how much social media use at work is too much, how to cancel an interview with a rude job candidate, and more

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

1. How much social media use at work is too much?

How much personal social media use at work is too much? I’m fine with my staff taking five-minute Facebook breaks a couple of times throughout the day, but I’m afraid I have a few that are pushing the boundaries of acceptable use. I know I have at least one employee actively tweeting throughout their workday, and it makes me question the level of attention they are giving to their job. We are in a customer-service industry, where most employees spend about half of their shift at a service desk and half of their shift working on computers at cubicles in a shared work environment.

The most important thing you can do when you’re worried about someone’s productivity is to look at their actual work output and work quality. Are they meeting their goals, meeting deadlines, being responsive to customers and colleagues, and producing the caliber and quantity of work that you’d expect? If so, then I’d generally leave social media use alone, unless there’s an optics issue (like if customers can see their screens and it looks bad — in which case that’s the piece that you’d address). But if they’re not meeting your expectations in those areas, then you’d want to more closely manage their work — the social media use is just incidental to the bigger problem. (There are times where it can make sense to point out that someone shouldn’t be online so much when they’re not meeting expectation X or Y — but you’d be pointing that out as a piece of what they need to change to solve the work issue.)

That said, it’s understandable that you’re wondering if someone tweeting all day long is truly focused on work. I’d take that as a flag to pay more attention to that person’s output and responsiveness. It’s possible her work is great and she’s able to take a two-minute Twitter break every hour without it negatively affecting anything. It’s also possible that she’s unfocused and disengaged. Looking at her work will tell you which of these it is, and whether there’s a work issue you need to address or not.

2. How to cancel an interview with a rude job applicant

We are hiring for several positions on our large campus. A woman, Sally, who we had moved forward with in the hiring process and scheduled an in-person interview, came into part of our campus where customers and clients are allowed. Sally told the staff she met that she needed “to learn something about this place” because she “didn’t know anything about it.” According to a manager and another high-ranking employee, Sally made it known she was interviewing with us, was very rude and demanding, and acted in a generally unprofessional and unpleasant manner. The manager present introduced herself as a manager, and when the Sally found out she was not the hiring manager, said it wasn’t worth her time to talk to her.

We have had a lot of great candidates for this position, and after hearing about Sally’s behavior, I would not hire her. We are getting handfuls of qualified applicants daily. Can we cancel her interview, and if so, how do we phrase it? Do I need to tell her it is because of her antics and behavior towards the staff? Her interview is early next week.

You can indeed cancel her interview, and whether or not to tell her why is up to you. It’s likely not worth explaining though — she sounds likely to argue about you with the decision, and there’s no point in spending your time on that. It’s probably easier to just go with something like: “Unfortunately, we’ve had a change in plans on our end and need to cancel the interview we had scheduled for Wednesday. We wish you all the best in your search.” If she asks for more information, you can say, “We’ve decided to focus on other candidates as finalists for the role.”

3. Professional styles for long hair

I know you’ve addressed how to dress professionally a lot. I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of that at this point. My question is, how do you style your hair to be professional? I know to keep it clean and out of your face but what are options? As a note, I also have really long hair and I generally need to keep it pulled back more. I usually wear it in a braid but I feel that that doesn’t read as a professional look.

Try a bun or a ponytail. Even a messy bun is fine in most offices, unless you work somewhere particularly conservative. If you want other options, chignons, French twists, and gibson tucks all look polished and professional.

4. People who miss info in the email they’re responding to

From time to time, when I send out information about a meeting or an event via email, one of the recipients will respond with a question about info that was already provided — in the very email they responded to! For example, I’ll send out a meeting reminder that says “We’re scheduled to meet next Tuesday from 3 – 4:30 p.m. in the Blue Conference Room. See you then!” And someone will respond with something along the lines of “Thanks for the reminder! What room are we going to be meeting in?”

I know it’s a minor annoyance but it is frustrating when it’s clear that people aren’t even fully reading the message you sent them before responding with a question. Most of the time I let it go and just respond with the requested info, but sometimes I want to include something along the lines of “As was stated in the original message, the meeting is going to be in the Blue Conference Room.” Sometimes I want to do that because I don’t want people to think I’m not communicating information clearly the first time around (and yeah, a little because I’m annoyed!) but on the other hand it feels like it might come across as a little … snippy? Or maybe just passive-aggressive? What are your thoughts?

Yeah, it sounds a little snippy. It’s completely understandable that you’re frustrated, but you also don’t want to sound snippy with people who are probably just busy and thus not fully processing emails. (And yeah, they should be paying more attention — and if they wrote in, I’d tell them that. But you’re the one writing in, and it’s not in your best interests to be snippy to colleagues.)

That said, it’s fine to say something like “All the info is below!” That reinforces that you didn’t forget to include important into, but is less pointed than “as was stated in the original message.”

5. My boss expects a really long notice period

My current job is fine overall, but I have been vocal about wanting more responsibility and have not received it despite stellar reviews and feedback. I am not eligible for promotions (at all) and have realized that my current salary is below market value. I also believe we are being illegally underpaid as we are considered non-exempt and scheduled 45+ hours per week and not paid any overtime. All of this has led me to start looking for other jobs.

My manager is not a great one and has historically gotten very upset with other admins that leave, regardless of reason, and expects extremely long notice periods. For example, four weeks was too short when a colleague decided to leave last summer. I’m not counting my chickens before they hatch, but if and when I do accept another offer, what are some key phrases I can use when she accuses me of leaving her and the company high and dry? For the record, she thinks that notice period should be long enough to find and train a replacement, not to transition the former employee out. I plan on giving two weeks in order to minimize the awkwardness and hopefully give myself some time in between jobs to transition. I’d like to do this as cordially as possible in order to not burn any bridges.

She’s being unreasonable and has weird and out-of-the-norm ideas about how much notice is reasonable to expect, but you’re right that it’s in your best interests to handle this cordially if you can. I’d just go with, “I wish I could give more notice! Unfortunately I can’t give more than the standard two weeks because of when the new job needs me to start.” (Note that I snuck “standard” in there to see if it helps.) If she argues with that, then you can say, “I understand more notice would be great if I could do it, but two weeks is pretty standard, and unfortunately my new start date means I can’t do more.”

And then if she still complains, try changing the subject to your actual transition: “Let me tell you about my plan for documenting my work and transitioning my projects, so you can tell me if you want me to prioritize anything differently.”

{ 543 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#3, I’m not sure how long your hair is or its texture, so apologies if this is not helpful. Assuming your braided hair comes past your shoulders, I’d switch to an updo. It’ll look neater, and in some cases, you can do a braid that’s then styled up (e.g. french braid pulled into a bun, more formal variations of milkmaid braids, etc.).

    And since there are about 50 ways to style a bun/twist/tuck, you can switch up the style so it’s more comfortable and doesn’t pull or give you headaches.

    1. Beth

      Seconding this–putting a braid into a bun will condense long hair efficiently. I love a french twist but it won’t work as well after a certain length of hair. If your hair is really very long, like waist-length or longer, the Long Hair Community forums might be helpful–they have a pinned thread in the forum all about hairstyles for very long hair. (Not sure if I can post links, but Google will find this for you.) My impression is that most users have straight/wavy hair, so if you have a tight curl pattern that site might not be as helpful.

      1. Anonny For Now

        When I had super long hair (waist length), I’d wear it in a bun – put it in a regular ponytail (usually fairly high, though not on top of the head). Split your hair into two sections and start twisting each. When you start to twist them, they’ll start wrapping around each other, then around the base of the ponytail. When it’s in a bun, take another hair tie and wrap it around. I was usually able to get away with just that, maybe a bobby pin or two if ends were sticking out weird.

        You can also check out dance bun holders (no idea what they’re called). I tried ballet in high school (at peak hair length) and got a… hair net is definitely not the right term, but it was a little net that just held the bun and tucked into the back of your head. If you have dark hair it’s hardly noticeable… maybe not so much with lighter hair.

        1. Clorinda

          “snood”
          And for medium length thinnish hair, if you want a decent looking bun, you can get a bun form–that and a couple of elastic bands make a good, quick, professional-looking ballerina style bun (also can be positioned lower on the head for a different look).

          1. AKchic

            Yep. Snoods are awesome and come in a variety of colors and materials for different needs. I personally use them for renaissance/medieval period headwear, but occasionally toss one in if my hair is too long but can’t cut it because fair season is so close and I need the length.

        2. Nic

          Yeah, they’re still hair nets (or bun nets). They’re just made of hair/fine thread in natural hair colours instead of the crocheted 1940s hair nets that people think of sometimes.

      2. starsaphire

        Absolutely seconding a visit to the LHC forums! Great supportive network there, and lots of pics and ideas!

      1. Stella70

        Both Walmart and Walgreens have them to buy online, as does eBay. Just Google the specific product name, as in this one. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Scunci-Real-Style-Hollywood-Roll-Hairband-1-0-CT-Assorted-items/41316323?wmlspartner=wlpa&selectedSellerId=0&wl13=3364&adid=22222222228028933961&wl0=&wl1=s&wl2=m&wl3=48412053872&wl4=pla-97822137392&wl5=9019521&wl6=&wl7=&wl8=&wl9=pla&wl10=8175035&wl11=local&wl12=41316323&wl13=3364&veh=sem&gclid=CjwKCAiAiJPkBRAuEiwAEDXZZeDFBQcvj0ao12lzhvOa4424t1d2ZBa_A5CtPOu2IGFJpQcLdt7dlRoC5_wQAvD_BwE

      2. Kaffeekocherin

        If you need a headband with extra foam/padding (to “fill up” the roll at the back of your head), you could check out Claire’s, beauty supply shops or any store with cheap jewellry/trinkets for teens/children. In my experience, with a bit of practice you don’t need the padding, so any tight headband will do; so you could also check out H&M or dollar stores in addition to Claire’s etc.

      3. wittyrepartee

        I used one of these before. Not my favorite thing, the foam made the style look kind of silly, especially if it became a little loose during the day.

    2. just a random teacher

      As someone with knee-length hair (my particular hair is thick and capable of being either straight or wavy depending on what happens to it as it dries, if that helps) and very few Fancy Hair Skills, what I do when I need particularly “professional” hair is mostly try to make it look unobtrusive so people don’t notice it being unusually long. I start by braiding it into a single braid down my back and tie that off. Then, I thread a small diameter similar-to-my-hair-colored ribbon through the end of that just above the tie, gently twist the braid around itself, and tuck the end of my hair (with the ribbon) through the point at the back of my neck where the braid starts under the braid, then wrap the ribbon around that whole thing a couple of times and tie a bow. The end result looks like a very contained braid/ponytail/bun thing, and will stay behind my head and obscured by my neck while anyone is looking at me.

      Usually, the first day people who usually see me in “professional” mode instead see me in “hey, at least I showered today and that’s as far as personal grooming is going to go until I’ve had substantially more coffee” loose hair mode, they are surprised to discover that I have long hair, so I guess it works.

      (My daily hairstyle these days is not neither of these and is probably not particularly professional, but I work in a school where people dress very casually right now and could probably come to school in ripped jeans and a hoodie without consequence, so I wear my hair the way I like to without worrying about it. I used to wear my hair the way earlier described both when interviewing and when substitute teaching.)

      1. Sorrel

        I love doing the ribbon thing – it creates a really sturdy hair style. It used to be the main method of tying hair up (back when women always had long hair). But is a bit of a lost art!

        1. wittyrepartee

          I was just going to say this- taping hair like that was how ladies of the middle ages got themselves prepped to go out. Gotta keep that hair back as you scythe the fields and milk the cows! It can be very pretty too.

    3. Tiny Soprano

      I used to do the Princess Leia on Hoth hairstyle (braid wrapped around the head) when I found a bun was too heavy. Distributes the weight more evenly around the head to avoid headaches, and will sort the true Star Wars fans from the rabble. If your hair is particularly straight or well-behaved it might even last a couple of days. Mine isn’t, so I always have a sizeable nimbus of flyaways that I can’t do anything about except own with confidence. My only other tip is for those days when you just can’t, red lipstick makes messy hair look expensive.

      1. Anna

        I have thick hair that is fairly long (over my shoulders) and I’ve done this a few times. Advantages are that it is really comfortable, hair is all contained on the head and the weight is distributed evenly (as you say); and that it makes me feel awesome like Princess Leia. Disadvantage is that it takes (me) relatively long (20-30 mins) to put it up this way. And also that I’m not sure how professional it is, I worry that it can equally be nerdy, farmer girl or Yulia Timoshenko.

        1. Lora

          Yes! I go for the Yulia Timoshenko look at work when I have time to have any hygiene beyond bun + hair fork.

          OP, I have some fancy hair forks from Etsy that I poke into a messy bun. Make a ponytail, grab it halfway down, twist it up until it curls on itself and wrap into a bun, poke hair fork through making sure to poke one point behind the ponytail holder. I get frizzies and bits falling out, so I usually put some leave in conditioner in as well to give frizzies a sort of curly, “I meant to do that” look.

    4. HannahS

      I used to have waist-length hair. If you’re doing updos, you need those spiral shaped pins. Well, you don’t NEED them, but WOW they are so helpful. I could replace six bobby pins with two of them when doing a bun.

      1. SpinPinFan

        I will second these. I have waist-length baby fine hair that spits out regular bobby pins. Spiral pins hold the hair really well and don’t migrate out.

      2. Ada

        Alternatively, good-quality U-shaped hair pins. Don’t bother with the flimsy ones from Wal-Mart. Beauty supply stores should have heavier duty kinds for fairly cheap (<$5), and I've found they work even better than the spiral pins for my thick, heavy, and slippery hip-length hair. Oh, and don't bother with the plastic kind. They break so easily, you'll probably go through a pack a week. Stick with the metal kind.

      3. Former Help Desk Peon

        LOVE these spiral pins. I bought them 10 at a time online. My go to for mid back length hair was a french twist secured with 2 spiral pins.

      4. Dust Bunny

        I have hip-length. stick-straight, hair and use the long old-fashoined u-shaped pins. I got them from a Mennonite store through Amazon, of all places; they’re actually sturdier and better quality than the vintage hairpins I already had.

      5. Hapless Bureaucrat

        I liked those, back when I had waist- length hair. My standard, though, was metal roller pins– the kind designed to secure hair rollers. Two of those, stuck at the 2 o’clock and 11 o’clock positions in a coiled bun, would stay all day with no fuss. The pins are cheap and available most places.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Our family version of this was a steady diet of straight hair pins. Growing up, I didn’t know bobby pins were a distinct thing! (My mom would call both types of pins “bobby pins”—super confusing). For my super long slightly wavy hair, 2-3 of those things worked great for all non-athletic activity.

      6. booksnbooks

        I actually came back to this post because I was regretting not suggesting spin pins! A braid down your back, twist it around and around into a bun, and a couple spin pins (I always needed three) and you’ve got everything professionally contained without any fuss for the whole the day. When my hair was its longest I used to do a little braid from the front, where bangs would normally be, and braid that into the hair at the back that was then twisted into a bun and secured with spin pins. It took almost no time and felt extra fancy that way (and I did get compliments).

    5. Quackeen

      Do you (or anyone) have any suggestions for websites or YouTube channels for medium-length hair? My hair is curly, but wearing it down bugs me after about half a day, and wearing it in a ponytail both seems less professional for my age/job and it starts to pull and give me a headache. I’d love some tutorials on easy styles that a busy mom could do in the mornings while also getting my kids up and ready.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy

        google “Nautilus bun” — “they” say you can do it with no pins or accessories of any type, but I’ve never managed that. But I hold up hip-length curly hair with a single 5″ stick, and it takes about ten seconds.

        1. So long and thanks for all the fish

          holy crap this is cool. My hair isn’t quite long enough, but I now have a reason to grow it out!

      2. Seeking Second Childhood

        Try looking up military hairstyles — the best I ever got doing my own French braid was after getting lessons from a member of the US Coast Guard.

      3. Batgirl

        Just topsy tail a low pony. You can just loosen and part the hair above the hairtie, and slip the tail inside the part. Then pull to tighten. Takes two seconds, makes a pony look more like a gibson tuck. Bonus if you have curls because they poke out the bottom in a super cute way.

    6. Works in IT

      There are lots of lovely hair sticks on Etsy, and a wide variety of styles that can be created by simply making variations on the theme of “put it in a bun and stick a hair stick through it”.

      1. Works in IT

        Then again, my hair is on the extreme side of thick and dense. I actually have to get it thinned out every few months because in its unaltered state it starts trying to curl. Emphasis on trying.

        1. Blue

          There are a couple of styles using a basic stick that worked even with my very straight, very fine hair when it was mid-back length. That said, I generally preferred a pen to most fancy hair sticks because it needed some texture to keep from sliding out of my hair, but on the whole it was a very quick and easy option and looked pretty nice – like a less formal french twist.

    7. MAB

      Jumping in here for long haired people. In my industry (GMPs are a pain sometimes) we have to have our hair up without hair pins of any kind. I have taken to sewing my hair into buns with matching yarn or ribbon. I actually find this to be more comfortable when my thick, baby fine, heading to waist length hair is damp or I have one of those 12-15 hour days. Doing this also keeps is secure enough under hair nets, or running around that I still look nice for my meeting.

    8. Flash Bristow

      Came to say this! Op if you’re comfortable with a long plait, keep doing that but then turn it round itself into a bun and hold in place with either pins or a tasteful scrunchy, depending on what is most appropriate. I’ve only ever been able to hold long hair with a scrunchy though, so if you have a uniform I’d go with a scrunchy that matches, otherwise one in the same colour as your top that day. That’ll look better than a random green one or something.

      Otherwise I think most updos are ok, as long as it’s not messy (hair falling out) or weird (Princess Leia buns) – the main thing being that your hair doesn’t draw attention to itself and be what people notice about you.

      Good luck!

  2. Aggretsuko

    #4: I have to deal with international clientele and I always end up rehashing the same message and retyping it again. People just don’t read and you’re not allowed to get snippy at them for not reading at work, unfortunately.

    I’d like to know what you do when you’ve asked a person questions 1, 2, and 3 ,and they only bother to answer one (or none) of those. Do you continue to be a nag and keep asking again? Take the hint that they didn’t want to answer and not respond?

    1. Edwina

      Also, if it’s a pattern (and I have several work relationships where this IS the pattern), you could try actually numbering the questions, so your emails reads:
      “Three questions:
      1. Which teapot design do you prefer
      2. What kind of spout did Arabella choose
      3. Will you please call Jehemoth over at Irish Teapots, Ltd.”
      If that doesn’t work, what I have found I need to do is limit myself to one question per email. Get the answer, send the next question, etc etc. It’s so irritating–but it works.

      1. valentine

        “Highlighted below” (#aesthetic 10/10) is what stunned me into setting messages aside, then reading carefully, then setting them aside again to be sure I really felt a need to respond.

        But then you’re still doing the work for them and some people won’t change their lax approach; for them, I like Alison’s script.

        1. Observer

          Making it easier for people to answer your emails is simply reasonable. When there are multiple separate questions it’s just sensible to format your email to easy readability and answering.

          That’s for reasonable people. For people who can’t be bothered, Allison’s script works.

      2. Asenath

        Or even send separate emails. I often have similar problems, and feel like it’s a balance between sending too many emails (and having them ignored altogether) or putting too much information in one email (and having one or more questions remain unanswered).

        I confess to sometimes getting snippy eve though I know I shouldn’t.

        1. Clawfoot

          I’ve also learned to send separate emails with certain folk who just read the first thing and then stop reading. Some people you just have to spoon-feed.

          1. Kat in VA

            I have this issue with one of my executives. I’ve learned to indent, number, and keep my questions as short as possible.

      3. Anon This Time

        This is a good suggestion–I tend to do bullet lists and then my boss responds with answers typed under each bullet.

        1. Elise

          Yes, I’ve had luck with lists as well, and as a recipient of question-filled emails, I do really like lists as they are easier to respond to. I just enter the information after each question, and I don’t have to spend time reading through to make sure I saw each question that was asked.

          1. Elise

            Note that I do read emails all the way through. It’s just nice to have bullets where I don’t have to re-read before sending to make sure I teased out all the questions I needed to respond to.

      4. wittyrepartee

        I did this with students. Bulletpoint the important information, put it up top, then put the rest of the email below. It worked wonders.

        Bottom line up front: Marketing meeting at 10:00 AM tomorrow, pink serenity conference room.

        Hi guys,
        Blah blah blah

          1. Jack Russell Terrier

            Yes – I’ve done graphic design and with layout you want to make the important info stand out:

            What: Marketing Meeting
            When: 10 am tomorrow – tueday 11th
            Where: Pink Scrutiny Conference Room

            It shouldn’t be up to you to do this, but it does help:
            a. title each important info (What, When, Where – I’d also bold the title and nothing else in the email).
            b. Gave each piece of important info its own line

            The making each part stand out is helpful as otherwise people skip over some of it like – not seeing where the meeting will take place. Bullets and separate lines as suggested are good for this.

            You can’t go crazy doing this or nothing will stand out – but the combo of putting the bottom line up front and making *each part* of that info stand out.

            1. SeluciaMD

              First, thanks to everyone who took time to give me feedback and suggestions – I really appreciate it!

              @JackRussellTerrier – To a certain extent I do this already but sometimes I’m literally talking about a two sentence email where there’s no extraneous information to distract from the key items in the message. I sent my question in to Alison the other day after I had what seemed like a half dozen of these exchanges with different people (regarding different messages – not the same one). I absolutely know I can get too wordy at times so I’ve moved to formats more like the ones many of the commenters have suggested. But sometimes it’s really as simple as:

              ME: “Thanks for the update. Just FYI, Sally isn’t on our committee so Paul will actually be providing the update at the meeting tomorrow.”

              THEM: “Got it – I’ll update the committee roster. So who will speak for the committee instead of Sally?”

              I’m absolutely all for using something more bulleted when I’m just pushing information out but sometimes the email exchanges are more conversational and that would feel out of place. This stuff happens – of course it does! – we’re all human and we miss things. I think it was just that particular day where it was like “is ANYONE reading their emails today?!?!” LOL.

            2. Wintermute

              This! So, so much this!

              There’s an art to communicating clearly in a high-volume high-noise environment. Use formatting, white space and ensure you’re not abusing the reader’s attention span and you’ll go much further than you would otherwise. I start e-mails with the assumption I get a minute before they tune out, if there is detail that MUST be there for CYA reasons (executive levels like to nit-pick our word choices and message content especially on larger issues) then it’s at the bottom and preceeded by the TL;DR version. I also find that using the TL:DR up front helps keep the reader’s attention.

              For instance if the summary says “expected impact is file processing delays (see below for list)” then I’ve found people are more likely to read as far as the list at the end of the mail without their eyes glazing over.

      5. Mbarr

        I’ll pile on the list bandwagon! I love putting my requests/questions in lists!

        “Please confirm the following:
        – Who needs to be on this meeting invite?
        – In addition to X and X, what else will the agenda include?
        – Do I need to arrange catering?

      6. SusanIvanova

        Several jobs back, my team was working on a project that required coordination with a different QA team than our usual one. They were incredibly frustrating because no matter what you asked, they only answered question #1.

        Eventually someone happened to check out their process: our emails got automatically added to their tracking database, and the text field on their database tool only displayed the first line of text. They weren’t even seeing the other questions!

        We did try to get them to change it, but that failed for reasons I don’t recall. So we sent them one question per email.

      7. Burned Out Supervisor

        Those are my favorite kinds of questions to answer! I just type my answers in different colored font at the end of each one and reply “Hi! See my thoughts/answers below!”

    2. MusicWithRocksInIt

      Ugh. I feel you there. I used to email old boss with three questions and he would reply with a one word email – “Yes”. Yes to what dude? Sometimes none of the questions were even yes or no.

      1. Quackeen

        Ugh, my old boss did that a lot. She would also wait until a lot of emails piled up and then it seemed like she just kind of went in at random and started answering. If there were multiple people replying all, she’d often choose to reply to say, the 4th out of 7 emails, so she wouldn’t be replying to the latest information. (And I’m talking about when her peers or higher were weighing in, so it’s not like she was overruling anyone. She just wasn’t paying attention).

        1. Drew

          My boss does this AND forgets to reply to all relevant people. We now have standing orders to check message headers and forward any messages from him that weren’t sent to all stakeholders.

      2. Gazebo Slayer

        Ugh. I have clients who respond to “Would you like X or would you like Y?” with “Yes” and it drives me nuts.

        1. Mbarr

          THIS! My former director used to drive me bonkers, cause I’d list out my questions in bullet format similarly, and they’d reply with a Yes.

          Me: Do you prefer A, or B?
          Director: Yes.

          This, among many, is why I quit that job…

          1. nonegiven

            >Me: Do you prefer A, or B?
            Director: Yes.

            Time to go with A.
            If someone does that a lot make the first choice the one you prefer or is the one most high ups prefer. Then follow up to the ‘Yes’ email with: I understand A is your choice so I will be going with that.

      3. Guacamole Bob

        If it weren’t for the fact that I’ve had multiple bosses do this, I’d think we worked for the same person.

      4. Jadelyn

        Lord, my former manager used to do that and it drove me up a WALL. I’ve genuinely tried to stop including “do X or Y?” type questions in my emails just to eliminate opportunities for that particular miscommunication. Instead I propose whichever option I’d prefer, and offer the second one as a backup.

        So instead of “would you like me to use the blue or red bags for our attendee swag bag kits?” I would say “I’d suggest we use the blue bags for the swag bag kits – we also have red if you’d prefer.” And if the person just responds “okay” or “yes”, I can take that as agreement to my proposed course of action instead of having to go back and say “ok but which one????”

        1. Lucy

          Ooh I like this. I also think it’s a nice way to validate your position as a decision maker or expert.

          1. Horrified

            THIS!! Its funny how sometimes people get so immersed or overwhelmed with their day-to-day stuff, that asking them to make even a simple decision can result in delays/unclear directions etc. I think those people just put aside those emails and intend to answer them later once they’ve “thought about it”. I do this myself. If you ask me a question, I feel duty-bound to answer it. SO DON”T ASK! Many times that busy person will be grateful (or not even notice) when you take responsibility for making the decision and just give them the heads up.

            This is a variation on some excellent advice my first boss gave me: don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions. It forced me to grow a backbone, and in order to be more comfortable in my decision-making, I learned how to develop rationale for doing X instead of Y.

        2. Eloise

          Another benefit of this approach is that you can avoid having to wait for their decision: “If you have no objections, we’ll go ahead with the blue bags. But if you’d prefer red, let me know by Wednesday.”

    3. Lady Blerd

      I’ve had the issue where I asked my boss for approval from Grand Boss for X and he replied with an approval for Y which was mentioned in my email but didn’t need approval. I simply asked something like “So does Grand Boss give his approval for X?”

  3. Jasnah

    I really like how Alison always refocuses questions of “how much slacking off is too much” to larger questions about the employee’s workload and output. I think that conversations worded this way are more likely to lead to the desired outcome without creating resentment.

    That said, if an employee’s work output is otherwise okay, can managers object to social media use (or other visibly-not-working behavior that can look like slacking off) on principle alone? I’m picturing a conversation that goes like, “Fergus, I know you get your work done on time, but you can’t be on Facebook all the time. It’s not appropriate for the office.” Where I work seems stricter on “professionalism” and “optics”, so I could easily see my boss saying this to me regardless of my performance rating, but I wonder if this is common elsewhere, or just not what Alison/others would recommend to managers.

    1. Annette

      It would be silly. Nobody works 100% of the day. Workers don’t = machines. Slacking off can be recharging. Just my two cents – if I never hear the word ‘optics’ again it will be too soon!

      1. MommyMD

        Some people do work virtually 100 percent of their workday. Not common but not rare either. Social media use isn’t a workplace right.

        1. Tallulah in the Sky

          Many studies have shown that taking small breaks during the day improves productivity and work quality, so I wouldn’t be so impressed by those who work 100% of their work day, they very probably aren’t working at 100% of their capacity the whole time. And I certainly wouldn’t judge those who do take short breaks.

          And whether they spend those small breaks at the coffee machine, smoking a cigarette, talking to a coworker, on social media, or reading an article on a blog, I don’t see an argument to ban social media in favor of another type of break.

          1. valentine

            I would curtail the tweeting if it’s live tweeting the customer interactions because the more you tweet in the moment, the more you might tailor your interactions so they’re tweetable. And single tweets are different from whole threads where the employee is conversing about the tweet.

            I’m picturing this as being on phones, though, and if the employee is so fast as typing the time is negligible, I would really rethink my position.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Whoa, if they’re live tweeting their customer interactions, it’s 100% okay to say that needs to stop because it’s disrespectful and/or a violation of confidentiality. But I don’t think that’s what the OP was describing — I think it was just normal, non-work-related use of Twitter.

            2. neeko

              Is there anything in the letter that suggests that the person in question is tweeting about customers?

          2. Falling Diphthong

            The problem with a lot of social media distractors is how easy it is for the quick 5 minute break to slide into 90 minutes. (Especially if people are being WRONG ON THE INTERNET, including the twitter.) I think a lot of this would come down to how disciplined people are–if you have to bring up the word “multitasking” to explain how you can tweet and do a crossword while simultaneously working with a customer over the phone, I think your boss is right to ask that you focus on just one thing.

            Note: On jobs with downtime waiting for someone to call, come to the desk, report a fire, etc, I think it’s fine to do any easily dropped thing while you wait. This used to be reading a book, and could now be reading your twitter feed. In school I worked somewhere that was about to roll out a new policy about support staff not reading while they waited for a call, but instead gazing into space because it was felt this looked more professional (for wandering managers; customers were physically in other states), and I’m still teeth-grindy about it even though it was set to happen after I returned to school.

            1. Kali

              I used to work in a call centre where we were asked to stare into space between calls. I turned my kindle books into pdfs and emailed them to myself, to read in a corner of my screen.

              1. RandomU...

                My first job out of school was on a stock trading line. It was either stupidly crazy busy or it was dead. This was in the mid to late 90s, and internet was not able to accessed from our computers.

                I got really good at MS Paint still lifes :)

                1. Kali

                  There was a year before we get email access where I just read MoneySavingExpert blogs and wikipedia articles because everything else was blocked. :(

              2. tinyhipsterboy

                It seems like optics are always hit or miss with management. I worked at a call center for a very, very brief time as internet support; all I did was respond to emails. Having two monitors definitely helped me look up information in our in-house wiki, and I was the person who responded to the most emails in general on our team… but I was warned a few times that some managers didn’t like seeing Spotify up on screens.

                I could see if it was YouTube since that has the video component, but when you’re in a workplace that doesn’t have clients in at all…?

                1. Alianora

                  I listen to music during work (via YouTube and Spotify), but I always keep the window minimized for that reason. If anyone has a problem with that, no one’s said anything. I’m not in a public-facing job, and I have to have headphones with a mic anyway since I get some calls via softphone.

            2. Aggretsuko

              That kind of thing pisses me off SO MUCH.
              As the book “Bullshit Jobs” points out, why can’t we acknowledge that people are being paid to be on call, they will not always be super busy constantly, and they can do something else for a few minutes?

            3. AJK

              I have absolutely zero tolerance for boredom so that would make me crazy! (I have ADHD, too, I think that may be related to the no-boredom-tolerance) I would be in tears. I have had jobs, even in the pre-internet days, where I was desperately and constantly trying to find things to do, and I remember thinking, “what do they want me to do, stare into space???” apparently the answer is “sometimes, yes?”

              1. starsaphire

                Mercedes Lackey started writing, so she has said, because she had a job that required her to be attentive and wait for something to break, but she was not allowed to read while things were not-breaking. (Pre-internet and pre-PCs, as I recall.) However, she was not prohibited from using note-taking materials… :)

                1. TardyTardis

                  I had a friend with access to large post-it notes who did a lot of stuff that way–writing on a piece of notebook paper didn’t look professional, but hey, everyone writes on post-it notes…

            4. Schyuler Seestra

              I had a lot of down time when I hosted in a restaurant. My managers had the same rule. No reading books, newspapers or phones, just stand a look “alert”. I couldn’t even access the real internet on my computer, just OpenTable. On slow shifts this was hell. Not to mention I wasn’t allowed a chair, cause it’s “unprofessional.

          3. Kinder Teacher

            The only “break” I get is lunch–which is barely 18 minutes once I walk my class to the cafeteria and pick them up. I also get the 42 minutes my kids are at their outclass. But during that time, I have to update all their daily folders and grade papers and return parent emails and anything else they throw at me. So, yes, some of us do work 100% of the time.

            1. JTZ

              No bathroom breaks? No talking to coworkers? Always every single second, except for those 18 minutes?

              1. valentine

                This is inhuman. (Also the buying stuff for your classroom and unpaid work at all hours.)

                Let student patrols do pickup/dropoff for the younger students.

            2. Tallulah in the Sky

              I’m not saying people don’t, I’m saying those that do aren’t automatically better employees than those who do take breaks. And that how you spend your break (if you keep your break short) is really not relevant (for desk employees at least, I was responding in context of the letter).

        2. wittyrepartee

          I think it depends on the kind of work you do. At a minimum, some amount of the work that I do needs to see me staring at a ceiling trying to think about how to do something.

        3. NJAnonymous

          It’s not super common, actually. When companies do workforce planning it’s a benchmark assumption to calculate capacity at 80% of the available work time in a given year. That accounts for things like vacation and sick days, but also normal things like bathroom breaks, stretching your legs, and water cooler talk (which nowadays is often replaced by social media).

        4. aebhel

          It’s not a workplace right, but banning it purely on principle when it’s not interfering with getting the job done seems kind of short-sighted, too.

        5. Wintermute

          No it’s not but if you make that your hill to die on be prepared for the consequences. A recent study I read not only said that it improves work quality to allow moderate use as long as the work is getting done (in fact multiple studies have said that), but also that roughly 30% of employees would not take a job if it had a strict “no social media on the clock” policy.

          In that 30% may be employees that would otherwise be ideal candidates, are you willing to leave them on the table?

          To me it’s all about getting the best employee for your purposes, and getting the work you need done out of them. The attitude that you can always squeeze a little more out of an employee and anything less than robotic 100% production for 100% of the clocked-in time is outright theft just leads to employees that have options leaving for places that don’t treat them like an automaton. And any time you create a situation where people who have options leave you get “grease trap syndrome” where only the people that don’t have hot prospects and valuable skills stick around because people who are getting calls from recruiters are taking other offers and getting out. As a result you can’t retain anyone except bad employees (with a margin of error for people so risk-averse they will stay in a bad job despite having options because “better the devil you know”).

      2. Jasnah

        Sorry if my comment was misleading, I totally agree that taking breaks is helpful and should be encouraged! Of course we are talking about excessive use, not 5 min here and there. But maybe a boss would object to certain kinds of recharging–like, it’s OK to take a walk and get some coffee, but it’s not OK to nap or go on Facebook. Do you think there is a reasonable scenario where a boss could set that rule, or do you think bosses should not get involved in how workers take their breaks unless it’s disruptive or excessive?

        1. Airy

          I think the latter. If the activity is neither disruptive nor excessive, the only reason to forbid it is the boss’ personal prejudices (often against things that are new-fangled, trendy or perceived as frivolous) and good bosses don’t base decisions or rules on those.

        2. Jadelyn

          I don’t think that would be reasonable for a boss to do, no. As long as it’s not causing issues for someone else – you know, if your idea of recharging break is a loud dance party in your cubicle maybe don’t do that? – then I really don’t think it should be up to the manager how someone uses their break time.

          For example, I am an introvert. Like, I cannot overstate how taxing I find most people. I eat lunch at my desk so I don’t have to brave the noisy, crowded break room, because if I have to be in there with everyone else, that’s not a break! That’s just going to exhaust me further. Same for my breaks – I might take a walk around the block, but more often I just get out my phone and play games for a couple minutes while sitting at my desk. If my boss tried to tell me I *had* to go to the break room for my break, that would basically be the same thing as not letting me have a break at all.

          Just because the boss finds some things “legitimate” for recharging purposes and other things less so, doesn’t mean they get to make that determination for their staff – or at least they shouldn’t.

        3. nonymous

          My employer has the rule that we can’t post or reply from social media accounts during our work hours. Management tells us this is b/c we need to be very clear that the messages we send on social media is not in our official capacity. I would argue that having a lot of people in taxpayer-funded jobs tweeting or on FB would be a bad reputation to develop, as well.

      3. Entry-Level Marcus

        Yes, this! I probably take 3-4 internet browsing/social media breaks a day ranging from 5-10 minutes in length. My current job involves a lot of focused intellectually taxing work, and it’s just not possible for me to do 8 hours of that without some significant breaks (not just 2 min here and there). The other day I was in the zone and didn’t take a break until 3pm as a result, but then I was burnt out and way less productive for those last few hours of the day than I normally am.

    2. Viki

      I mean yes. If they’re using company owned computers, they can easily block and enforce no social media for security reasons. Or any reason at all.

      Companies and managers can object to no social media and ban it on principle alone-there’s no law or right to do it and it’s well within them to go “Hey don’t check Instagram while we’re working,” because even though you’re great, coworker might not be and since you do it, they do it and then someone else does it.

      Whether or not it’s realistic is a different thing.

      1. Jasnah

        Yeah, I wasn’t asking about legal reasons (I don’t know the laws where you or anyone else is…), I meant whether it’s realistic/practical/understandable/recommended.

        1. Jadelyn

          To me this falls squarely under “just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” Part of employing adults is treating them like adults, which means letting them decide for themselves how to use their breaks, instead of insisting they take the kind of breaks you think people should find “recharging”.

    3. Not A Manager

      There’s an office ethos, though. One person might be able to get all their work done and still have plenty of time to slack off, but if they are visibly slacking off, then others who are less efficient might emulate them. If they’re so obvious that their manager knows how much time they’re taking on social media, so do all of their peers.

      1. Jasnah

        This is kind of what I imagine my managers are thinking. Perception and reputation can be really important, so being seen “goofing off” can go against both of those, even if deadlines are being met. You don’t want “look like you’re working hard” to be more important than “actually working hard” but, to give an extreme example, I can see how being on Facebook all day does not help office morale.

      2. Wintermute

        This is a job, not a kindergarten. If another employee’s quality or production starts to fall off, you talk to THAT EMPLOYEE. If they say “but Jane blah blah blah” you cut them off and say ‘I am not discussing Jane’s metrics I am discussing yours, and I need you to consistently meet your deadlines/maintain your production quota/reduce your handle time/whatever”

        Managers often rely on blanket rules that punish good employees rather than doing their job, it’s lazy, it’s bad management, and ultimately it costs the business because one of three things inevitably happens: 1) high performer realizes they’re getting shafted and leaves, either internally through promotion or out the front door, leaving you with no superstar that gets all her work done, and just the scrubs that couldn’t. 2) Superstar decides that they aren’t getting any benefit out of being a superstar and stops working so hard, leaving you with lower overall production but the former Superstar now realized performance is not really rewarded so it’s not worth the hassle. 3) morale across the board goes down and production with it as you violently shove everyone down to the lowest common denominator.

        Never, ever have I seen it work out the way managers intend.

      3. nonymous

        The other thing I’ve seen in the more tech-savvy orgs is to encourage social-media experiences between coworkers (this assumes that the company is large enough). So Slack channels for whatever hobbies etc. That way people get their decompression time in a way that benefits the org (because it’s relation-ship building for the company).

      4. TardyTardis

        Although I was a bad person every once in a while and would alert a fellow employee that Boss Was On The March and perhaps they should put away that book really fast, eh?

    4. Anonandon

      This is part of a bigger issue that irritates me to no end. There are some jobs that require the employee to be “on” for the entire shift, so it is reasonable to set limits for break times and the like. But jobs that require independent work or long term projects do not. I’m thankful that I have the freedom to take breaks from work, go to the gym, or pick up my kids to the doctor without my boss trying to control or account for every second of my day. Right now I am geographically isolated from the management, and SOMEHOW I manage to do good work, manage my schedule, and exercise initiative without someone looking over my shoulder. Which is how it should be for any adult.

      As far as I’m concerned, the first, last, and only question the manager should ask is whether my work got done on time. As long as the answer to that question is “yes,” it should not matter how I manage my schedule.

      1. TardyTardis

        Yes to this. At the tax place, during peak (right after everyone gets their W-2s) we are ON all the time we’re on shift, because the customers are stacked up five deep in the reception room, and you duck into the restroom between them at need, quickly. But when I’m there by myself on a Sunday, I work with the people that get sent to me (staying late if I need to) and when there’s no one there, I call the hold drawer, kill ants (don’t ask), and check out the latest scam on the IRS website (very few of them are terribly original, I might add). But I have to admit I’m not working at the same kind of pace like the day I finished ten returns in one day.

    5. Rainy days

      I think another fair question to ask, based on my experience with mamabgers, would be “Have I assigned this person a comparable amount of work to others at the same level?” I’ve worked with people who were unproductive, then got asgined comparatively little, and then spent a lot of time surfing right internet. Yes, they met their work goals, but the work they were expected to complete wasn’t that much compared to others.

      1. Willis

        This. I don’t think short mental breaks for social media, checking personal email, making a personal call, or anything like that are a big deal at all. But if it gets to the point where someone is routinely spending large portions of the day (like multiple hours) on non-work related stuff, I’d start looking at whether their workload is too low, either compared to others or to what should reasonably be expected for the position.

          1. Justin

            Ten minutes an hour isn’t multiple consecutive hours.

            That said, it might be better spent taking a walk, and that’s usually how I end up on social media. (And there isn’t more work to do.)

          2. General Ginger

            Does that go for any non-work activity, or just social media? What if you spend that 10 minutes every hour stretching your legs, or going to the bathroom?

            1. Bagpuss

              I think one issue is that someone who is spending time on social media is probably *also* taking bathroom breaks etc. It may perhaps be more comparable (in terms of time spent, only!) to a smoker taking a cigarette break.

              My own view (as a business owner) is that if you are foing your job effectively then I am not overly concerned about how you manage your time, but if whenever I see you you are chatting about non-work stuff, on facebook or twitter or otherwise not working, then that may be my cue to look a little more closely at your work and productivity, to work out whether you are managing and whether you have an appropriate amount of work.

          3. Hold My Cosmo

            You’re often all over this sort of topic on here, making this same argument. It’s not a viable stance for a recognizably frequent commenter to take.

          4. Snark

            And what is your opinion on posting at least 10-15 times a day on a workplace advice blog, may I unsubtly inquire?

            1. JSPA

              If you’re (e.g.) a contractor who does their work over 12+ hours with frequent breaks, or recently retired, or on maternity leave (etc) you can still have opinions on the proper behavior in 9-5 jobs. I figure a lot of us have worked vastly different jobs in our lives.

          5. AMPG

            The Pomodoro Method of time management (which works for lots of people, including me) specifically calls for 25 minutes of focused work, then a 5-minute break, or 10 minutes of break time every hour. So I think your rule is unreasonable on several levels.

      2. Jasnah

        Yes, this makes a lot of sense. Even if they’re meeting deadlines and goals, maybe those need to be set a little higher.

      3. nonymous

        >but the work they were expected to complete wasn’t that much compared to others

        Not always the case. There are tasks it takes me 15min to do an the other person 1 – 2 hrs to accomplish, due to some combination of my knowledge and ability. Now, if we both get paid the same should management raise the standards beyond the ability of the lower performer? or should the more efficient person be loaded up with a disproportionate amount of work? I’d argue that management needs to identify a more sustainable approach than those two extremes, but my experience has suggested the latter is the easier and more prevalent approach.

        1. TardyTardis

          Ha, I know what Toxic ExJob decided to do. And then they’re surprised when they have to replace someone with two and a half people.

    6. Mel

      I’ve worked places where I would never use social media during work. And I’ve worked places where I was on social all day long.

      At the latter, some office change ups made the it so that I switched from frequent social media use to none, but in the same role. A few months later and I was getting marked up for not getting as much done as before

    7. Karen from Finance

      I use social media at work, but I have the StayFocusd Chrome Extension that will block certain sites after some time. So for example I’ve set it to not let me get on my social media more than 30 mins, total, a day. Because it’s so customizable, it’s a good tool to keep your own productivity in check.

      I realize this is not what the OP was asking, but I wanted to recommend it from the employee’s perspective, because it’s very useful.

      1. Jadelyn

        Same – I use that extension to keep myself from sinking too much time here on a given day, in fact. ;)

      2. Natatat

        I use the StayFocusd extension as well. Very handy. My particular issue is somewhat mindless online shopping when I’m bored, so the extension cutting me off after a minute is a great way to get me to snap out of it.

    8. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Sure you can have “no social media outside of designated break times” and “no cellphones out in the office” kind of rules.

      However you pay for that kind of rules by having higher turnover and less respect or willingness to go above and beyond from your staff.

      1. Paquita

        We have this rule and don’t have higher turnover. We are there to work. Too many people would abuse having the phone out.

    9. Who, me?

      Jasnah, I think this is a really good question. Lots of differing answers, but in the end, I think most people agree it depends on too many factors to be boiled down to a single rule.

      MommyMD: My situation is such that I’m fairly new at my current job, and have only been given three assignments thus far. I have completed everything possible for each of those assignments, I have asked for more work, I have done every single online training available to me, I have literally sat and read the entire manual, I have asked my coworkers what I can do to help them, and the end result is: wait for manager to approve stuff and get it back to me. So in that situation, what should I be doing? Am I doing wrong b/c I read AAM between articles on the intranet? Would I be wrong if I was on FB searching for articles of how to be a good employee/good manager/etc.? What’s your line? I am not at all trying to argue, this is a sincere question asked kindly.

      Also, FWIW, in my previous two positions in this same type of job, I was always given good ratings, always told I was exceeding expectations, and that I was doing everything management hoped for and more. I am not a slacker. Quite frankly, I greatly dislike having no work to do and I literally said “Hurray” when I got my most recent assignment! Makes the day go by so much quicker. But when there is no work, and management has agreed there’s no work, and coworkers don’t have anything I can help them on, but I am required to be at my workplace, what else am I supposed to be doing?

    10. Roscoe

      You could. But the problem is that you are really punishing only certain types of “slacking” off. Its just that FB or Twitter are very apparent. But its really no more damaging than spending time on AAM, or CNN.com or reading fanfic about a show of yours. Its just you are basing it on knowing with one look what people are doing.

    11. Cascadian

      I work extremely hard/accurate/fast when needed and slack off quite a lot. I’ve been asked to imagine what I could get done if I worked more/slacked less, but the reality is I could never maintain the pace/output of busy times 100%. I would walk away from any job that even hinted at requiring it. The work I do when I’m working is easily the equivalent of full time+ and the slacking I do helps fuel that.
      What is key is that my output and my optics are impeccable and my manager/s know this and trust that I am taking care of business like an adult.

      1. Jasnah

        This makes sense, maybe a blanket policy would hurt employees who work in a more burn/bust cycle.

    12. Burned Out Supervisor

      I like her answer too. There’s always a lot of discussion about so and so being on Facebook/IG/etc. amongst managers and my thought is always, are they getting their work done and is it good work? If yes, I’m inclined to let a 10 minute brain break go. If not, I address the work itself and posit that their internet habit is harming their credibility as a good contributor to the team.

    13. coffee cup

      Yes they can, and do. My workplace doesn’t allow it at all, or even let us be seen to use our phones at our desk for any reason. They’re a bit OTT about it in my opinion, because it’s a lot less hassle for me to text a quick message at my desk than to leave the office to do it outside, but hey. (I don’t even want to be on my phone all the time, but sometimes my mum needs something or I have to make an appointment or whatever.)

      I do think at work you’re being paid to work, so it’s not unreasonable to expect people to, well, work.

  4. Annette

    LW4 – it would take longer to write “as previously stated” than to just respond with the information. Hard to claim people are inconvenieng you when you do that. If it happens frequently enough to be a problem – try bolding time/place or writing shorter emails.

    1. Augusta Sugarbean

      Yeah, I was thinking it might be helpful to list out the details instead of putting them in a paragraph:
      Dear Staff,
      Just a reminder that our department meeting is coming up!
      Weekly Department Meeting
      Tuesday March 12
      3 – 4:30 p.m.
      Blue Conference Room
      See you then!
      LW#4

      1. Oviraptor

        I was thinking this also. But I think I would separate the what/when/where to make it stand out.

        Dear Staff,
        Just a reminder that our department meeting is coming up!

        Weekly Department Meeting
        Tuesday March 12
        3-4:30 pm
        Blue Conference Room

        See you then!
        LW#4

      2. ThePinkLady

        I know it won’t work for other types of message, but for meetings, especially ones where people are already expecting it to happen, could you send an invitation direct to their calendar? Outlook invitations display the subject and the location prominently, and you can add more detail behind/below this.

        For other sorts of message, when I am managing projects I send out emails where I’ve broken info into bullet points, and I bold actions and important dates, which seems to work most of the time. There’s still that one person, but it does reduce the issues.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood

          I’ve even had people call me about things that are in the calendar entry… as you say “there’s that one person”.

          1. Blue

            Ugh, my boss has a habit of sending out an email right before a meeting asking where the meeting is at, even though it’s inevitably on the outlook invite (and therefore on her calendar). I think it’s because she just sticks a “TBD” on her own meeting invites, so she forgets other people use them properly. If it’s a meeting that I didn’t set up but am attending, I tend to just reply, “Meeting invite says we’re meeting in [room].”

      3. nnn

        That’s what I came to suggest. Another option could be:

        Date: Tuesday, March 12
        Time: 3:00-4:30 p.m.
        Location: Blue Conference Room

        1. Van Wilder

          Agreed. Maybe the meeting thing was just an example. But I would try idiot-proofing your emails by keeping them brief, using bullets, and bolding critical information.

      4. NotAnotherManager!

        Or sending calendar invites, which are my preferred way of dealing with meetings. That has all the info AND you can put a timed reminder on it.

        If someone sends me an email with meeting info, I’m just going to stick it on my calendar anyway.

    2. Doctor Schmoctor

      That’s why I keep my emails short. I start with an intro of one or two short sentences, just to say what the email is about. The actual information is stated with a few bullet points. I have a coworker who writes whole essays. If I ask him something about the project we’re working on, he says “just check the emails”. Great, thanks.

      1. Tiny Soprano

        Yeah there’s a lot to be said for good formatting when you need people to be able to quickly see and process information.
        Another sneaky trick that I used to use in officewide emails that people needed to read (but tended to ignore) was to include one little funny part at the end (eg: fridges are being cleaned at 3pm on X date, please remove your things by then. Anything remaining will be eaten by the ibises at the tip.) All it took was one person saying ‘did you read that funny email about the ibises?’ in the lunch room and suddenly everyone would read the email out of curiosity. Remarkably effective.

    3. Bagpuss

      It may take longer in the short term, but I think if it is an ongoing issue then sometimes it can be more effective long-term to direct people back to the original message rather than setting it out again, as this may help encourage them to read the e-mails more carefully to start with!
      I’d combine it with thinkng about how clearly the information is set out and whether you can improve that.

      1. Mystery Bookworm

        I do think there is a difference between doing this when it’s an ongoing issue versus when it’s just a one-off.

        1. Falling Diphthong

          Yes, a one-off you default to just give them the information–a lot of people will in the interim have an “oops it says right there” moment and self-correct in future without you needing to do anything.

          As a pattern, I think it’s okay to point out that the information is. right. there–they are wasting your time requesting these personalized “when I said the meeting was in the blue conference room, I meant the blue conference room would be the location of the meeting” messages.

      2. Pommette!

        Sometimes, even if it is an ongoing issue, it will be easier to change your own approach than to get them to read your emails carefully.

        In my previous job, my boss and a few of her colleagues would invariably send out an “Are we meeting today? Where are we meeting?” email shortly before meetings were due to happen. They were otherwise competent, hardworking, intelligent people, but they weren’t terribly organized, and had to juggle a couple hundred email messages a day. They weren’t going to change.

        I got into the habit of sending out a reminder with the meeting place/time in the subject line. It took ten seconds and seemed to be really appreciated.

        (That said, I get that there are situations where you have to make sure that your colleagues don’t see you as the one responsible for keeping them organized. That’s one situation where the “please re-read the email I already sent” approach might be more appropriate than the friendly reminder one).

    4. a1

      It’s often not a problem with the email. I know in my case, I can type 3 very short questions or points and the same people will miss the 2nd two. It doesn’t matter if they are sentences or bullets. Here’s an example, and this is not an exaggeration.

      my email
      We are having a problem with A.
      – We have tried X
      – We have tried Y
      Thoughts?

      their reply: Have you tried X?
      my reply: Yes, we’ve tried X and Y
      their reply: Have you tried Y?
      my reply: Yes, we’ve tried Y and X

      1. lapgiraffe

        I, too, have reduced emails down to only the five words or numbers absolutely necessary and it still doesn’t matter. I also communicate with many clients via text and they will ask a question that is most literally answered in the last message sent and right in front of their face as they type and read! And it is very clear that these are never people who delete their texts like inbox zero people, it’s often the opposite – my most flaky, chaotic, messy, and unorganized clients. The answer is literally staring you in the face! It’s infuriating, in some scenarios where I need to clarify that I did not drop the ball in any way I’ve pointed it out, otherwise it’s just one of those annoying life things I probably can’t change.

        My only thought would be if you manage someone like that, it would be worthwhile and in one’s purview to address it. Or if you are more senior or act as a mentor of sorts, same thing.

    5. OtterB

      I send out emails about an annual survey I conduct and they can’t always be short. I try to number or bold key points, I try to organize the email so that someone who just wants the bare facts – due date, survey link – can get them and quit reading, while someone who wants to know what’s new or different this year can read on and find that.

      If somebody misses something and asks about it, I try to respond the way I would want someone to respond when I am that person, because sometimes I am. Model forgiveness. :-)

      In emails that aren’t to large groups, if someone misses something I usually figure I was too wordy or not clear, so I restate and clarify.

      If the same person missed things all the time it would be a different situation, but I haven’t noticed that.

    6. drpuma

      That’s the question – if OP4 is hearing this from multiple people fairly frequently, they should reevaluate how they send out information. But if it’s always the same one or two people who ask, it’s likely more of a “them” problem than a “you” problem.

    7. Snark

      It’s the aggregate of all the time you spend replying individually to each person who overlooks a detail habitually, though.

      1. Annette

        Yes that’s obvious. But it’s wishful / fallacious thinking to imagine sending a passive agreessive “as stated” message will meaningfully cut down. Address the problem at the root. The emails.

        1. Someone Else

          I think the time for an “as stated” type reply is with a person who may make a ruckus externally (or has a habit of doing so) “So-and-so never told me the location and I had to ask for it again!”
          With people who do that, there’s a good reason to take the “as stated” route (or the least snippy version of it possible, which in this case might be a cheerful “it’s in the appointment!”) so it’s clear either to the original person or to whomever they may complain, that no, you did not omit the info, they just missed it. This can prevent the scenario where you’re getting a talking-to because your boss got feedback that you constantly omit crucial info, when actually you include the crucial info and the complainer ignored it and then blamed you. But that’s a specific strategy for a specific context that doesn’t always apply.

          If it’s just someone who no matter what you do is never going to read the whole email, or is never going to look at the Location field on the meeting itself in the calendar, it might be faster to just tell them again. But you do that once it’s become clear this person cannot be trained out of it. It’s worth trying to get someone to realize that hey, there’s a thing labeled Location on all meetings in their calendar and maybe look there first.

      2. AMPG

        TBH, I don’t usually reply to emails like this at all. I find about 85% of the time the person will go back and reread for themselves as the meeting gets closer, and pick up the info they need in the process. If I get another communication about it, then I’ll reply, and by that point I feel I have standing to point out that the info was in the original message.

  5. voyager1

    LW1: Are they using work computers to be doing their social media? If yes then you can absolutely ask them to curb it no matter if it is 5 mins or 5 hrs.

    Personally though I agree with AAM look at the whole of their work. But if everytime you walk by or many times a day you walk by and they are on their phone reading social media then yep you can curb that too.

    Where I work now is very lenient but I have worked places that were very strict. That being said people will find ways to waste time, if it isn’t internet surfing it will be something else.

    1. Bilateralrope

      If it’s on work computers, that also makes it easy to block.

      I might try blocking social media for a few days claiming it’s a glitch. Just to see if productivity changes during those days.

      1. EPLawyer

        A manager should be able to judge how productive her staff is without resorting to tests.

        The problem with something vague like “you are on social media too much” is how much is too much? One manager might think any social media is fine. Another might not mind the occasional few minutes, but not every hour checking it. That’s why the focus should be on work.

        Yes, you can say to Sally you can’t be on social media you don’t get any work done, but not say anything at all to Hermione because not only does she get her work done, she pitches in to help others.

      2. Colette

        I rarely use social media at work, but when I do it’s because there’s something time-sensitive I need to deal with. For example, someone messaged me about something happening after work, or I need to get an address for an event, or something else that will take a minute to deal with but will be a pain if I can’t get the information. The last time I used my work computer to access social media, it was because I found someone’s bus pass and the only way I could contact her was to log in to Linked In. I’d be annoyed if work blocked me from accessing a social media site (although realistically I’d just use my phone.)

        But also, a lot of “just block it because it’ll cause distraction” ends up blocking stuff people need to work. If there’s a legitimate problem, deal with it – don’t inconvenience the entire organization so that you don’t have to manage.

        1. That Girl From Quinn's House

          I worked somewhere that blocked Facebook, when I was responsible for managing the company’s Facebook page.

          I worked another place that blocked streaming videos, which the national org used for mandatory employee training webinars. It got to the point where *the trainers teaching courses* couldn’t pull up the videos they needed to show to run the class.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood

            I’ve seen the equivalent. The CEO at company-wide presentations would tell us to check the company’s twitter feed, FB page, or youtube page when 99% of the company wasn’t allowed to access those sites. That changed when he asked why he got no answers to his pet survey!

      3. Alianora

        I don’t like that kind of indirect approach, claiming it’s a glitch. I’m not really on social media during the day (although I do read AAM during work breaks, which isn’t really different imo), but if *only* social media sites were blocked I’d be giving my manager the side-eye. It would make me worry my manager wasn’t willing to be upfront about other concerns they had.

        Even just saying, “I’m concerned that social media is posing too much of a distraction to us, so I’m blocking these sites,” and then monitoring productivity would be better, imo.

    2. this way, that way

      I am with if I see someone random several times a day and they are on social media every time there is most likely an issue. I agree at that point you need to check and see if the person is getting their work done and determine if they need something else to do. But unless your job involves your personal social media I don’t think there is ever an OK time to use the company computer or company WiFi to look at or post to your social media.

  6. Laura H.

    #2: ooof.

    I would be mortified in the moment of my attitude rearing if I were that candidate…

    But also… isn’t info gathering what websites and such are for? It seems pushy that Sally would preemptively show up (aside from a test drive to the location- but that doesn’t require setting foot on the premises.

    1. valentine

      I would combine Alison’s answers: “We’re moving forward with other people, so we’re canceling you”.

      1. Jo

        Yeah, if you just say ‘we need to cancel the interview on Wednesday’ it might be a bit ambiguous as to whether it’s just being cancelled as that day doesn’t work, or whether they’re not proceeding with the job at the moment but might in a few months. Obviously if it was just that the date didn’t work they should mention rescheduling and not say we wish you all the best in your search, but it might be clearer to say, Unfortunately we have decided to move forward with other candidates and so need to cancel your interview on Wednesday. We wish you all the best in your search. ‘

        1. Lance

          Yeah, the best thing would be to make it clear that not only is the interview canceled, but there will not be a reschedule. If she complains, so be it; if you ultimately have to block her, well, judging by her behavior so far, I don’t feel like that’s any real loss.

    2. Doctor Schmoctor

      “isn’t info gathering what websites and such are for?”

      That’s the idea, but I have seen company websites that say exactly nothing about what they do.

      1. JM in England

        My experience of some company websites has been exactly the same. Some years ago, I was looking at the company website for a large multinational in my field whilst preparing for an interview. Though the site gave an overall picture of the company’s mission, products and services, there was little to no information about the site where I would be interviewing.

      2. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)

        Yes. I’ve seen lots of companies whose websites are full of business terms that say nothing to the potential employee preparing an interview, or only mention their HQs and most appealing offices.

      3. Sam.

        I can’t imagine Plan B would be showing up on location and asking a bunch of questions, though (and especially not to do it obnoxiously).

    3. MK

      The problem isn’t that she showed up in person to do research. It would have been fine if she went to scout the campus and was unobtrusive, or at least polite.

      1. Quackeen

        I agree. In the day and age of still being told we need to *set ourselves apart* and *really wow the hiring panel*, info-gathering could be a great tool. Unfortunately, this candidate didn’t do it well and, well, she set herself apart in a really negative way. I say unfortunately, but it seems like it was actually fairly fortunate for the hiring committee. One less candidate to interview. Maybe they can squeeze an also-ran into the bad candidate’s spot.

    4. Kristine

      Getting a sense of the actual workplace is a good idea for certain professions, especially libraries, museums, universities, etc. I have in the past been influenced to apply at places I’ve used (banks, colleges) where I’ve been able to observe at least the public-facing culture. (I once took an entrance exam for a government agency and two employees began to bicker right behind me! That told me all I needed to know.) However, it’s best to go incognito, not throwing one’s (nonexistent) weight around as this candidate did.

  7. Ask a Manager Post author

    Yes, it’s absolutely true that there are some deeply problematic ideas about black women’s hair, and sometimes about big/naturally curly hair. Some expectations around hair are indeed racist.

    But this particular letter is just about keeping your hair out of your face, which is not that.

    1. K

      I disagree. Hairstyle is hairstyle; it’s not something we can compartmentalize. Besides, if we dictate only certain hairstyles are appropriate, we imply certain hairstyles aren’t appropriate. And anyway, what makes a braid less professional than a bun or a ponytail if we accept that a professional hairstyle means clean hair and hair that’s out of your face?

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Convention — the same kind of convention that says that shorts aren’t professional, even though a skirt of similar length would be. Conventions aren’t always logical. But in this case they’re not comparable to finding black hair inherently unprofessional, and I’m going to ask that we not derail on this.

        1. nêhiyaw ayahkwêw

          As an American Indian, I have to disagree. Our people have experienced centuries of having our hair forcibly cut, despite it being sacred to us. When indigenous children were brought to Indian residential schools, often the first step was cutting their hair, which was supposed to make us more palatable to Europeans. I keep my hair long and braided, as is traditional. I also don’t cut or dye my hair, and I’ve faced pushback both at work and in my personal life, due to the lack of styling or specific cut to my hair. I have personally been told that my long, natural Native American hair is “unprofessional”, and even dirty and inappropriate. And that’s not even touching the issues people have with traditional ointments and adornments such as bear grease, feathers etc.

          I do feel that there is something deeply problematic about about the idea that long, braided hair is unprofessional. Certainly black and indigenous people face very different forms of oppression based on our hair, but it comes from the same history of white supremacy.

  8. Drew

    LW#5: situations like yours are why Alison says that bosses who expect a long notice period can’t penalize people for giving notice. Your boss has clearly forfeited any expectation of more than the standard two weeks. (Assuming you’re in the U.S. — I do understand other countries’ standards are different.)

    I think if you dedicate those two weeks to getting all the documentation in order and leaving a clean desk for the next hire, you’ve done all that your boss can expect of you. Best of luck in the new role!

    1. Graciosa

      I would add a few things about the documentation –

      1. Start now (quietly). Sometimes these types of bosses expect you to spend unrealistic amounts of time on other work (like doing four weeks of work in two) instead of putting your documentation in order. This is bad management – I’d pick good documentation in a heart beat – but that’s what you get from bad managers. Having a manager order you to stop wasting time on documentation and finish the Llama report (a three week project due in six months!) could put you in a tough position.

      2. Use your notice period to ask for feedback from other people about the documentation. Your official reason is to find out if people who do not either do your work (you) or supervise your work (your manager) can easily understand your work instructions.

      Your unofficial reason is that you are ensuring that there will be a lot of other people who know you left good documentation. Your professional reputation matters, and a bad manager is likely to blame you loudly and often for anything to a wide audience after you leave. You won’t be there to defend yourself, so leave with your reputation well established.

      Good luck finding a better manager next time –

      1. Artemesia

        Great advice. Get as much documentation done now before the new job is on the horizon (which we hope will be soon) so you can be relaxed about whatever nonsense comes your way once you give notice; the boss won’t know you had it done in advance. And then you will be in good shape to leave. And the idea of sharing it with co-workers — and even other managers where relevant — ‘for feedback’ is brilliant. Cement your reputation. When he whines that ‘she left us in the lurch,’ there will be eye rolling.

      2. Pilcrow

        Related: Quietly start cleaning up your computer and desk. Transfer any personal files you may have on your hard drive. Copy performance reviews and other paperwork like paystubs (or download them). Start going through your desk drawers. Take home visible desk/cube items one or two at a time. Say you’re spring cleaning.

        1. AKchic

          All of this.
          When I was being courted for my current job, I didn’t say anything to my employer or coworkers. I was burned out, I was frustrated with a lot, and I knew that if I said anything about it to anyone, the gossip would get around to everyone. So, I was quiet. When my officemate wasn’t in the office, I packed my drawers and cleaned out personal files.
          I made sure all of my personal data was off of my work email and computer and sent to my personal email or backed up on my personal hard drive (I did enlist my IT director for that, but I told him that it was me trying to separate my personal stuff from the work stuff, he just oversaw it and didn’t care one way or the other).
          All I had up by the day I put in my notice was a few snacks in my drawer and my family pictures. Enough for one small box. I had already updated all of my In Case I Leave The Planet On An Adventure Binder updated so if they decided to not let me work out my notice, they could keep going.

          I would definitely consider filing a complaint with Wage/Labor and see if there’s something they can do. Perhaps LW is owed backpay and OT for the misclassification.

          1. adk

            Thank you for this. I’m renaming my Procedures Binder. My “In Case I Leave The Planet On An Adventure” will have the words ‘DON’T PANIC’ inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover.

            1. AKchic

              Mine *did* have “Don’t Panic” in large friendly letters on it. Very few people got the reference. I also had a washcloth stapled to the inside front over (emergency towel, y’know).

      3. Kathleen_A

        That’s some great advice, Graciosa.

        OP, with this sort of boss, *no* amount of notice will ever be enough because the plain fact is that in her heart of hearts, your boss doesn’t think you should leave until she wants you to. If you gave her 6 months’ notice, she’d find a way to whine about that, too.

        So just concentrate on being professional and as courteous as you can be while giving her a perfectly standard two weeks’ notice.

        1. Jadelyn

          This. It’s not about you, it’s about her feeling slighted. Since there’s nothing you can do about that (except stay in a job that’s illegally underpaying you(!) and that you’re not happy in), don’t waste too much of your energy worrying about how to make it okay with her.

    2. Colin

      This situation remind me of the last time I had to quit a job (although it wasn’t a professional office environment – it was a big box office supply store). It was a job I took out of college until I got something in my field. At one point I learned that it was policy not to give references, and this really peeved me off even though I wouldn’t use them anyway jobs I was actually looking for – basically because they required three references to take what started out as a seasonal customer service position.
      Anyway, after about six months I get a job in my field, and tell them I can only work for another week. They accepted that because they basically didn’t have any leverage, but the head manager kept grumbling about how I was leaving them in a lurch. When he said something during my last shift, I pointedly asked him “Hypothetically, if I needed a reference, could I get one.” He replied, “No, we don’t give references to store employees.” I said, “If you can’t give your employees basic professional courtesy, you have no right to expect them in return.” Mic drop moment.
      Anyway, this was a roundabout way of saying don’t feel bad about not giving a bad employer what they think they deserve.

      1. Ms Cappuccino

        “If you can’t give your employees basic professional courtesy, you have no right to expect them in return “. I need to steal this one.
        I am not sure I would have even given one week notice to these jerks.

        1. Midge

          YUP. I once had one who was *demanding* three weeks from me, though he really “required” four. LOL. I thought I was going above and beyond (but also doing the decent thing) by trying to give two, and actually handing him a very nice resignation letter for his files.

        2. Jadelyn

          Seriously, retail runs under its own set of rules, and you have to be prepared for no-notice quitting, even no-call-no-show ghosting as a method of quitting. A week is generous, for retail.

      2. StillWorkingOnACleverName

        I had a boss who demanded long notice periods give me a hard time when I turned in two weeks. I asked him how much notice he’d give me if he were firing me; we’d had two employees be fired without so much of a PIP or warning. His response? Crickets. I ended up deciding to only give one week of notice and take a vacation before starting my next job.

  9. Nacho

    #1: The nature of a lot of CS work is that there’s downtime in between helping customers where a lot of people browse facebook or do other non-work related things. I’m sure your office has some official things they should be doing instead, but in my experience, CS is a very stressful job that pays crap, and a lot of people need a little break in between helping assholes. Pushing too hard on agents doing those official things instead of de-stressing between customers is going to scare away otherwise good workers, which will hurt productivity a lot more than a few facebook breaks.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Getting a good CSR is the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through hiring wise due to all the things you listed! Nitpicking a good one is the worst thing you can do. They’re in high demand and should be treated like the adults they are.

    2. Manders

      Yes, this! If you’re happy with the work your CS agents are doing, try not to nickle-and-dime them with stuff like the exact length of their social media breaks. Sometimes those little things make a big difference in your employees’ ability to focus and deal with the rough stuff.

  10. Remote Worker and Dog Lover

    For LW #3, I’ve never thought of a single braid as unprofessional. If you need to adapt based on the office culture, the same way you would adapt for suit vs dress pants vs jeans as an example, that’s one thing. I don’t understand the basis here. I have long hair and find that wearing it up all the time can cause headaches. Putting it in a braid is a way of getting it out of my face while not pulling at my scalp.

    I feel like Allison missed the mark here, but my work experience has only been in business casual to casual environments. Is it truly a convention that one braid is not okay?

    1. Kiki

      I was also a bit confused that Allison suggested a ponytail instead of a bun for a more professional look. I could see the argument that a bun/chignon/etc does a better job of keeping hair tucked safely in place, but a long ponytail seems equally professional as a long braid. I personally prefer a braid to a ponytail because they are more weather-resistant for my curly hair.

      1. valentine

        Depending on other factors, like the polish of the outfit, a long ponytail may seem fine, whereas a a white woman with a long braid starting and untethered at the nape is Hollywood shorthand for religious cult.

        1. Tim Tam Girl

          Hee, yes. Also, a very long braid often gets very thin toward the bottom, which can look straggly. Ponytails mask that better, I reckon.

          1. Falling Diphthong

            These are both good points.

            The very long braid can look like a variation on “it dried this way on my way to work” which is not what you’re going for in a dressier office. Looped up a few times it looks more deliberate.

            1. Jennifer

              I have done the “dried on the way” look many times, lol. I guess the key to pulling it off is your hair texture and product used. On straight, white girl hair, when you unbraid it it goes into soft beachy waves on some people, which is really pretty.

              1. Shoes On My Cat

                Lol! For my long fine straight hair I would comb (while wet) just enough along my scalp to get the hair smooth then twist the rest up into a bun and slide fancy hair stix into it. The tangles actually helped keep the stix in place and doing it while wet trained the hair to stay in place once dry. Then at the end of the day, pull out stix, add red lipstick and change into stilettos and I’m ready to, er, let my hair down ;-)

            2. Aspiring Chicken Lady

              My french braid DOES dry that way on the way to work. In fact, sometimes it’s even braided at the bus stop. (Freezing weather tends to slow me down on that front.)
              But there’s no fly-aways if I do it that way, and I trim the ends if it gets too wispy at the bottom.

              Single toddler-sized hair elastic at the bottom. Extra clips and whatnot just slip and slide, poke my scalp, and make me bananas.

              Been doing it since 1987. Takes me just a few minutes to do. I’ve had exactly two professional hair cuts since 1991. I never need to leave early for an appointment, and oh the money I have saved.

        2. ElspethGC

          That’s why I jazz up my braids. My hair is a bit longer than waist length and very thick, and most updos don’t work on me unless I’m willing to get up an hour early and make it look like I’m going to a wedding. My go-to braid style is a rope braid down both sides of my head, which then gets turned into a normal three-strand plait at the nape. It makes it look much fancier and more deliberate, even though it doesn’t take that much longer.

      2. Tiny Soprano

        Yes my hair in a ponytail very quickly reads as ‘sea-hag’ once I step out the door. I have however worn french braids, dutch braids and fishtail braids to work before. The trick with them seems to be to have a nice hair elastic. You can get some with a small metal cap on them that look really polished.

      3. Lucy

        I think there are ponytails and ponytails. I’m going to link to a YouTube video which is how I do a “work” ponytail as opposed to a “school run” ponytail – but essentially it’s more secure and more polished, so it doesn’t sag during a full working day and looks deliberately groomed rather than squeezing another day out of the dry shampoo.

        There are also buns and buns – do we mean an enormous doughnut on the top of the head, with half a tin of spray? or do we mean a messy beach look with stray wisps?

        I agree with LW that long hair should be kept off the face at work. My gut feeling is that very long hair just worn down does risk looking unprofessional – but that’s mostly my prejudice because I think it looks undressed/bedroomy. Shorter deliberate long styles can look smart and neat but do get ratty as the day goes on, and I think few people realise how often they flick/tweak/adjust their long hair.

        That said, I have poker-straight hair so I don’t have to navigate curls, nor does my hair hold any shape without a bit of engineering!

        1. ThursdaysGeek

          I guess it’s a good thing people at my workplace don’t think long hair worn down is unprofessional (or if they do, they don’t say anything to me about it). I usually wear my waist length hair down, but will sometimes wear two braids, and if it is really hot, will wrap the braids around my head.

          Of course, I’m also a geek, and I don’t care what other people think. The hair is long because it is for me, and the hairstyles are for me, as well. My co-workers have always been polite and have never commented on it negatively.

          1. Lucy

            I did say “risks looking unprofessional” and qualified with comments about unconscious fiddling, hair in face, and getting unkempt by the end of the day. Some people manage to keep long hair off their faces, and their hands out of their hair, all day long without securing it (and the fiddling is by no means limited to those with long hair!) so if you know you’re one of those people then chances are you aren’t looking unprofessional.

            I know I absolutely would look unprofessional if I didn’t tie mine back, because it would be in my eyes or my mouth and I’d be continually pushing it out of the way.

        2. Kat in VA

          I wear my hair up in a bun most days, but when I wear it down, people compliment it. Probably because it’s unusual for me to wear it down. It’s not particularly long (bra strap length) or anything, but just different enough that people will remark favorably on it. No one has ever said anything about it being “bedroomy” or “undressed”, however.

          I wear my hair up because even though I grow it long, I hate the way it feels when it’s down. And it tends to go flat at the crown and it’s weird anyway – straight and flat on the top layers, and curly/wavy underneath, so it poufs below my ears and is stick flat on top. Why I grow it long, I have no idea, since I bun it up 99% of the time.

          But I digress. :)

    2. Yoga Pants

      When I see a single braid I automatically think of being in elementary school and associate it with children, lice, or the cults with multiple wives. My mom was a teacher and when there was lice at school we had to wear a french braid with shield spray until the nurse sent the all clear(3 sisters lice was detrimental in our house). The show Big Love all of the cult women had one braid so I associate it with them, and apparently so do a lot of other people, at the Starbucks we had 3 women come in with a braid down to their knees and the couple in front of me were whispering to each other wondering if they were sister wives. So even in my late 30’s I would never consider it professional hair for work as an adult, when I see someone I wonder if there kids have lice.

      1. Glomarization, Esq.

        I guess everybody’s mileage will vary, because in my late 40’s my long, gray, curly hair goes into a single braid when my professional self goes to court or meets clients. It’s really bizarre to think that someone would look at me on the bus or in the courthouse and their first thought would be, “Ew, maybe her kid has lice!”

        1. Kelly L.

          Yeah, as a fellow braid-wearer, I get why I might be read as a sister-wife, but I have no idea how someone would get to lice. My experience with lice as a kid was that you usually ended up with a sudden, drastic haircut that wasn’t really well-executed (because your parents cut it).

          (Mine also doesn’t taper down to a thin end. It’s like a damn hemp rope. Like you would climb to the ceiling on in PE.)

      2. Thatlady

        I mean, you’re allowed to think whatever you want about someone’s hairstyle, and clearly this is based on your personal experience, but it just seems to be a big stretch to immediately jump to lice or cult when you see a single braid. Honestly, sometimes a braid is just the easiest way to get your hair back.

        1. Yoga Pants

          It’s hair so everyone’s opinion is going to be different and influenced by their lifestyle, upbringing, and geography. In general this topic is going to have as many opinions as how high should your heels be. I’m in DC and we don’t have very many grown women walking around with a single plat, maybe they do where you live so your opinion is different. My mom was a elementary school art teacher in public school and a plat with sheen spray was the best way to keep us from getting lice, so our hair didn’t have to be cut off or so we didn’t have to spend 3 days with mayonnaise in our hair. I will always see single plats as lice defense, we do it with our daughter now and she has not had lice and her school has had several outbreaks.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood

      I’m rather appalled by some of these comments. Before I had a shoulder injury and cut my hair, I kept it long. It was usually braided to the middle of my back, although sometimes I bunned it. I did prefer the look of double French braids on the top, merging into a single long braid down my back, but since I am fumble-fingered, I could only do that if my husband had extra time in the morning.
      I have never had lice.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood

        As an aside, one office-friendly reason for wearing braids on flyaway white-girl hair: In the months since I gave up and cut my hair to shoulder length, I’ve now been wearing it down because it’s too short to braid or bun. I’m now having trouble with hair jamming the wheels of my office chair.
        That never happened when it was braided.

      2. ElspethGC

        Yes. My hair is waist-length, or a bit longer than that at the moment. Ponytails are painful for long periods, and I personally think that a low pony looks far more unprofessional on my hair (fly-away half-wavy), while there seems to be general agreement that a high pony looks ‘too young’. My hair is too long and too thick for most updos – a French twist is out the window, and a chignon hangs below my shoulders unless I want to spend half an hour adjusting and pinning it.

        I braid my hair. Fancy braids, usually, not just a single plait (rope braids merging into a single braid, a bit like what you mentioned but for someone who can’t french-braid). I can pretty much guarantee that no-one’s ever looked at me and wondered if I’m in a cult. I get a lot of compliments, actually.

        1. Lucy

          I think the more complicated Californian /Scandinavian / GoT braiding looks polished in a way that a single plait doesn’t – if only because the former take skill, practice and time, and the latter takes like thirty seconds and an elastic.

          Obviously time spent in front of the mirror is directly proportional to a woman’s ability to do her job. /s

        2. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD

          My hair is longer than my waist and I wear it down. It looks fine and doesn’t get in my face since it is long enough to be pushed behind my ears with no stragglers. On occasion, I will wear it in a braid, but it gets heavy and hurts my scalp if I wear it too long. A bun or an up-do would be a nightmare. I can handle those max 3 hours. If I need to do something super formal like Congressional member visits, I get it straightened, less for the style and more for the DC humidity.

      3. ScienceTeacher

        Same here, and I’m really hoping that no one is judging Indian (from the subcontinent) women or Native American/Indigenous men and women this way for wearing traditional hairstyles. Hopefully we’ve gotten past the point where traditional black hairstyles are coded as “unprofessional”, so can we please extend that to all cultures?

    4. Lauren

      Seriously. Just wear it in a way that looks good and is professional. Braid, ponytail, bun, loose, short, long. Who cares if the braid tapers to a point? The amount of nitpicking that is done here about a women’s appearance says something. You never see men writing in about their hair or facial hair. Unreal.

      1. Kiki

        Right? I see a couple of comments about a single braid looking too simple or like you dried it like that on the way to work. … most white men I know just let their hair dry that way on the way to work?

          1. Lauren

            Does it really? What styling does he need to do? Dry it and go to work. Should he put it in a braid? A ponytail? A messy bun? I’ve worked in offices where men had long hair and no one batted an eye. Why is it different with women? No, you don’t want Cousin It but the amount of time spent on deciding what is “professional” and what isn’t is ridiculous.

            1. Yorick

              A man with loose uncombed hair or a messy ponytail/bun is probably going to look unprofessional. A man with neat loose hair or a simple, clean-looking braid or ponytail will not. Same for a woman.

              1. Lauren

                We aren’t talking loose uncombed hair! I never said that the men I worked with who had long hair had messy hair. What people show up to work with uncombed hair? Long hair is not always uncombed! My boss has long hair. She doesn’t wear it in a bun or a ponytail or a braid. It’s loose. Of course, it’s combed. What else would it be? What a ridiculous assumption.

                1. WellRed

                  If there’s one thing reading this blog has taught me it’s to never make assumption because “of course.” Your boss is one sensible data point in a sea full of ridiculous.

                2. Lauren

                  Also, the OP didn’t say I have long hair and I like to show up to work with it not being washed or combed – is that ok? She said it’s groomed and I wear it in a braid because I have long hair. Is that fine? Oh no. You MUST spend time putting it in french twists, a chignon or an updo or a bun to look professional. Ooookay. So add on a minimum of say 20 minutes to achieve that IF you are lucky. Not everyone is handy with their hair. Not everyone has hair that can achieve that (ie slippery hair). Not everyone can wear their hair up (headaches). This is just another completely ridiculous time where women must adhere to a random and useless standard of what is deemed “professional” FOR NO REASON (see also makeup). I work in an office where 4 of the senior management have long hair and I’ve never seen an updo on any of them. There are another 3 in the office with long hair and they all wear their hair down. They all look fine. All groomed, washed and combed obviously. Just in case that isn’t obvious.

                3. Lucy

                  (nesting ends)

                  I read the letter as “I wear a long braid but I don’t feel it reads as professional at my workplace – please suggest other styles for long hair which definitely will look appropriate.” I think we can trust LW’s opinion of the hair culture in her own office, even if we think it shouldn’t be so.

                4. Lauren

                  That’s not what she said tho! Why make the letter more than is intended? She asked if a braid was professional. It is. End of discussion. If she wanted to know if she should wear her hair up to be more professional she likely would have asked that. She didn’t say that her braid was not appropriate for the work culture so how should she wear her hair then? So why are you assuming that is what she meant? She didn’t say that.

                5. Lucy

                  **My question is, how do you style your hair to be professional? I know to keep it clean and out of your face but what are options? As a note, I also have really long hair and I generally need to keep it pulled back more. I usually wear it in a braid but I feel that that doesn’t read as a professional look.**

                  She says she doesn’t think it’s professional, and asks for suggestions. She does. I’m not reading between the lines.

                6. Lauren

                  And the answer is a braid is fine. The answer that was given wasn’t a braid is fine but you could also do this and this and this if you want. The answer that was given was automatically updos, buns, twists, chignons. If the OP is already unsure that answer tells her the braid is wrong and she must spend more time on her hair for no reason. The answer is wrong. And she did ask if a braid was professional. And the answer is yes it is.

          2. Kiki

            I understand that having short or very little hair reduces the required maintenance, but it does seem like a lot of the advice about professional hair for women seems to take issue with hair that looks like it took too little time, not that it actually looks messy or less neat

            1. Seeking Second Childhood

              Ironically I find having short hair takes more time & thought than when I sat on it. My hair is unruly when short hair, so I’m wasting time with a blow drier. It was tidier faster when I just braided it at the end of my 45 minute drive to work. (My 65mph blow drier!)

        1. Glomarization, Esq.

          > you dried it like that on the way to work

          #ProfessionalWomenWhoDoNotOwnHairDryers

          I’m starting the club now.

          1. NotAnotherManager!

            I’m in. I have a deep and abiding hatred of hair dryers. My hair gets blown dry at the salon, and the only reason we have a hair dryer in the house is that my now-balding spouse brought one when we moved in together.

          2. PlainJane

            Ooh, can I join? I dry my (long, curly) mop in the car heater on the way to work. I have better things to do than waste 20 minutes a day drying my hair.

          3. Seeking Second Childhood

            I am a once & future member, assuming I can get my shoulder back to 100% & let it grow again.

      2. men writing in about their hair or facial hair

        Men writing into AAM about their hair or facial hair:

        https://www.askamanager.org/2010/01/must-i-shave-my-beard-to-get-job.html
        https://www.askamanager.org/2016/07/im-furious-that-my-vacation-request-was-denied-civil-war-reenactor-beards-at-job-interviews-and-more.html
        https://www.askamanager.org/2017/07/what-do-people-do-all-day-in-9-5-jobs-will-a-beard-keep-you-from-getting-hired-and-more.html
        https://www.askamanager.org/2017/04/men-with-long-hair-at-job-interviews-i-almost-hit-a-coworker-with-my-car-and-more.html (wife writing in for her husband in this one)
        https://www.askamanager.org/2015/07/my-boss-keeps-asking-for-rides-to-the-airport-man-buns-in-the-office-and-more.html (unsure if written by a man, but asking about men’s hair styles)

    5. Apologies

      Thank you!!! I have heavy-textured hair because of my ethnicity but I am also EXTREMELY prone to headaches. Even pinning the front hair back with a clip is uncomfortable for me no matter how short my hair is. Braids don’t work with my hair texture and anything else causes instant head pain. I’m surprised and disheartened by how many commenters here seem to think that wearing your hair down is unprofessional. It’s never been a problem in places that I’ve worked or with clients that I’ve worked with.

      1. DJ

        I agree! I rarely wear my hair up because it causes headaches and neck pain. I’ve also known quite a few people in my workplace (and in previous workplaces) who have long hair and wear it down. I don’t think wearing it down should be automatically perceived as unprofessional. And I really don’t feel like it is except maybe in some formal workplaces, but maybe it’s a regional/cultural thing?

        1. Janie

          The further “up” my hair goes, the more you see my undercut :P And without the undercut, my hair isn’t going up unless it’s in a messy clip. It’s too thick and heavy and traction alopecia isn’t something I’m interested in.

      2. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD

        Same. It is really depressing to read these comments and makes me glad I work with people that are accepting of the concept that some ethnicities have different hair types and, in some cases, hair has different cultural significance.

    6. Drax

      Yeah, I wear my hair down all the time (even for interviews) and it’s past my elbows long. I just tuck it behind my ears to keep it out of my face while talking to someone and that’s about it. But it’s smooth and styled and not left wild.

      I also put it up with braids and such. I think people are imagining like little frizzy kiddo braids not smooth and neat ones. A little hairspray on a brush or a touch of gel at the roots before braiding will keep it smooth and neat and tame all the wild fly-aways (which I get as I’m ethnic, and have wild frizzy curls)

    7. CupcakeCounter

      I would say for a normal workday a braid is fine. For an interview of work event I would probably try for something a little close to Alison’s recommendation (bun or ponytail).
      For super long hair I would also maybe try to get a trim if you have the time since I agree with another comment that the ends can get a little scraggly. A quick trim just to blunt them and so they look healthy.

    8. Glomarization, Esq.

      Long single braid works for me (lawyer). However, I’ll usually do something with it at the crown of my head rather than just part it down the middle, which makes it look a little too “hippie” for my taste. So I’ll part it on one side and pull a little bit to the opposite side with a barrette; or I’ll part down the middle, put two little barrettes just over my ears, clamp the rest of those locks on my crown on the back of my head, and then braid the hair down.

    9. long hair 4 life

      I agree. I have long thick hair. My normal work day hair styles are down, single braid, or ponytail in the summer. I don’t find that any of these look unprofessional. There is no way to keep my hair in a bun or any of the “fancier” up styles Allison mentions. It would hurt and/or fall out in 5 minutes.

      For interviews and sometimes when I’m in the mood, I pull the top part back, as this keeps it out of my face but still allows for the long hair look. What’s the point of having long hair if you have to hide it in a bun all the time?

      1. Iris Eyes

        Buns (and braids) are good for protecting the hair from dirt and damage which is necessary for some people to have long hair at all.

      2. Youth Services Librarian

        I think it’s really hard to say unless you know exactly how “long” the long hair is. I’m betting that Allison was thinking “long hair – below the shoulders” and if you put that in a bun it’s probably going to have bits going everywhere. it’s really subjective though and depends a lot on your hair type. I’ve got very thick, dark blonde hair that varies in length from shoulder blades to below my waist, depending on whether I’ve gotten choppy with the kitchen shears recently. Unless I tie it off at the neck when I braid it, which I hate doing because it ends up with bits pulling, I do end up with loose bits everywhere. I’m not going to say anything about professional styles because, thankfully, I don’t have to worry about that. Mostly I don’t wear it down b/c it’s hot. I also dye it purple, blue, etc. every year or two. Braids over the head is the most comfortable for me, but I could never get it to stay with pins – my hair is too heavy (and “coarse” as one hairdresser told me. I did not go back there). I figured out that mini claws will hold it up perfectly! But it does not look “professional”.

        1. Iris Eyes

          Coarse is just the opposite of fine and refers to hair size. Thin is the opposite of thick and refers to hair density, how many hairs you have.

          i.e. I have thick fine hair

    10. AMT27

      Yes, I think a single braid is totally fine. I used to have hair past my waist, and my hair is very thick and heavy. I had the half of it shaved, with the rest super long, and it was *still* too heavy to wear up in any fashion – any type of ponytail or bun would cause a headache within 10-15 minutes. I couldn’t deal with that length of hair these days, but at the time I loved it and the only ways I could wear it were loose (and then its EVERYWHERE) or in a braid (or two braids, though I think that definitely reads younger and not professional, unlike a single braid).

      1. ThursdaysGeek

        I was so excited years ago when I saw a former co-workers mother, with her two white braids. That was when I realized that the curly and short old-lady permanent was not a requirement, and I could be me even as I aged. I’ve reverted to two braids as often as I feel like, and as they turn to grey, I wear them with defiance of all these ‘professional norms’.

    11. Light37

      I’m in my 40s and have been wearing my mid-back-length hair in a Y braid for about two decades now (parted on the side, French braided on each side down to the nape and an English braid down the back.) The only comments I get on it are compliments. I have even showed a couple of people how to do it. One was a dad whose young daughter thought it was cool, so that made me happy.

      Ponytails are out as I will have a migraine in ten minutes. I occasionally manage a bun, but it’s always a tossup, and after a few hours I usually pull the hairsticks out anyway.

    12. Remote Worker and Dog Lover

      Thank you to everyone who replied! I had a feeling part of the advice was based on the association of braids with children, and that being a look to avoid. I had no idea about lice. I would personally never make that assumption of an adult.

      More broadly, I’m glad to have worked in offices where my appearance hasn’t been closely scrutinized, beyond being neat and clean. I also try not to judge people based on how they wear their hair. Especially for women, the standards are often based on outdated, even sexist ideas of what people are supposed to look like in the workplace.

  11. Bilateralrope

    For #2 telling her why she has been rejected might help her in the future. If she listens. Though that doesn’t help you.

    The only question I have is: How sure are you that it was really Sally who showed up ?
    Someone pretending to be Sally to saboutage her seems possible. Telling her why she has been rejected gives her a chance to deny that it was her that showed up.

    1. Marimo

      Yes, this was my worry. There have been letters here about, for example, overbearing parents “helping” in ways that sabotaged their children’s job searches., so finding out whether it was Sally seems relevant.

      1. Bilateralrope

        Fortunately it’s easy to see if it was Sally if she denies it. Run the interview as scheduled. Just before it, have someone who saw the incident check if it’s her (or use security camera footage).

        If it was her, you’ve got her lying to you on top of the incident.

        Now we just need a script for asking her if she did show up for the incident. I’m thinking try to suggest that you dont think it was her, but need to be sure.

          1. pleaset

            Maybe they can get a DNA sample (from hair or something) from the first visit, and compare to what she leaves in the interview. Maybe they can run the forensics during the interview, so they can alert staff either way.

            Though what if she wore a wig or something? This is getting scary.

              1. pleaset

                Oh come on, now you’re just being silly. Let’s stick with possible scenarios, such as that we was hypnotized in the first instance by an adversary. Or unknowingly has a twin. Keep it real please.

        1. PB

          This is impractical. First, it would require someone present to make time to show up just to verify it wasn’t an imposter. In the extremely likely scenario that this was Sally, you’ve now interviewed someone you know you won’t hire, giving an interview slot to someone you’ll never hire, while also wasting your own time.

    2. Boobookitty

      This is a really good point that I hadn’t considered. I’ve just experienced some shocking applicants like Sally who’ve done this sort of thing — even at the actual interview.

        1. Bilateralrope

          True. But it’s also easy to check for. Just tell Sally why she has been rejected and see if she denies it.

          1. AdAgencyChick

            Agree. I think this scenario is wildly improbable, but it would be a kindness to do this just in case.

            Of course, what very likely will happen is that it was the real Sally, who will be butt-hurt and argue with OP about whether what she did was rude or not.

            1. LQ

              Or Sally realizes it in the moment and denies it was her and then OP brings her in and she’s nice for the day and the week and then turns into a horrible monster and OP could have known all along and not wasted a huge amount of time and money on this poor hire. If you want to do a kindness thing here you make it clear that being rude to people who aren’t decision makers is not acceptable and you don’t bring her in for an interview.

      1. PB

        I agree. I guess there’s a slight chance this was someone impersonating Sally, but it seems extremely unlikely, to the extent that I wouldn’t even factor it into my thinking.

        1. CMart

          I once had an ex-manager at a restaurant who, after having been fired, went on tear through the dining room yelling at customers and causing a scene, saying things like “My name is General Manager, and you can tell corporate what I think!!!”. So the suggestion that someone could be impersonating Sally made me go “oh huh, yeah that can/does happen.”

          But going on an angry tirade after getting fired is different than someone taking the time to go to an interview site (they’d have to know she had an interview/where it was) and act in a normal-yet-assholish way. It’s incredibly unlikely to have been an imposter — someone doing that would likely have been far more over the top.

          1. Fergus

            I had once the hiring mgr be very rude to me on the phone. I didn’t go the interview and gave the person who contacted me for the position all the details. I dodged a whole clip of bullets. The hiring mgr was an ass. I am not going to an interview so he can be rude to me in person.

      2. LQ

        Agreed. This seems absurdly unlikely. I’m not saying it’s never ever happened in the history of ever. But I think the OP is very fine to just assume the person saying they were who they said they were is the person they were.

        (I mean, the person who shows up at the interview might not be sally! And who shows up at work might not be sally! and she might have a twin and they switch out! You can’t live your life or make your hiring decisions based on that.)

    3. Colette

      And if she denies it, what then?

      The OP doesn’t owe anyone an interview, and the most likely scenario is that it was Sally. If it wasn’t, that is Sally’s problem – the OP doesn’t need to investigate or even tell Sally why she’s cancelling. Cancel the interview and move on.

    4. Yorick

      It’s way less likely that someone pretended to be Sally than that Sally is rude. Tell her why her interview is cancelled, and she’ll have a chance to respond and tell you it wasn’t her if that’s true.

    5. Guy Incognito

      That was Sally. What’s more likely: Someone who was clueless to her own importance showed up to an interview early to scout things out, thinking she was showing “gumption” to be there early, or someone was so out to get Sally in a diabolical plot to ruin her life impersonated her?

      Because the best case is actually your first scenario: that someone was clueless. The worst case scenario is that you’d give her the option to deny it, and if she does you’re considering someone who’s made an enemy that’s so dedicated to destroying her.

      That wast Sally. Comments like this one aren’t helpful.

      1. Wintermute

        I second it not being helpful. This is premium first-rate comment section fanfic right here…

    6. Wintermute

      I think wondering if it really was her is… a little farfetched? I mean, if this were a court trial and she was accused of being a jerk in the 4th degree sure you’d have to prove that but this is not a courtroom and they can make the logical assumption without having to do all that digging.

      Because of course she’ll deny it. She is going to argue it up and down and try to lawyer it, because that’s how the sallys of the world operate. The less exposure you have to an applicant like this the lower the risk, circular file the resume, cancel the interview and move on with other people.

    1. NotAnotherManager!

      I also have someone at work who does a really cool-looking sideswept loose braid with her longer hair. Her hair is wavy bordering on curly, so it holds the braid in, but she also doesn’t look windblown or like she just stepped off the beach. She looks trendy-professional.

    2. Batgirl

      I love them but they are for fine straight haired people (at any rate they look odd on me). However a Dutch braid looks good on me.

    3. MissDisplaced

      There was this thing a few years ago called a Topsy Tail that basically was a fancy flipped/threaded ponytail.
      But I also think a single braid is also fine. The general idea is really just looking neat & tidy no matter what hairstyle one goes with.

  12. Stella70

    As with many generalities of the workplace, I think the letter writer with the long hair should look around at all levels of her company, those they do business with, and even fellow commuters, etc, for “guidance”. I live in a Northern state of the U.S. and one braid – no matter the length – would not be construed negatively whatsoever.

    1. JessaB

      Yes, most of the people I know with that kind of hair are fine with one braid, it’s when you go into pigtails, that it parses juvenile, unless you’re twisting them round your head in a Swiss crown. When I was able to have knee length hair the only place I was required to put it up was in the Army. Everywhere else I went a braid down my back was fine.

      Oh, and when I worked as a special ed teacher I shoved the braid down the back of my shirt so none of my more violent kids could grab me by it, but that’s a safety issue like pinning it up or sticking it down your shirt on a factory floor, or making sure whatever style it is fits under a hard hat.

    2. Zillah

      Agreed. I also know plenty of women with longer hair who often just wear it down – I don’t think there’s anything inherently unprofessional about that, and I’m surprised that a lot of people seem to.

      1. Falling Diphthong

        I think that gets into hair and work interface issues. If you sit at a desk and aren’t constantly brushing your hair out of your face, a lot of long loose styles look fine. If you encounter breezes, needing to excavate your eyes at intervals is a problem. (This is a pet peeve of mine on tv shows: if I put up my long hair to engage in a mild workout, your Woman of Action should be putting hers up before running an obstacle course or going out to get in physical fights with evil doers. Also, anyone actually going on an open boat and needing vision puts their hair up.)

        1. Environmental Compliance

          +100.

          At a previous office, a lot of the women (myself included, actually) had hair mid-back or longer. I usually kept mine in a french braid because I have a personal distaste of hair sticking to my face. There were several that kept it down and loose, and there was a very clear distinction between Ella who kept it back neatly, wasn’t constantly playing with it, versus Barb, who needed to constantly brush it out of her face, was always playing with it or brushing it out. (Or chewing on the ends. That was….weird.)

        2. Kelly L.

          Yes! Fighting evil with hair down is a big pet peeve for me in movies too. Was really gratified to see that Captain Marvel switches on an armor/suit thing before fighting that corrals it until she’s done! Also really happy that heroines like Katniss Everdeen made braids a little more mainstream.

  13. Very Australian

    With LW5, check your contract if you have one. Mine specifically says that we are expected to give 4 weeks notice which isn’t ideal but it’s the standard for our organisation. Don’t get caught out if she magics up a document that says that you need to give longer then 2 weeks.

      1. John B Public

        And if they’re shorting you hours illegally, they’ve given up any leverage. They’re the ones committing the crime. You owe them nothing, OP.

      2. Asenath

        In some places, there are regulations controlling how much notice must be given even if there is no employment contract.

        1. Wintermute

          That’s the beauty of at-will employment, yes you can be fired at any time for any reason. But you can literally just walk off the job and never go back if you feel the need.

      3. Violet Fox

        For the US, because of the lack of contracts, two weeks is considered normal and courteous, but it isn’t a necessity.

      4. Very Australian

        I understand and I know that the LW in this case is American but I think the principle of “check your documents” is still a good guideline! There isn’t any harm in making sure everything is lined up and correct before giving notice.

    1. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway

      Yeah it was a super fun time to watch my new bosses based in an EU country go white as sheets when I explained American at-will employment and the fact that someone below executive pay level, who isn’t a contractor/outside agency employee, generally might not have any contract at all and that I myself had signed nothing regarding my notice period. And that I could quit and leave on the same day, and the state and country I live in is totally fine with that. Our employee handbook even acknowledges my state’s at-will policy and that it applies to all employees unless they have a special contract. If this is a retail place and it’s a corporate chain, they probably have something similar written down (especially if it’s one of the notoriously anti-union establishments).

  14. Ask a Manager Post author

    Note: I deleted an off-topic thread about why professionalism conventions are what they are, but I also revised my answer in the post to remove the note that a braid can read as less professional. (Thank you to the person who spoke to that as a Native American.)

    1. Super anon b/c I don't feel like getting flamed

      I wish you hadn’t changed it.

      Is it okay to talk about perceptions of race and authenticity? In my opinion, sometimes what you get to “own” as part of your authentic style is connected to how other people perceive you and how you present yourself. Women of color have – legitimately – pushed back against being policed for wearing their hair in styles that have historically been associated with their perceived race. I think a Black woman ought to be perceived as “professional” if she wears a natural hair style. I’m not sure I feel that a white woman ought to be perceived in the same way if she shows up with a big, tight perm.

      I respect the Native American poster’s position about traditional hair styles. She specifically referenced feathers and grease. I would feel very differently about a self-identified Indigenous person wearing a traditional hairstyle, including ornaments, in a professional setting than I would someone who descended from immigrants wearing that same hairstyle.

      I do think it’s okay to say that some women “get to” wear a long braid to work and still be perceived as professional, and some don’t. For myself, if I saw a Native woman wearing a long braid I would respond differently than if I saw a young Caucasian woman wearing the same hairstyle.

      1. Lots of thoughts

        FWIW I agree with your point. I think this is one of the things that is so tricky about setting dress code rules and expectations, because we want to have a certain degree of objectivity so that everyone is clear on what is acceptable (ie nobody can wear sandals to work), but on the other hand, we want a certain degree of relativity in order to accommodate all workers (ie you can wear sandals if your foot is in a cast). It’s not a coincidence that Alison’s sample professional styles have French and white American histories–these are the cultures that set the rules, that are perceived as “fancy.” Cornrows and dreadlocks are beautiful on black people but they don’t read as business professional on white people to me.

        So we get these issues where objective standards are not made with non-white/western cultures in mind, but relative standards are too confusing. I don’t want to wade into the “what if we can’t tell if she’s white”/white-passing question.

      2. Tetra

        I’m still utterly confused about a long braid being concerned unprofessional, they’re really not! And I’m curious how you would ‘respond’ to a white woman wearing one at work.

        1. Curiouser and Curiouser

          I wear my hair in a braid at work often – usually once a week. I suppose I don’t know how everyone perceives me all the time, but it certainly hasn’t held me back…

        2. Glomarization, Esq.

          Yeah, if someone sees my long braid as unprofessional, they should see my hair when I’m a few weeks late for a maintenance haircut and I’m wearing it down: wild, curly, frizzy, and jammed up at the ends, with long strands that have fallen and caught on the back of my jacket.

        3. MarfisaTheLibrarian

          Depends on the hair, I think. My braids inevitably end up over my shoulder, and my hair is juuust too short such that half the hair starts pulling out of the braid

          1. Tetra

            That’s fair, but I don’t see how it depends on the race – we aren’t talking about cornrows or anything similar after all, just French/English/Dutch braids. Personally my hair needs to be braided back as it’s wild in a pony or loose, and tends to fall out in a bun.

            Someone else mentioned this maybe being a cultural thing, and it could be. I am British, so maybe in America braids are seen as less professional than ponytails?

      3. Seeking Second Childhood

        Wow.
        Caucasian women don’t get to wear a long braid? How do you think our European peasant great-x-grandmothers wore their hair?

        1. Où est la bibliothèque?

          And once upon a time pigtails weren’t associated with children, but I doubt you would recommend an adult wearing pigtails at work.

          1. Drax

            I’ve seen it done well actually. It’s about placement. If you put them on the top ‘corners’ of your head it reads a little childish, but low and below the ears with braids / curls it actually doesn’t read as such provided it looks styled not a half-ditch attempt to tame it.

            Really all hair is about if it looks deliberate and neat. Look at Kim K double braids – that’s typically associated with children as well but it looks lovely and put together on her. (she was the easiest celebrity to find a lot of photos of the braids)

      4. Lemon Bars

        I would not consider a Caucasian wearing a braid to look professional. Where as someone of color who has a heritage of braids I would consider it professional. This is not the hill to die on but braids are different for different races and we should recognize this.

        I am white and grew up with a black stepmom (since age 9) she stopped letting my sister and I get braids at the hairdresser when we were in high school. My stepmom and her dark skinned daughter still get them even now, but her lighter skinned daughter she also had her stop in high school. She felt like it was racially insensitive for white girls to wear braided hair when they were considered adults.

        1. ElspethGC

          “I would not consider a Caucasian wearing a braid to look professional. Where as someone of color who has a heritage of braids I would consider it professional.”

          British here. We *do* have a heritage of plaiting and braiding our hair. How on earth do you think women used to wear their hair? Certainly not loose. Usually braided and pinned up if married, or braided and down if unmarried. A different braid style to ones used in sub-Saharan Africa, but still braids. The ‘milkmaid’ braids are a traditional style for huge portions of Europe – do they get to wear it and look professional because it’s their heritage, or does it not count because they’re European?

          This isn’t me getting all nit-picky about race; this is me being utterly bemused at what you consider acceptable ‘heritage’ when it comes to braids and plaits.

        2. Arctic

          Braids are absolutely part of most white heritages. There is a reason there is something called a French braid. People couldn’t wash their hair regularly until recently and braids are the most effective way of handling greasey hair. It’s common in most cultures.
          This is bafflingly nitpicky. It’s almost just finding an excuse to judge people based on your own ignorance.

          1. Arctic

            And obviously there are certain types of braids more common with POC and white people should avoid them. But all braids? That’s just absolutely ridiculous.

            1. Batgirl

              Yes but historically it was a global style, not limited to north africa; the same style is featured just as much in Celtic and Greek art.

                1. neeko

                  @birdie If you are going to have a go about being off topic, why not go through the whole thread of people talking about the origin of braids – and race and heritage are a huge part of the conversation about “professional” hair styles. I was just pointing out that if you are going to talk about braids as part of white heritages “There is a reason there’s something called a French braid” is not a great point.

        3. Socks

          Uhh? Braids are part of the heritage of, as far as I am aware, every single culture that has ever worn long hair. Plain 3 strand ones just out of fashion for white adults right now, which makes them look unprofessional to some people. I think your stepmom might be making this into something that it is not. Like, braids are different for different races in that black people had to fight to be allowed to wear hairstyles other than relaxed-straight, making it more of a problem to tell black people they CAN’T wear them, but braids aren’t, like… cultural appropriation. Braids are practical af. They just haven’t been trendy for white people for the past few decades.

        4. wittyrepartee

          Wow, this is a really extreme stance. Braids are some of the best hairstyles for keeping long hair off the face and presentable. Most other alternatives involve a lot of hair product and bobby pins. Even in very formal work environments it’s never been suggested to me that a tucked in french braid was anything less that acceptable. I work in NYC for regional context.

        5. EventPlannerGal

          Sorry, just to check but are we all talking about the same thing when we say “braids” here? The type I’m envisioning based on the OP is a long single plait, but I also hear the term used for styles like cornrows which are more commonly worn by POC. When you mention racial insensitivity, is that the type of braids you’re thinking of?

        6. Batgirl

          I don’t think people are talking about African origin hairstyles when they say ‘braid’. Not anything you’d need a stylist for either.Lots of Caucasian women wear simple French and Dutch braids and there are Viking and Celtic styles being recycled all the time. Braiding is an ancient global phenomenon! We werent wearing a shampoo and set in 5BC.

        7. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway

          @Lemon Bars I understand doing this with your own family’s situation, but I don’t think it’s necessarily an enforceable workplace policy to decide whose heritage is authentic enough or “correct”, even though my personal belief is WASPs shouldn’t be wearing dreads or other very strongly black-identified hairstyles. You have no way of knowing your colleagues’ family background or the details of their hair’s natural behavior/type — there are also lots of lighter skinned or white-presenting groups that have mixed hair, big curly hair, don’t cut their long hair for religious reasons, etc. One big braid (not talking about tight rows or similar) is not owned by any one group and is not really any different than any other pulled back or collected hairstyle and shouldn’t be treated differently. I am sure if she wore it down or in a ponytail it would also get complaints for being unprofessional, so the braid actually seems like the better solution here.

      5. Seeking Second Childhood

        I also have to point out a problem in your assumptions of a white woman in a “big tight perm” — many white women have tight curls. One of my co-workers has hair much like Merida from the Disney movie. From time to time she gives up on straightening it and cuts it short — and it looks recently permed.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy

          I have Merida hair. It defies gravity if it’s less than below-shoulder-length and that’s how I spent high school being called Ronald McDonald :P

        2. PlainJane

          And even if I have a perm, why should that be a problem? I understand that some hairstyles have cultural significance, but in the workplace (at least in the US), I don’t think we’re allowed to permit certain hairstyles for employees of one race/culture but not another. I hate the idea of policing hairstyles to this degree and declaring that certain styles are only “professional” for certain groups. Is your hair clean and reasonably neat? Yes? Then you should be fine. Note: I’m not intending to open a debate on hairstyles and cultural appropriation. I’m speaking only of what is or isn’t permissible in the workplace.

          1. Batgirl

            My mixed race friend had a very tight afro in high school and the local specialist hairdressers refused to help her do anything with it, even cut it, because she was with her white mother and a shade or two too light. Luckily she says that sort of thing hardly ever happens to her any more.

      6. Allison

        I thought about Native hairstyles too, but I’m also thinking there might be Caucasian women in religious, conservative communities where it’s expected that women keep their hair long, but not necessarily covered or pinned up. Not that I’m knowledgeable enough to name a specific religion or region where this is common, but it may be the case for some people.

      7. Lissa

        But, what about the fact that you can’t always tell someone’s heritage by looking at them? Doesn’t that risk people assuming someone is culturally appropriating/being unprofessional when it IS in fact their heritage, or they’re biracial, etc?

      8. nêhiyaw ayahkwêw

        I have to agree with you. I don’t think we can have a conversation about what is or is not considered an appropriate hairstyle in the professional world without race and culture being a part of it.

        I also thought your comment on feeling differently about seeing braids etc on natives vs on non natives. My experience has been the opposite, non natives and especially white women can get away with a lot in terms of hair style, and even wearing “native inspired” fashions and accessories that I as an indigenous person cannot.

        I think gender brings another interesting layer to this conversation, as restrictions on hair negatively affect black and indigenous people of all genders, consider long hair being seen as inappropriate or too feminine on black and indigenous men. People assuming I am a woman based on my previous comment about my experience as a long haired native american is also a neat thing to think about.

        Altogether I think this is an important conversation to be having, and I do wish the original conversation had been left up. The advice Allison gave would have a very different affect depending on the race of the original letter writer, something for all of us to ponder for sure.

    2. Green Great Dragon

      Ah. Reading in the UK I was surprised that a braid was seen as less professional than a pony tail for very long hair – I’d say more controlled reads as more professional here, so any neat up-do/bun/french twist is fine, a long braid less so but probably fine, and pony tail least professional. Though two long braids is somewhat 1950s schoolgirl.

      1. Batgirl

        Also in the uk I was surprised to hear them described as out of fashion or favour! Nooo; as perennial as the bun or chignon.

  15. Shannon

    #4. I always say “See below!” and highlight the bit in the original email. It’s faster and I assume they just missed it.

    1. MicroManagered

      Yes–and it gives the other party a chance to reply with “D’oh! Sorry I missed that!” if it was a genuine mistake.

  16. Amerdale

    #4 Just an idea that might help to lower the amount of questions you get.
    In your original email write the Information in bullet Points not a sentence, like this:

    Hey all, just a reminder that our next meeting is coming up:

    Date: next Tuesday (I’d even write the actual date here, too)
    Time: 3-4:30 pm
    Location: Blue Conference Room

    See you then!

    In my experience that structure helps people to see the information besser – maybe even put it in bold.

  17. Mary Richards

    OP #1: are you determining that this person is tweeting all day by reading Twitter? I schedule my tweets all the time—unless it’s definitely in real time, I wouldn’t assume that the person is tweeting throughout the day (unless you have evidence and, obviously, if it leads to issues in productivity).

  18. Anon with no name

    Someone needs to explain why a braid would ever be unprofessional because I don’t get it. It seems like a braid would be the most professional because the hair is completely contained in a style that is neat and tidy…..

    1. Anon with no name

      Is it something like it’s read as having too much flare and style for a place that’s more conservative? Like I don’t know wearing bright flashy colors and patterns when most people are wearing sold darker colors in a more conservative office?

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        As someone who often wears varieties of braids, I don’t think it appears like it has too much flare/style. Speaking only about my experiences, some ways of wearing a braid(s) will read as too young or too informal. But it’s all very context- and style-specific.

        1. Anon with no name

          Then I really don’t get it… it seems like if you have a style that contains all the hair in one place doesn’t let it get in the way it wouldn’t be too young/informal…. but then I don’t like long flowing loose hair on anyone so maybe it’s more about me than anything else.

          1. EventPlannerGal

            As PCBH said, it’s hugely dependant on the context, like many questions that arise about women’s clothes and styling. In some cases, to some people, it can appear unprofessional, but it’s so variable that there’s really no point in trying to come up with a hard and fast rule.

      2. AMT

        I always thought of a single braid as a more conservative, modest style. It makes me think of the women in the various Christian denominations in my hometown in the ’90s. Not particularly fashionable, but definitely not “out there.”

        1. CMart

          Agreed. It’s either youthful (little girls wear braids exactly for the “keeping hair contained” aspect) or it’s conservative/old fashioned/earthy. None of which are bad per se, just not “corporate”.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      It depends on the length of the braid, context of your style and workplace, and sometimes your race/ethnicity. There are certainly braid styles that are totally professional, depending on the context of who’s wearing it. But there are also ways of wearing a braid that will not read as “polished.”

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy

        Yep. If I’ve straightened my butt-length hair, a braid is neat and tidy. If I’ve braided it wet, it’s neat and tidy, but I have a wet spot down my back, which doesn’t look great. If I’ve braided it natural and dry, I’m good for about an hour, before it frizzes out and looks like raveled rope. (My go-to is a Nautilus bun.)

      2. MayLou

        Sometimes letters on this site reinforce my belief that I will never be able to work in a professional environment. This is one of them. At the moment I’m self-employed and most of my work is either with children in their own homes (tutoring and nannying) or with parents in schools, teaching maths and English. I don’t have colleagues, or a boss I can ask advice from.

        I’m 28 and I’ve had long hair my entire life. I can put it into a high or low ponytail, I can twist it into a messy bun, or I can plait (braid) it loosely, and not very neatly, at the nape of my neck. I don’t know how to do any other hairstyles. I have tried to follow tutorials on the internet but it always ends up with me spending hours on it, my arms aching, and my hair still looking a huge mess. Should I cut my hair short to eliminate the issue? I like my long hair, I think it looks nicest loose but I fasten it back in a ponytail for practicality quite a lot of the time.

        I don’t understand the distinction between professional and non-professional appearance. The extremes are obvious, but the middle ground is really hazy and grey. Hot pants and a crop top: not suitable for an office. Torn, dirty denim jeans: not suitable for an office. I don’t wear clothes like that anyway. I wear skirts, usually around knee length, not A line because it’s too restricting, and t shirts (I don’t even know the words to describe the different shapes and styles of these, but not logo ones or slogan ones), or dresses, usually with mid- to full-length sleeves and a hemline either at the knee or a couple of inches above, with tights and a cardigan. Sometimes I feel like I’m not dressed quite right but I can’t work out why.

        I’ve spent time looking at what other people are wearing (lately I’ve been thinking about shoes, in particular) and trying to determine which styles are suitably smart for work and which aren’t, but I’ve not got very far. Maybe it’s because I live in an area without much white-colour work available, maybe I’m only seeing people who are unemployed, maybe I just don’t see the distinction.

        A lot of this is probably enmeshed with my neurodiversity and also links to chronic fatigue (I am not going to get up a full hour earlier in order to style my hair and put on makeup, I’m just not, I will perform my work far better with “unprofessional” hair and enough sleep). At the moment I’m clearly looking adequately professional for what I am doing but I would like to get a “proper” job some day, where I’m employed and working with other professionals, and this is going to be an issue then too. Why do I have to sink hours and hours of time and effort into trying to rote-learn this confusing and impenetrable network of unspoken and vague norms, instead of people just judging me by my actions and words instead of what I look like?

        I’m smart, I’m hard working, I’m great at problem solving, coming up with systems to increase efficiency, researching things, learning new skills and interacting with people where the context is clear and I know our respective roles. I know my strengths, and I know my weaknesses. I’m not applying for positions as a model, a beauty therapist or a film star. Why does my appearance matter?

        Sorry, this wasn’t intended to be its own letter. I was just replying to the discussion about polished and unpolished braids. I physically cannot do any other kind of braid than the one described as being shorthand for “religious cult”. Learning how would be an exercise in frustration, destruction of self-confidence, and make me feel even more socially inept than usual because I don’t understand why it even matters.

        1. Maris Crane

          Thank you so much for writing this. I completely understand how you feel. In fact, I’ve been thinking about writing to Alison about this topic, because often the advice and comments leave me confused, and not a little embarrassed (because this that I think are totally fine are apparently totally not). I’m currently a stay at/work from home parent, and I’m incredibly stressed by the idea of returning to the “regular” work force soon. I don’t wear makeup, my hair is loose or in a ponytail, I’m not fashion-savvy, and most workplace norms baffle me. Questions that Should Not Be Asked – I would ask. Things that Should Not Be Done or Said – I would say them and do them. I’m not oblivious or ignorant or a shut in, but wow. I really feel like I would be that one coworker who does good work but gets it all the “norms” wrong and just can’t figure it out. “Can believe Maris asked about pay frequency? What is her problem? She doesn’t get it all, does she?” Sigh.

        2. whistle

          Hi MayLou, I can understand why you feel the way you do in the first sentence, but I think if your read through the comments, you’ll see a lot of push back to the original answer to LW3. It’s pretty clear that most people think us long hairs are perfectly fine wearing our hair, well, long.

          I hear you on not knowing where the lines are. I dress pretty weirdly compared to everyone else I know. When I was younger, it was all thrift store clothing. Now I make the majority of my clothes. I don’t wear anything too out there anymore (at least not at work), but I do push the boundaries of what other people might consider normal.

          Here’s the thing – dressing the way I do and wearing my hair long make me comfortable. This makes me confident, and confidence trumps conformity.

          You mention not having bosses, but you do have bosses. Each of your clients is your boss. You might not be able to ask these people for advise (I would never ask my boss for advise, btw), but your bosses are clearly telling you that your hair and dress are fine because they hired you and continue to pay for your services.

          In summary, count me as one voice telling you keep rocking your long hair, skirts, and t-shirts. There is a place for you in a “professional environment.”

        3. Iris Eyes

          With the clothing part a lot of the difference is in the fabric. Knits generally read as less formal. The general rule is that you have to look like you spent money on your look. So clothing that looks like it would need to be tailored or dry cleaned. If the item of clothing is lined then you are probably on the right track.

          Ultimately yeah especially with business casual the rules that aren’t rules are dizzying. Fortunately once you get past your first impressions as long as you aren’t reading as “sloppy” people aren’t going to notice much. And some of us always feel slightly like we don’t quite get all of these social nuances and when people explain them the “rules” really just sound stupid.

          Perhaps ironically my research trying to figure this whole dressing a body in a office space has made me the go to fashion consultant for various business functions in my family. (I dove a bit into “color theory” because it just seems like there should be some kind of method to this madness.)

          Other notes for you: Skirts with stiff fabric and/or length are going to read more “culty.”
          -Mascara and lip gloss can go a long way in looking like you have a “face on” with minimal time investment
          – Doing a twist to just one side of your hair before you braid it can add a lot of interest to a braid or ponytail and generally doesn’t take much time. (Grab the hair in front of your ear on that side rotate it toward the back grab the chunk directly behind your ear, rotate, grab final chunk of hair and rotate twice. Smaller sections can help with flyaways)
          – Tights (the thicker and sometimes textured version) generally don’t read as professional as “panty hose” (probably because tights last longer since they don’t get runs as quick, remember the rule of the appearance of needing maintenance.)
          – Cardigans you are generally going to be more well served by solid colors that don’t cover your rear end.
          – One piece of jewelry can do wonders for a whole outfit. A necklace is usually best for this. I have been known to keep once in my purse or car for “surprise this event is fancier than you thought.”
          – A knit blazer has all the comfort of a cardigan and most of the “professional” put togetherness of a traditional blazer.

          1. MayLou

            The tips are helpful for me to know how to jump through the hoops, thank you. But what stood out to me is encapsulated in my response to this: “The general rule is that you have to look like you spent money on your look. So clothing that looks like it would need to be tailored or dry cleaned.” This is completely ridiculous! Can you see how ridiculous this is?! In order for people to believe I am good at what I do, I have to look like I spend lots of money on clothing? Why does this stuff matter?

            When I was about to start a training job (that ended up actually having a uniform – I thought there might be parts that did not require the uniform), I went to a big department store and had a personal shopping appointment. That was very helpful because I could just mentally label all the outfits she put together for me as “suitable for work”. I have since developed my own outfits that get the same mental label, but the overlap between “sufficiently comfortable that I won’t spend the entire day trying to override the klaxons in my brain blaring about my restrictive or otherwise uncomfortable clothing” and “looks expensive and high-maintenance enough to be Professional” is almost vanishingly small.

            I might be about to apply for a Proper Job, by which I mean one with a manager and an office and a team and a contract, so I do appreciate the pointers on how to play the game by the conventional rules. I will continue to internally scream that the game is ridiculous and other people are being unreasonable by expecting me to play it, though!

        4. Lissa

          I feel this too, except I have short hair. I always feel like I look slightly scruffy to be honest. Even when wearing clothes that are fine I still don’t feel like I quite look “right”. I also never wear makeup. I think for me some of this comes from being raised with a single dad and brother. I never learned a lot of things that other women just seem to “know”.

    3. Falling Diphthong

      Granted it’s very subjective. Part of that is if it reads as the simplest possible thing to do with the hair. There’s a range of hairstyles that might be common to 10 year olds (braids, loose to the waist), that scaled to 30 year olds look unpolished on some people and polished on others for reasons of small style twists–the braid becoming very scanty over the last few inches was an example from upthread.

      1. Arctic

        “Granted it’s very subjective.”
        So, how is anyone ever going to be able to decide they look professional? They go to work with a neat braid, hair not in their face and unbeknownst to them they are being judged as unprofessional based on totally arbitrary nonsense standards.

        1. Falling Diphthong

          Unless you a) wear a uniform to work, or b) wear the equivalent of a uniform to work (usually an option for men), whether a given look is sufficiently professional for a given office setting is going to be subjective. In most cases you can get a middle ground where most people would say this range here is good and outside it is too little or too much. There are several threads on it, including why it is that “khakis and a blue oxford” looks different on upper management than on tech support.

        2. Lissa

          Not gonna lie I often just feel like I’m being judged [..] based on totally arbitrary nonsense standards by existing as female even when not at work. /grumbles.

        3. EventPlannerGal

          You can’t guarantee it. You can do your best to follow the available guidelines (your office dress code, online guides, what other people around you are wearing) and will probably be fine doing so, but you can’t 100% guarantee that everyone will always interpret your image the way you want them to. Standards vary between locations, offices and industries, and beyond that, individual people will have specific associations with different things – as shown in this thread, one person’s tidy is another person’s childish, another person’s cultish and another person’s culturally significant.

      2. pentamom

        Hmmm….but “the simplest possible thing to do with the hair” — why is that a negative? If someone had short, blunt cut straight hair, the simplest possible thing to do with the hair would be brushing or combing it for 30 seconds. But she wouldn’t be looked down on because her hair was easy to take care of. If your take is correct, then there is some kind of odd perceived “tax” on having long hair, where if you dare to do that, you must pay for it by looking like you expend great effort on it.

        1. Falling Diphthong

          The closest male equivalent I can think of is the buzz cut–if you sketch an image of “generic male executive” his hair might be in a caesar, or another short cut, but it wouldn’t look like “every few weeks the barber runs the clippers over my head on the lowest setting.”

        2. PlainJane

          +1000. My goal is to do the simplest possible thing with my hair, because there are so many things I’d rather do than mess with it every day. I really, really hate all the judgment associated with hairstyles–and particularly women’s hairstyles. Why do I need to look like I spent an hour on my hair to be considered professional?

    4. Où est la bibliothèque?

      Regular braid? Totally fine, IMO.
      Waist length braid? Honestly, I’m going to cringe. To me, braids past your shoulder blades are the territory of teenagers.

      1. Sophie before she was cool

        This is bizarre to me. Braided, my hair falls well below my shoulder blades and (to my knowledge!) no one has ever thought it looked “too young”. I’m in my early 30s and look younger, so I’m generally pretty sensitive to that kind of thing.

        Maybe it depends on the hair? Mine is fine but I have A LOT of it and my braid is still fairly thick (1-2 fingers wide) at the very end.

        1. this way, that way

          Its a personal/social opinion that is going to be different for most people depending on your age and race/culture and your geography. To be fair thought someone would have to be a complete A$$ to tell someone there hairstyle is inappropriate, for most people it is an inward thought or a shared thought between friends.

        2. ElspethGC

          This seems to be in the same vein as comments I’ve seen on more…strait-laced (?) boards such as Corporette – once you’re above, say, 25, you need short hair. Shoulder-blade length at the longest. If you do that, it had better be straight, because otherwise it looks unruly. I’ve literally seen people (on AAM and elsewhere) refer to long hair on adult women as “disgusting”. Not greasy long hair. Not straggly long hair. Not uncombed long hair. Just the mere presence of long hair on a grown woman referred to as “disgusting”.

          Fuck that. My hair is past my waist and it’s staying that way for the foreseeable future, and I don’t heat-style it. I’m not cutting my hair or ruining it with daily straightening just because someone can’t handle a woman that doesn’t fit into their neat little ‘professional’ box.

          1. Où est la bibliothèque?

            I would never tell anyone they shouldn’t have super-long, loose hair. I wouldn’t ever tell someone to stop loudly chewing gum, either. I’m not obliged to find either of those things appealing, though.

          2. PlainJane

            My favorite comment so far. I (and my mid-back-length, curly mop) approve. Hair is really personal. We shouldn’t have to give up all of our individuality to please some arbitrary fashion police.

            1. Batgirl

              I work in a school where student hairstyles and colours are policed. Most in the uk do. When I worked in a school where we had a strict uniform but no hair rules I was much happier. Everyone was.

              1. PlainJane

                Wow. It seems like such a silly thing to make rules about. As much as I’d like to be younger, I’m glad I went to high school in the 80s, when there were a lot fewer rules about student appearance (at least in California). We did have a dress code, but I think it boiled down to, You must wear clothes :-) I don’t think it even mentioned hair.

          3. ThursdaysGeek

            Yes! I am going to rock my two grey-brown braids that hang down to my waist. Judge me by my work, not my looks. Or else judge me by my looks, but that’s your problem, not mine.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood

          And yet it happens. Many years ago I had a retired friend who made a living as a potter and ‘vacationed’ by selling at Renaissance Faires. She had very long healthy white hair. After something damaged her hair rat the bottom she decided to treat herself to a ‘professional’ trim–and the jerk stylist started cutting off FIVE INCHES. When my friend squawked, the jerk said “Well old women shouldn’t have long hair anyway.” For real. My friend got up and walked to the register as-is and said she was not paying and why — and another stylist apologized, offered to try to salvage a little length with a deep scoop, and didn’t charge her. In my fantasies, jerk stylist learned a lesson…but somehow I doubt it.

    5. Socks

      I think it’s just not trendy right now. My mom wore her long hair in a single three-strand braid in the 70s, and I think that was normal enough for the area (southern california, where looking like a hippie was in fashion!), but to me now, it reads as very childish, or, depending on the outfit, as cult-y or farmer-y. Fishtails and other fancy braids look fine to me, but the basic one does not. But other people are saying that, in their area, such a braid would read as absolutely fine, so I’m thinking this is a matter of trends/fashion, and not a, like, logical and consistent rule about professionalism.

  19. stump

    A fun variation on #4:

    A while back, a higher up in our company emailed everybody about a certain policy. I guess there had been emails in previous years about this policy with other information, because my coworker sent a response (company is small enough they encourage responses to higher ups and things) saying something like, “Hi, in this previous email, Policy depended on A, B, and C and well and X, Y, and Z, whereas this email only mentions X, Y, and Y. Are A, B, and C still applicable here?”

    The higher up’s response: “As was previous stated in the email, the policy depends on X, Y, and Z.” Whiiiiiich did not answer my coworker’s question. At all. The policy being what it is, Conditions A, B, and C could very well be in play. Which is why coworker was asking. But because this was a Higher Up in our company, my coworker didn’t want to push it.

    So yeah, if you Really want to go the snippy route (please don’t) at least make sure the question they asked was answered in the initial email before you drop a “Dude, Like I SAID two seconds ago…”

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss

      Yeah it definitely depends on who’e sending the email. But if it’s a repeat offender, I find nothing wrong with a “As stated in the original email…” response.

      1. stump

        Oh definitely, if it’s a repeat offender. This Company Higher Up is just known for being kind of snippy and vaguely jerkish, though, and I don’t think my coworker had ever interacted with them before that email.

  20. Delta Delta

    #4 – to follow up on the others suggesting a concise list of details in the original email, I would suggest you don’t respond when someone sends an email asking a question you’ve already answered. The askers have trained you to send follow ups, rather than actually read the original message. If you don’t respond it will force them to actually read the information.

    Also, make the first email really clear and concise so the information is easy to find.

    1. Murphy

      As someone who also deals with this issue often, if it’s you job to make sure people are at the meeting, and/or generally to answer people’s questions, you can’t really just ignore it.

      1. PJs of Steven Tyler

        Thanks – I was agreeing with Delta Delta in my head! I have definitely ignored e-mails requesting reiterated information because it drives me crazy when I perceive that people can’t even do the bare minimum and read the dang e-mail! But you are correct that we can’t always ignore the question, unfortunately. I need to keep this in mind and be cool next time it happens to me.

        1. Murphy

          It drives me crazy too! I’m just glad it’s email, because I have an easier time composing myself and responding politely, while I’m privately super annoyed.

    2. Psyche

      Generally, I think ignoring the email makes the problem worse rather than better. Not responding will just result in people not coming to the meeting or getting yet another email from them and then you look incompetent for not replying before. Also, if it is from someone higher up than you, that could really look bad. If it is someone who reports to you and they are a repeat offender, talk to them about the importance of reading emails carefully.

      I do think that the most important thing is to make sure the first email is clear and concise. If you are hiding the information at the end of a long email, it is likely to be missed. You can also try bolding the time and place so that it really jumps out.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch

      That’s my urge every time but sadly it ends way worse to drop the ball, depending on the dynamics of the office of course.

      I’m imagining if you’re tasked with sending these emails and herding the cats, you’re not in a position to ignore the responses in an organizational chart kind of way.

      I just assume no malice on their side, roll my eyes at their email and respond.

      Just like when someone misses well labeled things or simple stuff like “my gosh this printer is broken!!!!” but they didn’t check the power button moments. That’s why we form teams to have one among 15others who remember where we keep the coffee creamers when the EA who stocks things is out for vacation =X

  21. musical chairs

    I’m sure that since this has already been updated that it won’t be anymore, but for the hair question, I’m not getting any clues on whether the writer is male or female (I’m deferring to Alison’s assumption since she’s in much closer contact) but I’m also not getting clues on the writers hair texture. Usually Alison leaves room in her answers for plenty of lived experiences, I was surprised to see an answer that clearly only works for some people and didn’t at least acknowledge that. Not the end of the world, but different from what I expected.

    I’m black (type 4c hair, so very coily) and work in a more conservative corporate environment. The advice given only kind of works for black women. If you have locs or braids or twists it’s easier to do the styles mentioned than with natural hair but other than the ponytail, it’ll take industrial strength bobby-pins to keep that down. That can get pretty uncomfortable!

    When I have long braids or twists, I go for a half ponytail to keep it out of my face. I’ve also used a trick where I tie up the the hair near my hairline (about an inch back) and secure it near the nape is neck underneath the rest of my hair, again to keep it neat, but still off of my face. Because of the thickness of long locs or braids twists, there aren’t a ton of options that will be both comfortable and neat and secured.

    When I keep my hair natural —mine isn’t quite as long as the letter writer’s— I’ll go for some of the styles mentioned (Gibson tucks and French twists are not staying down without heavy machinery), but I’ll do a braided version of them! Take that long braid, tease it a tiny bit and roll it up into a low bun. Milkmaid/Goddess braids will stay put longer than a chignon.

    If your hair is long because of weave, you’ll likely only be able to go between keeping your down but secured out of your face, a half ponytail or a low ponytail or long low braid . Keeping your tracks hidden will be more important than versatility.

    Generally anything than can be secured with a small, clear hair tie rather than All The Pins You Can Find will feel better and last longer. Braids will withstand weather and long hours.

    Neat, styled cornrows and other flat braided styles are lot more low maintenance and are great protective styles that can last a while! In the US, cornrows aren’t always seen as professional—so this one will require knowing your office environment and if there is a professional cost for being Visibly Black and having a corporate-type job at the same time (threw up in my mouth typing that, what a world we live in!). If you like these styles, the second you feel comfortable doing it, go for it! It’s so worth it, especially for long hair.

    (For the sake of completeness: for a black man with coily, kinkier textures, unless you have locs, it’s not common to see a lot of length on men in conservative professional settings. I’m sure it can be done and would also require very neat facial hair. Ponytail is almost your only option. Maybe one big braid in the back if your hair is between shoulder and armpit length. But for the most part, it would stand to reason that keeping your hair pulled back would be preferred. You’ll likely get pushback on your hair if it’s not kept very short, regardless of what particular style, unfair as that may be).

    1. Ceiswyn

      I was also a bit surprised that texture wasn’t mentioned. My hair is basically candyfloss; I think the curl would be classified as type 2b, but it’s also very fine (blonde), reasonably thick, and quite dry and fragile. Hairstyles that work for straight hair just result in a halo of frizzy short/broken/escaped strands in mine.

    2. musical chairs

      I realize my answer is still not as inclusive as I would like. When I say male or female, I should say presents as male or female. That language more closely reflects my values. For non-binary folks, I’ll admit I’m not really sure of exactly how hairstyle, gender presentation, race/texture and ideas about professionalism (at least the ones worth paying attention to) interact for people who identify/present this way when they’re at work. Definitely an opportunity for me to learn more!

    3. Jennifer

      I’m a naturalista too. *high five*

      I assumed the writer was a white female. Usually black women mention texture because natural hair in corporate America is an issue in itself sometimes.

      I have attempted the milkmaid look but it never works for me. My go to is the top pour, or sometimes bun. Other times a full fro. My job is less formal than yours, possibly.

      1. The Original K.

        I’m natural too, with 3b/3c hair. I wear my hair out fairly often but when I don’t, my go-to styles are a low or high bun or two pinned-up Dutch or French braids. I’m not that good at complex styling but those are simple styles that I can do well and quickly (and doing styles quickly is important to me).

        1. Jennifer

          I cannot braid to save my life. I can do the high or low bun and the pouf. That’s about it, lol. I want to take a class.

          1. The Original K.

            I can braid OK (complex cornrow styles are out of my league) but for some reason the flat twist gets me all jammed up. I’ve spent so much time in front of the mirror with YouTube tutorials playing trying to get it right!

            I once had my hair in a bunch of mini-twists and made up an updo with them and I got compliments all day long. Haven’t been able to replicate it since!

            1. Jennifer

              I cannot do the flat twists. I want to do a twist out so badly and it always looks terrible in the morning. Those youtubers are liars! Lol

            2. musical chairs

              Oh no the only cornrows I do on myself are underneath a scarf, seen by only me and my creator. I joke that my inability to do them is just me contributing to the economy by refusing to learn and paying a professional. This is me helping.

              Twist outs are my go-to at work though. The flat twists don’t have to look nice if they’re taken out right away!

  22. Róisín

    #2 I’d tell her, and just not respond to follow-up communication. I think it’s only fair to her that she at least gets the courtesy of an explanation. “Unfortunately we will need to cancel our interview on Wednesday. Your behavior toward X and Y on [date] was not what we look for in a candidate so we’ll be moving forward with other applicants.” And then wish her luck or whatever other politeness markers you need. But that’s me, and I am CONFRONTATIONAL so you might not wish to go there!

    #4 My personal favorite is “per my previous email”, which I learned from my dad who has the same problem. But I don’t work in an office, so grain of salt. I only have to pull it out on frustrating email exchanges with the nursery regarding foster kittens.

  23. Project Problem Solver

    LW#4, I’ll admit to sometimes being that person, which mortifies me. The truth is that I’m both buried in email and in conference calls, so I’m probably trying to clear up non-essential emails while on the phone. If you were to send a “everything you need is below!” I’d be embarrassed, but not upset. Go ahead and send a cordial reminder, but try to not take it personally, either. It’s not necessarily wide-spread inattention. (Sometimes it is, of course, and it’s totally fine to feel privately frustrated by that.)

  24. M2

    #2 hey Allison, do people say “wish you the best” when they aren’t interested in you anymore? I was a finalist and had all the background and references checked and cleared then was told I was still in consideration, but they needed more time because I was the first finalist they found. But HR emailed “we wish you all the best.” So I was very confused about whether I was still in the running even though verbally they told me I was. They gave mixed messages but my references said the questions asked were strange so that was another red flag. I wish when employers don’t want you they just say “we are cancelling the interview and going in a different direction or going with other candidates.” This wishing you all the best is confusing. For the record I still have not heard back, so I am assuming I won’t be picked but not getting a definitive answer I don’t think is right either.

    1. BRR

      I’m not sure I have the correct timeline but if they checked references then sent “wish you the best,” that’s a rejection in my opinion. It of course depends what else was in HR’s email.

  25. Ms Chanadalar Bong

    While I agree with Allison’s assessment that LW#2 would be likely to get a combative response if they explained why the interview was cancelled, I would still do it.

    There’s nothing to say that you have to respond if they argue, but in this case, I think it’s significant to point out the consequences of the behavior: that more than one employee, including a member of the management group, found their behavior to be rude, disruptive, dismissive (whatever the case is), and that the behavior doesn’t line up with the business’ values. Doesn’t have to be prescriptive – there is definitely no value to telling them what they could do differently – but maybe it will make them uncomfortable.

  26. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss

    #1 – 100% agree with Alison. People take breaks at work in different ways – some smoke, some chat, some take a walk and get a snack and others go to social media. Unless it’s negatively affecting the work getting done, let it go.
    #2 – I would 100% tell the applicant why you’re cancelling the interview. She may not hear it, but it may sink in later and help her in the future.
    #4 – this is the story of my life. I am constantly repeating things in emails that people don’t read. As others have suggested, try bullets or numbers, rather than writing in paragraphs. And if it’s the same person who does this type of thing over and over, I find nothing wrong with a “The location is highlighted below” response, along with actually highlighting the answer to their question. I get that some people are busy and may miss something (I’ve done it before), but I’ve worked with plenty of people who skim emails and want you to spoon feed everything to them. Sorry but I’ve got a job to do too.
    #5 – your manager is very unreasonable, and I don’t know that you can avoid burning bridges with them regardless of how you handle your exit. As long as you finish your work, and document anything that isn’t common knowledge you’re covered. When you find a new job, give the standard 2 weeks.If she tries to persuade you to stay longer, “I’m sorry but my last day will be X.” And if at any point in those 2 weeks she makes working there uncomfortable, leave. Sometimes the bridges are worth burning.

  27. Jennifer

    Do people with long hair not wear it out at work? I’m talking mid-back length. I work with a lot of women who wear their hair loose and always thought they looked professional. Or are we only talking about extremely long hair here?

    1. Iris Eyes

      Mid back (like bra strap length) is one thing that more “normal” I’m guessing this is more hip to knee length hair. There’s long hair and “exotically” long hair.

    2. this way, that way

      I was thinking it was only for hair that you sit on or hair that would get caught in your chair wheels

      1. Jennifer

        Okay, that makes sense. Unfortunately, that does bring up some stereotypes in people’s minds. I’m black with kinky/coily hair so it hasn’t been something I thought of that much. I never thought someone who just wore their hair loose was unprofessional.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale

      Extremely long, I’m guessing. My hair is curly and a bit unpredictable, and when I wear down it falls below my shoulder blades. No one has ever said my hair looked unprofessional and I can’t imagine that they would (especially in my creative-adjacent industry).

    4. gecko

      It’s just really easy for some textures of European-descent hair to look very un-groomed when left loose. My hair is very nice but it frizzes in the front, tangles at the ends, and if I dare to sit back against my hair, rats-nests grow in the back.

      It depends on hair type, of course, but longer hair like mine can look very unprofessional very fast if it’s left loose.

      1. Jennifer

        Yes, I guess that’s true. It may depend on the way a person chooses to style their hair in the morning and what products are used, etc.

    5. Kelly L.

      My hair turns into a tanglefest in like 10 minutes if I wear it down, and I also absently start playing with it. It’s quite striking when I do let it down for a special occasion, but if you want it to look put-together all day without my having to re-fix it constantly, it needs to be contained.

    6. Barbara

      I have long wavy hair (like mid-back length) and I clip part of it up away from my face, usually. I am a lawyer, by the way.

    7. Batgirl

      Its easy for straighter white hair to look greasy too (not mine; mine is curly AF) but if you’ve got the type that starts straggling into lanky strips (before it’s actually greasy) on day two then youre going to want to tie it back (which will also keep it cleaner).

  28. blink14

    OP 5 – my manager at my former job was also really difficult with people giving notice. I gave two weeks notice, exactly 10 business days, and she freaked out and told me it wasn’t 2 weeks. Um hello? That’s two business weeks! Totally standard. She basically tasked me with finding and training my own replacement, which was awful. I knew how much of a hellhole it was to work in, and I felt so guilty leaving the new employee behind when I left. I also knew things were going on that were borderline illegal in terms of overtime and vacation pay, which I did report to the state when I left.

    I had originally debated giving 3 weeks, but didn’t for a couple of reasons, the biggest reason being I was worried she would ask me to walk out same day and I really needed as much out of my final paycheck as possible. The second reason, my offer letter from my new job was delayed by about week, due to severe weather and some errors that needed to be corrected, so I actually started my new job two days past the official start date (needed for insurance coverage to kick in right away).

    When I knew that I had my job offer (about 4 weeks before I left), I started cleaning up and organizing computer files, quietly wrapping up projects, and mentally coming up with a monthly to do list for the new person. Those are things you could start doing once you’re well into an interview process, or even earlier, to take pressure off yourself later.

    1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

      “She basically tasked me with finding and training my own replacement,” I seriously hope you said something to the effect of “That won’t be possible” because…hell no, not your problem. What was going to happen if you just…didn’t?

    2. Massmatt

      I wonder what is up with these bosses and workplaces that expect several weeks or even months of notice. When they hire someone, are they fine with a start date 5 or 6 or 8 weeks away so that a replacement can be found and trained? More likely they say no thanks, what is the matter with you, and move on to another candidate. And do they give several weeks of notice and severance when they let someone go? I doubt it!

      You have almost all the cards when leaving. A threat to give a bad reference is fairly hollow, given people like this are unreliable references at best anyway, and you can generally find a sane coworker to act as a reference even if your ex boss is a jerk.

      I do recommend not telling a bad workplace who your new employer is, truly bad bosses will threaten to badmouth you. When asked just say “I was offered a great opportunity and I am very excited about it”.

  29. Jennifer

    LW2 Can you send this woman an email instead of calling? You can give a reason for the cancellation without worrying about her getting combative, then disregard any further messages from her.

    She is going to know something is up. I have never had a scheduled in person interview just canceled. Rescheduled, yes. That is such egregious behavior I almost wonder if someone is trying to sabotage her or something. Completely outrageous.

    1. Drax

      Some people are that dense. I used to work at a big yellow and red bulk store and we had applicants that would come in apply all nice, then come back later and scream at the kids about not having an item another store had. Or my favorite have a full scale meltdown about the coupons having conditions that we printed on the coupon, had no way of over writing and they didn’t read and how dare we not let them take $9 off $10 just the $3 printed on the coupon. I’ve never been called so many names over a coupon in my life and she had applied directly with me like half hour before.

        1. Drax

          Me either, but you can’t fix bad behavior and it’s a blessing for it to come out before you hired them.

    2. Polymer Phil

      Great suggestion. I never understood the “but people sometimes argue with us” excuse for leaving rejected interviewees hanging. Just send a damn rejection, and block her if she starts hounding you. Giving her some vague excuse for canceling the interview is likely to lead to persistent attempts to re-schedule it.

      1. Jennifer

        Yes, this woman doesn’t seem like one who will just accept a vague excuse. And I think she needs to know how completely awful her behavior was. I’m guessing she’s young. Hoping. Maybe this will be a learning experience.

  30. I'm A Little Teapot

    #5 – in addition to the 2 weeks notice, please do report your employer for the pay issues. If they are breaking the law, then hopefully the Dept of Labor (or whoever it is) will investigate and penalize them.

    1. Rebecca

      Totally seconding this. The United States Department of Labor website has a lot of information regarding this issue.

    2. Non-Exempt

      I was really alarmed by the lack of response about the wage theft happening to LW5 (and their colleagues, it seems).

      PLEASE, report to the Wage and Hour division of the Dept of Labor – https://www.dol.gov/whd/

      WHD can do random drop ins, so your employer won’t even be able to attribute it to you or anyone else. If you are non-exempt, you are 100% owed overtime, and WHD can and will audit your employer.

    3. NotAnotherManager!

      Thirding this – the very first thing I thought when I read that they were working you five unpaid hours a week was, “REPORT THEM NOW!!”. You do not owe this employer more than the basic professional courtesy of two weeks plus a referral to your state employment commission.

  31. Allison

    #1 I’d also suspect, if someone’s tweeting all day and still getting work done, that they may feel bored and underutilized. It’s great when someone with a lot of extra time on their hands takes the initiative to start their own projects or find ways they can help others on the team, but sometimes they need the push. That doesn’t mean “create busywork,” and it doesn’t mean they should take on everyone’s grunt with, effectively turning them into the team admin – it means figure out where else you can use their expertise, in a way that’s going to be fulfilling for them, useful for the team, and possibly open doors for professional growth.

    That said, if someone’s just waiting out a slow period, maybe you do let them discretely goof around on the web for a few weeks, if you know they’ll produce good work efficiently when things get busy again.

  32. Akcipitrokulo

    In that case, you could say “Thank you for your in-person visit. We have decided to move forward with other candidates and are cancelling your Wednesday appointment. We would like to wish you all the best for the future.”

    That’s letting her know that if it was her, the visit had the opposite effect to intended. If it wasn’t her, it gives the option of “wait, what in-person visit?”

    I think it’s highly unlikely that it wasn’t her – but I’d mention the in-person visit regardless.

  33. Spreadsheets and Books

    I’m really starting to second guess wearing my very long hair down or in a high ponytail right about now…

    1. Crivens!

      I don’t think you should. It’s obvious from these comments that people have a weird variety of hang-ups about a weird variety of hairstyles, and there’s no winning here. Just wear your hair in the way that works best for you: as women, we’ll never please everyone because we always get judged.

      1. Rebecca

        Me either – my hair is nearly to my waist, and can be best described as free style hippie hair. I don’t care. I do my job, I’m not customer facing, and even if I was, what difference would it make? My hair length, color, how it’s styled, etc. has zero impact on my ability to do my job.

      2. londonedit

        Yeah, I’m finding all the hairstyle judgement a bit odd if I’m honest. Ponytails, buns, single plaits, short hair, long hair, curly hair…I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone express a particular judgement against a particular hairstyle! The people I work with wear their hair in all sorts of ways.

      3. Kiki

        Kind of like that letter from the boss who felt it was unprofessional to pay for a business lunch with cash, it’s really interesting to see the different rules of professionalism that exist in people’s minds, regardless of whether or not other anyone else agrees

    2. LaDeeDa

      I think a ponytail can be extremely professional and elegant. I always think of Sandra Bullock in The Proposal. It was sleek and powerful.

    3. CheeryO

      Your hair probably looks fine. I think a lot of people are picturing the scraggly/skinny kind of braid that you’d see on a kid or a biker guy, because it seems like people here always jump to the most extreme version of whatever situation is being described. As long as your hair is clean and reasonably well taken care of, you shouldn’t worry. There are always people who will be weird about long hair, but I think they’re a very small minority. Just do you!

    4. A different name

      I’m feeling crummy about apparently going through life as a slovenly cultist.

      Oh well. I guess it depends on your environment…

    5. kitryan

      I think there may also be a confirmation bias type thing that happens – if there is a person with a tidy braid and they’re otherwise put together, then the braid averse observer may not even register that they’re wearing an ‘unprofessional’ hairstyle. But when they see a person who has a braid and the hair is less tidy or they’re wearing something overly dowdy, play with their braid, or are generally less put together, it would be another example in their mind of how braids are unprofessional. Same thing for virtually any hair style.
      No true Scotsman, but for hair.
      Problem is, other than having friends/family/nice coworkers who seem good at professional dress/professional norms give you tips, there’s not much you can take 100% from general rules besides ‘be clean’, since it’s all about your region, your workplace, the rest of your appearance, and your particular hair!
      Personally, my hair ranges from shoulder length to a few inches longer and I almost always just twist it back and put it in a hair clip. I just got a few ‘fancier’ clips to give my default style a bit of an upgrade, where the clips are metal or are a more well made/substantial tortoise shell look than the cheap (and cheap looking) drugstore ones.

    6. Mr Shark

      As a guy, I’m a little surprised with some of the comments on braids or wearing your hair down while female.

      I don’t really think I’ve come across any women in the workplace who I have felt weren’t wearing their hair professionally, whether it was up, down, in a pony tail, or braided. I certainly don’t see a braid as something only for children or overly conservative religious people, but what do I know?

      If you’re well groomed and well dressed, I don’t think it much matters how you wear your hair.

  34. LaDeeDa

    OP2 – I would tell the person why the interview is being canceled. They may get defensive and combative, but you don’t have to engage with that. I think they need to know that their behavior was unprofessional, weird, and told them everything they needed to know about her.

    Bullet dodged!

  35. LaDeeDa

    I think everyone is guilty of missing key information in emails, we are so busy and just scan and respond. On Friday I was sending and an average of 3 emails a minute for hours. It was ridiculous.

    I do try to make things easy. If an email has a lot of details I usually break it down into chunks and bullet points:
    Decisions
    * 1
    *2
    *3

    Actions
    *1
    *2
    *3

    Next Steps
    *1
    *2
    *3

    I will also break that up, if not everyone involved needs to know Decision points, then I send it only to the decision makers. That can create more work for me, it would be nice to send it to all involved, but if I want things to keep moving, I may need to manage the information better.

  36. Detective Amy Santiago

    #4 – there’s a great meme that goes around FB that says

    “Per my last email” is office speak for “bitch, can you read?”

    My friends tag me in it a lot.

    1. Roz Doyle

      omg…lol…there are a few individuals at work I would LOVE to send that meme to, but I won’t because professionalism…I will proceed with finding that meme though.

    2. Amber Rose

      I have seen that a lot, which is why I resist the urge to use it. But I find myself having to resist quite often. I wish people would read more than three words into an email.

    3. Pomona Sprout

      I’ve also seen this one:

      EMAIL WRITING 101
      “Per my last email” = “In case you suddenly can’t read”
      “To reiterate” = “This is the last time I’m saying this”
      “Moving forward” = “Don’t try me again”
      “I’ve copied _______” = = “Let’s see you lie your way out of this one, bitch”
      “Kind regards” = “F*** you”

      Cracks me up every time!

  37. Roz Doyle

    OP 1 – Not sure if employees are accessing social media on company computers or their smartphones. I work in teapot manufacturing and design, with a huge engineering dept. and social media is blocked for most employees – fb, twitter, youtube etc. and I actually think it’s a great idea. Our jobs don’t require using these. I have little self control when it comes to browsing those sites and I appreciate having all of them blocked by my employer, it’s better for me and my productivity. Only departments that use use social medial to promote our products have access. I know it sounds heavy handed, esp because Alison’s advice is of course, great, but maybe a long-term solution for you could be just blocking those sites company-wide. Only suggesting this because it works well for me.

  38. LovebyLetters

    Stuck at work and can’t read all these answers yet (though I intend to) but wanted to add: fancy braids are the bomb. My hair is way too heavy to just do a bun or a ponytail, gives me headaches five minutes in. I did a tutorial a while back to explain one of my styles — my work go to is a much neater version of the following “bun,” with hidden pins instead of chopsticks:

    https://imgur.com/gallery/g9pc6y1

    Ive also done braid crowns — sounds fancy, actually easier than it looks and super comfy since the weight of the braid is balanced equally around the top of your head.

    https://imgur.com/gallery/wDGju

  39. LaDeeDa

    I rarely see a woman with really long hair and think she looks unprofessional. Most of the women at my company who have extremely long hair are from a country where very long hair is common. We also have a lot of men who seem to favor the bald on top with a thin ponytail at the neck look.

  40. Amber Rose

    Is leaving long hair loose really that unprofessional? I don’t really understand that. It’s not like my hair is a frizzy mess. Mine lays flat and shiny all day (with a quick comb at lunch), and tucked behind my ears it’s not in my face.

    I hate putting up my hair. It’s not easy or fun, it takes upwards of half an hour for me to accomplish even a basic ponytail. And then I get headaches. But I love my long hair.

    1. LaDeeDa

      It is pretty clear from these comments that people have their own ideas about what makes “professional hair”, it has been eye-opening to read. It is also interesting to see that hardly anyone has mentioned men’s hair in all this.

      1. Rebecca

        Yes, I found that interesting, too. Again, what difference does it make as long as the work is being done and it doesn’t interfere with that? Gender, hair length, hair style, none of that matters as long as the TPS reports are being filed and stapled correctly.

        1. Amber Rose

          With the exception of people who work with food and people who work with power tools/machinery, exactly. And those exceptions are safety related, not about professionalism. When I worked in a kitchen, nobody cared if my hair was a mess because it all got jammed under a net and hat anyway.

        2. Yorick

          As long as the TPS reports are being filed, what does it matter if people come to work wearing pajamas, or nothing at all?

      2. Amber Rose

        I think it’s because the majority of men have short hair (at least, in NA), the kind of short which can’t really be styled anyway. My husband doesn’t even own a comb or a brush.

        Though it would be interesting to see how people feel about say, ponytail vs buzz cut vs loose long hair for dudes. They certainly seem to have strong opinions about man-buns.

        1. LaDeeDa

          For men, I think the discussion would be beards. The style/trend for beards has been big and long for the last few years.

    2. Risha

      It’s a good thing that I already couldn’t care less about the people who think my hair being down is unprofessional, because I literally can’t put it up for a full work day. It’s long and wavy and gorgeous, and can work itself out of any fastener in less than an hour. Even on the rare occasion that a professional has attempted to tame it with clips and straighteners and bobby pins and heavy duty gels and hairsprays, it’s free in under three hours. So I plan to continue to not give a shit.

      1. Batgirl

        I love this. My hair is an amateur escapologist (my boyfriend says it tries to ‘get him’) but yours sounds like a cross between Houdini and a commando.

        1. Risha

          I think it’s like those videos where springs(?) are wound up really tight and they quick untie themselves and unwind. My hair looks like it’s mostly straight with some big waves, but when you look closer every hair is actually wavy in a different direction. So at a distance they all blend together into one mass but in reality they’re each trying to get away from the rest. Escaping a pony tail elastic is easy when the neighbor you’re squashed up against is also wiggling towards the exit, but aiming for the other door.

  41. TootsNYC

    #4, people who miss info in the original email

    How bad would it be to just not respond? When it comes time, maybe it will occur to them to look more deeply in the original email. Learning things for themselves might be more powerful, actually.

  42. Pebbles

    #1 – Definitely look at the employee’s output and see if they are meeting expectations there. Ask the other people that your employee works with and see what their impressions are (i.e. is the employee easy to approach for questions, responds to emails in a timely manner). If you still have a concern even though your employee is meeting these benchmarks, then talk with them in a 1-on-1, let them know you have a concern, but don’t be accusatory. Listen to the employee. Maybe there really is that much downtime in their job, or maybe they really can quick fire off a tweet and then go right back to working.

    I had a manager that thought I was on social media ALL THE TIME because he’d walk by occasionally and I’d be checking email or reading a blog (probably AAM). He asked my coworkers and they all said I was getting my work done, I was easily accessible for questions and help, etc., BUT he couldn’t let it go. He could easily have addressed it in any of the moments he saw me by asking what I was working on, and I could have said waiting for code to compile, or waiting to hit a breakpoint, or 5 minute break, or whatever. Heck, I could have been Googling for coding solutions on stack overflow. But no, he never talked to me about it during our 1-on-1s either. He waited until my annual review to put it down as a performance problem and I had NO IDEA this was ever a concern. He was not a good manager.

  43. LaDeeDa

    I have enjoyed reading all the comments and seeing the variety of opinions on hair. I think most of it goes to what is the norm at your company and industry. At my company, it can vary from jeans and t-shirts to suits. We have one guy who every Friday he wears cowboy boots with a kilt made from Wrangler jeans. He has worn that every single Friday for 15+ years. We have a data entry person who is in her 50s she has platinum blond hair cut into a pixie faux hawk, and it suits her perfectly. We have women from India who have hair down to their knees. The thing is, that in their area of the business it is acceptable and fine, but our client-facing employees are likely wearing business casual or suits, depending on their job. Our external marketing department employees are in suits and very polished, our internal marketing department employees dress and look like old school stereotypical hippies- long graying hair, flowy skirts, men with ponytails and tie-dye.
    My point is- there isn’t an answer that fits everyone. The key is to take notice of what is done at your company, in your industry and if you are client/customer facing consider what their first impression of you will be, and what is the norm in their world.

  44. KR

    Hi, I frequently check in on social media throughout the day. I know for me up until recently my computer was SLOW and it wasn’t uncommon to wait five minutes for something to load. So I would check in on social media. There is only so much I can multitask on and by that I mean bouncing back and forth and doing another work related task while I’m waiting for the other one to load.

  45. Alton Brown's Evil Twin

    I would really, really love to see Allison interview somebody who’s on the receiving end of question #4. Or an industrial psychologist or communications professional who sees that kind of thing and analyzes it.

    Is it willful ignorance? Email overload? Are they just reading the little preview panel in MS Exchange or something, and not the full body of the message? Or reading it on their phones and not scrolling down?

    1. Drax

      scanning. My boss does it to me constantly and every time I say it’s in the email he goes “oh I scanned it”. Unless you break it into individual pieces like below he will miss it.
      “Time
      date
      location

      relevant information”

  46. Shoes On My Cat

    OP3 Hair Sticks! You can get really nice ones-generally at art festivals (in California, any “small-town Fest” like Pumkinfest, GarlicFest, etc). Online perhaps too. They really dress up a basic bun or even a fast French braid where you tuck the rest of the braid up under the braid along your scalp, tie off with clear elastics (kiddie hair accessories at drug store) then secure with the stix. My hair is really fine and this is my alternative to a French twist & gets loads of compliments. You may be able to find this great book, “Hair” by Klutz Press. They show you step by step how to do a bunch of adult styles from your perspective. Good luck!!

    1. Seeking Second Childhood

      Hairsticks are crazy easy to make. Cut down good disposable chopsticks, sand them, then stain or paint or oil. Add beads if you want fancy. Or use some of the DIY tricks from Harry Potter wand tutorials.
      And if you can find child-sized chopsticks, those are just the right length as-is.

  47. Rez123

    I read this in the morning and I’ve been thinking about this today and tried to pay attention to peoples hair. I’ve learned from this site that me and my colleagues are very unprofessional without even knowing it! The only hairstyle that I would consider unprofessional would be cousin itt from Adam’s family. I would never describe braid as unprofessional and I cannot think of a single reason why it would be.

    I did a bit of research and here is what I learned
    – Ponytails are unprofessional. High ones are more unprofessional eventhough in cinema the boss ladies have it.
    – Ponytail might be ok if it’s worn less than 3 times a week
    – side ponutails are unprofessional
    – Braids are unprofessional
    – hair down is unprofessional
    – Afro is unprofessional
    – Unnatural hair colors are unprofessional
    – hair colors where roots are showing a e unprofessional
    – Curly hair is unprofessional
    – Messy bun was divisive and dependent on the location
    – Women over the age of 40 with long hair is unprofessional
    – Shaved head is unprofessional

    1. Aisling

      Not sure where you’re going with this. The only thing I got from the comments is everyone has their own opinion on what professional hair is, which means as long as it’s neat and clean, you do you. No need to get annoyed.

      1. Rez123

        I wasn’t really going anywhere. Mainly just noticing that there is no winning when it comes to looking professional. Everyone has an opinion and even the most surprising things can affect your career and prospects in getting a job.
        Also I was just surprised that this was a big topic on the interwebs without ever even hearing it. I do get annoyed (not like properly ;)whenever there is a looking professional conversation. It’s not usually a “you do you”. In this case it was the LW asking for herself but usually it’s someone else commenting on something or putting down rules for no reason. It makes wakes up my inner anarchist. This was not in anyway a rant just a suprise how there is no winning

        1. Aisling

          I draw the conclusion of “you do you” specifically because there’s no winning. It is frustrating that there isn’t one way to do professional, or even a general set of guidelines that work for every profession or office setting, so I just shrug and continue to do what I’ve been doing. I do hear you on the frustration!

        2. EventPlannerGal

          I mean, yes, people do have different opinions about stuff, particularly subjective and variable abstract concepts like “professionalism”. (If everybody on earth had the same opinion about everything then the world would be pretty boring.) You literally cannot please everybody in the world or guarantee that everybody will view you in exactly the same way that you want them to, so really the only thing that it’s actually *possible* to do is “do you” – accept that some people somewhere will disagree with your styling or clothing choices no matter what they are, then make those choices anyway.

    2. LQ

      I’m going to say movies and TV are -never- a good place to turn for what is professional. No one would watch a tv show about day to day boring professional work place work. That’s not what tv or movies are about.

      Sally called in sick today. Since it was the 6th time this year so far her boss put an appointment on Sally’s calendar to talk with her about attendance and expectations. Then the boss talked to Joe and gave him a few of Sally’s tasks for the day. Joe asked about how to re-prioritize his work. Boss acknowledged that it was an issue and agreed to see if she could take a less urgent task off his list and made a note to talk with her boss. Boss followed up with HR on a question from the previous week. Joe reached out to the person Sally was working with and let him know that he’d be helping out today and asked for some patience as he got caught up on what had happened. Outside person agreed and expressed dissatisfaction. Joe emailed boss with a quick note about dissatisfaction from outside person so they were aware as an FYI….

      Don’t use “Ok in movies” to justify “Ok at work”

      1. Rez123

        There was an article about hair at work and it especially pointed out how in movies female bosses have high ponytails and the symbolism it has eventhough in real life low ponytail is considered more professional. It was just a reference to an article not an opinion on movies being a way to understand professionalism. But yeah, probably shouldn’t have mentioned it since it looks out of context

  48. another alison

    #4
    I once committed this offense–asked a question that was addressed in the original e-mail. The original sender responded by copying and pasting the text of the e-mail and highlighting the part that I missed. Which probably took three times longer than just typing the answer. I felt quite passively aggressed.

  49. incompetemp's colleague

    For #4, this isn’t a solution per se, but a possible explanation. Outlook (if that’s what you use) tends to send email invites to the recycling bin as soon as you accept it, leaving the original message surprisingly hard to track down, but possible to reply to via the Outlook calendar. That might be why people are glossing over things they should be able to read in your email.

    (But also maybe they just need a lot of hand-holding and aren’t self-reliant!)

  50. PlainJane

    And even if I have a perm, why should that be a problem? I understand that some hairstyles have cultural significance, but in the workplace (at least in the US), I don’t think we’re allowed to permit certain hairstyles for employees of one race/culture but not another. I hate the idea of policing hairstyles to this degree and declaring that certain styles are only “professional” for certain groups. Is your hair clean and reasonably neat? Yes? Then you should be fine. Note: I’m not intending to open a debate on hairstyles and cultural appropriation. I’m speaking only of what is or isn’t permissible in the workplace.

  51. MonteCristo85

    For #3, if you like your hair in braids for hair health reasons, you can also pin up the brain (or use a butterfly or octopus clip) to put up the braid. Gives you a more polished look, but still with the braid you like…plus it is easier to manage an updo if you have your hair braided to begin with.

  52. coffee cup

    My workplace recently made a post on our intranet about how we’re not allowed to use IM at work for any personal chat. Even a two-minute back-and-forth to have a breather and maybe arrange a tea break! I was really annoyed and it’s created a bad atmosphere that the managers don’t seem to be aware of (or if they do, they don’t care). I certainly am not suggesting we should all be wasting hours of paid work time on IM. But the question about social media just reminded me how annoyed this has made me – because it assumes we’re all up to no good and can’t be trusted to assess how much we can message without it being detrimental to our work. I’ve been there 7 years, I am 35, I’m an adult and I work hard at my job. I resent being told not to say hi to a colleague for 30 seconds when I need a break.

    I guess I wonder if I can address this, and how? I don’t want it to come across like I am asking for permission to slack off at work. But I do want them to realise how much even just the request comes across to us and makes us feel like we’re not trusted. To my knowledge, no one slacks off in my office, but if they did, surely that’s a case by case, not a reason to clamp down on all of us.

    Veering off a bit from the OP, sorry, but I am very frustrated with things at work just now and wonder if I can at least explain how we are feeling.

    1. LaDeeDa

      Did they give any context/reason behind it? It seems really odd. I wonder if someone said something offensive and someone saw it, so they made a sweeping rule instead of just dealing with the situation.

      We use IM for everything at my work- almost all of us work remote, and our intranet site has social areas- we have a pet forums where we post photos of our pets, we have a recipe forum, we have a for sale area… all to encourage social interactions. It is good for the soul!!!
      Most of us work really hard, and we encourage connecting, because in the long run that helps get stuff done.

      1. coffee cup

        Nope! It was ‘a reminder’ posted by one of the managers and then the others commented thanks, like they were all backing each other up. It felt a little hostile, actually, as if it was ‘them versus us’ even though none of us has done anything wrong. They do have a habit of knee-jerk reactions, so I wondered if this was another. I’ve started occasionally messaging people again, because it’s more disruptive to go and chat to someone at their desk (open office) and honestly it is quicker. It takes me 10 seconds to type a quick message.

        We have a social area on our intranet too but they told us we have to log it as ‘not work time’, so again that really puts us off using it.

  53. Jcsgo

    #1 – Does it make a difference whether the employee is salaried or paid hourly? Personally, I tend to have higher standards for myself with social media as an hourly employee since I’m being paid by the hour. When I was salaried (in a different job), it wasn’t as big of a deal since I was being paid the same to get the job done. Time management wasn’t an issue.
    What’s a reasonable amount of time for an hourly employee vs. a salaried employee to spend on social media?

  54. Lucy

    Re: 4. People who miss info in the email they’re responding to, I’ve been thinking about how I do this, and noticed today that it’s customary in my legal field to bold and underline key points in an email or letter, so that a skim will find it, either for someone who read it carefully the first time, or everyone else.

    As I have a tendency towards being a bit wordy, I know this is useful for distilling content, especially when it’s an email to a group some of whom do want the full version. Wakeen can peruse at his leisure and prepare his questions, but Fergus just sees Monday 3pm Conference Room One. Fingers crossed they both turn up.

    This seems to work reasonably well for me both for actions and questions – certainly an improvement over the response to plain text, and a step less demanding if there are sensibilities about client/supplier relationships or hierarchy.

  55. Noah

    “The most important thing you can do when you’re worried about someone’s productivity is to look at their actual work output and work quality. Are they meeting their goals, meeting deadlines, being responsive to customers and colleagues, and producing the caliber and quantity of work that you’d expect? If so, then I’d generally leave social media use alone,”

    I really don’t get this. If I’m meeting all those goals, but spend 4 hours/day Tweeting, that seems like a major issue. As in, I need some more robust goals and my manager would be totally justified in telling me to knock off the Tweeting and take on more work.

  56. Just Saying

    #3
    Is it possible that the person asking is color blind? They may not know which room is blue. Try using a room number instead.

  57. cheluzal

    3: What’s the point of having long hair if you can never wear it long? I’ve had it and washed, brushed, not icky, no safety hazard and not looking like Cousin It are fine to rock in any job I’ve had!

    4: I get snippy. Sorry, but when the same person does this repeatedly, it is highly annoying. I have no tolerance for adults who act like kids (and not reading is just one symptom).

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