there’s a wide, wide range. We have faculty with various combinations of piercings, bright hair, and tattoos, but also people who wear a suit to class every day.

      Then again, I teach in a rural underfunded public institution, so that’s probably the difference.

      1. Natalie*

        I think it’s more of a faculty/staff difference – as far as I can tell, faculty are their own class of employees with a lot of leeway on certain things like personal dress. Even in the business school where a lot of my classmates wore a suit and tie, I had professors that would be buried in a stained Professional Sports Team sweatshirt and basketball shorts.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Oh, wild! We don’t have nose piercing restrictions (although I think some staff positions do not allow facial piercings for safety reasons, and others do not allow septum piercings) at my Higher Ed workplace. And of course there aren’t such restrictions for faculty.

    4. Ramona Flowers*

      I’ve worked in higher ed as an associate lecturer (journalism) and later in admin and student support. Nobody blinked an eyelid at my tattoos. I think it must really vary.

  18. MLHD*

    I’m with the OP on allowing the nose rings, but it’s honestly not difficult or dangerous to take out your own nose ring. I’ve done is dozens of times and my piercer never said anything about it being recommended to have them do it. That just seems strange to me.

    1. Curious Cat*

      Eh, swapping out jewelry is just such an individual thing, though. I have some piercings that technically I could do on my own, but since piercers do it for free as long as you bring the jewelry, I feel more comfortable having a professional do it. Could be OP feels along those same lines

    2. peachie*

      If it’s a captive bead ring, I would not do it myself. I know you can, but I’ve tried and I will not try again.

  19. Catalyst*

    I am lucky and can wear my nose ring to work even though I am in accounting. I would like to suggest to the OP, if they won’t change the rule, that you look for a ring that is a 3/4 hoop with a flat back. This is what I wear and it is really easy to change out myself so when I attend professional functions I can wear a stud. Just a thought. As noted above, once your piercing is healed changing it out (especially this kind) should be no problem.

    See link below for an example – But please note I have never purchased from this seller, I am just using this as an example –

  20. CAinUK*

    My take-away was actually that your manager isn’t managing this well.

    If you manager agrees with all of you (as she said) why is she making you go to the higher-ups to argue the case, instead of doing this herself? That’s literally her job as a manager: if enforcing this policy will decrease morale and is not necessary, she should push back and argue the case. Instead she is passing on the difficult/awkward conversation to you!

  21. Farzin*

    As a person of South Asian descent, employer hand-wringing about nose jewelry confuses me. A body modification that signals “counter-culture” in the West may simply be part of ancestral culture elsewhere in the world, and I think that is important to remember as globalization continues to shape the workforce. I have a nose piercing and work in a pretty conservative profession. I thought about removing my jewelry when I interviewed for my current job, but it felt wrong to do so. I’m glad I kept it in. I understand not everyone has the choice, of course. You gotta do what you gotta do.

    OP, I second Catalyst’s suggestion to find a 3/4 hoop with a flat back– they’re much simpler to change than captive bead rings. I switch between those and a nose screw frequently.

    1. NW Mossy*

      This was one of my first thoughts – it’s not always just an aesthetic choice, and the cultural component matters to many people. Years ago, I worked with a colleague who was not of South Asian heritage herself but married into it, and she got a nose piercing as part of a larger embrace of her husband’s culture and religious practice. It’d put me off more than a little if she was asked to modify it without a clear explanation of why it’s unsafe or inappropriate.

      1. Farzin*

        My thoughts exactly. The idea that older, conservative people universally consider nose piercings ~*wILD aNd cRaZY!*~ is a smidge culturally ethnocentric, too.

      2. Thursday Next*

        The reason I *didn’t* get a nose ring when it became more of a thing in the 90s was because my (South Asian) grandmothers had them, so it seemed old-fashioned to me!

        But I think many policies have exceptions for certain kind of religious and cultural clothing and accessories. (For instance, Sikhs in the NYPD can wear turbans and have beards.) My impression from the OP was that this situation doesn’t fall into that category.

      1. Farzin*

        In my line of work, there’s no practical or safety justification for dictating employee jewelry choices like this. I’m already one of just 2 people of colour at my office, and the only one who can’t pass for white, so…without some kind of justification I would 100% feel targeted.

  22. MuseumChick*

    Just be very careful to frame this as a request to consider not (as other have mentioned) what went down with the intern dress code petition.

    Alison offers some great wording. Keep your tone light and upbeat, “Of course we will honor the dress code here, it may take a little time because noise piercings have to be switched out by a professional. In the mean time, would you be open to considering some changes to the dress code? Piercings are become a lot more accepted and our clients seem to respond really well to the alternative looks we have in the office. What do you think?”

  23. Kay*

    I understand the frustration with having to change jewelry, but saying that you’ll all have to go to a piercer to have the jewelry switched out sounds like something someone has come up with as an argument for someone who doesn’t know much about piercings. Once the piercing is healed (6-8 weeks or so), it is really easy to change the jewelry yourself. I’ve had a nose ring and septum ring for eleven years, and I take them out every night when I wash my face. It would be really easy to switch from a ring to a stud each day, and I think many people with nose piercings would agree. That said, I hope you can push back on this successfully! Nose rings are so common these days that it seems silly to ban them, especially after the fact.

    1. seejay*

      How about we take the letter writer at their word that they can’t (and some of their coworkers) can’t change the jewelry on their own? I’ve had non-conventional piercings for almost 30 years at this point and many of them I would 100% go to a professional piercer to swap out because of the safety issues with it. Yes, some of them I do on my own, but others are not that easily removable without professional equipment and I would not want to be swapping the jewelry out on a day to day basis.

    2. OP*

      Some of them were relatively new piercings and mine was a CBR which I have had a nightmare trying to change myself in the past!

  24. DivineMissL*

    I’m a little confused about why all of these people already have rings, if they were already aware that the dress code specified no rings allowed. Why complain about having to take the trouble to remove the rings after getting caught, when they know they shouldn’t have them in to begin with?

    I may get abused for this, but I’ll admit to being one of the old fogeys – in doing business with someone, I don’t notice the ABSENCE of facial piercings, but if I see it, it’s all I can look at, I have trouble focusing on what the person is talking about since I’m cringing inside. But, if the OP wants to convince management to reconsider, I support your efforts!

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yeah, this is a good question. If the nose rings were already a violation of dress code, why do so many people have them? Was the code not publicized, or simply not followed?

    2. Tuxedo Cat*

      Some people don’t know the dress code that well. I used to be a lab TA in grad school. We were all required to wear close-toed shoes. Not everyone did until the lab manager started enforcing that.

      1. Yorick*

        But it’s an employee’s duty to follow the dress code, even if the manager isn’t breathing down their neck about it.

    3. Canto Bight*

      I don’t think anything in the letter indicated they were already aware about the dress code. I know very few people who actually read their employee manual cover to cover instead of just looking around and conforming to the norms they see in the office. There might be a clause about rings vs studs buried somewhere in a written dress code they received along with a bunch of other paperwork their first day, but if the managers didn’t notice or enforce it, it really doesn’t sound like all the people on the team were deliberately flouting a known rule and are now complaining about “getting caught.”

      Good luck in your struggles with your focus. I can’t imagine being so distracted by someone else’s jewelry that I wouldn’t be able to do my job effectively, so I really feel for you and your coworkers. I hope you find a way to overcome this!

    4. MuseumChick*

      I can understand it being distracting in a very conservative work environment but these standards are changing so rapidly (see: Bobak Ferdowsi , a guy with a multi colored Mohawk who works for NASA) that I find it odd that more work places are not actively reviewing and updating their dress codes.

    5. Camellia*

      I posted this question above – were they hired with those nose rings already in place? If so, they have a stronger case for keeping them.

  25. HRM*

    Just a note for others commenting, I have worked in the nonprofit sector before (social work, a mental health clinic, rehabilitation center, etc.) and visible tattoos/piercings is a lot more common in those types of settings than in traditional or conservative fields, so I don’t think asking is too far out of the norm really. It’s not the same as a say, a paralegal trying to convince Big Law that they need to amend their dress code.

  26. Serin*

    I had a newspaper internship my junior year of college. The newspaper used to take a pair of interns each quarter (so six a year, in pairs), and they housed us in this perfectly awful apartment complex that had been a motel when it was built.

    The permanent newsroom staff told a lot of Intern Stories — like the guy who got arrested for climbing the wall at the Y to look through the window of the women’s changing room and had to be bailed out of jail by the managing editor, and the girl who was sent to do a story on the preschool ballet recital (it was a small town) and wrote a review so savage that parents were sending death threats, and the girl who wrote a steamy letter to her boyfriend on the newsroom computer and then printed it to a printer in a locked room and couldn’t retrieve it before everyone else had a chance to read it.

    But one of the favorite stories was about a young guy who lived in the same apartment complex and viewed the intern apartments as kind of like the New Books shelf at the library — “oh, hey, I’ll drop by and see if there’s anything new that I’d like to take home.” One intern was so upset when he broke up with her that on her last day she carded his apartment door open, took a bath in his tub, and shaved every hair off her body. Then she packed up and left town, and he came home to a bathtub full of warm water and stubble

    1. Serin*

      aw, man, I meant to comment on the workplace romance article! If someone’s moderating, can you delete this? Thanks!

    2. Emi.*

      I can’t imagine receiving a steamy typed letter. That sort of thing should be hand-written! Good grief.

  27. Casuan*

    This is one of those things that at first people might be a bit taken aback if they aren’t used to seeing others with nose rings, although this can be said for anything someone isn’t used to. Years ago, I worked at MajorThemePark & there was a strict code on personal appearance. The premise for the code was that the guests shouldn’t be focussed on a cast member’s appearance because the company wanted the guests to be focussed on their holiday, especially since many families would save for years for their family dream vacation… of course, that meant more income for the company.

    OP, your company might be concerned that the clients are so focussed on your jewellery that they aren’t focussed on the business at hand. If you suspect this is true, then you should address it in your proposal.
    Good luck!!

    confession: With my allergies it’s difficult for me to understand the logistics of allergies & any nose piercings!
    fuller confession: Unless the nose ring is very small, I don’t like the aesthetics. That said, I think that one should wear whatever they want. If it makes one feel good, then I’m all for it!

    1. Nonsenical*

      I know where you worked with the big old mouse. :)

      And the only place to call employees cast members.

      1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        And one of the few places I’ve ever been where the dress code was so conservative & squeaky clean, that the employees actually stand out MORE than if they were just your average person.
        I’ve gone there my entire life (50+ years) and never could figure out why the employees looked so unnatural until I had friends that worked the parades (which had slightly more relaxed standards) who showed me what the dress code actually was.
        Then again this was the place that refused some of us entry in the 1980s because our dyed hair and wacky thrift store clothes were supposedly going to detract all the tourists attention from their carefully designed, multi-million $$$ mega theme park.

    2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

      PS I have allergies, and also three nose piercings- both nostrils and septum, the oldest of which I’ve had since 1985. Doesn’t interfere with wiping or blowing my nose at all, and I’ve worn both rings & screws.

  28. Kara_Lynn*

    Alison’s feedback here really shines. This is why we need someone who can give this kind of solid perspective.

  29. sleepyhead*

    I didn’t have time to go through all the comments, but in case you do have to change, definitely get a screw stud – they’re super easy to take in and out and have no backing. I wore it for a couple of years and never lost it.

    I also don’t keep my ring fastened (I took the ball out) so if needed, I can take it out myself. I just make sure the gap in the ring is inside my nose so no one can see it.

  30. Ruth (UK)*

    I’m really glad my piercings haven’t been an issue in my workplaces since I’ve had them. I used to work in food retail where you could only have 1 pair of earlobe studs and nothing more.

    Currently, I have 8 piercings (all in my ears though). My previous job was a call centre that had no official dress code because we never dealt with anyone face to face. My current job is administrative in a university, and while there is a dress-code (smart casual), piercings are not specifically covered in it. I doubt they will be though seeing as some of the academics and/or higher ups also have piercings (other than ear lobes) and/or tattoos and the attitude towards them tends to either be positive or neutral. We also deal with students who often have interesting hairstyles (eg. rainbow, pink, green, plus interesting cuts etc), or less traditional piercings, etc. so it’s not like we’re dealing with a client-base that would typically be put off by say, a rook piercing.

    Anyway, it sounds like the OP has a good chance here – as their company has made 2 changes in this direction already in switching to allowing tattoos and to allowing nose studs. And going from allowing just nose studs to also allowing nose rings too is a smaller / less dramatic change than going from no nose piercings at all to nose studs. Also, because it would affect several people – it’s easier to make one person make a change than to ask a whole group.

    I would guess that even if they’re not successful this time round, the company may end up shifting this way anyway at some point over the next few years. Especially as piercings do continue to become more mainstream acceptable (including in otherwise more formal workplaces).

    But I hope they’re successful this time round. I feel like my piercings are a ‘semi-permanent’ part of my appearance (eg. comparable to my hair length, as opposed to whether or not I’ve tied it back). It would be a shame if they were forced into changing them.

    Maybe even if they can’t convince the company to allow them generally in the dress code, they can convince them to allow people who currently have nose rings to keep them (but not allow anyone to begin wearing them for the first time)?

  31. Nariko*

    I do HR Management in mental health, and we do not allow nose rings (among many other forms of jewelry) because we work with acute mental health patients who may be violent, and it is a real possibility that they may rip the ring out of your nose (or ear, or brow, etc.) and cause injury. A stud doesn’t represent the same liability as it is harder to get a hold of, and would be less likely to rip the skin.

    My point is, please be aware, depending on your patient population, there may be a real reason for the policy as it is. That being said, I have also made changes to dress code policies to allow for things like visible tattoos and unnatural hair colors, so it can be done! Good luck!

  32. essEss*

    I agree that different people may like nose rings, and I don’t want to get into the debate about whether they should be allowed or not.
    But when I’m talking to someone with a nose ring, I cannot look at them in the face. The nose ring or stud looks like a booger hanging out of the nose and it truly makes me nauseated. I’m talking literal nausea reaction, not some figurative phrasing and it’s a completely reflexive reaction. So from a customer perspective, a nose ring makes it difficult for me. Especially when I see them on my waitstaff serving me food. I have to try not to look at them when they are talking to me in order to control my reaction.

    1. peachie*

      I mean, I sometimes get anxious when I’m around someone with large hoop earrings because I can’t stop myself from thinking about them getting caught on something and ripped out, but… I’m pretty sure that’s a me problem?

    2. Frank Doyle*

      “I don’t want to continue the discussion that this letter is about, I just want everybody to know how other people’s jewelry makes me feel.”

      1. essEss*

        Yes exactly. I don’t feel that MY personal reaction warrants telling people that they can’t wear them or that a company shouldn’t allow them or that my opinion trumps everyone else’s opinion But if you are wondering how others react to your nose ring, this is my PERSONAL reaction.

        1. Devoted Lurker*

          “But if you are wondering how others react to your nose ring, this is my PERSONAL reaction.”

          But like…was anyone wondering that?

    3. Argh!*

      Sometimes a ring on the septum makes me think of a cow or a bull, and it’s hard to focus after that thought has crossed my mind. I picture myself hooking up a dog leash and pulling the person around. Tongue piercings used to make me squeamish but now I just think the person looks stupid. It is a bit distracting if you don’t see a lot of it in your daily life.

  33. OP*

    Hey there, OP here! This happened a couple months ago and we actually decided not to push the issue. We certainly didn’t want to be like the infamous petition-circulating interns and sort of came to the conclusion that if this is the price of admission to work here, that was okay. We all switched to studs. For us, once the emotion died down it just wasn’t important enough to use capital on. Thank you to Alison for the thoughtful response and to the commenters for your thoughts!

    1. Ruth (UK)*

      Thanks for the update. It’s a shame you had to make the switch, but I’m glad it ended up being not a big deal for you afterall.

      If my workplace banned my piercings, I’d remove or change them as, like you, it’s not a hill I’d be willing to die on and I would much rather keep my job (and not shake things up) than my piercings! That said, I’d still feel pretty sad about it!

      Maybe one day in the future, your company will shift towards allowing them as they become more mainstream acceptable.

    2. SallytooShort*

      Thanks for the update! I’m sorry you had to switch but I’m glad you are all mostly OK with it. And that you can at least wear studs.

      FWIW I do think this would be different from the intern thing. First because you’d be more polite and smart about it. But more importantly because I consider interns to be guests at an establishment, in a sense. Both they and the employer are testing each other out to see if it is a fit. It’s different as an actual employee to band together and make a reasonable request.

    3. Sunshine Brite*

      Did you get more clarification at all about the concern? I’m still thinking a safety issue.

  34. peachie*

    I really appreciate that AAM is a space where this kind of conversation can take place respectfully rather than immediately veering into “You’re lucky you have a job at all! Take out your nose ring, punk!” territory. I do have a nose ring–septum–and while I don’t wear it at work, I always bristle at this idea that it’s somehow presumptuous to want to do something as innocuous as wear a tiny ring on your nose or have an unnatural hair color while also having a job. It’s not the hill I’d die on, either, but still.

    1. galatea*

      Right? I’ve had people give me flak for my haircut (short, boyish), and every time it’s like — I cannot manage to expend the energy to care, tbh.

    2. 1.0*

      It’s a good way to weed out jerks – the number of people who unprompted decide to tell me their thoughts on my piercings or tattoos is astounding, and lets me know not to waste my time

  35. Fabulous*

    Our managers were informed by someone else that they had noticed that several on our team have rings, and that that they would need to ask us to remove them and replace them with studs as per the dress code.

    I thought a nose stud counted as a nose ring??? Unless the dress code specifically allowing studs and not rings, I would argue that point exactly. Nose studs are nose rings, and therefore nose rings are allowed by policy. The septum piercing is another animal entirely in my opinion, but it doesn’t sound like OP is talking about that.

    On a separate note, I’ve had a stud in for 11 years and only had issues with one employer, for whom I did NOT remove it since it was still healing at the time (they didn’t bring it up again either). One of the clients I met with at my next employer, a fancy wealth management firm, even loved the fact that I had a nose ring and commented on it every time he saw me! A nose ring is one of the tamest piercings a person can get nowadays. Hopefully this works out in your favor OP!

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think it’s true that studs are the same as rings, though, any more than dress codes that allow stud earrings are allowing hoops. And since it’s clear that management is already saying that rings are not included under that definition I wouldn’t argue the issue based on the definition.

    2. Someone else*

      I have seen many a dress code that explicitly used language regarding “piercings” and distinguishing between “studs” vs “all other styles of pierced jewelry” or something to that effect. OP’s post made it sounds like that’s what in place where they work. Colloquially, sure, plenty of people might use “rings” as synonymous with “anything you put in a piercing”. However, the definition of “ring” isn’t the point once they say “studs OK, else not OK”. There’s little to gain by arguing the semantics of the already-written policy unless one had received, say, some sort of official reprimand and wanted that removed, which isn’t the case here. It didn’t sound like the existing policy is ambiguous.

  36. FellowMHEmployee*

    Is it a safety issue at all, OP? I could see a loopy ring being easier for an escalated client to grab than a stud. Kinda like how you might be told to be aware of what earrings you wear and what hairstyle you might choose when you go to work.

    What you’re describing doesn’t sound like a safety issue, but I thought it was worth putting out there.

  37. Penny Lane*

    “Our managers said that they couldn’t even picture who had a ring when this was brought to their attention because they are all so unobtrusive. They said that they hated the fact that they had to ask us to remove them.”

    Do you think that this is true, or do you think this is just polite murmurings? I don’t care for nose rings (which is neither here nor there, it doesn’t matter what my personal aesthetic opinion is of anyone’s self-presentation) but if I were instructed to tell my employees to remove them, I might just mouth platitudes that “OMG, I hate to ask you this, upper management is being so jerky” but secretly I might be just fine or at least neutral with it.

  38. Kelly*

    Viva la piercings! I’ve had a nose piercing since forever, I work in healthcare where piercings are not a thing. I’ve never had anyone complain that I know of, and I almost always have a small, clear crystal stud. I loathe changing it ever, so it just stays the same.

    OP – glad you are happy with the outcome!

    1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

      As someone who has dealt with chronic illness my entire life, can I just say how awesome it is that healthcare is an industry where dress codes on piercings & tattoos started changing early? So much more comforting when I’m sick to be around people I feel like I can trust, and won’t be judging me on my looks.

  39. Pip*

    If you work with LGBT groups at all, I don’t know if there is any research on it but I know from a lot of people just anecdotally talking about it that they find facial piercings to immediately endearing because they identify the pierced person as either a queer person or an ally because people with facial piercings generally “get it”. TOTALLY anecdotal though, although I have heard it from multiple people.

    1. Frank Doyle*

      As people have said above, piercers usually won’t charge, so you’re just talking the cost of the jewelry, which can be pretty cheap.

  40. Kelly*

    I accidentally pulled my nose stud out drying off after my shower this morning, and debated putting in a hoop rather than the stud, then I thought “what would AAM say”, and popped the stud back in :)

  41. Christina*

    Our organization uses the “first-letter-of-first-name + last name” as our email alias? At the time, my first letter of my first name + the first letter of my last name happened to “match” our CEO’s. Many times I email myself To-Do items so I won’t forget…you know where I’m going with this…
    I accidentally emailed my CEO with the subject line “Print out soccer schedule”

  42. al oof*

    if they are letting you wear studs, I’m guessing it’s a safety issue? I can’t imagine there are clients who would be upset or put off by a nose ring but not a nose stud. Seems like you could at least ask about it.

    However, I’m really commenting to say, if you end up unable to wear rings, consider getting a clicker ring. I have my septum pierced and was frustrated that I couldn’t just take my jewelry off and put it on when I wanted. Largely because my mom hates it and I don’t really care to upset her for no reason. I was flipping my captive bead ring up to hide it, but it wasn’t comfortable, and I actually really wanted a complete ring.

    if you haven’t seen them, clickers are hinged jewelry, so they make hoops that just open and close and you don’t need a professional to put it in or out. I got mine just from amazon (stainless steel hoop, maybe 10 bucks) and I take it on and off constantly (being able to take it out and thoroughly blow my nose has really upped my quality of life) and neither the hinge nor the click have gotten worn out yet.

  43. Gadget Hackwrench*

    Okay am I the only one being rubbed wrong by the repeated implication here that mental health clients are dangerous to work with? An undifferentiated population of people with mental health issues are no more likely to attack someone or grab jewelry than the general population. If we were talking about an acute inpatient program or something where the people in question were already sorted out as a danger to themselves or others this would make sense, but we’re talking about a non profit community organization. That’s almost certainly voluntary outpatient. No added risk over the general population.

Comments are closed.