my employee came to work with blue hair

A reader writes:

I have a sweet, younger employee who came into work having dyed her hair from brown to black with blue/purple/green highlights that change with how the light hits it — think peacock feathers. I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but it just doesn’t fit here. Our policy is specific about nails, attire, tattoos, and piercings, but not hair. She is a medical assistant and is in patient care all day. How do I tell her that it is unprofessional for the workplace?

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

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • The person I helped hire confessed that she lied about her skills
  • My colleague isn’t pulling her weight
  • My severance package is smaller than coworkers laid off six months ago
  • Should I agree to a long-term work project when I’m job searching?

{ 303 comments… read them below }

  1. Pete*

    Can we wager on the responses here? I’ll lay a large sum on:
    “OMG, LW, don’t you have more important things to worry about?”

    1. Purt's Peas*

      Haha, thankfully these are older letters–so the response can be, “it’s good to hear about these kinds of problems instead of our current load!”

      1. Matilda Jefferies*

        I miss the days when people were concerned about blue hair! Also looking forward to seeing how many people come back to work – whenever that is – with all kinds of wild hair colours that they did because they were bored. :)

        1. AngryAngryAlice*

          And shaved heads! I finally got tired of my longer hair and buzzed it all off. It looks terrible, but it’s not like anyone can see it now anyway (and showers are so much quicker!!!). I think it’s possible that this quarantine might finally kill any lingering strictness that people feel towards “wild” hair. At least, I HOPE it does.

          1. ian*

            Given the impossibility of getting haircuts right now, I suspect a lot of people will just go for a shaved head or buzz cut since that’s one of the easiest things you can do yourself in your own home and still have it look reasonably tidy.

            1. Quill*

              Eh, I can give myself a good trim but I have curly hair so it’s not like it needs to all be the same length, it just needs to all be free of split ends.

            2. Seeking Second Childhood*

              The trend is real. For some fun proof go check out P!nk’s instagram and see what she & her family have been up to.
              And when this rain stops, I’ve agreed to go outside and try to tame my husband’s grizzly adams hair & beard. I’m not sure I’m letting my daughter near my head though — bad memories of an accidental mohawk in college!

              1. Grizzly’s Wife*

                Lol! My husband’s hair and beard is getting out of control, and I told him this week that he looks like Grizzly Adams! Not as white, but otherwise…his hair is almost as long as mine, and mine’s not been seriously cut in 3 years.

            3. MK*

              Really? Since I can’t have my hair dyed and cut, I hope they grow as fast as possible so that I can wear it up.

          2. GovSysadmin*

            I’m going the opposite way – I decided to try to see if I can actually grow a beard after the first couple of days in quarantine where I was lazy and didn’t shave. It’s … weird. I’m not sure if I’m going to keep it or not, but I enjoy the surprise people have when I join video conferences. :)

          3. Elizabeth Rochelle Dickson*

            Looool I just shaved my head yesterday. It’s not a new look for me, though – I’ ve had a shaved/buzzed head for YEARS, since I don’t like dealing with my hair at all, and I also don’t want locs, which is what would happen to my hair if I didn’t comb it, and let it grow beyond an inch or so. I wear wigs if I want long hair, or funny colors. And I doubt it looks bad at all; most people look fine with no hair, it’s just a large change from what you’re used to, and we’re conditioned to believe that all people who are “female presenting (I don’t want to assume you are a woman, hence the awkward phrasing here)” must have hair, the longer the better.

        2. Amber Rose*

          *sheepishly raises hand*

          I half-bleached my hair yesterday so it fades from dark on top to blonde. I’m gonna dye over it, either red or purple. I need to find some fun these days everything else is cancelled!

          My coworker showed up last week with teal hair too.

          1. Grizzly’s Wife*

            Teal sounds awesome! I hadn’t considered that. I have a gorgeous purple I’m going to try. Hopefully the grown-out gray doesn’t make it weird. Especially since I still (have to?/get to?) work.

          2. TardyTardis*

            It’s amazing all the nontraditional hair colors you can find in the hair coloring aisle now (when you can go shopping, anyway).

        3. Malory Archer*

          Yep, I’m one of those too! I dyed mine pink over the weekend – I figure it’ll give me some incentive to style my hair nicely for all my zoom calls so it will show!

        4. BadWolf*

          I dyed mine purple, but most of it washed out. I already have a partly shaved hair style and am thinking about shaving it all off so I can checked “shaved head” off my bucket list. Boy, it’s empting.

          1. TardyTardis*

            My husband let his hair be dyed pink in exchange for so many pounds of food collected for the food bank (retired teacher).

        5. Interviewing with Purple Hair*

          I am about to do this. I have wanted to go purple for forever, but I didn’t want the maintenance or damage my brunette hair with bleach. With isolation I have been much more susceptible to instagram ads and overtone totally got me. Purple for brunettes! I’m thinking about looking for a new job (is that insane?) and I wonder if I shouldn’t do the purple. Is interviewing with purple hair odd? I’m in marketing (client side, though I’ve done agency). I think I’m just craving something happy.

          1. Calina~*

            I believe Overtone just washes out so it shouldn’t be a problem.

            My daughter recently interviewed with the wildest purple hair I’ve ever seen for a fairly conservative company. She wore her hair in a way that kept it looking neat but also mentioned fairly early in the interview that she had no issue at all with coloring it back to normal. They did end up hiring her but it was indeed with the caveat that she needed to have a natural color for her hair.

          2. Snarkansas*

            I use Overtone Rose Gold for brown hair. The bright color only lasts two or three washes then a hint of the color can last quite a while. I’ve wanted to try the purple!!

            1. Spreadsheets and Books*

              I literally just dyed my hair with rose gold for brown hair on Saturday! I love it. It’s such a pretty change. May keep with it – I think it’s subtle enough for the office!

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                Haha, me too! I had been using the “Ginger” all winter though to give my light brown hair an auburn look, and even though I stopped using it a couple of weeks ago my hair stayed fairly orange-ish so the Rose Gold didn’t show up very much compared to when I used it on just my ends a couple of summers ago.

                I’d really like to give their Pink for Brown Hair a try and see how it compares, but it’s on backorder

                1. mlk*

                  Thank you both for the information! I have light-to-mid-brown hair (with a generous amount of grey). I’ve used the intense purple which I found to be too reddish for me, and the intense blue which I really liked. I’ve been wondering what the for-brunette shades would look like.

          3. hermit crab*

            I have no advice on interviewing, but I also succumbed and ordered the Overtone purple-for-brunette kit last night… Presumably, if you need to speed up the de-purplifying, you can just wash your hair a whole bunch of times in a row.

            1. Library Paralegal*

              Washing it out works to a certain point on desaturating the blue pigments, which will make your hair look lighter. I’m six weeks out from my last application of Purple-for-Brown and my ends remain noticeably redder than default, which seems to be lasting five-ever.

          4. LimeRoos*

            Yep! It does wash out. I’ve also used rosegold for brown hair and it was great. The bulk of the color was out after a week or so. But my lighter strands held the color for quite a while and it added a lot of extra dimension to my usual brown hair. It also smells fantastic and is really hydrating.

          5. OG Karyn*

            I used to use the purple for my own hair! It worked a treat (I’m a brunette and bleached, then dyed, and I wanted something to keep it nice and healthy plus deposit color). I highly recommend the deep treatment if you want to start with a strong base.

            1. Dumpster Fire*

              How do these colors work on gray? I’d like to say that I’m naturally a brunette, but I’m artificially a brunette with blonde highlights (better living through chemistry!) and now my gray roots are becoming quite a bit more evident. If I used one these colors, would I end up with brighter purple on my blonde and gray?

              1. Interviewing with Purple Hair*

                It really depends. It will definitely be brighter purple on your lifted hair (blonde). I saw a lot of people posting about gray in their reviews. Gray hair doesn’t pick up color like other hair and behaves pretty differently. For some of the colors, grays really absorbed/were tinted by the colors. For other colors, people complained that it did nothing for their grays. I feel like the vibrant hues took to the gray more than the natural shades, but I am not a hair colorist and know nothing of the chemistry at work.

                1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

                  I am pretty grey all over (originally dark brown black). I dyed my bright purple this weekend and my grey takes it well. ( I used Arctic Fox).

              2. PhyllisB*

                Well, I can tell you how it worked on my hair. (I shared this earlier in the week so forgive the repeat.) First I must mention that I was a natural blonde whose hair faded to a nondescript muddy shade. For years I did blond highlights but got tired of that and became a redhead. Been doing this for about 15 years and recently decided I wanted to see how gray I really am so have quit using the Nice and Easy. However, things were looking a bit drab so decided to get a color boost to get over the hump. (These last about two weeks.) I bought a Garnier color boost in auburn, but when I used it, my hair came out PINK!! It doesn’t look bad and so many people have pink hair now that it’s really no big deal, I just never expected to have pink hair at age 69. I can only figure that I have a lot of underlying gray/white hair that I can’t see yet. Light hair grabs pink better than dark hair. My grandkids think it’s great.

          6. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

            I bought the purple for brown hair. It lasts longer if you use the colored conditioner in the shower when you wash it, but eventually fades. I loved it because I don’t want to bleach my hair for color, plus I wanted it to be more subtle.

          7. Anononon*

            I just bought another brand similar to overtone last night! I was pretty disappointed with myself that it took me two weeks into quarantine to realize I could do this.

          8. Bee*

            I think Overtone saw this coming and really stepped up the ads, because I’d never seen one before then suddenly, one week into isolation, they showed up on all my social media – and it got me! Doing a video-chat group-dye with my friends this week, hahaha. If we hate it, no one else ever has to know!

            1. Interviewing with Purple Hair*

              So true. I’m hoping with the purple for brown, the color will be subtle enough over video that it won’t throw people off. If they need me to change back after the fact, it washes out easily. I go to a hairdresser maybe twice a year now because I just can’t with my commute and a toddler, so the idea of going purple was always so far out of reach. This seems doable though.

          9. The pest, Ramona*

            I once interviewed for a somewhat conservative job right after being a hair model in a show (think avant garde cut & colors). I didn’t have time between the two to get to a stylist. I just mentioned it up front and the committee made no mention of it.
            I learned a lesson about planning ahead, and I got the job too.

          10. Frankie*

            I work in pharma advertising (agency side, account management) and my client is the epitome of Big Pharma. I also have hair that ranges from hot pink to pastel lilac depending on how my colorist and I felt on any given day. I interviewed for my current gig with purple hair, I go to meetings and conferences and run brand strategy workshops for billion dollar drugs, all with purple hair. It’s awesome, and my clients actually love it when I show up with a fresh dye job.

            I think it’s actually easier to interview with it than to change it once you’ve gotten hired– that way, they know what they’re getting!

          11. TardyTardis*

            I have enough white hair mixed with the black/some red hair that any dye like that would probably look awesome.

        6. TiffIf*

          Yeah I’m currently thinking of dying my hair a wild color right now while I’m working form home…

        7. Gumby*

          I considered letting the grey stay, but succumbed and got my normal henna online. Do need to remember to PayPal the tip I would normally give to the woman who usually puts it in my hair. I just started using a professional rather than doing it myself in my kitchen, but I want her to still be available after this because it’s a huge pain in the butt to do it myself!

    2. Scarlet2*

      Yeah. Even if there was no pandemic, I’d say it’s a pretty silly thing to get hung up on, but right now… I’m sure patients really have different priorities than the medical assistant’s hair colour…

      1. MicroManagered*

        I’m actually curious about how old #1 is? As you said, attitudes about stuff like that are rapidly changing.

        1. NerdyKris*

          Alison reuses the titles for the Inc. ones, so you can just use the google search bar on the right to find the originals and their comments.

        2. KimberlyR*

          I work at a nurse staffing company. While some places are changing their rules, most healthcare facilities are still pretty conservative when it comes to hair color. We’ve had facilities call us, irate over our staff member’s hair color.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I wish people would get over it already. It’s just hair. I don’t care what color someone else’s coiffure is, as long as it doesn’t fall in my food or my open wound.

            1. MicroManagered*

              When it comes to falling in my food or open wound, I think I might actually prefer hot pink or neon green hair! (To make it easier to spot!!)

            2. DarnTheMan*

              My sister has a tech at work that’s ‘her’ tech and in the two years they’ve been working together, apparently the tech’s hair has been every color of the rainbow. Which since most of their clients are colorblind (my sister is a vet), she figures it shouldn’t bother anyone.

          2. TiffIf*

            Are the guidelines around hair made clear up front to both you (the staffing company) and the prospective employees? If not then that’s on the facility. If it is then that’s on the staffing company or employee.

          3. JustaTech*

            I have a friend who’s an ICU nurse and wears her hair in some completely wild colors (think green with half buzzed and done in a cheetah print).
            Her argument for being allowed to wear her hair that way was that if a patient complains about “the nurse with brown hair”, that’s like half the staff. But if a patient complains about “the nurse with green hair”, then that can only be her, which means there’s no dodging complaints.

            It’s never been an issue, and she’s been at that hospital for years now.

    3. Caramel & Cheddar*

      That was definitely my response until I realised this was an old letter. I still think they have more important things to be worrying about, even if there wasn’t an ongoing global pandemic when they wrote the letter!

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yup. Peacock hair is my dream, but I work in a pushing-business-formal environment, and our dress code does forbid that sort of hair coloring. One day…

  2. TootsNYC*

    I always wonder if the employee in that situation truly needs to dye her hair, or if she can just cover it while she’s at work–a turban, or wrap.

    1. Professional Confusion*

      I used to work with a girl who used to change her hair to cool colors all the time but would wear a wig to work to look professional. Can’t say I haven’t thought of doing the same thing, to be honest.

      1. TiffIf*

        Yup had a co-worker who did this–I think she had bright purple hair when I started working with her but she wore a professional looking wig at work and I didn’t know for MONTHS.

      2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Oooh, clever! I was going to suggest a hat, but a wig is much better. And preferable to re-coloring one’s hair, which sounds expensive.

        1. Dancing Otter*

          Not only expensive, but damaging. No matter how much you condition, two bleachings in quick succession is really going to chew up the hair cuticle.

          A friend of mine (years ago, so maybe the chemistry is better now) didn’t like how her hair coloring turned out and re-dyed it immediately. It turned green instead of blonde, and virtually ALL broke off within a week. She went from past shoulder length brown to red/auburn to a very short green pixie cut. This was decidedly not the desired effect.

      3. Elizabeth Rochelle Dickson*

        I highly recommend this. To anyone who wants to do that. The job can’t complain, as you’re toeing the line on the presentation they want, and you get fun hair for when you’re not working.

    2. Stormy Weather*

      I think that’s preferable asking her to change the color.

      Honestly, unless a patient complains and it’s not loosely styled (i.e. pulled back/up) , I would let it go.

        1. TootsNYC*

          that’s probably an oversight, to be honest. They just didn’t think of it.

          They have nails and tattoos. (Nail length could be a safety or cleanliness issue, of course, and for piercings, some could be, but tattoos is much more about perception, which is what hair color would be.)

          1. Rainy*

            The only place I’ve worked in the last 10 years that cared about my tattoos, piercings, or hair colour was the shitty retail job I got as a stopgap after a big move when my job search took longer than I expected.

            The regional manager was a real asshole about it too. I keep hoping I’ll run into her so I can laugh in professional job that isn’t with a sinking retail ship.

          2. JustaTech*

            There are rules against acrylic nails for people who do surgery because the acrylic nails can wear microscopic holes in gloves, which is an infection risk.
            I don’t know about any other safety-related rules about nails or tattoos.

    3. Dimmie*

      Right? It’s a medical setting so it would look very professional if the healthcare providers wore scrub caps anyway.

      I bet that becomes the new standard for all medical staff attire for hygienic reasons. Caps can be swapped out daily and washed to reduce odds of bringing bugs home to their family.

      Assuming the employee is a healthcare provider who wears scrubs, but even medical reception could get away with it and look professional in my opinion.

    4. JJ*

      So totally agree, not fair to ask her to immediately dye back something she likely spent a lot of time/money on. Hat, wrap or wig!

      1. Bunny Girl*

        Yeah if she has the dye job I’m picturing, I’m sure that cost a pretty penny. It would really suck to have to change it back. I think asking her to cover it would be a better option. I used to work somewhere that said no unnaturally colored hair, but we wore hats. My hair was pink but I just tucked it up in my hat. No one was any the wiser until I ran into my manager out at a bar one night.

        1. Dahlia*

          If she had to do a lot of bleaching to put the colour over, it legit might not even be actually possible to do so. Colour removal and re-colouring can be very damaging and her hair might not be strong enough to take that damage.

          You’d have a whole other issue if an employee’s hair fell out from damage anyways.

    5. Chinook*

      Depending on how it was done, it may be subtle and onky noticeable when her hair is worn a certain way. I had mine done like this just before everything started closing and it is most noticeable when my hair is up as only the under layer is dyed. I love it because it is a hidden surprise and a shot of colour during a dreary spring but it can also be be partially hidden when I wear my hair normally.

      1. Grizzly’s Wife*

        I carried a magazine clip in my wallet of a short hairstyle, cut to be worn parted on either side, for over a decade. Parted on one side looked normal. Parted on the other side, was a cherry red dye job. Never had the nerve to try it. (80s teenager). I think I could rock it now!

    6. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I have a friend who has all colours of the rainbow in her hair, but underneath. The top layer of hair is her natural (very striking and dramatic) black hair, and you only see the dyed bits if she swirls or ties her top hair up. Absolutely amazing. Of course it would be hard to achieve at home, she paid a fortune for it.

  3. AngryAngryAlice*

    As far as dyed hair goes, that sounds pretty tame (and extremely cool). Even if it was a more wild dye job, I still would strongly advise LW to absolutely get over it. At the very least, let the employee wear the hair like that for now and just request that they don’t get any further dye jobs that are “unnatural” and update the handbook/dress code to include this, because the mistake is LW’s and not hers.

    1. WFHwithmyDoggo*

      I agree – if the employee was not informed, it’s really not her fault. Also, I actually thought the medical field was a more relaxed one, because every nurse, medical assistant/phlebotomist I’ve had in the past few years was either covered in tattoos or had a crazy hair color. I’m surprised that it’s an issue for this field since it doesn’t affect the work at all. Also, as someone with unnatural hair color and many tattoos, I do like seeing people in different fields being allowed to express themselves in this way. Not only do they feel more relatable but it also indicates that the organization doesn’t get hung up on these types of things.

      1. AngryAngryAlice*

        Hard agree. I can see how piercings might be a problem in the medical field in some contexts, but other than that I think it’s just an outdated interpretation of how to present as ~professional~ in certain fields. And I’ve also seen more interesting dye jobs on nurses than pretty much any other profession… so I wonder if this question is from much farther back in the archives than I originally assumed? Like a decade or so, perhaps? Or maybe LW is just hung up on this stuff—who knows.

          1. Annony*

            I think that there are also a lot of people who would prefer a psychiatrist with interesting hair colors. People tend to trust people who are like them more than those who exhibit different values.

          2. Colourista*

            Well, that says a lot about you, and nothing about the psychiatrist. I’d rather focus on someone’s qualifications, experience, speciality, recommendations and manner than their hair colour. I’m weird like that.

          3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

            Why? Not being able to trust someone because their hair is a fun color says a lot more about you than the blue haired individual.

          4. AngryAngryAlice*

            Conversely, my favorite psychiatrist had bright pink hair and I trusted her immensely. I wonder why the color of your psychiatrist’s hair would impact your ability to trust them?

          5. Beth*

            I’d prefer a psychiatrist with blue hair, all else being equal!

            Of course hair color isn’t going to be the deciding factor on something like this, and of course people dye their hair for all kinds of reasons. But speaking very generally, I’ve found that people who go for unconventional colors like blue tend to have a certain comfort level with examining social norms and discarding the ones that don’t suit them–and as a queer person with colorful hair myself, it is a marker that we’ll likely have some things in common in our world view. If I walked into a first appointment with a new psychiatrist and discovered that they had peacock colored hair, it would put me at ease and give me a way to connect to this stranger I’m supposed to be sharing sensitive personal info with, which would be a major bonus.

            1. Mary*

              I’ve a friend who’s a mental health nurse who has full arm rock tattoos, some of them done by hand, and it’s absolutely a bonding thing with a lot of his clients.

          6. Hexiva*

            A lot of women would have a hard time trusting a psychiatrist who was a man (and vice versa, tbh) but that doesn’t mean all shrinks have to be women to accommodate those people.

            1. Glitsy Gus*

              Exactly. I mean, it’s fine if you wouldn’t want your psychiatrist or therapist to have blue hair, but I would be fine with it. As a person who also does similar adaptations to my appearance it would be an indicator that we were like minded in a way that would let me feel much more comfortable talking about certain areas of my life.

              Some people want a more conservative mental heath practitioner, some prefer male/female/older/younger. Mental health is a place where these kinds of things are probably a bit more important than some other medical fields.

              That said, for any medical office, I would really stop and think about if having her hair dyed an unnatural color, but in an obviously professional, well cared for way, and cut in a way that allows her to keep it tidy and/or pulled back, is really the problem you think it is off the bat. Would it really be disruptive? In the time since she’s dyed it have you gotten any significant comments or complaints from your clients? The overall views on this kind of thing are changing. If it really doesn’t fit into your overall office setting, including causing discomfort with your patients, well, then it does. But I agree that this was an expensive endeavor, so I would go with the “I know you had know way of knowing, but please keep it covered and, when it is time to touch up, please don’t continue with this look in the office.” If she wants to get a wig, cool, or dye it back to her old color when the roots grow out, that’s her choice.

          7. Tinker*

            I have had a harder time trusting mental health professionals who have a very distinctly conventional-business appearance. Countercultural and also specifically queer signaling do a lot to increase my comfort level in any health care setting, mental health especially so.

            1. Tinker*

              And the funny thing about that too is that I myself have a fairly “basic bro” sort of appearance these days, because my clothes stayed roughly the same but my physical appearance changed such that they no longer signal quite the same thing. Classic trans guy problem, haha.

            2. AngryAngryAlice*

              Yeah I was thinking that in healthcare settings (especially mental health), anything that might code as even possibly queer would put me more at ease.

            3. Woman of a Certain Age*

              Near the end of the last time I was unemployed I met with a social worker because I was depressed about how the job search was going, blah, blah, blah. I found myself having to check my feelings about the social worker because, I was initially a bit put off by her wardrobe which consisted of “distressed” jeans. I felt she was dressing like a teenager instead of a professional woman in her late 40s/early 40s. I found it a bit of a distraction, but shifted my focus on the person and what she was saying.

              Now that I’m gainfully employed again, I find myself in the same situation at work but I keep my mouth shut about people’s appearances and focus on their work and their conduct. (We have a lot of “emo dads” at my current workplace, but that’s the way it is.)

          8. Wing Leader*

            I gravitate towards people with tattoos, unconventional hair colors, etc., because it tells me that they are more open-minded and willing to ignore social norms, and we will most likely find common ground. I would be thrilled if I had a nurse with blue hair or something.

            That being said, there are people out there who will judge you for absolutely anything and everything, and those people just aren’t worth your time. I once had a lady tell me that she would never hire me because of my name. Yes, my name, that I was given at birth, that I didn’t choose. According to her, she’d known several other people with the same name, and they’d always been lazy, dumb, and unprofessional.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        It varies. My hospital system was a no-visible-tattoos, no-crazy-hair-color, no-dramatic-piercings* dress code place up until about a year and a half ago, at which point it became no-offensive-tattoos, whatever-hair-color-you-want-so-long-as-it’s-tidy, piercings-whatever-as-long-as-you’re-not-in-the-MRI-suite, and btw you can wear jeans if you’re not patient facing too.

        *I don’t remember the details about piercings, because I don’t have any to worry about, but I knew the other two because I have 25 tattoos and my hair is currently purple, orange and teal and hasn’t NOT been funny colors since 2010.

        1. Sopranohannah*

          Been in healthcare for more than a decade, I’ve found that even if an organization has rules against tattoos, hair color, and piercings, these things are very loosely enforced because hiring and keeping good people is so difficult. The only thing I’ve found consistently enforced is no artificial nails/nail polish because it’s an infection control issue.

      3. Elizabeth Rochelle Dickson*

        My gyno has a side shave and hair that is purple, pink, and green. Last I saw her, it was faded, but still, I felt a little more relaxed, relatively speaking, because she looked alt. She also has tattoos — one of which is birds and bees. Imagine my laugh at how amusingly apropos that was.

    2. Parenthetically*

      Yeah, I super agree with this. Our pediatrician has beautiful lavender hair, and my NP who works in the same practice has full sleeve tattoos (in fact worked as a tattoo artist to pay for his education). It’s just not a big deal.

      1. hamstergirl7*

        I think as a pediatrician colourful hair would be a huge bonus too as kids are often very enamoured by it.
        I’m not great with kids, but they love me and my rainbow hair.

        1. Wing Leader*

          Yes, a pediatrician having something to entice the kids is a HUGE bonus and makes it so much easier for the parents. As it were, my pediatrician could talk like Donald Duck.

    3. Pigeon*

      My hair is more-or-less like the letter writer described. (And yes, I love it!) I work in one of the most conservative industries on the planet and while not everyone liked it, nobody told me it was unprofessional or asked me to change it. I wasn’t the first and I won’t be the last. Eventually these sorts of rigid policies are going to deter good talent from organizations that insist on implementing them. I know I would question accepting a job from an employer like this, not because my hair is a hill to die on, but because it speaks volumes about the work culture and I doubt it would be a good fit.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        I do wonder if it has been relaxed at this particular facility too. I’d love it if the original letter writer were still a reader!

    4. TiffIf*

      update the handbook/dress code to include this, because the mistake is LW’s and not hers
      THIS! If it isn’t in the handbook /dress code then you’re simply asking someone who may be young or inexperienced to read your mind. Or even someone who is not young or inexperienced but is coming from a different workplace where there was no problem with such things.

    5. Annony just here*

      I think it can be very industry and time dependent.

      Right now the main facility portion on my job has asked for no large facial piercings and also no facial hair of any type so that in the event they need you to go put on a facial mask and be a screener you will not have fitting malfunctions and can be protected.

      (For the record I’m medical adjacent, in the records department, which is located on a large Medical Campus. Some clerical workers are being pulled from normal tasks to help screen people coming onto the campus.)

  4. Richard Hershberger*

    Blue hair: I am in total agreement with Alison that this is no longer considered unprofessional. I am of an age to have found non-traditional hair colors startling, but I have gotten over it. I’m not saying it is how I would have directed fashion, were I omnipotent. But it is done. At this point, a medical assistant with blue hair is unremarkable, and in no way reflects poorly on the employer.

    1. JJ*

      Agreed, and also, it sounds very much like the employee has BLACK hair, with some non-natural-color highlights that mostly show up in the light. It sounds both pretty dang subtle and like it will fade gracefully (as opposed to blue blue over bleached blonde, which can fade unevenly and look a bit sloppy).

    2. Pennyworth*

      I’m with you. Colored hair that once would have made me bristle with disapproval now makes me smile. I still smile when I think of a receptionist I saw last year with hair like a raspberry ripple icecream. A workplace that allows something as harmelss as crazy colored hair strikes me as a happy place.

    3. Queer Earthling*

      Interestingly, when my hair is of an unusual hue, the majority of the compliments I get are from women who seem to be well over 60. (The peach I had recently went over especially well, before it faded.)

      1. Geek history*

        Same, I have older women rave about my hair and the bright colors in it all the time. (granted I’m getting to be an older woman at 39 to some people)

  5. NYWeasel*

    Re: Blue Hair

    I’ve been dying my hair “unconventionally” for about 14 years now. Sometimes I have crazy colors mixed in and sometimes it’s more “normal” colors but applied in unusual ways. (My hairdresser is amazing!) I don’t ever go all out with crazy colors bc it’s not my style, but I do like a little flair.

    When I started, it was still somewhat fringe for ppl to have crazy colors, but now lots of people including grandmothers and soccer moms all sport fun colors. At work, I was trying to identify a person I didn’t recognize, and the phrase “She’s got blue hair” still left me with 4 candidates, lol. I’m guessing that things are probably more relaxed where the OP works too

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      My bestie is a high level financial analyst and has the underside of her hair dyed neon pink (normally a dirty blonde). She wears her hair down most of the time but a little of pink peeks out here and there.

    2. TimeCat*

      I’m a lawyer, though in a field where we never go to court. My old boss has purple hair.

      1. Delta Delta*

        I’m a lawyer and I go to court all the time (although not during the pandemic, but during normal life I’m in court 3-4 days/week). I had blue streaks in my hair for a while. Zero people cared.

    3. Chinook*

      Exactly. There was a little old lady who was in for a cut when I got mine dyed and she stayed for an hour to watch the process and is going to learn about Instagram to see the result. She left seriiusky considering getting purple streaks for her hair.

  6. Observer*

    Re “putting a single mother out of work”. I don’t really have all that much sympathy. If she lied about relevant qualifications to get the job, then you have a major integrity issue. And you also now know that you really don’t know what other qualifications she’s missing.

    1. ExcelJedi*

      Agreed. Parenthood (with or without a partner) does not negate the need for professional integrity.

      1. Iron Chef Boyardee*

        One could make the case that it increases the need for integrity, because the parent has to be a role model for her child.

    2. Count Boochie Flagrante*

      Yep, agreed. I can understand why it feels particularly difficult to the OP to put this person’s job in jeopardy, but the fact of the matter is that she lied about what sounds like a pretty fundamental aspect of the job!

  7. SusanIvanova*

    The people who are starting to go gray now are the same ones who looked at all the Manic Panic colors 20 years ago and thought “yes, but I’d have to bleach it so much it got damaged for it to take.”

    And now we’re covering that gray with any color we want.

    1. Pilcrow*

      I was just thinking that little old ladies were the original ‘blue hair’ brigade. (Anyone remember Mrs. Slocum from “Are You Being Served,” with her cotton candy colored hair?)

      1. Laney Boggs*

        I loved that show! It used to run before I got home from elementary school so my mom would tell me what color Mrs Slocum’s hair was that day.

        1. A Simple Narwhal*

          My mom and I would do something similar too! We would always try and guess what color would be, a very cherished memory. <3

          1. Chocolate Teapot*

            Just been watching series 8 today! And through the whole series, there has been pink, blue, purple, green, yellow, orange and red, white and blue stripes.

        2. London Calling*

          My grandmother’s hair was just like Mrs Slocum’s. She favoured either a blue or pink rinse with backcombing and in 1960s Devon no-one raised an eyebrow at her appearance.

      2. Knitting Cat Lady*

        I once went to a concert of classical music. There were too old ladies, one in a pastel purple skirt suit, the other in a pastel blue, and both had hair that was an exact match for their clothes.

        That was about 20 years ago and doing that has been one of my life goals ever since.

        Not that it will happen any time soon. I take after my gran who is 84 and still has her natural hair colour with a few silver strands. I’m 36 and just now developed a few white hairs at the temples.

      3. Donkey Hotey*

        I love how “blue hair” used to mean women (generally) over 70 and now mean (generally) women under 30.

        Side note: William Gibson wrote a book back in the 80s that began “The sky above the port was the color of a television turned to a dead station.” Back then, that meant black/white/grey static. Someone reading that today would think brilliant cerulean blue.

    2. SQL Coder Cat*

      Right now I only have color for the last 4-5 inches of my long hair for exactly this reason. My hairdresser and I often joke that I’m her only client who’s excited about going grey!

      1. Windchime*

        I’ve spent about 18 months growing out my shoulder-length hair. I colored it for so long and finally just got tired of it. It’s very silver (not white) and it’s so much healthier that I can hardly believe it. It is SO tempting to put a fun color on it, but I don’t want to have to grow it out again!

        1. SusanIvanova*

          The great thing about coloring hair now is there are semi-permanent DIY options – there’s a spray-on type that lasts two or three washings, and a wash-in one that lasts for a month or so.

          1. OyHiOh*

            The spray on ones work pretty well on dark colored hair too, surprisingly. I used a platinum one for a community theater production a couple years ago, over dark brown hair, and was really impressed with the coverage.

        2. DarnTheMan*

          I would highly highly recommend the Keracolor Clenditioner Color Depositing Conditioner if you are interested! I bought it originally because my hair was dyed rose gold but then kept using it even after the dye faded out. It’s an in-shower treatment, you just leave it on for 5-10 minutes (like you would a leave-in conditioner) and after a few washes (mine started showing up in about 2), you’ve got a nice color on your hair. But when I got bored of it, it only took about a week of regular shampooing for the color to disappear completely.

          1. Le Sigh*

            Do you know if it works for darker hair? I’ve truly never ever dyed my hair — I want to do a fun color but I like my natural color and the bleach process seems like a lot. Back in the day temporary colors still didn’t do much to my hair, so just curious about your experience?

            1. Eirene*

              I’ve used the same Keracolor clenditioner color as DarnTheMan – unfortunately, it will not work as well, if at all, on unbleached hair. Because lighter and brighter hair dyes are composed of larger particles, they don’t stick to hair follicles as easily as brown or black dyes do, and bleaching is what will open the follicles enough for hair to “grab” the color. (Heat, too. I hit my hair with the blow-dryer once I have my Manic Panic color in.) Keracolor is more like a conditioner with color than it is a straight-up hair dye, and because its color isn’t as concentrated, it won’t deposit the way you’re thinking.

              You could definitely try Overtone for brown hair! I haven’t used it, because my natural color is a really sad mousy ash brown (hence the current purple, along with all the other colors I’ve had over the past two decades) but other people in this post have had good things to say about it. And it does wash out, as it’s semi-permanent. Most bright dyes usually are.

    3. If the devil were to explode and evil were gone forever what sort of party would you have*

      I have black hair and I had the color lifted and dyed pink a while back. The stylist said it wasn’t bleach but it stlil killed my hair. Im almost back to my natural color and whiel I miss the pink, I’m not sure I can’ go back to bleaching and coloring.

      I can’t wait til I have greys and I can color naturally. (if that’s how that works, idk)

      1. Dahlia*

        That stylist straight up lied to you. You cannot lift black hair without bleach. Maybe you call it “lightener” but it’s bleach. Don’t go back to them, I wouldn’t trust them.

      2. Alston*

        During this lockdown I found colored hair gel in the back of my closet. Let me try out some sparkly blue hair without bleaching! Would recommend if you want to revisit the pink some time!

        It goes on like gel, and then hardens. After that I finger combed it to separate it and it was awesome!

      3. Beth*

        Oof, your stylist definitely lied–there’s no way to lift dark hair like that without bleach. Maybe look into hair chalk to get your color fix? It’s a very short-term deal (it washes out as soon as your hair gets wet, basically) but should be able to go over any hair color!

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I’m hoping mine goes completely white like my dad’s. If so, I will remove the current color and have either long white hair (cool) or long galaxy/mermaid/fantasy hair (also cool). I pooh-pooh the notion that I must cut my hair after a certain age. :P

      1. Stormy Weather*

        Ditto not cutting hair just because you’re a certain age. A friend of mine had a HUGE fight with her mother about it. My friend had hair down past her hips, always tied neatly back. Her mother could not get past the idea that she had to cut it when she turned 30.

    5. Quill*

      I’m hoping I can convince my mom to do something fun with her hair once she gets out of denial. (She refuses to drop being blonde until she can get a full head of white hair like her mom did at her age… given that grandma was born before antibiotics and survived the great depression and having a premature baby at 42, I don’t think my mom’s hair is going to abruptly go white. :) )

    6. Glitsy Gus*

      You nailed it. I never wanted to bleach my almost black hair blonde to then be able to dye it blue in High School, it would have been a sad pile of blue straw on top of my head. But now Mother Nature is doing the bleaching for me and my greys are electric blue as we speak. I love it.

    7. Eirene*

      I’ve seen quite a few ladies 60 and up walking around Washington, D.C. – a city notorious for its conservative fashion – with all kinds of wonderful bright colors. It always makes my day, especially because I’m the only one at my (large) company with purple hair.

  8. Ms. Cellophane*

    That’s a shame, because girlfriend probably dropped $200 ish to get her hair to look like that if she went to a pro.

    1. WFHwithmyDoggo*

      Could you imagine spending $200+ only to have your boss tell you the next day you need to change it?? YIKES.

      1. WorkingGirl*

        And then probably having to spend even MORE to “get it fixed” since color correction is expensive AF! And it’d leave her with damaged hair, almost certainly…

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s even more of a reason to make darn sure it’s acceptable for work if you’re dropping so much cash on a style!

      But this is also why I’d rather buy wigs in general, swap that sucker out for whatever “zone” you need to be in.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        To be fair, she probably checked the handbook which was very specific about everything else. Since it didn’t include hair, it was perfectly reasonable for her to think that wasn’t against the rules (which it wasn’t, since it’s just LW’s preference).

      2. Beth*

        Ok but if she checked the handbook and saw it had pretty specific guidelines on most things but said nothing about hair color, I would consider that pretty solid on “making sure it’s acceptable”. If the handbook just said “formal business attire” or “we require a conservative appearance” then maybe you could expect people to extrapolate or check with a manager…but when all these other details are spelled out explicitly, I think it’s reasonable to assume that it’s a thorough description of expectations and has covered the areas the company cares about.

        If there is a business reason that this is unacceptable for this employer or field, the handbook should be updated going forward (not just with this but with whatever other currently-unspoken ‘standards’ might exist), and the company should give the employee a grace period to meet it since the rule was imposed after she had it done. If there isn’t a legitimate business reason and this is just a preference on LW1’s part, LW1 should drop it; it’s not against the rules, it’s not broadly unprofessional, and LW doesn’t have to like it, it’s not their hair.

    3. If the devil were to explode and evil were gone forever what sort of party would you have*

      I actually asked my HR before I dyed my hair pink and she said “wow that’d look fantastic!” She was very careful to not say yes or no. My boss never said no, just cracked jokes and most people said it looked nice.

      1. DarnTheMan*

        Do you work where I work? I asked my HR the same thing recently (because it wasn’t in our staff handbook and I wanted to make sure it was okay before dropping $$$ at the salon) and she just asked that I come show her the color when it was done.

  9. MAB*

    i would be pissed about #1- it’s expensive to have your hair done and can be really damaging to your hair to revert back so quickly. since the company wasn’t at all clear in its policy on hair colors, can they chip in to the cost in some way?

    1. AngryAngryAlice*

      I think since it was the company’s mistake, they forfeited their right to demand she change her hair back… but they could request/require that any future dye jobs must look “natural.” Would love an update from LW on how this was handled since it’s an old Q.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        It could just as easily be argued that since the employee knew the company was a bit conservative about all those other things, she should have asked about hair.

        My workplace’s expectations vary with role, but I would definitely ask if I were planning to dye my hair an unnatural color. I probably could, but it’s not an obvious slam-dunk “yes”.

        1. Boomerang Girl*

          I agree. Personally, I think that the hair color is not that big a deal, as long as it’s clean and styled neatly. However, if the person’s response to feedback from her employer is that she had invested a lot in the style, I would question her judgment for go ahead without thinking through the consequences.

        2. Count Boochie Flagrante*

          Asking, in this case, could well have involved consulting the official policy and noting that hair was specifically not covered.

          I do think it would have been wise to also ask a manager or mentor, but I really can’t fault someone for checking the official policy, seeing that hair isn’t covered under appearance, and presuming that therefore they’re okay to move forward.

          1. Le Sigh*

            See, this is my thing. You’re right on the one hand that it sounds like a somewhat conservative culture re: appearance. But, if I checked the handbook and they outlined everything else — piercings, tats, etc. — but didn’t mention hair, I might assume it was fine. They went to the trouble to mention everything BUT hair, so it seems like it’s okay!

            Maybe she should have checked but also if the company is going to go the trouble to outline all of these rules, don’t skip hair color!

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I think I’d be like, well, y’all specified requirements on all these other things. so I figured if hair colors were important, you’d have specified them in the policy too. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ But I’m a big one for malicious compliance, haha.

    2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      TBH, she could just not dye it back and see if they’re willing to pursue corrective action to termination over it. Because chances are, they aren’t.

  10. ElizabethJane*

    I know this is an older letter but in light of the current situation can I say one of my big hopes for the future is that people realize this just doesn’t matter.

    My coworkers and I are starting our 3rd week remote. We’re on video calls (with the camera on!) without makeup, with our hair styled however, and wearing hoodies. And it’s fine. Sometimes one of us is fully dressed to the nines because we wanted to try something new. And that’s also fine.

    So yeah, I really hope we get over these arbitrary rules of professional appearance (please note, I really do mean the arbitrary ones, not the ones where we ask people to wear pants or other bottoms in public) because they just don’t matter.

    1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

      Eh, I’m not sure that there’s a clear line of what is or isn’t arbitrary. When you’re client-facing, there’s a reasonable business case to be made for wanting to pursue a certain level of personal grooming and styling choices.

      I’m in finance, which is a pretty conservative industry in terms of appearance. A retirement advisor with peacock-colored hair would look very odd and out of place, and I could see that genuinely hampering their effectiveness with a lot of our clients. It’s part and parcel of things like wearing professional attire — if you want to convince an older client to hand over a couple million dollars to your keeping, you want to project an air of professionalism, not edginess.

      Saying that things like clothing, hair, etc are purely arbitrary downplays the reality of what this kind of nonverbal communication accomplishes socially.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Well then society needs to change. :P

        It’s going to be funny to see people headed back to work with messed-up hair anyway, since they’re trying to cut it themselves. Hair salons will be busy AF.

        1. Quill*

          My first run is going to be on takeout and a new pair of jeans, I’ve been doing my own hair for years. :)

          Probably gonna get my second ear piercing though, been putting the idea off for a while.

        2. ElizabethJane*

          I’m going to be one of those people. At some point I will lose my mind and give myself bangs.

      2. ElizabethJane*

        Yes and that’s my point – I’m hoping that this situation helps us realize that “blue hair” and “ability to successfully invest millions of dollars” have nothing to do with each other. Non arbitrary rules include things like “cover your genitals” and probably “don’t wear clothing with explicit graphics/phrases” but in general hair, jewelry, and makeup shouldn’t matter.

        Or if nothing else it should be about the makeup. If women want to wear makeup – fine. They should. Sometimes I enjoy wearing makeup. But sometimes I don’t and my ability to do my job shouldn’t be questioned because I didn’t feel like putting on mascara one day. And that is a very real thing that happens, especially in conservative industries.

        1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

          Eh, I don’t think it can be equally true that clothing, hair, etc is an expression of your personal style but also that it communicates nothing about you. What specific aesthetic choices mean can vary over time, but like it or not, these things are communication and communication matters.

          If your presentation conveys “I am an edgy rulebreaker” and your job requires you to be a firm rule-follower, that’s an incongruity that matters to how people perceive you on the job.

          1. Jam Today*

            I could also argue the flip side (because I tend to associate with the Manic Panic-headed crew and am sympathetic to their cause, having just put crimson in my hair a week ago) by saying “I get my rule-breaking impulses out by dying my hair, so I’m all set in that regard no need to worry about me. Watch out for the guy in pleated khakis and Ken-doll haircut, though; he’s pretty tightly-wound and is probably going to steal your pension just for the thrill.”

          2. Bored of this*

            Those stereotypical interpretations of what people’s aesthetic choices mean are what needs to change.

            There’s no universal agreement on what an “edgy rule-breaker” looks like anyway. And most of the people who are breaking the rules in companies are dressed very boringly and conservatively, and they do not “look” like an “edgy rule-breaker”. People need to get over these judgments and learn to look at what really matters – what people DO, not how they look.

          3. ElizabethJane*

            Once again – that’s exactly my point. There is nothing about “funky hair color” that **should** mean “edgy rule breaker”. The two have nothing to do with each other and people need to realize that. These ideas of what is being communicated are wrong.

            I am a suburban mom working as a corporate analyst in a high rise in downtown Chicago. My hobbies include knitting and cooking and dogs. And I dyed my hair purple because I really like the color purple, not because “I’m an edgy rule breaker”. The world needs to move towards judging people on their actions. You know, let actually being an edgy rule breaker be the thing that communicates it, not something weird like fashion.

            1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

              Is the decision to dye your hair not something you did?

              Whether or not you personally like it, an awful lot of humans use their elective grooming choices to convey about who they are and how they feel about the situation they’re currently dressing and grooming themselves for. Because of that, it’s never going to be entirely value-neutral.

              What choices convey what information, and what is considered work-appropriate in specific situations, is going to vary as society varies, but trying to pretend that personal presentation is not a powerful communicative tool doesn’t actually change the fact that it is.

              1. ElizabethJane*

                Yes, and we should change what it communicates. Not so long ago a woman wearing pants was also a “powerful communication tool” and we decided that you know what, women can wear pants and it’s really OK. We don’t need to question their life choices because of it.

                I want to make that same shift with hair color, tattoos, and makeup.

          4. Kate 2*

            I agree with Elizabethjane and the others. I crochet lace doilies and tea parties are as crazy as I get. I’m the type of person who only crosses st the crosswalk and never puts a toe outside the crosswalk I am walking in. And yet when I went through my goth phase, with black hair, dark red lips and jeans and a tee, people would CROSS THE STREET to avoid my. I was a young woman in my early 20’s all of 5 ft tall. Can you imagine anything more stupid? People forget serial killers and criminals dress to blend in!!! I have to say the kindest strangers I’ve ever met were dressed goth/punk aka “scary”, and some of the creepiest nastiest people were dressed “normally”.

            1. Elizabeth Rochelle Dickson*

              Innit fun? I had a Very Goth Phase — the long dark hair, facial piercings, black clothes — too. One day in Target, a lady gave me such a worried look from where she sat with her grandson. Because I am super contrary and KNEW what she was thinking, I cheekily decided to play Sunny Pollyana, and smiled at her and said hello as casually as one might. And then happily engaged in small talk (which I hate) with her and her son, and helped him open his new car’s packaging, since I had a nail clipper, and they had no way to open it. By the end of that convo, she thanked me for teaching her not to be such a judgy mc judgypants, that Very Goth Girls are probably not the ones you need to worry so much about.

              These days, I’m slightly less Very Goth Girl, because I’m 44, have arthritis, and cannot walk in heels. I also just don’t want to be bothered with all the grooming anymore. So I wear a lot of ‘can be found anywhere’ black t-shirt dresses and combat-style boots made by No Boundaries or whoever. I still do the black nails, and occasionally sport some funny-looking lip color, when I can be bothered to draw on my face, which is rare. And fortunately, my jobs don’t give a crap what color my hair is, or if I have shaved it off, as long as I handle the dogs well, and clean the kennels. In fact, the manager who interviewed me has three colors in her hair, and facial piercings, and tattoos. So, whatever.
              Hmm… I have time off, I wonder if I can do funny things to the downy coverage left of my hair… :D

  11. Vermonter*

    I recently had a scary doctor’s appointment and I relaxed immediately as soon as I saw that the doctor had a very “non-traditional”/queer-flagging look. (It wasn’t a reproductive/gyno appointment, but seeing I had an out, visibly queer doctor made me feel much safer with them.)

    1. TyphoidMary ( username seems in bad taste now)*

      Yup yup yup. I had a midwife with purple hair when I (queer/trans) gave birth, and when she walked in it was like a wave of relief passed through me. There are actual, material benefits to letting people express their identities.

    2. Quill*

      Hairstyles are a huge part of signaling to people that their identities will be respected. Also, piercings.

      When all this is over I’m throwing caution to the wind and getting my second set of earlobe piercings so I can mix and match studs. Everyone else I know has done some cute gay shit with their hair but mine really hates being messed with, especially in terms of color.

    3. L*

      +1, even a rainbow flag pin on an ID immediately feels so much more Safe Zone (not to say most doctors feel like in contrast a Danger Zone but I was suddenly aware that oh no, this is Good and relieving).

    4. TJ*

      Yep! I’m trying to figure out how “out” my signaling can be at my new job so I can try to be this person for others. I know I feel more comfortable when I see someone with a more non traditional look.

  12. Grape hair don't care*

    I’m very much a member of Team Purple Hair — my style ideals are Megan Rapinoe and the purple Troll doll. I’m also Dr. PurpleHair, and I’m quite certain my hair isn’t unprofessional in the slightest.

  13. Ray Gillette*

    I’m always more at ease in a medical office where the staff have dyed hair, visible tattoos, etc. Folks who are more open to creative self-expression are in my experience more likely to be queer friendly (and more likely to be queer themselves, as a matter of fact) and that’s a legitimate concern for queer patients receiving healthcare.

    1. AMT*

      Agreed 100%. I’m a trans guy and had a bicycle accident a few years ago that put me in the hospital. Hospital staff were polite, but clearly confused and out-of-their depth. You have no idea how relieved I was when a nurse with short hair and masculine mannerisms came in. I have no way of knowing what her actual identity was, but my first half-delirious thought was, “Hallelujah! Butch lesbian nurse to the rescue!” My instincts were right: she knew exactly what questions to ask and how to interact with me in a way that made me feel safe.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        As a butch lesbian (although not a nurse), this made me laugh a LOT. I’m glad you found someone to help you feel safe, and I hope your recovery went well.

      2. Quill*

        Funny story, my cousin got herself a pink undercut one year, and the next she was like “hey quill, you’re not the only queer cousin anymore, I’m Bi!”

        Her fashion sense knew before she did. :)

        1. AMT*

          Aww, this reminds me of the fact that my favorite queer barbershop (which had a glorious technicolor Instagram) has closed due to the epidemic. How will anyone manage to be queer without the hair?!

          1. Quill*

            I mean, I do fine without cut and color but my hair is sort of a spectacle in itself as it naturally grows. (Plus I’m aroace, that’s stealth mode to begin with!)

            Gotta remember to keep wearing my funky earrings, though. Don’t wanna look too unqueer when I get out of this lockdown. (Also I need me some Docs but I can’t figure out where to get a decent pair locally…)

          2. Jennifer Thneed*

            Henna. Of course, I’ve been using henna for decades so that’s nothing new. Anyone want henna tips?

            (The haircut, though. My next cut was scheduled for pretty soon and I’m’a miss it and then there will be HAIR TOUCHING MY EARS AND NECK omg wut next.)

            Should we bring back bandanas in our back pockets?

    2. TJ*

      Yep I’m a counselor and I definitely have thought about my appearance in making myself seem approachable to queer clients (I’m queer as well). I would dye my hair if I could I had bright purple hair in grad school but it is explicitly forbidden at my job.

  14. Rusty Shackelford*

    I’m going to take your word for it that your stance is necessary for your particular business rather than debating that here

    Alison is nicer than I am because I’m not willing to take this person’s word for it. If the stance on hair color were necessary, I think it would have been in writing, just like the stance on tattoos, piercings, etc.

    1. Ali G*

      I’m with you. To me “it’s not professional here” = “I don’t think it’s professional and she should change.”

    2. Bryeny*

      Rusty, you’re nicer than I am because I’m not willing to take the written policy’s word for it that, say, tattoos, or even most piercings, are a problem. I wasn’t before I read all the comments from folks who feel more comfortable around healthcare providers with body art/cool hair colors/visible signifiers of openmindedness, and I’m even less so now. Also, black hair with peacock highlights sounds insanely cool.

      1. Quill*

        The only time piercings are going to be a legit problem is when it’s possible they could be less sanitary than bare skin or get caught in things. Hair and tattoos? No functional problem after the tattoos have healed and if you can keep the hair contained.

      2. Beth*

        Piercings I can see being an actual problem in a medical setting; if, for example, a new nose piercing makes it difficult to wear a face mask while it heals, that could be a legitimate concern in a clinical setting. Tattoos and hair color, though, I’m with you on.

    3. Hexiva*

      I’d go even further and say it’s wrong to try to control your employees’ bodies by banning tattoos, piercings, hair colors, etc, unless those traits would actively and directly prevent them from doing aspects of their job (i.e., can’t operate the MRI machine because of piercings, can’t perform as Alexander Hamilton due to non-period-appropriate hair color). If you can’t handle the fact that your employees have autonomy and may do things with their bodies while off work that you don’t approve of, then maybe you are not equipped to have human employees. To me, this is the same kind of gross overstep as firing employees because you saw they posted a dirty word on twitter on the weekend.

      1. CM*

        Yeah. I truly don’t understand the rationale for thinking you can make demands about how someone looks. I get not wanting people to wear political slogans or whatever, but objecting to a hair colour? Or objecting to a tattoo just because it’s a tattoo? It’s messed up that we tolerate that.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yes, I find it hard to imagine someone who wrote things that specific about piercings and tattoos just… what, forgot? that people can do stuff with their hair? I’ve never seen a handbook or policy that specified some of those things but not others, so to me if the handbook doesn’t say anything about hair it’s because the people who wrote it don’t care. It sounds like this was only the LW’s issue and she should have dropped it unless someone said something to her about it.

      I’m especially prone to thinking that if she is the one who wrote that her employee had blue hair before going on to clarify it was actually mostly black–but I’m not sure if Alison is the one who wrote the headline and just made it broader to cover anyone in a similar situation.

    5. Eirene*

      It’s not in writing in my company’s handbook! Admittedly, I don’t work in health care. But it was in my previous company’s (same industry) handbook, so the most I could get away with there was a dark red color. I waited a year at my current job to start dyeing it fun colors, beginning with rose gold, then going to hot pink, and then deep violet. Nobody’s said a thing to me – not even the CEO, with whom I worked on an assignment last month – except that they like it. And we’re definitely all professionals here.

  15. Dust Bunny*

    Well, no, if she needed the job she shouldn’t have lied about her skills. She risked getting fired and having *that* on her record once it came to light that she couldn’t meet expectations. So this isn’t on you for raising concerns; it’s on her for creating the situation in the first place.

  16. The Original K.*

    I worked in a call center for about six months and one of the other workers, a college student, came in with purple hair. They sent her home & made her dye it back. I thought that was so silly – it’s a call center, the folks we interacted with couldn’t see her – but she shrugged it off saying she needed to make rent more than she needed to have purple hair.

  17. Princesa Zelda*

    (Health care professionals, in particular, are finding that non-mainstream looks can help them connect with patients who themselves have untraditional looks or identities.)

    I second this!!! I’m a queer fem-presenting person, and I feel much more comfortable with medical professionals who look like humans than like they just walked off the set of Leave It To Beaver. Someone with tattoos or a snakebite or dyed hair is, to me, more likely to accept my men’s clothes and unconventional haircut and my using my middle name. So I’m more relaxed around them, the visit goes better, and I might even go back to the same office.

    1. Kate 2*

      Hey, as a bisexual who currently looks like an extra from leave it to beaver, but used to be super goth it is INCREDIBLY offensive that you judge people based on appearance and call us NOT HUMAN. Not cool and not okay.

  18. Maya Elena*

    It’s fascinating how quickly culture changes: I feel like a “hair” question now vs a few years ago wpudl elicit different responses. I think this also comes through in wording of older questions — e.g. wording that was find five years ago sounds very harsh today.

  19. Kamatari*

    I live for the day my work ability, knowledge, trustworthiness, reliablity, etc etc aren’t tied to my hair color. I would LOVE to dye my hair pastel hologram colors! I go out of my way to compliment people with odd coloring.

    Same goes for non-offensive tattoos and piercings.

    1. Pomona Sprout*

      I did not know what holographic hair color was, so I googled to see what you were talking about, and all I can say is WOW. Now I want to do it–not with pastels, because my hair is too dark, but kind of like LW 1’s employee. Some of the darker examples I pulled up look like carnival glass–GORGEOUS.

      1. Nonny*

        I usually see the darker toned version called oilslick hair, if you want more examples of the jewel-toned w/ a dark base color version rather than the pastel version.

  20. Hhh*

    If there isn’t a written policy on hair then it seems pretty clear that their hair should be fine? I fail to see what leg they have to stand on when there is no policy, then it’s like saying “I don’t like you hair, change it” not “per our policy, we have to look like X as a bonafide occupational necessity”

  21. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I do have to wonder how old the hair color question is.

    We’ve had medical assistants with colored hair for at least a decade now. But I know some are still in that “conservative appearance” area, regardless.

    If someone breaks the rules, you speak to them about it. It’s really all about saying “I noticed you have done X [dyed your hair an unnatural color], per our dress code, we don’t allow that kind of practice. I need you to find a way to cover that during the workday, thank you.” Just like if someone shows up wearing flip flops to their medical assistant job, you say “You can’t wear those here, you need to fix it.” It is only as awkward as you make it out to be. Rules are rules, even if they’re old fashioned and more and more irrelevant.

    1. chronicallyIllin*

      The question is from 2016, people further up in the page were talking about it.

      But also, it wasn’t the rule. There was no rule about hair colors until this woman dyed her hair. Hence what makes the situation awkward/weird.

      1. WellRed*

        It’s not that weird. Lots of rules don’t exist until an issue (real or perceived) comes up.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Dress codes always have loose ends because most people just assume you know better than to dye your hair to look like a peacock when you have an otherwise conservative policy in place. So it’s really seriously not that awkward unless you make it that way.

        1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

          Agreed. I’m not sure if my workplace policy covers wild-colored hair, but given that I’ve never seen a single soul at my (multiple hundreds of people) office with unnatural hair colors, I would operate on the assumption that it’s either explicitly banned or heavily frowned upon — which is in keeping with the rest of our appearance standards, which are the high side of business casual for non-client facing and business professional for client-facing.

          1. Quill*

            I see a lot more in the range of near natural colors than any truly unusual colors (see: so blonde it’s white, Fire Engine Red, etc,) but overall in my experience the more seniority you have the more you get away with it.

            1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

              The seniority thing is definitely not true here; the higher you get, the more staid and formal you need to be. Our lowest-level new hires are generally the ones who come in pushing the boundaries of the dress code. It has a lot to do with personal communication, I think — whether or not it’s explicitly outside of the dress code, the people who get ahead are communicating their desire to advance through how they present themselves at work, as well as through their work performance.

              It’s definitely something I’m very conscious of; being trans means the clothing calculus is constantly at the forefront of my mind, and I’m using all of my “individuality capital” on dressing in accord with my gender identity.

              1. Quill*

                I think there might be a boomerang in R&D where once you get out of the lab rat stage your fashion sense is ignored but it’s not a plus by the time you get to “never in the lab” status.

                Of course, I’m not sure if that has anything to do with the “all research scientists are white males with masters degrees that are 30+, but research associates come in every color and gender” trend that goes on around here. So the dude planning your experiment is only pushing one boundary if he gets gauges.

        2. Kate 2*

          In a lot of conservative workplaces visible tattoos and piercings aren’t allowed but hidden ones are, and unnaturally colored hair is one of the few things that are allowed.

  22. If the devil were to explode and evil were gone forever what sort of party would you have*

    How long ago was this written? I think in 2018 or so nonconventional colors became so common.

    Even in non-pandemic times, I’d say this was a ridiculous thing to be concerned over. I’d really give the side eye to any patient or client who’d get upset over colored hair. I just don’t understand people who get offended over colored hair.

    1. I would dye my hair purple and have an exploding devil party*

      I remember being (pleasantly) shocked by crayon-colored hair many many years ago. I assumed it was just a fad and wouldn’t last.

  23. Janis Mayhem*

    I work in legal, and several years ago I had purple highlights put in my hair (it looked like a sunset – was really cool). Our CEO complimented me. We had other office staff with green, or our hometown football team’s colors – nobody said anything. One person was even interviewed/hired when her hair was hot pink all over. Then we hired a new staff member who had the slightest light pink highlights (that faded to silver and looked really rad) and the main attorney she supported had a hissy. The policy/handbook was changed to say no unnatural hair colors. I still had the underpart of my hair dyed purple for a long time because I always where my hair down at work and nobody could see it.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ll always remember how I had to scrub and deal with a snotty hair stylist over getting the blue in my hair covered up when I had to go out searching for my second job. Only to then get hired and find out that my boss was actually excited at the idea of hiring someone “Punk rock” because he thought the “attitude” fit best with his fussy accounts who like to push people around “They won’t take any sh*t!” is what the woman who was training me as a replacement told me.

      Ick that one person ruined it for everyone, wtf!

  24. LGC*

    I was almost excited to see that Michelle had returned to grace us with our presence (we don’t deserve her, but we need her right now), and then I saw this was from the archives.

    For what it’s worth, I would actually bias more towards the “LW1 should reexamine their approach to hair color” side of things. Which isn’t taking the LW at their word, I’ll admit, but…it seems like there’s different trade-offs. Plus, people with naturally black hair CAN have the light catch their hair in different ways! (Maybe not quite that vivid or obvious, but I’ve seen it.)

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      I was also hoping this was an update from Michelle. I am just so curious as to why she went that far after being asked to not change specifically during meetings with external clients (and not otherwise).

  25. Some Old Punk Who Never Learned*

    That blue hair is some classist nonsense on behalf of that manager.

    A decade and a half ago now, I went to the emergency room, doubled over in pain. I had tattoos and piercings, and was dismissed as being a drug-seeker (despite having no criminal record, no medical history, and I told them I didn’t drink alcohol!) Two days later, I came back, my left ovary had gotten so huge it because of a cyst it had burst and caused my internal organs to start shutting down. I was in the hospital for three weeks to recuperate.

    Years later, I remember the first time I ever met a nurse with coloured hair (streak of pink in her fringe) and remembered how she was aware of queer and trans issues, and how gently she asked me about my sexual and medical history, and how understanding she was. This idea that you don’t look authoritative and responsible as a medical professional because you look lower-class (coloured hair, piercings, tattoos) is steeped in abject, horrid classism.

    I understand Ask A Manager wants to be sensitive towards conservative readers but I hope whoever reads this who agrees that blue hair doesn’t look “professional” takes a hard look at their own assumptions and biases.

    1. Kettricken Farseer*

      As a fellow old punk, I couldn’t agree with you more. It is definitely a classism issue. I have red/orange hair (looks like fire) and a full sleeve, but I’m also a high-up professional. I do get looks every now and again from people in my office who don’t know me, and more often than not it feels like they’re looking down their nose at me. Idgaf personally, but yeah.

    2. Not My Usual Name*

      Classist? I’m a retired CPA, a WASP, an Episcopalian, suburban, Midwestern, financially comfortable – that’s a fairly conservative and privileged background, I acknowledge. The only reason I don’t have crayon colored hair is that I can’t decide what color I want. (Well, that and the upkeep requirements.)
      I had no idea, until your comment, that unconventional hair colors were in any way associated with class.

  26. Rewe*

    I’ve (not from US) never worked in a place (or heard anyone working) where there are written rules regarding appearance. Excluding places that have a uniform or rules are due to safety. I don’t understand the inm schools and I don’t understand them in work places. Most of them seem to be totally irrelevant and have no effect on anything other than want to control and keep up with this idea that someone has once thought to be “professional” without accepting that it’s an evolving concept.

    1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

      If there are no written rules, it means the rules are unwritten. I would be very surprised if the region you live in has absolutely no expectations for any worker’s appearance regardless of what they do.

      1. Rewe*

        I think there is a difference between unwritten and written rules when it comes to appearance. Written just makes it sound controlling to me. Especially since it can be used against the person “breaking the rules” and who get’s to decide it? Also why go into specifics about nails etc.?

        Yes, my office has unwritten rules like every society has about social norms. In my experiece these are more of a vague guidelines that leave room for personal devision making. I’d not be happy with a list telling me what is ok and what isn’t unless there is a reason for it such as safety.

        1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

          Hm, I have a very different feeling about it. Written rules can be referred back to, and are explicitly stated and known, so they can be more fairly enforced. Unwritten rules leave a lot of room for vagueness and biased implementation, and are tough on newcomers to the environment who have to learn them through observation.

          That’s how you get stuff like it being okay for Jane to wear a short skirt cause she’s hot, but Barbara needs to cover up because she’s overweight and “no one wants to look at that.” Whereas if the rule is that skirts need to be knee-length, then knee-length is the standard that applies to everyone across the board.

          1. Rewe*

            It’s one of those things that we have a different view on. Written rules on something like appearance is something I personally cannot get behind. The idea of implementation and enforcing rules when it comes to appearance is just very foreign to me.

          2. MCMonkeyBean*

            I agree, if they care about appearance at all then the rules should be explicitly written specifically to avoid this situation.

            As Willow says “a vague disclaimer is nobody’s friend.”

    2. Heather*

      Seconded. Especially for schools, really. Kids lives are so regimented already – they should at least be free to express themselves through clothing and hair! Who cares if they have short skirts or pink hair or “inappropriate” tshirts – give them that outlet to help them be comfortable in their skin and get on with teaching. It’s such a nonissue in most of the western world, I have no idea how it’s such a big deal in the US.

      1. Rewe*

        We had no rules in school and we all dressed appropriately. Jeans, t-shirts and hoodies. Same as kids now. There is no reason to push boundaries. It’s also important to tach kids on what is considered appropriate and let them think for themselves. I’ve been following a discussion regarding school uniforms and in some places it’s getting ridiculous. LIke controlling the type of shoe or sock colour. There is less rules for adults than kids in school.

  27. Kab0b*

    A company so unwilling to change with the world when it comes to employees hair would really make me question their ability to keep up and change with the world on the rest of the developments. Especially in the medical field where new research, techniques, and ways to tackle health’s change so rapidly.

    If you are so rigid about something as silly as hair what should make me believe that you would adapt to other new ways of doing things?

  28. It's a fish, Al*

    I work (worked, haha) in tourism as a guide on multi-day wilderness expeditions. I also have a partial shaved head with black and green hair.

    My workplace has the wonderful policy that all guests get to submit feedback forms, that then get emailed to me, the trip owner, and everyone from the sales team to the head of the company to our associated nonprofit. Last year I got a feedback by one opinionated lady, saying that I was a great guide, very knowledgeable, but she just couldn’t believe that they allowed me to have hair like this, and it was “incredibly unprofessional”.

    I have had coworkers twitting at me about this for a full year now, and I can’t even trim my bangs without one of them popping up and saying something like, “are you sure? It looks a little *unprofessional*”. I’m glad that to a person, every response at my employer’s end has been to ridicule the lady who was so out of touch with what is actually unprofessional these days.

  29. Cassey*

    I had a very different takeaway from #3 – the LW doesn’t actually mention at all that the colleague has said she doesn’t have time for tasks; it’s quite possible she’s leaving early because she doesn’t feel she has enough work to do, and is trying to ask the LW for more so she can have more work to fill her days with. (I’ve been there!)

    I think this is more a case of the LW feeling spiteful that someone is not pulling their weight, and feeling that being in the job longer means you will continue to be the only person who is assigned the most interesting work. I feel bad for the LW’s coworker if that’s the case – just because she was hired later, she’s not getting the chance to further her skillset with new tasks. The advice on talking to management if the coworker turns down the tasks because she’s “too busy” is good, if that ever comes up. But seeing that the coworker is apparently hungry for new projects, I don’t think it will. The LW should be encouraged to give their coworker a chance.

    1. Elsajeni*

      But she’s trying to push the work back to the LW, not take on more — she’s “asking if I can take on some of the newer projects instead of giving them to her.” There’s nothing in the letter to suggest that she’s asking for more or different work.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I don’t know if they were misreading “asking if I can take on some of the newer projects” as being a quote of what the coworker said where “I” would refer to the coworker, instead of being the LW paraphrasing so “I” is meant to refer to the LW.

  30. KP*

    As someone whose hair is blue when it’s not platinum or purple, I’m really annoyed with the first letter. It’s incredibly expensive to have “peacock” hair professionally done. It’s incredibly expensive to change it back and it can be damaging to your hair.

    It’s just hair. It hasn’t impacted her performance as an employee in any way. Give it a few weeks and the color will start to fade. Just ask her in the future to stick to natural colors and update your damned policy.

  31. Sleepless*

    As recently as 5 years ago, my employer (also medical) didn’t allow non-natural hair colors. It’s gotten much more mainstream, and I don’t think patients will be put off by it at all. My teenage daughter has done a full bleach/teal blue color for a couple of years, and at the beginning of this year I gathered my nerve and started putting pink streaks in my hair. My employer was fine with it, my coworkers and clients love it. I’m cursed with RBF, and I think my hair helps to signal that I’m actually a pretty fun, accepting sort.

  32. Mints*

    And/or use clarifying shampoo. Overtone doesn’t last that long. Which is a good thing if you want it to be temporary!

    I just asked the landlord to let us get a dog, and I was already thinking if she said no I was going to dye my hair. I need some dopamine hits during quarantine

    1. Quill*

      My mom’s scanning my grandma’s recipes to facebook by popular request, and my cousins and I are going to be trying them out. (Already made dumplings!)

      other than that I am either going to splurge on a new computer game or a bunch of yarn.

  33. Wherehouse Politics*

    I don’t care what color or hairstyle a medical professional has. Just that they are properly protected with gear, so they can properly protect and care for me. Let it go.

  34. irene adler*

    And yet, if you close your eyes, and listen to someone speak, you can’t tell how many colors their hair is.

    It’s not like the hair dye destroys brain cells.

    Some people are so judgmental!

  35. AMT*

    Question for the readers re: letter #1 about blue hair, and specifically about hair and wardrobe as a queer signal, since there are a lot of comments discussing that angle.

    I’m a bi trans guy working as a therapist at a nonprofit and I’ve been trying to figure out some subtle ways to signal queer-friendliness/queer competence to my clients. Even though I’m a card-carrying, Animal-Crossing-playing, Gravity Falls-watching queer, I’m not visibly trans (thanks, tall dad) and my mannerisms and wardrobe are kind of…basic bro, for lack of a better phrase. Last year, when I worked in a trans mental health program, I routinely self-disclosed to some of my clients. A lot of them were shocked — they’d just assumed that I was a young-looking cis dude with no personal connection to the nature of the job — and they immediately became more relaxed around me.

    I don’t know, maybe I just need some pins for my lanyard. However, lot of hospitals and nonprofits seem to have asked all of their staff to wear rainbow pins, so it’s no longer the same “this person spent money buying that from Etsy! they must know roughly what they’re doing!” guarantee. I work in clients’ homes, so I can’t display queer office stuff, or I’d still be rocking the “Yuri!!! On Ice!” figurine I had in my old office.

    Any ideas? Links to pins, patches, or other items/practices that say “no need to self-censor your fabulousness around me”?

    1. Alex*

      A pronoun pin on your lanyard could be a good start, and maybe instead of the generic rainbow pin, go for a trans pride flag pin? While “rainbow” is certainly more common these days, if I saw someone rocking the trans colours I’d be more likely to assume that they’re either trans or genuinely supportive of trans folx.

      1. Mary*

        Pronoun badges are the new rainbow lanyard in this essay i will

        (cis queer woman, and I absolutely count my pronoun badge as a queer signal. You know, back when I actually went to work.)

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      There are soooooo many awesome pins out there and I think a lot of them are unique enough to be clearly something personal to you rather than company-mandated. My husband has a pronoun pin that is a giant paw print and in the trans flag colors. If you wanted something of that type I’m sure you could find something you love that looks obviously personally chosen.

      1. AMT*

        Awesome, thanks. The consensus seems to be that the more specific/unique/personal, the better, which sounds like a good plan.

    3. Joe*

      I might read a rainbow pin as something “encouraged” by the org without any particular employee having any particular connection to it, but if I saw a trans or bi pride pin I would definitely assume that it was a personal rather than corporate statement. I might not be surprised to see a cishet person wearing a rainbow pin, but I certainly would to see them wearing pretty much any other pride symbol.

      (As a bi genderweird person who reads as a cishet dude myself, I’m also on the lookout for subtle ways of signalling my not-cishetness to people who are looking out for that in my day-to-day interactions, so I feel your pain…)

  36. Jam Today*

    Nails, attire (e.g. closed-toe shoes, no fabric that would drape or come into contact with patients, etc.), and *possibly* piercings make sense in a clinical setting; tattoos and hair do not. The world has moved on, your patients will be getting younger and more likely to have bright hair and tattoos themselves, and may be more likely to respond well to someone who reflects their lived experience.

  37. Alex*

    I work at a government agency, and I usually have crazy coloured hair. But things have been busy and I haven’t been doing the upkeep on my colour, so it faded into a pretty normal-looking blond. I hadn’t seen our CEO in a while, but she came by to talk to my boss, looked at me and gasped. “Oh my god, what happened to your hair?? Where did the purple go? You should change it back!”

    Now I’m working from home, of course, and I can’t get my hair done, but I am really glad I work at a place where they recognize my weird hair doesn’t impact how good I am at my job.

  38. Aggretsuko*

    I have pink hair these days. My current supervisor is fine with it.

    However, the one that shocks me is a guy I know with a neck tattoo who managed to get hired… can’t hid those. “And I got a professional job anyway!” he said.

  39. HailRobonia*

    This reminds me of a bit from Connie Willis’s excellent book The Bellwether. There is a young woman with an alterna-punk style who dyed her hair blue before going on a blind date with a dentist. Her mentor cautiously suggests it might not have been a good idea, because dentists tend to be relatively conservative, and the young woman’s response was “I know! Blue is a conservative color!”

    Anyways this reminds me that this book is available as an audio download from my local library… yay for library digital collections in this difficult time!

  40. cwhf*

    Blue haired pediatrician here, mid to late 40s. I will admit my patients (and esp my teens and young adults) love my hair and it does serve as a point to connect on which helps to start to build relationships. That said on days I’m dealing with leadership, presenting/lecturing, or have to be more “conventional” I do wear head wraps/turbans. Honestly it is notable how in almost 2 years I have had zero negative comments (at least to my face). Fortunately hair color doesn’t affect brain function and as far as natural colors, 95% of the blondes I know aren’t natural either. I hope they let her keep the hair.

  41. fogharty*

    Re: Letter #1
    I don’t see where the LW manages the colorful employee. They say “I have a sweet, younger employee who came into work…” but not that they are her supervisor or anything.

    I think that makes a difference.

    Plus, if hair is an issue, you should have it written in the dress code. I had a manager once who refused to have a written policy so that she could arbitrarily declare someone was in violation of the non-existent code (we called it the Sooper Seekrit Code). She was a horrible boss in many ways, and this was something she used to punish employees she was angry at. She once tried to send home an employee (none of us were public-facing, btw) for wearing leather shoes with slightly different tones of brown, since someone from a distance might possibly, perhaps, think he was wearing sneakers.

    Oh, I could tell you stories.

    1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

      I think generally when someone says “I have an employee” it means they’re in a position of power over that employee. It’s the converse to where you say “I have this manager who…” it’s generally understood that it’s their manager.

  42. amp2140*

    Would love to see a post with crazy hair colors and what people do.

    I had peacock colors and I manage a service delivery business for pharma.

    Currently, I have rose gold mixed in and I got promoted to manage a team of 40 nationally!

    1. ElizabethJane*

      I have purple hair (dirty blonde naturally, the bottom half of my hair is electric purple) and I’m the lead strategy analyst for a $3 billion dollar company in downtown Chicago.

  43. Ellery*

    This reminds me of the time I worked at a public library, and someone I didn’t know saw my blue hair in the cafeteria and told me I “looked too innocent” to have blue hair.

    People have weird ideas about gem-colored hair.

    1. littlelizard*

      I was considered the ‘nerdy bookish one’ in my childhood friend group (our parents were all family friends), and when I started dyeing my hair red, a friend’s mom (again, family friend, knows my parents, presumably cares how she comes off?) asked me if it was “harder to focus on serious things like books” now that I’m “spending so much time on my looks”. It was weird. People can be SUPER weird about hair.

  44. I can't take it anymore*

    I want shimmery peacock hair. Can I do that with my half gray / half dark brown hair? At home, since the salons are all closed?

    1. Blueberry*

      I have never dyed my hair (it would break off if I did) so I have no advice, but FWIW YouTube is full of tutorials. I am cheering you on!

    2. Glitsy Gus*

      You could give it a shot with Overtone or EvilHair or one of the other color depositing conditioners. I would get a blue, a purple and a green, then add them to your hair in different sections. I’m sure you could find a YouTube tutorial on how to intersperse the colors, or just wing it! Section it out in chunks like you were going to flat iron or curl it, then make one blue, one purple, one green, so on and so forth. The brown won’t pick up the color as much as the grey, which will make the bright colors look more like highlights.

      Take advantage of the shelter-in-place and the fact the colors aren’t permanent (on my hair they wash out in three to five shampoos) and go for it!

  45. MsChanandlerBong*

    I wish employers weren’t so rigid about these things (hair color). I am a “professional patient,” as I like to joke, and when I am in the hospital or at the doctor, all I care about is whether the people who take care of me are competent and groomed appropriately in terms of good hygiene. I have had CNAs standing in my room cursing at each other over who was going to empty someone else’s bedpan before shift change–somebody professional with blue or purple or pink hair would be just fine with me.

  46. Delta Delta*

    #5 – Take on the big projects. If you get a new job, then you do, and the employer has to reassign the project. When I was getting ready to leave Horrible Toxic Law Firm I agreed to handle a couple big hearings, knowing I was actively looking. Had I said, “no, I think I won’t handle that because I might not be here” I would have gotten fired. So when I left, it became the employer’s responsibility to arrange coverage for those hearings. Not. My. Problem.

  47. mindovermoneychick*

    I remember this question. One of the pictures in the comments inspired normally conservative self to try it out just once. I loved it and kept it that way for 3 years and eventually gave up because it’s just too much upkeep

  48. Nelly*

    I dyed my hair ‘mermaid green’ on the weekend. But I’m the boss, so who can complain about it?

  49. Pennalynn Lott*

    Waaaaay back in the late-80’s, I worked in a home goods / gift store in a strip mall in Orlando. We had the sweetest, shyest young woman come and interview. She had on the late-80’s version of a “prairie” dress, no makeup (*flawless* skin) and very long, past-the-shoulder-blade, light brown hair. She was offered a job.

    She showed up the following week for her first day with all of her hair except the top shaved down, military-style, and what remained was cobalt blue. She was rocking some seriously cool 80’s makeup and was wearing stylish 80’s clothes (torn jeans, a neon tank top, and a big-shouldered blazer). The owners of the shop were NOT amused. I thought it was frickin’ awesome!

    Amazingly, they let her stay. She was a great co-worker.

  50. ..Kat..*

    Inc now wants us to register our adblocker or whitelist them to read content. What exactly do these two things mean?

    1. Media Monkey*

      it means that if you have an adblocker in place, they won’t let you read their content (since they won’t earn any money). if you whitelist them, the adblocker won’t work on their site.

  51. cncx*

    One of the things i remember thinking at the time of the original is…blue hair, and more generally these types of complex dye jobs, is really hard to maintain and fades fast unless one is really used to the upkeep of these types of dye jobs. The beauty blogger Temptalia has several posts where she details her dye projects and what she has to do in terms of washing and products to keep her hair looking good and there is a learning curve. Her hair looks great but…she knows what she is doing.

    In my office, which does lean conservative, multicolored hair, even blue or green, wouldn’t be the problem when the dye job was fresh…but the way it would look faded out would be.

    1. Eirene*

      Yeah, it’s a ton of upkeep. I love the look of dark-blue hair, but I also know what it looks like if you don’t maintain it, and it gets really strange-looking really fast if you don’t in a way that other colors don’t. Pink and purple, for instance, tend to just get lighter in shade, but blue goes sort of a wonky sea green. I have my hair purple, and I’m being very lazy with it as we’re all working from home indefinitely. But when I’m in the office, I’m minimizing washes/using colored conditioner/washing with cold water (brr!)/dyeing more frequently to keep it looking nice. I don’t mind being known as “the purple-haired one on the second floor,” but not in a bad way!

  52. Wing Leader*

    My mom is in her 50s, works for the state government, and has gotten into funky hair colors over the last few years. I, as the resident hair dying expert (thanks to going through a dying phase myself in my youth), do her hair for her on a regular basis.

    I’ve given her blue hair, bleached hair, colorful lowlights, different colored bangs, etc. However, her most common color is a deep raspberry red shade added onto her naturally dark hair (I like to call it “cherry coke”). My mom is the only person in her office that has done this, but they don’t have any specific rules against it (she checked the handbook lol) so she’s never gotten in trouble.

  53. TJ*

    I honestly don’t believe you should be able to make her change her hair if it wasn’t in the dress code. You could say going forward please stick to natural colors and update the handbook but you can’t expect her to know something you never told her! She’s not a mind reader and that kind of color is expensive to have done. I also think it’s woeth thinking about if it’s really necessary to have that in the code- it seems like it’s defaulted too a lot of the time without any real reason behind it. Same with tattoos- is there a legitimate reason not to have tattoos or do you just not like the aesthetic? I think our jobs have *way* too much control over our bodies and presentation. I can’t have “visible tattoos” or “unnatural” hair or wear “non religious head coverings” or “excessive piercings” but nothing in my job would mean that I couldn’t do so for safety reasons, my client population isn’t elderly people who might be put off by change. So what would it matter if I had a tattoo of a butterfly on my wrist or had rose gold hair? Who cares? Not my clients. I just feel that the social norms are chafing much faster than dress codes are.

  54. lilsheba*

    I can’t believe that this is even an issue. She’s in patient care with blue hair, and this matters why? It affects nothing. There should be no rules around tattoos either in my opinion because again..IT DOESN’T MATTER. Who cares.

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