pink hair at a job interview, coworkers who don’t knock, and more

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

1. Pink hair at a job interview

My 19-year-old son seems to think that going to a job interview with half of his hair colored pink (the other half is black) will not prevent him from getting a job. He’s going to apply for forklift driver or loading or manufacturing, something not in the direct public eye.

I guess I must be very old school, because both my husband and I are insisting he lose the pink! We told him appearances do matter, that first impressions are important, and going in to meet the HR person with two-toned hair and black fingernails isn’t a good idea, even if you are qualified. He thinks it’s discrimination if he doesn’t get hired, and that things are much different now than they were 30 years ago when we were interviewing. I would appreciate any input, even if you disagree with us !

Yep, times are changing. They already have changed, in fact. There are tons and tons of industries where it is completely fine to have pink hair at a job interview or on the job itself. I don’t know if that’s true for the fields your son is targeting in your geographic area in particular — there can be regional differences on this — but the blanket assumption that you won’t get hired if you show up with an unnatural hair color no longer holds.

But if you’re right and he’s wrong about how this will affect his job prospects, he’s going to find that out soon enough, and it sounds like experience might be a better teacher here. If you’re right, he’ll figure it out. (Meanwhile, though, it might be good to teach him more about discrimination, so he knows what’s truly illegal in hiring, like discriminating based on race, religion, sex, etc., and what isn’t. If he doesn’t trust you on that, you could send him straight to the EEOC’s guidance.)

2. Coworkers open my office door without knocking

Due to increased video conferencing in the pandemic, loud office neighbors, and a very gregarious office culture, I have been keeping my door shut at times throughout the day. It is mostly closed mid-morning and mis-afternoon while I am working on things that require my full attention. This is acceptable in my office. Others do it too so it isn’t considered rude or standoffish. People usually assume a person with their door closed is in the middle of something or on a call/conference.

On several occasions, at least three different people have either just suddenly opened my door, or knocked and then opened my door without waiting for a “come in” type response. At one point I put a sign on my door that said “On Video Conference — Please Knock First.” That sign was effective for a while, but I took it down because I thought people had gotten the point.

What is typical office etiquette with regard to knocking first and waiting for a response before entering? To me it is about politeness but more importantly about a physical boundary violation. Am I being weird for expecting someone to (1) knock first and then (2) wait for me to either respond or open the door?

Nah, you’re not being weird. A closed door signals “wait to be invited in.” You could be changing your clothes in there! You could be on a highly sensitive personal call, or getting or delivering terrible news. People shouldn’t barge right in when a door is closed. (And those people who aren’t even knocking before they come in — what the hell?)

I’d put your sign back up.

3. Is it reasonable to expect a multi-year commitment for an entry-level job?

I work at my alma mater, a small liberal arts college that’s currently understaffed for financial reasons. The college president has granted tentative approval for someone to be hired to be split 50-50 between the department I manage and another understaffed department. Both of us really need a full-time person, but the budget won’t stretch that far this year, so this is meant to be a stopgap until we stabilize a bit more. The other manager has decided she wants someone to commit for a bare minimum of two years, ideally three. The problem is that the job she’s hiring for is very entry-level. I know because that’s the job I was hired to do before I was transferred and promoted. It’s half clerical data-entry work, and half work that is more skilled/creative — but (in my opinion) anyone with the skills to do the more creative side of the job isn’t going to want to stick around in the data-entry side long-term. I know that if I hadn’t been promoted I would have left after a year, just because my skill set was being wasted in that position.

Additionally, we tend to hire alumni who have just graduated because we can pay them low wages, but they tend to not stick around very long and leave after a year or two to continue school or develop professionally elsewhere. I think that’s normal and I’ve designed my half of the position to be easily replaceable, with the expectation that we’ll have to hire someone new But the other manager claims that it will take a full year (!) just for the new hire to learn the job, especially the new database system, so there’s no point hiring someone who will leave after a year.

I have a candidate who I think would be phenomenal — right now she works for me part-time as a student, but she has an incredible skill set that would allow her to do both jobs (which are quite different jobs). But, since she’s graduating this year, she doesn’t know how long she wants to stay. I think it would be better to hire her in the short term because she could do a lot of good while she’s here. The other manager would rather have someone less skilled but competent who sticks around longer. Which option is more reasonable?

(For context, my department is actually a new department that I’m still building up. This student has shown a lot of enthusiasm and skill in helping develop certain policies and procedures we desperately need, which is part of why I think it’d be immensely valuable to bring her on even for the short-term).

Normally I’d agree with you for all the reasons you laid out, but if this particular candidate is graduating this year, does that mean she might leave you in May or June? If so, I can’t blame your colleague for not wanting to hire someone who might leave that quickly; she’d be starting the hiring and training process all over again after just a few months.

But beyond this one candidate: If you used to do the job your coworker is hiring for, can you share what your experience was with it — how long it took you to learn the role (presumably not a year), the likely tenure of anyone who’s really well suited for the role, etc.? You should also point out that asking someone to commit to three years for an entry-level job is really out-of-step with what most employers ask and will lose you good candidates. Maybe there’s a compromise; 18 months wouldn’t be unreasonable. (That said, keep in mind that you can’t lock people in. You can tell them what you’re hoping for and decline to hire anyone who makes it clear they’re likely to leave before that, but unless you’re signing a contract with them — which would be unusual in the U.S. — they’re going to leave when they want to leave.)

4. We’re being ordered to work weekends when we’re already working 60-hour weeks

This past year at my company, there was a huge influx of last-minute, tight-turnaround, requires-weekend-work projects. My team is made up of four exempt employees who don’t get paid for overtime, and we were already working 60-hour weeks Monday through Friday. We banded together to say we would happily work the needed weekends as well for the daily rate they normally pay a freelancer, and our manager agreed to make it happen. This went on quietly for a few months.

Recently, we were told that the company has adopted a strict policy on overtime — employees do not get paid anything but their salary, regardless of any extra work or hours. Now if we work the weekend we will be compensated with an extra vacation day that week. Here’s the kicker: we already have unlimited vacation days.

Realistically, our workloads are so huge that even when we schedule vacation days in advance, we usually end up working those days anyway. So there is no question in my mind that this “swapping weekends for weekdays” is never going to happen. It should also be noted that all of my teammates’ salaries are five figures, far from 24/7 pay. Is it reasonable for this company to expect all salaried employees to make themselves available this often with little incentive? Are we within our rights to say no to weekend work? And how can we without being accused of not being team players?

No, adding weekend work on top of an already 60-hour week isn’t reasonable. (You’re already averaging 12 hours a day. Which also isn’t reasonable, just on its own.) And their offer of an extra vacation day that you’ll never be able to take and when you already have unlimited vacation days is laughable.

You can indeed say no to weekend work. But the company can decide to require it as part of your job (and fire you if you refuse), so at that point you’re in a game of chicken to see who will budge first. There’s power in numbers, though; your company probably doesn’t want to fire any of you and really won’t want to fire all four of you, so banding together and speaking with one voice on this is good. I’d frame it as, “We’re currently working 12 hours a day, which is not sustainable on its own. Realistically, we cannot add in more work on top of that for our current compensation. Right now it’s simply not something we can do.”

Also, this is the kind of exploitation that makes people unionize, just saying.

5. Getting paid for years of experience, not for current work

My organization is hiring two new program officers. Their job descriptions are the same, and they are expected to perform at the same level. One has 10 years experience and the other has seven years experience. Why is it acceptable to pay the one with seven years of experience less, if both are expected to do the same amount of work? To me, it seems that a person’s background (experience, education, etc.) is what positions them to get the job. But the salary should be based on the work you do for the current organization, not for work you have done in the past. Doesn’t this variation open the door for descrimination and bias? Should we pay both individuals the same salary or is it ethical to pay them differently?

Sometimes you might pay someone with more experience more because you expect them to bring more expertise to the work. Even if their job description is the same as someone else’s, you might reasonably expect to see their greater expertise reflected in their work. (I wouldn’t just assume that will happen based years of experience, though. I’d only assume it if you saw actual evidence of greater expertise, particularly in their concrete work accomplishments.)

But if that’s not the case and both are expected to contribute the same, there’s no real argument for paying one more. (And the difference between seven and ten years of experience often is not significant.)

I wouldn’t say it necessarily opens the door for discrimination and bias — at least not if the organization consistently pays based on years of experience and doesn’t just pull that in as a justification when it’s convenient. But it makes a lot more sense to set salaries based on the value of the actual work to the employer.

{ 394 comments… read them below }

  1. Shhhhhh*

    LW2 – Yes to the sign. I don’t shut my door that often so when I do my staff knows not to interrupt unless it’s really urgent. I also have a post it that says “please interrupt if you need to” that I deploy if I’m watching a webinar or doing something else that would be okay to break into for any reason. I’ve contemplated a “do not disturb” post it too, but I rarely have times I’d need one since I’m able to reserve a conference room for reviews and other such private meetings.

    1. Aphrodite*

      When I was on deadline and/or writing and editing, I wanted to make the point as gently, but firmly, as possible. To that end, I had a sign that said:

      Please disturb if:

      the building is on fire (picture of burning building)


      Bob is on the phone. (picture of Robert Redford in his heyday)

      It made the point and was respected but it also made people smile.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        I used to have a little note that said “please knock – worker has an exaggerated startle reflex”.

        1. WantonSeedStitch*

          As a new parent to an infant, I am just imagining opening a door on a coworker who exhibits a startle reflex like my son’s, flinging up their arms and pulling their knees up. This is kind of hysterical!

          1. Em*

            As someone who has a startle reflex not much less dramatic than that — it is frequently very funny for everyone around me, but I hate it. There’s a reason I’ve opted for jobs that let me work remotely. It cuts down a LOT on people lurking around corners, or popping out from behind me.

            1. Tisiphone*

              At the office there is a cube farm that has a grid layout, meaning that aisles go both N/S and E/W. A third of the cubicles are open to both, which takes away an entire corner to accommodate both aisles. The way the desk is positioned leaves the back exposed on two fronts and there is no corner to the cube, meaning that people going around one of those cubes would be able to cut through the cube. Nobody respects the boundaries of the cube because there isn’t any delineation.

              This would be a nightmare for anyone with a startle relex.

              1. Em*

                I’ve had to work from the office a once, and — one reason I recommend my employer to anyone who’ll stand still long enough to listen — after observing me jumping out of my skin every time someone walked past behind me, my boss came up noisily and told me that next time, they’d find me a desk next to the wall rather than on the aisle.

            2. Quill*

              Yeah, I have to ask to not have my back to the cube entrance.

              Please knock, I learned to throw knives at ren faire and I WILL hurl a leaky ball-point at you if startled.

            3. kitryan*

              I used to work as a fabric dyer, so there was some combination of 2 washers, 2 dryers, the sink, and an extractor fan running near constantly. Because of this I regularly wore earbuds playing at a low volume under earmuff style hearing protection. I was in my own little world.
              There was NO chance I’d hear anyone coming and I would jump 3 feet in the air every time. People were both amused and apologetic. I didn’t love the startle but after a little while I had to find the humor in it, like it or no :/

            4. JustaTech*

              I really appreciate that my boss *also* has a strong startle reflex.
              Once, when we first started working together he accidentally startled me, so I shrieked, which startled him so he shrieked. Since neither of us liked that, and he’s the boss, all our coworkers made an effort to not startle us.

              (I would say this is the one advantage of the hateful open office – I can see everyone coming and going from half a floor away so it’s much harder to startle me now.)

              1. TardyTardis*

                I was once temporarily deaf (curse you sulfa drugs!) and so I needed a sign to let people know they had to wave their hands in front of my face to get my attention.

        2. SusanIvanova*

          I used to teach karate. A couple of my fellow karate teachers thought it would be funny to startle me as I came around a blind corner in the hallway. I managed to pull my punch and kick just in time. They didn’t do that again!

      2. DarnTheMan*

        At an old job I didn’t even have a separate cubicle so sometimes when I had last minute massive writing requests, I would tape a sign to the back of my chair that read “How are you today? Good, I hope you’re well too. What are you working on? [Insert massive project here.] Do you have time to squeeze in [X/Y/Z smaller task]? Please check with [manager] and she and I can strategize. Where is [X/Y/Z] project? Please check the Comms folder on the share drive or if not, email [staff]. You’re on fire! Please notify me promptly so I can put myself out.” Generally got a chuckle out of most people.

    2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I actually think this specific sign might be working against OP — without intending, it might send the implication that if she’s *not* on a conference call, people are welcome to walk in.

      I’d suggest re-wording the sign so that it’s more of a blanket ‘please knock’ without the caveat about the call.

        1. Elliott*

          I think “do not disturb” would stop people (well, polite people) from engaging at all unless it was an emergency. If the OP is okay with people knocking, something else might work better.

    3. Violet Fox*

      Where I work we have pre-printed on Zoom signs for people to pick up. They really do help communicate that you are busy/on a call/in a meeting. Highly recommend keeping on using the sign when you are busy.

      Heck, we have big glass windows in all of our office doors and it’s much easier to tell with the signs that someone is occupied.

      1. Batty Twerp*

        I had a grandboss who had his door shut by default – not really his preference, the door wedge kept going missing and the office door had a fire door style hinge. So I’d knock, then peer through the window to see if he was free.
        On occasion, I’d knock then open the door a crack – my hearing isn’t 100%, so I’d frequently miss a muffled “come in” response – just enough to determine his disturbability.
        If your default is door open, I don’t understand why people would assume you can be disturbed when it’s closed. Put your sign back up. You work with people who need it.

        1. Drago Cucina*

          I used to have my door shut by default. It started because the previous director only shut the door when she was chastising someone. So, I wanted to take the fear out. Also, when we moved buildings it was the first door you passed in the staff area, so everyone wanted to chat. I could never get anything done.
          I had a couple of signs that I would put up if writing a grant, in a meeting, etc. One was a variation of, “Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons for you are crunchy and taste good with mayonnaise.” (I don’t eat catsup.) The other stated that if there were no broken bones or blood involved to ask assist. director.
          There was a board chair who was notorious for knocking once and walking in. Until the day I was standing and pulling down my slip. Skirt hiked up around my waist. His own fault. He knocked and I yelled, “Please wait.” He was fifteen shades of red. It never happened again though.

          1. E*

            My boss took her own Master key and unlocked my door while I was pumping for my then 3-month old.
            The reason? She had a piece of paper she wanted to throw away instead of carry down the hall to her own office (seriously, she had nothing to say to or ask me) and knew my trashbin was right by the door.

            1. Drago Cucina*

              Oh, argh, aggravating and boundary stomping. Pumping is not like feeding. It’s a whole other level of vulnerable.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Time to get my ‘do not knock – IT staff scare easily’ sign out the boot of the car!

    5. AMT*

      I’m a therapist, and while I have a lock on my door, I also have one of those plastic slidey-signs from Amazon that slides from “Do not disturb” to “Welcome, please knock.” I keep it on my door so people will go to the waiting room and wait instead of knocking during a session. There are a ton of them (some have more options, like “In a meeting” or “Out of office”) and they’re all very cheap.

    6. GothicBee*

      My workplace has these signs that people can hang off their office or cubicle doors if they want to that show whether you’re in a meeting, can be interrupted, out of office, whatever. Not everyone uses them for everything, but they’re useful for when you don’t want to be interrupted at all.

      Though I would also say that using a sign means that if you don’t have it up, people are going to assume that you can be interrupted. So if LW just wants people to knock every time, they may want to consider putting up a permanent sign for when the door is shut that says something like “Please Knock”.

    7. Firecat*

      I doubt the sign will help. In my experience, the folks who barge into closed rooms, particularly someone else’s office, feel entitled to your time or that space and any attempt to put up barriers results in complaints of you being unaccessible/hiding in your office etc.

      I think OP has to figure out the culture of her office first. Not all places are cool with signs or closed door even though it’s ridiculous.

      Story time: at my old employer I closed the door for personal calls and there was a period I had a lot of them (my boss knew why). A coworker burst into my office, rifled through the file drawers, and got flustered and left as I continued my very personal heavy phone call.

      Well they complained to their boss that I shouldn’t be talking about such upsetting things at work!

    8. Massive Dynamic*

      As long as you have a window where you can see if someone’s waiting, I’d straight-up lock the door.

      No lock on the door? Here’s a free tip from my office pumping days – keep a rubber doorstop handy and use it to jam the door shut in lieu of a lock.

  2. staceyizme*

    Pink hair; don’t care! LW #1- it’s time to let your young adult make some decisions and also some mistakes. In a world where tattoos, hair extensions, piercings and body modifications are all pretty common, he’s not going to be too notable for pink hair. (Except perhaps in banking, law or insurance, as well as some settings in education.) I tend to agree with you that appearance matters and that anything atypical can restrict some employers from finding him a top candidate. But- maybe he’d be better off not trying to fit into such an organizational culture?

    1. allathian*

      Traditionally some sectors in manufacturing and warehouse logistics have been very male-dominated, because many such jobs require considerable physical strength. I do know that there are plenty of female forklift truck drivers these days, and we’ve had female warehouse employees posting here before, so it’s no longer quite so exclusively male. I may be a bit behind the times and please tell me if that’s the case, but my mental image of a warehouse is pretty macho. Pink hair and painted nails, even black ones, are going to read as effeminate, so I’m not sure how a young man with pink hair and painted nails would fit into such a working environment. I certainly hope my suspicions are wrong and he’d be accepted as just another employee, but I have my suspicions that might not be.

          1. Less Bread More Taxes*

            Literally the entirety of allathian’s comment is about culture, which is certainly going to vary depending on the industry, region, country, etc.

              1. Lolli*

                I came here to say this. I live in Texas and there are plenty of jobs where pink hair on a man is just fine. But forklift operator is probably not one of them.

                1. JSPA*

                  Really depends; will it read metal? Punk? Goth? Emo? (The stereotypes for each are very different.) And how common is that subculture in the area? (Again, varies highly.)

                  “Dude is in a band” is not exactly an unheard-of situation on manual labor job sites. Colorful non-erect mohawks (remember, laid flat and back and banded, they’re a stripe-ponytail) or fauxhawks are not strange.

                  Some sites will balk at the nail color not because of masculinity but because in case of a crush injury or someone knocked out cold, they need to check the color of your nail beds. (A job should cover the extra costs of nail polish remover and redoing his polish.)

                  IMO, the mistaken belief on what is and is not discrimination, and on what a job seeker is and is not entitled to, will (in many places) be a bigger issue than colored hair.

                2. Third or Nothing!*

                  Also Texan, and yep there are lots of jobs still like that. I can say with certainty that welding is one of them, given that my husband is a welder and has witnessed the machismo culture firsthand.

                3. Joan Rivers*

                  It can depend on how well he carries off the pink hair. If he’s a “wanna-be” he might not pull off the swagger or attitude the way the guy he saw the pink hair on did.

                  People can pick up on body language and confidence, and sometimes sense that a kid is going to be easy to bully or mock. If he seems more hardcore about it they may ignore it.

      1. Catherine*

        I think this is YMMV by culture. A man with pink and black hair and black nails would read as a punk or goth to me depending on his clothes.

        1. Beth*

          My read of it is also a subculture thing–depending on the style of it, could be goth, punk, kpop stan, gay (we like to signal to each other, bright colors are helpful!), or a range of other things. YMMV on whether you consider those various groups compatible with ‘macho,’ but I definitely don’t think members of these groups broadly lack masculinity, much less that they’re broadly incapable of manual labor.

          1. MK*

            No one is saying that; for that matter, lots of women have more physical strength than some men. But it’s pointless to deny that in an environment full of conventional-looking working class men, a young guy with pink hair might face prejudice. And I don’t think it especially matters if he reads as punk or gray, even assuming the kind of people likely to be prejudiced are going to care about the difference.

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              Very regional. We are in the midst of the greatest sexual revolution since the 1960s, when penicillin and the pill changed everything. The kids nowadays have entirely different attitudes toward sexual orientation. It isn’t merely tolerance toward LGBT+. It is finding intolerance just plain weird, like being intolerant of redheads. This is the experience of my kid in middle school, and while we aren’t in the most regressive place in the country, neither are we in the most progressive. I don’t know how much this has worked its way into working class environments. The LW’s kid could find themself on the leading edge of the trend, which is a tough place to be. But I would be surprised if ten, or even five years from now this sort of thing is remarkable in any but notably regressive areas.

              1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

                Similar here – not in a real progressive area myself, either. But my middle schooler’s take on the world, and I know it can’t be just what we’ve done at home, is quite an eye opener even to me. Their world is a different, and I’d argue a better, place, than that in which I was raised. Its more open and loving.

                1. Richard Hershberger*

                  The only downside is that kids nowadays need to figure out stuff we never had to think about. Back in my day, there was a strong assumption that everyone was straight. Only people who absolutely could not live with that identified as gay. Bisexuality was a theoretical option, but meant that you got flak from all sides. In practice, most people who were bi identified as straight, perhaps with an expanded selection in their porn stash. Trans? A distant rumor. So figuring out how to self-identify was easy. Living with it could be hard, but that is a different discussion.

                  Modern teens give a lot thought to this. Combine it with traditional teen angst and the results aren’t always pretty. But they will figure it out, and if heightened teen angst is the worst side effect, we are doing OK. I suspect that the next generation after this will largely identify as bi or otherwise flexible, which I also suspect has been the reality all along, but formerly channeled by social norms into more restrictive categories.

              2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                It is finding intolerance just plain weird, like being intolerant of redheads.

                I want to live on whatever planet you’re describing. It sounds better than Earth.

          2. Librolover*

            (radio announcer voice) the young gay can be identified by its bright plumage in the wild…

        2. MassMatt*

          …but this distinction isn’t likely to make much difference to the narrow-minded.

          I think the issue is extremely specific for different industries and workplaces. I’ve worked places where no one would care and places where someone with pink hair at an interview would immediately be shown the door.

          It’s up to each person to decide how much they are willing to compromise their appearance for jobs.

      2. Lonely Aussie*

        I work in a male dominated industry that has a lot of overlap with warehouse workers or at least the pool we draw from is much the same. Had coworkers with facial tattoos, piercings and crazy hair (hell, as several of my coworkers have proven, don’t even have to brush it half the time) which hasn’t really impacted on their careers.
        Honestly, dyed hair and painted nails wouldn’t matter at all in just about any colour (had coworkers with fluro yellow/green hair) but dyed pink specifically might. There can be this really toxic culture in manual handling jobs, where there’s this push to be the strongest, toughest and most manly.
        I was having pencils stolen left right and center but switching to barbie ones with lots of pink and sparkles stopped the thefts overnight. Offer one to someone looking for one and you’d think they were getting offered cooties. Everything I buy for work now, like socks or gloves or multitools or whatever, is pink.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            All my hand tools around the house have a big pink dot on them. Yeah, no contractor “accidently” walks off with my tools any more.

          2. RecoveringSWO*

            I put hot pink duct tape on the handle of my sea bag so other sailors or marines would not walk off with mine by accident. It was very effective!

          3. Cat Tree*

            I once requested new pens during breast cancer awareness month, and got a box of pink ones, still with black ink. A male coworker asked to borrow a pen, so I offered him a pink one. He recoiled in horror as if I had tried to hand him a poisonous snake. I laughed and said that was all I had, take it or leave it.

            Years ago when I bought my house, I finally had a reason to buy a drill. I went to a hardware store and the sales man tried really hard to steer me towards a pink one. The problem is that the pink one was some brand I had never heard of and didn’t look like good quality. So I bought a Black & Decker one instead. I’m still insulted that this guy I assumed color would be the most important factor to me, and also that some manufacturer thought they could pass off a shoddy product to women simply by making it pink. Maybe the sales man was desperate to unload this junk, but that doesn’t really excuse his behavior.

            1. pleaset cheap rolls*

              “Pink it and shrink it” – the lazy product design/marketing approach to making products for women that were traditionally for men.

              1. Starbuck*

                As a pretty small person – the shrink it part is at least appreciated! My hands are very small so it makes a big difference for grips, handles, etc. I like that more stuff is becoming unisex too, but often it’s still just the men’s size range with a different label slapped on. Not helpful!

                But they could at least do the right thing and charge less for it if it’s so tiny, and also have the larger/”men’s” version available in fun colors and patterns too since those are for everyone.

        1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

          I did this with my tape measure and it worked very well. Even though my field is about half women! The association of pink with being weak or fussy is oddly entrenched.

        2. Yvette*

          I keep saying that I am going to get a Hello Kitty or Tinkerbell umbrella so my son won’t take it.

          1. AKchic*

            I got unicorn headphones so my kids would stop stealing them.

            The dog thought they were fluffy enough and ate them instead. I just can’t win.

        3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I did this when my two sons lived with me. They would borrow my personal items and forget where they’d put them. So I started buying things in hot pink and that worked great! They are more tolerant and accepting of hot pink now, but they have also now moved out and are living on their own.

        4. Drago Cucina*

          My husband used to wear lilac or red sparkly (not glitter, imbedded in the material) OR shoes. It used to make one of his co-workers crazy. His dream was to find a pair of hot pink ones in size 14 men’s. When he was a contractor and had to provide his own scrubs the clearance rack was his friend. Romping teddy bears in 3X. Got it.

        5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I had a string of pink felt flowers wound round my handlebars as an extra anti-theft device on my bike! (till it got stolen… but I left it outside all day near an area with lots of drug dealers)

      3. Observer*

        He may very well come off as effeminate. But he’s going to have to figure that out for himself. His parents can’t do that for him.

      4. PspspspspspsKitty*

        I work in production in the US. It’s about equal to men to women who drive forklifts in my current company. My last company it was mostly men. It’s very cultural base. With saying that, depending on what industry he works, he may be wearing a hardhat and hairnet so it’s not like people will see his hair.
        Either way, fitting in deals more with how someone interacts with others versus how they look.

      5. Liz*

        If this is the angle of the discussion, then his argument regarding discrimination may apply. If a particular warehouse is so steeped in macho culture that they’re refusing to hire a qualified candidate on account of him looking “effeminate” then yes, that’s discrimination in my eyes. Unfortunately there may be very little he can do legally (this kind of thing is hard to prove, and costly) but as long and he’s not in a dire financial situation and needing to take literally ANY job in order to survive, I would argue it would be better for him to just interview as his usual, colourful self and allow those sorts of cultures to “opt out”. That would probably be a better option for everyone. If I were in his shoes, I would not fare well mentally in a culture where I had to perform particular gender roles in order to sneak past sexist or homophobic hiring managers. More tolerant, open minded warehouses do exist. It may take longer, but at least this way he stands a better chance of finding them, and screening out the places where he’d feel unsafe.

        1. Forrest*

          Yes. You can certainly take a case for discrimination if you were discriminated against because people thought you were gay in the UK, regardless of whether you actually are or not. Whether or not “they were OK with green hair but think pink hair is too effeminate” would count as discrimination based on sexuality would be up to a tribunal, but being expected to perform a certain gender presentation in order to work is a pretty grey area.

          1. Liz*

            Agreed, it does vary hugely by region, industry, and organisation, and the legalities are very much still being worked out. But I’m pleasantly surprised by developments I’m hearing and seeing in the world.

            I have a friend who works in banking (generally a very conservative industry) who presents in a very “butch” style. Her managers approached her and insinuated that she should dress in a more feminine manner “to make our clients feel more comfortable”. She replied that absolutely NOBODY would be comfortable if she were required to do so, least of all her clients when she falls flat on her face in front of them as a result of trying to walk in heels and winds up with her skirt over her head and her knickers on display. She’s not hugely advanced in her career, but she’s got a solid enough history to be able to go elsewhere if this really was a sticking point, and decided that, in her case, this was absolutely a hill to die on. Her bosses were not exactly happy, but they dropped the matter immediately. She suspects that lawyers might have been consulted, and the conclusion reached that it was not worth the legal/PR hit if they were to push further. My friend continues to wear suits to work.

            Not everybody has the clout to do this, naturally, but I think growing numbers of people are choosing to self select out at the interview stage by showing up honestly but appropriately and letting the company decide for themselves.

        2. Nobby Nobbs*

          This guy’s going to be spending forty hours every week at this workplace. If he has the option to screen out the more unbearable ones, he absolutely should.

        3. GothicBee*

          Agreed! I think the main thing here is that he will have to decide for himself based on his experiences whether he wants to go ahead and conform to more “traditional” standards or if he wants to just be himself and possibly miss out on a few job opportunities (though I’d point out that there are probably at least a few people out there who’d be more likely to hire him due to the pink hair too).

          I’m a lot happier at work since I started dressing the way I want (within dress code standards) and for a long while I had purple hair. Plus I’ve been slowly adding in more tattoos. Some people aren’t going to like it, but personally I probably wouldn’t like working for them, so it’s an easy way to screen things both ways.

      6. Niii-i*

        From my perspective (husband is working at a very macho warehouse) macho is changing too! My husband showed me pictures of his manager, (60+, done this work all his life) showing off his new hobby, baking. One person keeps sending pics of his new kitten in their shared watsapp. There are also “metalheads” with nailpolish and even some make-up. What I hear, is that they get mocked slightly, but are accepted well in other terms. It’s not black and white (or even just black and pink), and I agree with Alison, times are changing.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I agree! Where I live, the young man’s look would be pretty unremarkable, either in a working class or an office environment.

      7. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Really, really depends on the company. I’ve worked in very heavily male dominated fields for most of 20 years (railway engineering) and some firms have very outdated views on gender (I had to practically bind my chest at one firm because ‘your chest size distracts the men’) whereas others just don’t care who you are or what you look like so long as you get the job done.

        At firm A a guy showing up with pink hair would have been sent home to dye it back to normal and told to ‘not bring your stag weekend japes in here’.

        At firm B it would have raised a couple eyebrows on day 1 and then just never mentioned.

        Both were firms with a lot of really rough and tumble blokes employed primarily.

        1. JSPA*

          Given the range of jobs the son seems to be considering–which should allow some picking and choosing on both sides–there are worse ways to weed out the hidebound and intolerant than having pink hair at the interview.

      8. Cat Tree*

        It really depends on the specific culture of the workplace. I work in manufacturing (as an engineer) and naturally there are warehouses in my department. I work with the people in the warehouse when I have special projects or need something stored, and I’ve become work friends with a few of them. It is still mostly men, in the warehouse, but I think most of them would be ok with pink hair. There might be some comments, more than I would be comfortable with, but I think they’d get over it pretty fast. But this particular company makes a lot of effort towards diversity in general. Some places I’ve worked might not be as accepting.

      9. RC Rascal*

        Correct. If he gets hired looking like that, it’s unlikely the his coworkers will accept his appearance.

        The workers in our warehouse are very masculine and also very large.

        1. JSPA*

          If he gets hired looking like that, he’ll…be working for a company that hires people who look like that.

          Seems like a reasonable way to get the sort of coworkers who won’t make your life hell after one of them spot you dressed up somewhere else, on the weekend.

      10. EngineerMom*

        It’s definitely regional. I live in the Chicago area – Chicago is known as the “third coast”, and has a very vibrant and active theater tradition and community. Consequently, despite being smack-dab in the middle of the more conservative Midwest, a male-appearing individual showing up with half a head of pink hair for a manufacturing job wouldn’t even get a second glance. Fingernail polish might, but not because it’s “effeminate”, but because manufacturing is pretty hard on the hands – that manicure is going to get messed up pretty fast, and if the nails are long, the person will likely be required to cut them short.

        What would stand out more is poor grooming in general. If your hair is tidy and clean, and your nails are short (working with long nails in manufacturing is a big no-no, no matter what your gender is), the color doesn’t really matter.

      11. Not So Super-visor*

        My husband is the manager at a warehouse — he’s late 30’s, long hair with teal streaks. They are openly trained that hair coloring, piercings, and tattoos (unless y offensive due to racist themes, sexual content, etc) are not reasons to exclude a candidate who is otherwise qualified.

      12. JW*

        That’s a lot of qualifiers just to ultimately say that you don’t think feminine people will get warehouse jobs

        1. Myrin*

          I mean… yeah? That’s in fact what allathian is assuming (although not “will get the jobs” but rather “will maybe not be welcome/face prejudice at those jobs”). I liked her qualifiers, which made the comment quite nuanced, and felt that they would definitely be something for OP’s son to think about – if the decides that he doesn’t worry about that or knows his area well enough to know that this won’t be a probelm, then all the better!

      13. James*

        In my experience, it’s going to depend on how he carries himself.

        If he walks in and does his job without making an issue of his appearance, he’ll get comments, but they’ll die down pretty soon. Like I said below, we’ve all got quirks. He has to expect a certain amount of comment on his appearance, but that’s less “This guy looks funny” and more “This guy’s new”–they’ll pick SOMETHING to rib him about. In a healthy work environment it’ll be good-natured joking around. In a less healthy work environment, it will get hostile. Sounds like this kid has the spine to stand up for himself, which is good.

        If he goes running to the boss for every comment, or acts afraid to mess up his nails, or makes an issue of his appearance, that’ll cause problems. To be clear, it’s not the appearance that’s important here; it’s the attitude. A woman doing the same, or a man who dressed “normally” doing it, wouldn’t be tolerated either. If he acts bitter or hostile, same thing.

        He’s at a bit of a disadvantage (how much is hard to say without knowing more about the area) because he is outside the norm, but it’s not insurmountable, at least not in a healthy work environment. By deviating from the norm he’s bringing attention to himself, sure, but that can go either way, depending on his actions.

        One of my favorite coworkers tends to deal with stress in our job by singing Disney songs while working. This got her picked on a bit–it’s not the norm. But she owned it, and worked hard enough to very quickly become a key member not just of the project team, but the program itself. Another guy came to the site in designer skinny jeans and a waxed 19th century mustache. The only reason he’s not a key member of the team is that someone else poached him–there was a fair bit of wrangling to see who got him.

      14. Ace in the Hole*

        In my place, the hair would not be an issue but the nail polish would. Specifically because nail polish (no matter the color or the person’s gender) gives an impression that you don’t get your hands dirty, or else your polish would be chipped and ragged. It’s the equivalent of showing up to work in a pristine crisp white shirt… even if you’re willing to get dirty at the drop of a hat, it doesn’t give that impression.

        Nail polish is also a relatively easy/quick cosmetic change. I don’t expect someone to change their hair color or length for a job interview. However, I think it’s much more reasonable to expect someone to remove an unusual color of nail polish before interviewing – it’s more along the lines of replacing big piercing jewelry with subtle studs. But ultimately it’s his choice…he may well find an employer who doesn’t care. Or this may be something important enough to him that it’s worth screening potential employers for it – if they hire him after he interviews like that, he can be confident they won’t have an issue with it once he starts working.

      15. Mr. Shark*

        I work in manufacturing, and I think any stigma of being “not macho” has pretty much gone away. I’ve seen all different types work on the manufacturing shop floor. Strange hair color wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow anymore. I think more of the office culture or “professional” customer facing work might be more of an issue. But warehouse people or manufacturing, as long as there is no concern about safety (dangling jewelry) it shouldn’t be a problem.
        But I agree that as a young adult, LW1’s kid needs to make their own decisions.

      16. TardyTardis*

        The hair is half pink and half black, which I read as being more aggressive than just pink. That being said, I would not care to miff off Tonks. Just sayin’.

    2. Beth*

      Yes, there are certain industries where colorful hair would be an issue but it’s much less of an issue these days than it used to be. (As my full head of spruce-y greenish-blue hair can attest!) My gut feel is that as a rule of thumb, if a field doesn’t require a suit, well-done hair color probably won’t be a dealbreaker.

      1. noodle*

        I worked in a pretty old-schoool manufacturing/warehouse (union, so I think like half of the forklift drivers/warehouse were women) environment in Iowa about 5 years ago and while I don’t specifically remember anyone with unnaturally colored hair (there might have officially been something in the dress code about it), I doubt it would have prevented someone who otherwise came across as professional, reasonable, and had the skills from being hired.

        If the son isn’t specifically using his appearance to filter out certain kinds of employers, he could ask about dress code in the interview and add that he would have no problem changing the hair (if that’s the case and he wants the job).

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          My cousin’s kids in rural IA were full goth a decade ago. I think some of the grandparents raised eyebrows, but no one under 60 cared. I think nails in an industrial job might be a little concerning. Since they’re likely to get destroyed daily, he might want to switch to neutrals that won’t show the wear as much.

        2. IndustriousLabRat*

          I like this approach; it signals a willingness to compromise if it is important enough, but doesn’t require a preemptively-boring re-dye, which isn’t even guaranteed to come out evenly when starting with half n half hair… in this situation, I actually lean towards going in pink, using your script, and if it comes down to re-dyeing AFTER the interview, so be it.

          The nail polish, on the other hand- I’d lose it. If it’s chipped, that’s a bad look in an interview; any interview, any type of fashion, any person wearing it. If it’s perfect, that could be taken as a sign that the wearer has not been doing manual labor habitually. Which could be a serious strike against in a warehouse interview- moreso than pink hair. You really cannot win with nail polish, when interviewing for a laborer or restaurant BOH position (where it’s against health regs anyway).

          I work in aerospace manufacturing, female, certified forklift operator among other things lol. Personal style is really becoming a non-issue as long as it’s not offensive. Although our shop (several hundred people) tends to rock a pretty dull and run of the mill jeans-and-hoodie wardrobe, polarfleece if you work in the offices lol, there are certainly a lot of facial piercings and crazy colored hair and gauged ears and scalp tattoos, and really once you’re respected in your position, no one bats an eye!

          1. Tisiphone*

            I’d leave the hair alone, but you have a good point about nail polish.

            In the end, nail polish can be reapplied at any time and doesn’t take too long. Hair is more work to dye one way for a job, then dye it to what you want for the weekend, then back again. Also not feasible.

            For what it’s worth, my brother had long hair in the late 70s and despite mom haranguing him about it, didn’t cut it and still got work.

    3. middle name danger*

      I work in a warehouse doing production and shipping. (Kind of half data entry, half traditional warehouse stuff.) I have unnaturally colored hair, visible tattoos and piercings, black nail polish, and dress in almost all black. It’s never been a problem. I had fire engine red hair for my interview. Your mileage may vary but I’m very involved in live music when there’s not a pandemic and a lot of people working in music (who tend to look counterculture) have a survival job in a warehouse or in manufacturing to make ends meet.

    4. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. Many places will take a pass on him due to the pink hair and painted nails, but many will give him a chance. It depends on the company and the industry. He just needs to keep in mind that in reality, he is likely limiting his prospects. But if the pink hair is important to him and he’s OK with that, that’s the trade-off he’s decided to make.

      My husband and I were trying to drill that into my in-laws’ heads when my niece was looking for a job and she refused to change her rainbow hair and style of dress. They harped on it to us that she needs to change her style, no one is going to give her a job, she’s being immature (she’s in her 20s), etc. But she got a job working in a daycare, which is what she wanted, so apparently her looks didn’t hold her back.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        I think your niece would be a hit with the daycare kids. I have seen many mismatched-dressed kids and they would love someone with their own fashion sense!

    5. MissDisplaced*

      Yeah, I don’t think shocking pink hair is all that shocking anymore. Plus, I’m assuming for an interview they would gel it down or temper the style if it’s like a mohawk or something. Even “wild” styles can look well groomed if some care is taken.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Take a deep breath, LW.
      From what I see around me, he will be okay.
      My best guess is that he himself is screening employers. He doesn’t want to work in certain types of places. I can’t blame him, really. And what is the difference if we use how we look or if we use questions to screen? We still have to screen and not give ourselves away to whatever employer seems to like us at the moment.

      Young Me used to screen by how the employees were dressed when I went for an interview. I definitely did not want the 3 piece suit (popular then) environment. So, yeah, I did plenty of looking around. My approach was a little more discrete but I was still screening.

      I am surrounded by people who hear their own drummer and I see over and over that they make it work. They have a knack that I don’t perhaps or maybe they have skills and abilities that I don’t. Other times it’s a case of they have a willingness to handle things that I am not interested in. In short- they are so very NOT me. In case, it’s not clear- I mostly admire these people.

      If you really want to help your son in the work world, teach him the importance of basic respect to others. Talk about having a willingness to help out where needed. And if he does end up in a toxic workplace encourage him that he can find a better employer, that he does not have to be verbally/otherwise abused in order to remain employed. He has already decided that he is not going to worry about what others think of his looks. Look for other talking points that might also be useful. Don’t let this one point become a great big hurdle such that no other conversations about holding down a job ever take place.

    7. PolarVortex*

      LW1: I love that you want to ensure your kid is successful, but learn what success looks like for them. I knew I never wanted to work for a place that didn’t accept me as me. So I went in with tattoos and piercings and dyed hair and those places that hired me I was happier than the earlier jobs I had to conform to. I’m never going to work for a place that doesn’t accept that, and these things that are noticeable about me help remove the companies that hate that without any effort on my part in investigating their HR dress code. Life is short, let your kid be happy in it.

      I worked in a warehouse with two toned magenta and black hair, and this was over a decade ago in a not terribly progressive area. Warehouses don’t care. Particularly if you’re working 2nd or 3rd shift.

      I’d even argue insurance is getting a bit more relaxed, but I’d agree with the banking/law/some kinds of education. I’ve seen two toned hair in Government Work (Social Work but still).

      1. pope suburban*

        Government worker with violet hair seconding this. My supervisor has multicolored streaks in her hair, which changes with the seasons. Granted that we are in the cultural arts department, so we can get away with being eccentric, but our main IT guy has full sleeve tattoos, as do some of our grounds and park workers. We don’t have a policy on piercings, and as far as I know the only rule about tattoos is that they must be covered if they are lewd/graphic- but no one here has anything falling under those categories, so I’m not even aware of how fine the distinctions there are. Things are changing. Most of our patrons, when we have people in the building, are older adults, who tend to find colored hair to be fun. Even those who might not like it are polite, and they at least know that it doesn’t affect the quality of service they receive from our staff. I think this LW’s son is not likely to have as hard a time of it as his parents worry, and that’s a good thing.

    8. Jellyfish*

      The warehouse at one of my former jobs would never have gone for someone with pink hair. I just kept my head down while I was there as I needed the decent pay and benefits. In retrospect though, middle management was wildly sexist and homophobic, and upper management was too busy trying to cover up their nepotism to care.
      If the kid is able to avoid places like that, good for him!

    9. kittymommy*

      At the end of the day this will be culture/location/industry/company specific and the LW needs to let her son deal with it. It is not her nor her husbands place to dictate his job search. He’s an adult, let him handle his own career choices.

    10. Erin*

      I’m Director of HR in manufacturing and hired someone with pink hair just this week…and actually I have pink hair too (it’s on the underside so it’s hidden when I want/need it to be). I would say if he ends up with an old school hiring manager, yeah they might hold it against him but it’s no where near the stigma it was even 10 years ago. As for the discrimination side, dyed hair is not covered any discrimination laws.

    11. Luna*

      I hire for manufacturing jobs as the one the OP’s son is applying for – forklift, machine operator, etc. Manufacturing, in my experience, is still leaning towards the conservative side. I can say though, that as much as I would more than willing to give the OP’s son a chance – if he were qualified -, there’s absolutely NO WAY the owner or plant manager would go for it, regardless of his qualifications. Just being honest here, I know it’s not right, but that’s the reality. I also live in a red state though, so that might have some bearing on it. I’m sure location would have a lot to do with how successful he is in his job search.

      1. JSPA*

        If you put it to them in so many words–I have someone excellent, but half his hair is pink–are you so sure they’d refuse? I find that a lot of people gate-keep based on how they think the biases of their employer would play out, rather than a direct order from the employer.

        A lot of employers are fine hiring workers whom they find ridiculous or socially offensive, so long as the job gets done. Whether it’d be comfortable for the guy is a different issue. And YOU might hear more overt sexism and homophobia than makes you comfortable, as a result–but that’s not a reason to pre-discriminate, to avoid it.

        I can think of so many nominally anti-LGBT organizations who have hired gay choir directors, lesbian PE coaches, taken their business to the pride-flag-flying local florist. And so many employers who’d rib hiring staff for hiring “that dude-looks-like-a-lady guy–what were you thinking?!–but I have to give it to you, he’s smart and a hard worker.”

        Issues of legal discrimination aside (as this isn’t centrally about gender presentation):given how many in-person, hands-on essential jobs as are desperately looking for competent workers, you’re potentially not doing what the boss (still) wants, under current circumstances.

        I mean, ignore this if those are Boss’s current and unchanging explicit hiring criteria. Heck, if he wants to hire only people with a basic training buzz cut, he can do that.

        But if you’re extrapolating from Boss’s past expressed biases to formulate actual current hiring criteria, this could be an excellent time to check in on that.

    12. LQ*

      I think that in a lot of jobs like that right now they are pretty desperate for people who show up every day so even if they were normally more conservative in a warehouse job the real question is, “will you show up” and that’s the only answer that matters.

    13. mooncake256*

      Haha, I had to laugh at this headline because I literally have a full head of bright pink hair and I’ve been working in public-facing jobs for a decade. Never mattered with retail, food service, receptionist, admin assistant, etc positions… I worked at a state university in the west and now a nonprofit on the east coast. It’s possible!

    14. Accounting Otaku*

      I actually use this as a way to filter out environments I don’t want to work in. When I was interviewing, I had very red hair with blonde ends that eventually turned pink because I failed at maintaining that. I did absolutely nothing to hide the pink during interviews. I made sure to put it up professionally, but it was clear I had multi-toned unnatural hair colors. Anyone who brought it up as an issue had me pulling myself from the pool unless I was REALLY interested in the position. I am now at a company that cares more about my hair being contained if I have to go on the factory floor than the color. My hair is now still bright red at the top and an intentional vibrant pink on the ends. I have not once been accused of being unprofessional.

      Let your son interview with pink hair. He’ll either find a place that’s okay with it, or he’ll decide having a job is worth dying his hair another color. There is nothing unprofessional with fun hair colors, and this will continue to normalize it.

  3. Dan*


    Yeah, I think the idea of a “commitment” is out of touch. They can agree to it (I’d say what I’d have to say to get a job) and then bail when it’s convenient. The reality with low-paid, entry-level gigs is that people don’t stick around.

    1. MassMatt*

      The boss’s idea of commitment is very one-sided: They want the employee to stay at an entry level job for years but offer no advancement or remuneration.

      It really doesn’t bode well for this organization (and especially the manager) that they want to go with a worse employee because they’ll stay longer. This is a crappy business model, good employees are hard to find and you are better off hiring and keeping them and giving them opportunities so they can grow with your organization. Places that hire new grads or others with little experience have to deal with high turnover and people with lesser skills and reliability, that’s the cost of this business model.

      Really this manager doesn’t deserve good employees, and probably wouldn’t know what to do with them if they had them.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Well it’s like the manager that prefers the employee who stays late over the one that leaves on time (even when the one leaving on time got more work done). Not necessarily logical, and not necessarily well-suited to a managerial role either.
        (Do I sound embittered by experience? Surely not /s)

    2. Willis*

      Yeah, this. I can understand the desire not to hire someone that’s made it pretty clear they only intend to stay for a a few months, like the student in Alison’s example. But other than that, it seems kind of pointless to try and guess how long someone would stay in an entry-level job, esp when it’s down to guessing who’d be there for 12-18 months vs who’d be there for 2-3 years. People are going to move on when it make sense for them regardless of what they said or thought or “committed to” when they interviewed.

    3. Kiitemso*

      Yeah, it just sounds like a bad deal all around, and OP knows it, because they did it themselves and wouldn’t have stuck around if a promotion had not come along. This is basically “we’d love to exploit somebody for low pay for 2-3 years while knowing full well anybody who would excel at the job would probably move on quickly to something better-suited and better-paying”.

      1. OP 3*

        Unfortunately, yeah, this is right on the money. This kind of attitude is very common here. It’s a small, non-profit, religious institution, so it’s not thought of as exploitation so much as “we all need to band together and sacrifice for the sake of the insitution!” But it’s created a horrific work environment, where everyone gets paid garbage wages and are expected to sacrifice their personal lives for the place. Good staff and faculty leave within 1-3 years for better positions; poor and mediocre staff and faculty stay on for years. The few good employees who do stick it out tend to burn out horrifically. One staff member (also an alumna) who worked here for 7 years – and was instrumental in the school becoming accreditted – burned out so badly she had to move back home with her parents and couldn’t work for two years afterwards.

        We actually had a new president who tried to fix all of this – raising wages, adding benefits, trying to bring low-performing staff and faculty up to par. He was the one who saw my skillset and offered me the promotion. Unfortunately, he was pushed out because the “old stock” staff/faculty (many of whom are low-performing, and who hold a lot of political power) were threatened by the changes.

        I’m planning on sticking around for a few years, simply because the kind of opportunity I’ve been handed (to build up a whole department!) is very rarely given to someone so young, and I really want to develop my skills there. I also managed to surround myself with the few good staff members the president brought in before being fired, including negotiating for one of them to be my new supervisor, so I get shielded from the most toxic elements. But yeah, it’s a mess – and to be honest, that’s part of why I would be so hesitant to lock anyone into a commitment here.

        1. Sandman*

          My sympathies, OP 3, I’ve worked at a place or two like this. I honestly feel like your colleague’s insistence that someone stay on a few years is a moot point, aside from the student you’d like to hire. People will stay as long as they want to stay. She could make things difficult in the hiring process, but generally I think I’d focus on making the best hire you can under the circumstances and let the chips fall as they may.

        2. JSPA*

          I’m imagining a nature documentary voiceover, and high magnification views of a drop of pond water…

          “in its natural environment, the paramecium–exhibiting its natural low competence and sluggish drive, along with its ability to engulf newcomers–is struggling to reproduce itself. Will it succeed despite constant bumping and nudging by the agile and quick rotifer?”

          OP, unless you’re really loving it there, and unless you very consciously buy in to the shared goal (which you already know is being misused) or the secondary goal of “reform” (which can also be used as a dangled carrot that’s never quite in reach), I have a sneaking suspicion that in a year or two, you may find yourself leaving them to their own self-constructed and self-reinforced mediocrity, while you move onwards and upwards to more functional workplaces. I’d be happy to be wrong. But this flavor of dysfunction doesn’t happen by passing accident; it accretes over decades. Would-be reformers can spend a lifetime chipping away at one surface, while more-of-same continues to accrete on the other side.

          Best of luck, either way, of course!

        3. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          I’m laughing through the tears right now because this is my exact situation, also at a small liberal arts school. I’m burning out so bad and my job search has gone from “leisurely and picky” to “well maybe I can sell plumbing equipment, how bad could it be?” in one week.

        4. Amaranth*

          What sticks with me is the idea that an entry level data entry job might take a year to learn. If you want an expert in using the database, creating custom reports, etc., then sure, it can take a while to make it tap dance, but learning how to enter data and run standard reports and at least a sense of other available functions should take maybe 3 months at best, unless the person (a) has never used a database and (b) nobody else has ever used the database and (c) there is no usable documentation. If its a new database, the vendor should be incredibly eager to help make it productive.

          1. OP 3*

            Yeah, I have to say I’m deeply skeptical of the 1-year thing. It is a new database and my colleague is anxious about that, so maybe that’s it. I know she’s had a lot of trouble with the changeover, which she’s blamed largely on the vendor, but I also know that they’re transitioning from a 90s era database with really messy data, so I really don’t think the vendor is the issue. She has very little experience with databases herself, and is wildly uncomfortable with them, so maybe that’s it? Who knows.

            Our old database was a mess and had no documentation, and it took me about two months to learn the first 80%. The last 20% was the result of lots of weird quirks in how we used data, and took the rest of the year, but that was mostly because of how infrequently the quirks came up.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      There are always jobs like this. OP is right to design the job to be “easily replaced” because it’s entry level. The coworker/cohirer needs to reevaluate their needs to something more realistic along the lines of thinking someone might only stay a year, with tasks that can be learned quickly.

      1. EPLawyer*

        It’ s like the letter from last week (?) where the person was told by her trainer she would be shadowing for A YEAR before they would be allowed to do the job. Manager is mixing up being as well versed with the system as she is with someone learning as they go.

        Honestly I would go with malicious compliance if other manager won’t change her stance. Put it right in the job description that a 3 year committment is expected, along with the pay rate. Then see what kind of candidates you get. It could be … interesting.

    5. Sparrow*

      And even if someone (truthfully!) said, “Yes, I’m looking to stay in this position for at least two years,” it’s still entirely possible they’d leave earlier, so making it a priority in the search doesn’t make much sense. (yes, them leaving in May would be different, but I feel pretty confident OP is talking about hiring this person FT when they graduate in May)

      OP might also point out that if it takes a full year to grasp the database, they’re either hiring someone who’s a bad fit for the work or should perhaps reconsider whether the position is appropriate for an entry-level person.

      1. Mockingjay*

        Yep. People can and do leave at anytime. It’s unrealistic for the other manager to think that someone is going to stick around at entry-level pay for 3 years. Train and work ’em while you got them, then wish them well when they move on.

        I once had a coworker who requested a flex schedule to attend nursing school in the evenings, unrelated to our tech field. (This was 30 years ago when flextime was a new notion and grudgingly granted for continuing ed.) When asked why he allowed her to do this, knowing she was going to leave in a year or two, he pointed out: “she’s my best worker because she’s motivated. I’m getting my money’s worth out of her while she’s here.”

        I think OP is a marvelous first boss: she knows the job is entry level, has tasks appropriate for that skill level, and understands that budget constraints mean that this is all she has to offer, so of course her hires will move on after they get some solid experience. I guarantee she gets her money’s worth out of her employees while she has them.

      2. Cat Tree*

        Yes, even people who intend to stay long-term sometimes change their minds. After about 5 years in my field, I found a pretty good job that wasn’t perfect, but the director definitely wanted to invest in me to move up in the company. It wasn’t my dream job, but I liked it better then my previous jobs and especially the opportunities for advancement. Because of that, I really thought I would build a long-term career at this company.

        One day I applied to a posting at my dream company, which was a stretch for me. For years I browsed dream company postings, and applied to 1 to 3 per year that I was especially interested in. None of those applications even made it to the interview stage, so I didn’t get my hopes up. Well, this one did and I got an offer. I was at the existing company for just over one year. I seriously considered turning down the offer, but it was my dream job and I just couldn’t let that go. It was the first time I ever felt conflicted about leaving a job, not out of any loyalty to the company but because I really had seen a good future there and was going into something unknown.

        So someone can fully intend to make a commitment, but sometimes other things just come along.

    6. Generic Name*

      Yah, if employer wants a commitment from the employee, then offer a binding employment contract to them. In that contract, the employer also commits to not fire/layoff/eliminate the employee for the term of the contract.

      1. RecoveringSWO*

        Exactly. Since the OP’s employer is higher ed, they could tie a commitment to tuition reimbursement at the school or student loan repayments. But something tells me that high ups don’t see the commitment length as important as this one manager does…

        1. TardyTardis*

          And one suspects the contract, if offered, would bind the employee to stay but allow the employer to fire them if they wanted to.

    7. Lucy P*

      When I started my first job many moons ago, I was asked for at least a one year commitment. At my, then, young age, I thought that was reasonable for any job. What is really was, was trying to hold on to someone in a company that had a decent amount of turnovers in their admin staff at various positions. Now commitment for an entry level job seems more like a red flag to me unless it comes with guarantees that will benefit both parties.

    8. Abogado Avocado*

      OP3: I would recommend you check with your college’s general counsel. The requirement of a three-year commitment by an employee can, depending on the jurisdiction, can be viewed as imposing an employment contract and, again, depending on the jurisdiction, may impose other requirements on your institution, such as limiting firing to “for cause”.

      While I appreciate that your colleague prefers not to have to train a new hire for this position every six months or every year, the college’s lawyers may not want to take on the responsibilities of a contractual employment relationship for what is essentially an entry-level job. So, get thee to the lawyer.

      1. OP 3*

        We’re located in Canada, not the US, so I think the employment law is a bit different. That said, in the past, everyone has been on a termed contract of 1 year, which they renew every June. People would give verbal commitments for longer, though, and be pressured into keeping them. (Unfortunately, often our new hires are so young that they aren’t comfortable advocating for themselves, and are easily manipulated). We’ve recently switched to continuous employment contracts, but my colleague wants to make an exception for this one position.

        The “for cause” thing is an interesting question and one the college had to grapple with previously when they let go of our president (who had a five-year contract) after only one year, without cause, without realizing the contract prohibited that. I don’t know how that ended, since it’s all very hush-hush, but from what I’ve pieced together from people who know things, they ended up having to pay out an obscene amount of money to fix that particular mistake (along with many others that happened in the firing process). Because of that, they’ve decided that the ability to terminate without cause must be in all contracts going forward.

        Our college legal counsel is actually not an employment lawyer but a family law lawyer, so I tend to take his advice with a grain of salt. We do have a paralegal working on staff in our Finance Office, with experience in employment and contract law, and he thinks this arrangement is perfectly legal. (He also thinks the termed contract thing is ridiculous, but for reasons of practicality, not legal reasons).

    9. Nanani*


      #3, if you want a commitment, pay them to make up for the opportunity cost.
      When you straight up say you like to hire people that you can pay very little, you are setting yourself up for zero commitment. It goes both ways, make the job worth sticking around for.

      1. OP 3*

        Yes! Absolutely! This is part of why I’m uncomfortable asking for a longer commitment, purely on an ethical level – we can’t (won’t?) pay enough to make the commitment worth it, and there are other not-so-great things about the job that you don’t find out about until you’ve worked here. So on the whole, the commitment is a mostly one-sided benefit.

    10. Truth-ish*

      Yup – I knew I didn’t want the job I have now (pandemic layoff situation) but needed income so said all of the things they wanted to hear which included that I was looking for a long term position. I’m going a good job for them but this is going to be a 12-18 month gig for me.

    11. aiya*

      This post reminded me so much of an experience I had as an applicant – I was interviewing for an entry level development (fundraising) job with a well-known nonprofit in my city. If you know anything about entry level development jobs, it’s that majority of the work involved is basic administrative work with some donor interactions here and there. Not too awfully exciting, but most applicants who take these kinds of positions do so because they’re passionate about the cause and want to earn hands-on experience in the field.

      I saw this job as a something that I was well-equipped to do, but I understood from speaking to others who have done similar positions before that this is often a stepping stone for other opportunities. When I was in the interview, the hiring manager was clearly agitated that the previous person had left the position and that she had to spend time looking for someone to fill the spot. She made me promise her right there and then that I was dedicated to fundraising as a career and that I would stay in the position for 2+ years. It was only the first interview. I couldn’t envision myself working in development for 2+ years, and the manager’s attitude kind of caught me off guard. I ended up turning the offer down and went with another opportunity instead.

  4. Kit*

    Not only am I a pink haired manager in a customer-facing role, but many of my elderly customers have pink, purple, or blue hair (and I don’t mean in the toner accident way, I mean deliberately dyed)! Times have indeed changed, and when I am hiring I do not consider hair at all beyond checking that the candidate is willing to tie it back if it’s long.

    1. 1.0*

      My hair has grown out during the pandemic, but previously I’d just make sure to schedule an appointment at the salon a few days before interviews so my blue hair was as nice and vibrant as possible.

      I found it was actually a pretty decent networking tool, too – my industry does not care about formality, and having something recognizable about my appearance means people I’ve met at meetups remember me when we cross paths again.

      1. Quoth the Raven*

        I work part time in the organizing committee for a pop culture event in my country, and my hair is dyed red (not anything excessively bright or unnatural, just deep crimson that makes people think I am naturally a redhead) and in my experience that has definitely helped people remember me, especially since another one of the organizers shares my name. I am “Red Jessica” and people know to ask about me that way (I don’t mind it at all).

        I’ve also hired staff for the event whose hair is dyed bright pink, yellow, blue, or green (or who have shaved all their hair off or grown it super long) or who have full sleeve tattoos; our dress code is informal, so all that I ask is that they don’t wear dirty or torn clothes or shoes. All that I really care is that they do their job well and that they are reliable.

        1. JustaTech*

          I have a friend who’s an ICU nurse who loves to dye her hair in crazy colors and patterns. Part of the way she convinced her hospital to let her have dyed hair at work was to point out that while “the nurse with brown hair” could be two-thirds of the staff, “the nurse with green hair” could only be her, so if a patient complained they would know exactly who the patient was talking about.

          That was about 5 years ago and it’s never been a problem.

      2. OyHiOh*

        Same same. My hair is a distinctive cut and texture and functions very well as a memory device. I’ve heard through my network that when a mutual aquaintence can’t remember my name, I’m “you know, the one with the hair.”

    2. Jaid*

      And I’m guessing they’re not changing their hair color a la Mrs. Slocombe from “Are You Being Served”. :-)

    3. Shamy*

      I am right there with you. I got my current position while interviewing with dark blue, purple, and turquoise hair, I also had almost my whole head shaved except the top was long (am a woman). Not just streaks either, my whole head was those colors. I am in a very professional specialist state position, but not so niche they couldn’t have found someone else. I made the decision that I was going to go to the interview and not hide anything because I didn’t want to work in an environment that wouldn’t accept me. I made sure to dress impeccably and I actually think my hair may have helped me land the job (working with troubled groups of people, so need to be open minded and nonjudgmental).

    4. Cat Tree*

      I think it’s really common for retired people because they finally have the freedom to express themselves in a way they couldn’t before. My neighbor has a new hair color seemingly every week, and I wish I could do that. Pre-pandemic when I was comfortable in a salon, I often got my hair dyed red or auburn because it was the least common color that could still pass as natural (although I pushed the boundaries with some shades).

      I’d like to try blue or purple hair. And maybe I could. I have a professional job (engineering) but in manufacturing. I don’t think we even have a specific dress code and my clothes were fairly casual even before Covid. I also have a lot of capital because of my performance and knowledge of the department. So I’m pretty certain that no one would actually tell me to change my hair. But I’m not sure how it would be viewed and it’s not necessarily worth spending capital on if that’s what it would take. Plus we occasionally have regulatory inspections when the dress code becomes very strict for that week, and it would probably be more of a problem then.

    5. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      My mother got excited last week because an older lady working in the store had very lovely purple hair and it has inspired my mother to try a no traditional color for the first time.

    6. Cheshire Dawn*

      LW 1, I’m just this side of 50 and I’ve been dying my hair fashion colors for years. I work in the financial industry, although in a non-customer facing role. I did check the company dress code – not even a little bit in violation. My co-workers and managers love my pink hair color the best. My brother, in his mid-forties, just started a new job leading a software team. He did all his interviews with his beard dyed blue. We both have skills that make us desirable employees, and that’s what they care about.

  5. Juli G.*

    LW1, it’s an employee market for a lot of manufacturing jobs right now. Demand is up and because of COVID, factories have had to shut down areas from time to time, raw materials can be delayed because the material producers had COVID related shutdowns, etc. Lots of companies are hiring and looking for neat, clean, reliable employees and those are about the only requirements. Focus on all your other best first impression advice and don’t sweat the hair or polish.

    1. Jennifer*

      I agree, it’s less about the hair and more important that he washes and styles it nicely for the interview, dresses nicely, and makes a good impression in terms of eye contact and answering questions professionally.

      1. Yorick*

        This is very important. My younger brother (mid 20s) has shaved half his hair and dyed the other half a bright color. But he doesn’t redye it often enough or style it, so it often just looks faded and bad. Just a quick flat iron would make a world of difference.

    2. Hillary*

      Absolutely this. The only thing I’d add is they also want employees who can get along with their coworkers.

  6. Analyst Editor*

    I think that there are many people who will look askance at pink hair and the like, and that’s their prerogative. If the color is so important to your soon let him experiment for himself, and take the “natural consequences”, such a they are.

  7. Dan*

    It’s ethical to pay people differently. There are lots of factors that go into why people get paid exactly what they do.

    If, for example, your boss really wants to hire the person with 10 years of experience, and they’re already doing the same type of work somewhere else, they’ll want an increase in pay to jump ship. That’s normal. The person with 7 years of experience could be in the same position… trying to jump ship from a lower paid gig.

    In the long run, I *do* expect these factors to balance out. I know at my org, everybody is in a pay band, where in the long run, you’ll plateau in the middle of your payband unless you’re Something Special. That ten year person and seven year person would most definitely end up in the same pay band at hire, but the ten year person has the leverage to negotiate more. In the long run, though, they’ll both settle in at the same mid point. This means the more experienced person is going to get crappy raises, and the less experienced person gets better raises.

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      The boss could also decide that they’re really interested in the candidate with 7 years experience because they seem great while the 10-year candidate seems solid but not special; and therefore pay what they have to in order to get them. It all depends. But it’s definitely not always either based identically on the value of the work for identical job descriptions *or* on years of seniority.

      It’s true that more experience usually means they’ve had more time for their current salary to grow, however; and therefore if you want that candidate you may need to pay more in order to get them willing to come. Most people won’t accept a pay cut in order to take a new job unless they’re pretty miserable in the old one or they don’t have one.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      I’m not sure about the last sentence. If you hire someone at a given salary, and then give them crappy raises for the next few years, and explain that it’s so that they end up in the same pay range as their colleagues, they’re likely to be pretty annoyed. Most people don’t negotiate higher starting salaries on the assumption that this will limit their abilities to get raises in the future. At the same time, if you offer someone more money to lure them away from their current job, that can tend to lock people into salaries based on their first job, not on what the work is worth.

      I will say that I don’t think that seven and ten years experience are all that different. They’re both well out of entry level range, but probably not into middle management territory. Two years and ten years, or seven years and twenty years, seem much more significant.

    3. Chinook*

      For teachers in Alberta, the union actually negotiated for being paid based on experience. The pay grid has one side for years of education and the other years of official teaching experience (i.e. confirmed as being done for a K to 12 school) which maxed out at 10 years.

      The real quesion is hther their pay is guaranteed to go up annually as they gain more work experience. If they max out at 10 years, it is possible for the 7 year new hire may match the 10 year within a few years.

    4. Bernadette*

      These situations don’t always balance out in the long run, though. It’s really common for raises to always be indexed to your base salary (where I work, this is true even if you get a promotion, which is dumb as a box of rocks IMO). The person with the lower starting salary may never catch up, and when they move to a new job, the salary they’re able to negotiate may also be based on their current salary.

      I agree with your explanation of what’s going on this situation, but under slightly different circumstances this is absolutely how pay discrimination gets perpetuated.

    5. Nicotene*

      It doesn’t seem odd to me that, all things being equal, someone with ten years of experience get paid a little more, as presumably they would be more knowledgeable; however, if the seven year person seemed like a better candidate for any other reason, they could still make the same or more. All things are rarely equal between two candidates.

  8. Kevin Sours*

    Even with an employment contract you can’t really stop someone from leaving — specific performance of an employment contract is unconstitutional — you can just make it financially painful :)

    More seriously when filling a role where you aren’t paying market salary your choices are to get somebody who is talented and needs experience with the expectation they will leave as soon as they get experience, somebody decent for whom the position is presently convenient on the expectation they will leave when that changes, or the kind of person who can’t find anything better.

    It does not sound like your colleague wants to choose from that list, which is going to make the position hard to fill.

    1. Jessica*

      While I agree with Kevin’s list in a general way, there are some other factors that may encourage someone very talented to stay longer than you’d expect:
      — Class background/level of entitlement/job market awareness. It’s a shame, but I have both been this person and hired this person. Someone who comes from money and has grown up expecting to make serious money after college will be moving on sooner than someone who was raised to value education as more end than means, and who might still be dazzled because she’s making better pay at your entry-level job than her parents make.
      — Highly valuing other aspects of the working conditions. Whether it’s flexible hours, the ability to dress casually, the fact that you don’t mind their extensive tattoos, being allowed to bring their dog to work, your being supportive and cooperative about their medical accommodations, or whatever, there are things beyond salary that can make a job appealing and make people slow to leave it, especially if someone really wants or needs something they think they might not find just everywhere.
      — Being great at work but terrible at job searching, or just really really hating it. This person (who may also be me) will stick around when someone else would move on, just because they loathe the job search with every fiber of their being.

      You might also get lucky and hire the person who really believes in your mission, is excited to help shape the new position and new department, and their spouse has the big-money job so they’re not feeling financial pressure to leave. Or the person who’s willing to trade salary possibilities for the ability to have an entry-level job that they can leave completely behind at 5 pm, because they’ll do a solid job from 9-5 but their main energy and attention is somewhere else, whether the reason is negative (caregiving burdens) or positive (beloved hobby or unpaid creative work that’s their real focus in life).

      Not everybody is ambitious in the same way.

      1. OP 3*

        I think my colleague is hoping to hire someone who takes low pay and will stick around because they “believe in the mission”, which is the narrative for why most of our employees came here. There’s also a history of what is (at least, in my opinion) emotional manipulation to get employees to stay on longer than they usually would. In actuality, while that plays into it, most of our employees are hired with very little experience so obviously, that’s a huge factor, and part of why we under-pay people the way we do.

        (I know most non-profits pay below-market rates, but most not as dramatically as this place. When re-negotiating my contract recently, I did some research on what it would cost them to replace me in my new role with someone who has experience (since this is not an entry-level role). It turns out I get paid 70% less than the average salary for a position in a non-profit institution of our size, and about 60% less than the bottom of the salary band. Admittedly, I don’t have the experience that a candidate usually would, but its still a pretty dramatic decrease.)

    2. Cj*

      Regarding this letter, I don’t t think the current student would leave in May or June when they graduate, like Alison assumed. My understanding is that they are currently working for the LW, and would take the position after they graduate, and be there for a year or so after that.

      1. College Career Counselor*

        That’s my take as well. Also, depending on what the soon-to-graduate student wants to do, she may be motivated to stay in a stable entry level job longer than normal because of covid-related job market volatility.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        I thought it read more like Alison was throwing that out as a possibility worth factoring in, not an assumed given.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes. From the post: “If this particular candidate is graduating this year, does that mean she might leave you in May or June? If so…”

    3. Chinook*

      I wa a military wife who could move on a month’s notice. I would pointnout to potential employers that, while I could not guarantee my length of employment, neither could anyone else. Pregnancies (with year long mat. leaves), illness and other job opportunities can happen to anyone. What I did bring, though, was a reputation from other employers of smooth handovers to my replacement and a willingness to be there as long as I am able. In fact, I ended up 5 years at one place where they had that concern.

      Basically the OP’s colleague needs to change their expectations and training documentation to work aroundvthe fact that, sometimes humans have stuff happen and may leave on zero notice. A year to learn a data entry system shows a fault in either training or thebsystem itself that needs to be fixed to be more efficient.

  9. Phil*

    LW4: Are you really, legally exempt? These jobs are frequently miscategorized and eligible for overtime.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      With these questions, I often find myself wishing they aren’t, because then there seems to be an easier answer.

      It does make it clear that yesterday’s question about being salaried ‘a scam’ is very relevant.

      1. LizzieB*

        I’m in the UK so this might be very different in the US, but: don’t you have stated working hours in your contracts? I know my contract says I’m stated to work 37.5 hours per week and may need to go over that at my discretion and other vague wording. But an employer cannot in this country demand I work 4 hours extra a day or at weekends. If my work can’t get done in my working hours and it’s clear I’m not being incompetent or slow, then that becomes a ‘them’ problem of resources.

        If that’s not the case and you live and work in some hellish environment where you are basically part employee, part slave, I would suggest you take leave very quickly and spend it finding a new job and let them rot in your absence. Clearly, you don’t owe them anything if they have this attitude. I understand very much the sense of duty and not letting your team down. But it feels like some tough love is needed to show your employer that you should be valued far more than you are.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Also UK and learnt a lot from the commentators here that our standard of employment (you have contracts, rigidly defined procedures for firing someone etc.) really doesn’t make it across the ocean. Also I think we tend to have far more union presence and power.

          1. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

            I suspect that most of our employee protections will disappear soon, thanks to Br*x*t …

        2. Getting a PA*

          Also UK based, working in strategy consulting.
          We have to waive the 48 hour max as part of the contract, meaning the expectation is you will work much more and it is part of the job, no overtime

        3. 60 Hour OP*

          I appreciate the advice! I do have a contract but it does not state how many hours I’m expected to work. We were recently told that we are “not a 40 hour week/8 hour day” company because our hours are so flexible and our vacation is unlimited, so we should all be taking advantage of that. But the advantage is definitely one sided :/

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I came here to say that. Maybe 10 years ago, my international company changed a range of engineering department roles from salary to hourly. (Elsewhere the company had lost a lawsuit over workloads like this.)

  10. John Smith*

    60+ hour week? Wtf? Your employer doesn’t deserve employees. Neither does mine. During a particularly gruelling time, my manager replied to me when I told him the workload was impossible and projects can’t be done. His response? “If someone put a gun to your head, you’d get it done”. Thankfully he left before I was going to quit, but I feel sorry for his new reports. In your shoes, I’d be looking elsewhere.

    1. MassMatt*

      I agree, this employer sounds absolutely awful. If the business cannot survive without people working 60+ hours and now adding weekends, and taking vacation days is impossible, then it deserves to fail.

      Jobs that actually require this sort of around the clock work generally at least pay very well, like big law or medicine.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        If four people are regularly working 60+hour weeks, the team needs to be expanded to at least six people (more if weekend projects are anticipated to be more common).

        1. EPLawyer*

          this is the solution. But the employer would rather have the people they are already paying work 7 days a week. The manager sounds decent but the higher ups seem to believe that employees are robots who don’t need days off or time to rest and recharge. Even the usual “I can do X, Y, or Z but not all 3 what are the priorities” question seems to be met with, well work weekends then to get it all done. Instead ofyou know — PRIORITIZING based on actual working hours.

          LW – your employer sucks is not going to change. You need to take back your weekends in order to look for another job. Before you burn out — which you and everyone else in your department will do. Then won’t it be hilarious when the employer has to replace an entire department because everyone had a breakdown (not making fun of breakdowns, laughing at the short sightedness of the employer)

    2. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      I’m really glad that one of my first jobs was in a hospital, so I learned what was actually important. After that experience, any place that claimed everything they did was vitally important and had to be done NOW, no matter how many hours people had to work, was off my list of potential employers. If you’re not saving lives or in the supply chain for emergencies, those kinds of crazy hours are just nuts and about your employer’s ego, not reality.

      1. WellRed*

        So agree with this! What are theses “projects” that are so important as to justify such hours?

      2. 60 Hour OP*

        We joke all the time that we’re curing cancer because everyone acts like our work is so important (it is not). The industry really brainwashes you into sacrificing anything to meet a deadline. You’re right, perspective is key.

        1. JustaTech*

          Hi, I work at a company that makes a cancer treatment, and we haven’t worked hours like that since we got our approval. Like, some people work 12 hour shifts, but that’s 3 days a week, not 5 or 7, and they get paid the night-shift differential and get overtime if something goes wrong and they have to stay longer.

          Your company is just being unreasonable about staffing.

          1. TheAG*

            My husband’s lab is making one of the components for the covid vaccine. In the last year his “department” went from him to 15 people working for him and ramping up production like 1o thousand percent or something crazy. They’re *still* not working those kinds of hours (and they all got double bonuses and 3 extra week’s pay).
            What the OP is describing is complete insanity. I really hope you are able to get the bargaining power by working with coworkers to make this stop OP.

    3. Ganymede*

      Just wanted to throw in that this confirms my suspicion that “unlimited vacation” is a red flag and signals the employer has just found another way to manipulate employees…

      1. 60 Hour OP*

        Can confirm. I took four days last year. Granted that was during a pandemic where we couldn’t travel or anything, but the year before I think I took one week.

        1. curiousLemur*

          Clearly the employer also doesn’t realize that having some time off is good for employees and tends to improve their production and accuracy.

        2. TardyTardis*

          You need to leave. You already have a work ethic that would be really attractive to another employer, preferably one that’s not insane. It’s that or be carried out on a stretcher or in a box. Think I’m exaggerating? I have a permanent case of a-fib very likely brought on by the stress of covering two jobs at the same time.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      That’s frankly why I’ll never work for a game developer. They practically boast about treating employees like that and get applause. (Software is an effed up industry)

      1. WellRed*

        Do you feel like it gets better as more women enter the field? (I still visualize it as being run by adolescent man boys obsessed with technology but apologies if that’s way off base).

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Not at the moment no. So far it’s led to massive amounts of sexual harassment being covered up by the industry because ‘that’s the culture’. It’s still very, very much a white male industry with appalling attitudes.

          I do hope, however, that because this is steadily starting to get reported in media that there will be a change. If only to protect their stock prices.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          I don’t think it’s changed in the US. I’ve seen some sites listing companies that don’t crunch, and they’re 90% non-US. Canada’s got a lot, and I have to wonder if a lot of game developers from the US have moved to Toronto. I know two who did, one is still in games and the other does movie / tv art.

          It’ll be hard to change, in that games are driven by product life cycles and there’s only so many people you can put on a project and still have it merge seamlessly. It’ll take newer tech, that makes dev’ing faster, to reduce crunch.

          1. Fushi*

            Eh, if the industry actually wanted to make dev cycles sans crunch it’s possible without additional technology, and I don’t believe we wouldn’t just have project scope increase commensurately with any technological advances. IME the obsessive maximization of profits, trend-chasing, and irresponsible project management going on at the upper levels is the problem.

            Of course, the WORK ALL THE TIME FOREVER culture prevents a lot of people who would like to change that – women with caregiving responsibilities, disabled folks, etc. – from getting into positions where they could do so.

          2. Observer*

            No, it won’t take new tech. It will take a shift in attitude, and more reasonable time lines. And while it’s popular to claim that they “have to have” these crazy time lines, it’s just not true.

            Game development is one of the most toxic industries.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              It just takes realistic and good project managers! That’s it.

              Also, removing crunch from software dev would result in less buggy software. Of course your game is massively unstable when your devs are all sleep deprived, stressed, suffering.

              No software company ‘has’ to have crunch times. It’s just a toxic culture that’s become endemic to the industry – just like the ‘boy’s club’ atmosphere.

      2. curiousLemur*

        I’ve heard that a LOT of programmers want to work for game developers and that makes it easier (but still not OK) for game developers to treat employees badly – they figure there will be a bunch of other people who will want the job if people leave.

    5. kittymommy*

      “If someone put a gun to your head, you’d get it done”.

      I don’t think your old boss would like my answer to this question.

      1. John Smith*

        Does your response end in “off?” By chance :). I did ask him if this was a new corporate value – work as though your life will end now if you don’t. He didn’t like that I guess. I don’t know because I turned and walked out on him in disgust. My organisation is so disfunctional that Alice could keep this site going just on my work experiences alone….

        1. AntsOnMyTable*

          I one time was working a crazy shift and told my charge RN I didn’t think I could make it too lunch and her response was “just make it happen.” Uhh, okay? I don’t know why leadership thinks responses like this are helpful.

        2. TardyTardis*

          Mine would end ‘and the horse you rode in on’, which is pretty much the same thing. Or I would give him the Doris Look (ancient reference from Home Improvement. She was the wife of a hardware store owner and apparently taught Medusa).

      2. Antilles*

        I’m trying to envision the actual scenario where my boss pulls a gun on me to get me to write a report and I’m reasonably certain it ends in one of two ways:
        1.) I agree and the gunman leaves my office, then I climb out of the window to the parking lot and drive away at the fastest speed possible. Call the police, probably have my wife pack an emergency bag and drive to a safe location, never set foot in the building again.
        2.) I don’t get the opportunity/don’t have the presence of mind to instantly flee, so I agree and write the report, *then* take all the drive away, call police, etc options.

        1. London Lass*

          This is where my brain went too! And assuming option 2, it would be a very badly written report, what with the stress of the situation….

    6. lilsheba*

      Yeah I would NOT work for a company that demanded I work every single waking moment of the day, with no time off and no work life balance whatsoever. I’m amazed you get time to sleep. That is going to burn people out, you can’t live like that. Especially with NO extra pay? NONONONO.

      1. Homophone Hattie*

        I mean, I might. But only if the rate of pay were so incredible that I could do it for a year or two and then never have to work again.

    7. 60 Hour OP*

      OP here. Wow John Smith, that is AWFUL. Luckily no one has been quite that unreasonable face to face. More than anything the general response when we complain is “I know, I’m so overworked too.” Everyone is burning out and frazzled and it’s this endless cycle of commiseration. Unfortunately I know this is not uncommon in my industry. It’s hard to get out of the brainwashed state – saying yes to things means being a good employee, someone who goes above and beyond, who everyone likes working with and has a good chance at promotions (not that they happen.) But we’ll definitely push back more on how many projects we’re given.

  11. CW*

    Op4 – Sheesh, 60+ hours a week and now they are taking away your Saturdays and Sundays? I don’t know how you are able to handle that. Sooner or later your health will suffer. I would start looking for another job immediately. You are more than overworked at this point.

    1. ThisGuy*

      Unfortunately, 60 hour weeks plus Saturdays and Sunday doesn’t leave a whole ot time for job hunting—or anything else, really.

      1. 3Owls*

        I briefly, very briefly, worked for a company where that was the point. The idea cwas basically if everyone is working 12 hour days and weekends no one will have time to look for other jobs and leave. It was obviously a very toxic environemnt and most people just quit without having anything lined up.

    2. Mx*

      LW will have to call sick a few times in order to be able to job hunt. If they don’t, they will soon have to call sick for real.

    3. Cj*

      Sounds like tax season for me, but at least that’s only for a few months. And we rarely work in sundays.

      1. Narise*

        My co worker worked for an accountant and no time off was approved Jan through April and they worked 12 hour days and some Saturdays. However he brought in lunch every day during those four months from different places. He had massage therapists come in and everyone would get two shoulder, arm, hand massages each day. Every desk/chair ect. was routinely examine to be ergonomically correct-very much the in thing at that time. Then in June he shut down the office for 2 weeks, everyone was paid no PTO used, and then they would return and use their time off July through December. It wasn’t perfect but the boss/owner was not clueless about what he expected from his staff and what they needed to make it happen.

        1. 60 Hour OP*

          That is so cool. What an amazing way to show your employees you appreciate them, make sure they are EATING during busy days, tend to mental and physical health, all while dealing with an unavoidably stressful busy season. Can that accountant teach management classes?

        2. Julianna*

          Yeah this! I had a time in my career where I basically worked all week and into the weekend. The company catered lunch and thanked us, the exec pitched in and gave up their nights and weekends. It was still terrible, I still suffered burnout, but it was a situation we couldn’t immediately remedy and the company treated as well, instead of acting like this was normal.

    4. High Score!*

      I agree about the job hunting. But also, a point everyone is missing: if everyone works this many hours then your employer can’t afford to lose you. A fair working week is 40 hours. Just stop after you’ve worked 40 hours. When you get your work load, say I can do A and B or C and D, what’s your priority? If they say all of it, tell them that’s not possible. They won’t fire you bc some work is better than none.
      Seriously, just stop after 40 hours. Turn off the computer and phone and forget it until the next week. I’ve done this with employers like that and so have colleagues of mine. Just stand your ground. You’re giving them hours of your life that they are not even paying for. That’s insane.
      Also, take some vacation and don’t let yourself be called back in or rather sucked back in. PTO is part of your compensation.

      1. 60 Hour OP*

        OP here. I love this. We JUST started keeping time sheets and a big piece of me thought- oh good, now they’ll finally have quantifiable evidence of how overworked you are. But actually I should look at it like- now I have a measurable moment to shut down the computer. Thank you!

        1. ThisMakesMeCranky*

          YES. I made this same point in the ‘is salary a scam’ post from yesterday (made me cranky then too). It’s easier to set boundaries at a new company, but you can still do it here. Just don’t work that much. Just DON’T. And use the extra time to look for new work where you don’t have to force them to be reasonable.

    5. Sun Tzu*

      Agreed. LW#4, start looking for another job now. This is one of these cases in which even quitting without having another job lined up is advisable (of course it depends on your personal case and finances).

      No paid overtime? I’d refuse not only to work weekends but also to do 60+hrs/week.

      “Now if we work the weekend we will be compensated with an extra vacation day that week. Here’s the kicker: we already have unlimited vacation days.”
      This is hilarious.


  12. EchoGirl*

    re:LW2, I think your assumption about coworkers having “gotten the message” may be a little off base here. If there’s a sign there asking people to knock and then the sign goes away, it could be interpreted as the request to knock not being in effect, especially if the company culture is not to knock.

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      Yeah, I am not sure what point the OP thinks they are conveying. If you tell people that you want them to knock *because you are on a call*, then take down the sign saying that you are on a call, then… you’re telling people that you are no longer on a call and don’t need them to knock. Maybe they now think that they *only* need to knock if you are on a call. If you want people to knock every time, tell them you want them to knock every time.

    2. Generic Name*

      We have shared offices (pre-COVID) in my office, and we’ve got signs we can put up that say we are in a meeting, and the only time someone would come in without knocking was if it was your office mate and they usually crept in and went over to their desk quietly. No one accidentally interrupted and folks would wait until the sign was down or the door was open. The other side of the sign indicates that you are doing focused office work and the time to come back. Both are very effective.

  13. Greyscale*

    OP #1- I work in a field and in a geographical area where things like colored hair, visible piercings and tattoos, and avant-garde clothing styles are common. If I interviewed a young man with pink hair and black painted nails I would take those things as a sign that he’d probably fit in well with our company culture.

    Signed, a hiring manager with dark purple hair, a full sleeve, and a dozen earrings.

    1. AAJ*

      Back in the late 70s, a family member (business owner) turned down a potential employee for a customer facing job because of his tattoos. Such discrimination would likely be frowned on today but as the relative said “I’m not comfortable with my customers being served by someone with knuckles tattooed with the words HATE and KILL across them. Times have changes.

      1. Forrest*

        I don’t know, you can be head to toe tattooed yourself and still not want someone with Nazi tattoos in your workplace. Not being horrified by tattoos in general doesn’t mean cool with any and all tattoos.

      2. Emma*

        That’s a little different from just rejecting an applicant because they have tattoos, though. There are plenty of people who have many tattoos, none of which contain references to violence, who your relative presumably would have been happy to hire.

        1. Jessica*

          Exactly. I hire for an entry-level job, and I’d be open to hiring someone tattooed with inoffensive art from head to toe, but come to the interview inked up with even the tiniest, most tasteful swastika, and out of my hiring pool you go.

        2. TardyTardis*

          True. At OldJob, we had one employee with tasteful nose studs and really short hair (a woman). We also had an employee with the Passion of the Christ tattooed up and down one of her legs, and she hardly ever wore slacks.

      3. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Hrmm, sorta.

        I mean I’d blanch a bit at hiring frontline staff who have copious facial or hand tattoos but it depends on what they are. If they’re genuinely well done and non offensive then sure.

        But someone with anything related to hate, hate groups, any slurs would not get hired and I’d put a note to recruitment to say I’m never approving that person for any job here ever.

      4. Observer*

        Such discrimination would likely be frowned on today but as the relative said “I’m not comfortable with my customers being served by someone with knuckles tattooed with the words HATE and KILL across them.

        You consider that discrimination? I hope you don’t make hiring / firing decisions. Reasonable employers don’t allow people to wear t-shirts with those words emblazoned on them. Why should a tattoo be any more acceptable? The fact that someone chose to put those words where they cannot be hidden does not obligate an employer to subject other staff or customers to this.

      5. Commentator*

        So he was turned down because of what his tattoos were, and not because he had tattoos at all.

  14. dodubln*

    LW#1: I am the practice manager for a medical office in a fairly conservative county in my state. Last month, I had one of my employees ask me if it was okay if she dyed her hair blue. She is a 20 year old college student, going to school full time and working at our office part time. I told her absolutely, go for it. Her hair color has zero to do with her job performance. All that matters to me is that she is professional with our patients, and that is not predicated by her hair color. Should a patient have an issue with it, they have me to deal with. That said, the only comments she has heard have been positive, the patients are tickled pink by her blue hair.

    1. WS*

      Yes, I’m also in healthcare in a conservative rural area and not only do the younger staff members dye their hair bright colours, many of the elderly customers do too!

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I adore you. Sincerely. One of my favourite pain management specialists dyed his (long) hair a gorgeous sea green/blue combo and it actually makes a lot of us who are his patients feel less depressed when we see him. Just a bit of lightness in an otherwise depressing clinic.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        (Consultant is about 50 I’d say and has a poster of Hendrix on his wall. Absolute legend)

    3. Rayray*

      This is how it should be; and I think now more than ever, this is how workplaces feel
      About it.

      The thing sort colored hair too, it’s just. I longer edgy or rebellious like it once was. It’s been very trendy for many years now, especially for the teen and young adult crowd. If someone is competent and good at their job, brown or blue hair won’t have any impact on it. Customers/clients/patients etc just don’t anymore, except maybe the occasional grump who is likely over the age of 70 and grew up in a much different time.

    4. The Original K.*

      I once worked part-time in a call center for about six months and one of the other part-timers, a college student, dyed her naturally brown hair purple. Bosses made her dye it back! Literally everyone except the bosses thought it was really stupid of them to require her to have a natural hair color – it was a call center, nobody was looking at us except each other, and her purple hair looked great.

      (She complied and dyed her hair back, finished out the semester working there, and then left. I hope wherever she ended up let her dye her hair all the colors she wanted!)

    5. AntsOnMyTable*

      I am so glad things are changing. When I worked at a movie theater like 18 years ago (whoa, time flies) I went to get my hair dyed. I asked for a red and somehow they gave me a pink. My manager was Not. Happy. She insisted I get my hair stripped of the color and dyed a “natural” color. Which of course was all going to cost me money and not like I was raking it in on my barely above minimum wage even as an assistant manager. It was that or get fired. I turned in my notice instead.

  15. Sakuko*

    #5 My mom worked in retail for a long time and at some point, could not find work there anymore, because she had too much experience and had to be paid a higher rate (I’m in Germany, where I think that is partially regulated by the union). Employers rather took someone right out of school who could be paid a third less than what my mother would get paid.
    She would have been fine with a somewhat lower pay, but that was not an option, so instead she had to go back to school and learn another job. She’s in elder care now.

    1. Asenath*

      There are certainly jobs in Canada in which the assumption is that anyone who works in them is satisfied with low pay, and older or more experienced people tend not to be hired because they are assumed to be unsatisfied with the low pay, and unlikely to take the pay quietly. Often these jobs are held by students, with the (usually correct) assumption that they will move on when they are fully qualified in something else, but I was, in my 20s, turned down as “overqualified” for several jobs. I think the same sort of thing was happening as described in the letter. Although I wasn’t well qualified or particularly old, I had more education than the people usually hired, and the employer didn’t think I’d stay around long enough for what they were willing to pay. I also knew of a local business, many years ago, that routinely hired young high-school aged workers for part-time work after school and on weekends. As soon as they reached the age at which their salary had to go up a little, they lost their jobs and new, younger replacements were hired.

  16. Kiitemso*

    #3 I’ve worked this job and moved on, because like you I couldn’t keep doing it long-term, it was either a promotion within the company or finding a new job at a different company. The former came first so I moved on like you.

    Everybody you or the other boss interviews will give you a verbal commitment but I don’t think without an employment contract (which probably isn’t done assuming you’re in the US?) you won’t get anything more binding than that. If the job truly sucks then they might keep looking or start looking once they figure out how much the job sucks (or how low the pay is). You could offer the incentive of a potential promotion (citing your own career as an example) but if you’re already struggling with hiring 1 employee when you really need 2, and the candidate knows you wouldn’t promote them for 2-3 years anyway, then it’s not really going to be a very good incentive.

    1. OP 3*

      We’re actually in Canada, not in the US, so maybe that’s why this is different – but in the past, we have asked employees to sign a one-year contract, and everyone who staying renews it each June. Even then, though, they would ask verbally for longer commitments, and pressure (and occasionally manipulate) people into holding to those commitments.

      We’ve recently switched to continuous employment contracts, but my colleague wants just this person to be on a termed contract, with a guarantee that the split person would transition into her department – which I also dislike, since obviously then she would get more say in who is hired. Also on an ethical level, I know how crap the job is, and I know how it was misrepesented to me when I took it, and I also know how toxic that department can get, and I’m just uncomfortable locking someone in when they don’t really know what they’re getting into.

      In my mind, if someone comes, decides they want to stick around, even decides they want to transition into her department – awesome! My half of the job is designed for turnover, so that’s fine. But I don’t want good candidates to self-select out because they don’t know how long they can commit for, and I don’t want to lock someone (who will probably be young, with less experience advocating for themselves) into a position that might end up being garbage.

  17. Mellow Yellow*

    OP 3 might be surprised, maybe they’ll find someone willing to stay that long. I’ve been in my position for 3 years now even though most people in the role before me moved on after 12-18 months. The pay is low and the clients can be emotionally exhausting. However, there are lots of positives. The medical benefits are amazing, my coworkers and manager are great, I have a lot of autonomy, the office location is ideal, my desk is by a window, the hours are reasonable…all these little things add up to a situation that I want to stay in. I’m sure I’ll move on eventually but I’m in no hurry to leave.

    1. KHB*

      In other words, what it comes down to is, people will stick around if it’s in their best interest to stick around. So if you want someone to stick around, make the job attractive enough so that they’ll want to stick around too.

      Middle managers like the ones in Q3 don’t usually have control over things like pay and benefits (let me guess – the university is understaffed for financial reasons, but there’s somehow always enough money to renovate the president’s office?) But they can control other things, like how pleasant they are to work for.

      1. OP 3*

        I would love it if someone stuck around!! While I’m designing my half of the job for turnover, it would be nice to have someone in long-term who enjoyed it and could really make it their own.

        I am skeptical and hesitant because of my own experience in the position – not only is the pay garbage, with a lot of entry-level work, but the department (and honestly, the institution as a whole) is pretty toxic, and working there was Not Great for my mental health. I’m in a position where I can shield my employees from about 85-90% of the toxicity here, but that department is a shared office space and unfortunately my colleague and her other employee are easily (and always) stressed, and very negative, and that’s not something I’ll really be able to shield someone from, so, uh… I think staying because the job is good is not likely. (Obviously not everyone is me, and someone not affected by such things might love it! But my understanding is that such things are rare).

        The one thing I did like about the job when I was in it were the aspects that were more creative, so maybe someone would stick around for those. But I found I spent so much time doing clerical work that I couldn’t really develop my skills in those interesting areas which is why I left.

        (And about the finances – believe it or not, we’re actually legitimately financially strapped. As an example brought on a new president last year [who was let go this summer for political reasons, but mostly he tried to make the place less toxic and people Did Not Like That], paid them a salary waaaaaaay below typically market range for that kind of role (think: 5 figures), and the faculty felt he was waaaaay OVERPAID and so hated him from the beginning. So…. yeah).

  18. Language Lover*

    LW #3

    Asking for a commitment is unreasonable if that’s what your co-worker is asking. But if all she has done is express is a desire to have someone stick around for about two years, that’s not unreasonable at all. Neither is your desire to hire a rockstar. There are pros and cons to both and neither of you are probably more right.

    I actually had a similar conflict with my boss when I first started. I was like you. She was more like your coworker.

    Here’s what I learned when I started hiring. I loved looking over the applications of candidates and even meeting with them. But the hiring process also tended to take longer than I thought it would and I was down an employee however long the process took. After they were hired, I had to train them. Once they got up to speed and I’d start tapping into their full potential, they often times got a great opportunity elsewhere that paid more.

    There were times when I was filling the same role every six months to a year. I still loved looking at new candidates but doing the whole thing over and over again can be exhausting, time consuming and hard to juggle with other responsibilities.

    There’s also no guarantee that the role you’re filling today will be one you can fill in six months to a year if the university decides to impose a hiring freeze.

    Not every hiring cycle had rockstars and sometimes the best candidate was the person who seemed like they’d stick around. It turns out, by having people who stayed around, I discovered rockstar qualities about them that I didn’t anticipate.

    There’s no guarantees. You could hire your student worker and she could stick around for two years just because the job market might not be that great for her. You could hire a non-rockstar and they could also leave for a better opportunity.

    I’d recommend you not decide in advance who to hire. Since you have to share the employee, it’s probably a good idea to do a search and go through the process with your coworker so you have an equal say in evaluating the candidates. You might find there’s a candidate you both feel good about. Your student might even convince her she’s the right fit.

    1. Smithy*

      One question this question raises for me, is if the coworker is trying to expand the search process to include candidates beyond recent graduates.

      Is this a job that truly requires a candidate with a BA? Or might there be a broader candidate pool outside alumni with different education/professional experiences that might have a longer tenure? Are there perhaps benefits from working at the university that might balance out the pay for other candidates – such as tuition reimbursement/discounts that would be appealing for someone looking to work full time while taking classes?

      As Alison and others have said, there’s nothing you can do to make candidates stay for 2-3 years. And it may be that by targeting recent graduates, it reduces the required by the school’s HR. But unless there are specific requirements or pressures to hire recent graduates, I would challenge the OP to think about how the recruitment pool and what that might mean for what a rockstar hire would be.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        THIS. If they’re intent on hiring someone with a BA and are focused on alumnae, I’m afraid I don’t think it’s entirely realistic to want them to stick around for a few years. Those are the years when people are moving out and moving on.

        I went to a small liberal arts college and this is the kind of job for which they would have hired a middle-aged local with a high school education or *maybe* a BA but some good office experience. Someone who had ties to the community that weren’t dependent on the college and already had a life established in town.

        1. TardyTardis*

          And as we know from many letters here, people don’t get real raises if they stay, even if they’re promoted–people have to move from company to company now to get paid what they’re worth.

      2. Bricolage on the Brink*

        Smithy, I had the exact same thought!

        Recent grads are fantastic, but so are folks who might have ties the broader community and could provide different kinds of perspectives on the work and the institution. Depending on the campus, by focusing on recent grads the OP may also be reducing the diversity in their candidate pool due to a bias to candidates like themselves (recent alumni). (Experience: working at a small highly selective liberal arts college)

        1. Smithy*

          Exactly to all of this.

          As a millennial who entered the workforce at a time when it was becoming more and more common to see BA requirements for administrative/front desk jobs….the end results also seemed highly predictable. Recent grads sought those jobs at workplaces with prestige/sector relevance, and then moved on as quickly as possible – while their managers kept on trying to push for things like “I expect you to stay for 2-3 years” and becoming increasingly frustrated by that not happening.

          It may be that part of this work is being a Research Assistant where there are needs for someone with a BA and academic understanding of research methods is needed. However, if this is more in the administrative/communications style of work – I think it’s really worth taking a new view of what a candidate pool could look like.

          1. OP 3*

            These are all great points! Both of us want to hire alumni, not because of the BA (at least on my end) but just because having attended the school is a benefit for both roles. My half of the position involves a lot of work with potential students, and her half involves some work with alumni. I’ve found that potential students seem to connect much better with recent alumni (who’s experienced the student culture here), and same goes for other alumni.

            I am open to hiring someone who isn’t an alumni if we have an external applicant who’s legitimately better, but my preference is definitely with alumni for that reason.

            I’m actually totally open to doing a search! I am skeptical we’ll find someone better than the candidate I have, but if we do – and they want to stay longer – I’m very open to hiring them. I just don’t want good candidates to self-select out, which is why I don’t want to have an upfront commitment of x years, especially when it’s unusual for this level of work.

            1. Smithy*

              This is likely very much my personal bias – but as someone who professionally went into fundraising, at one point my small liberal arts college tried to recruit me. It was very clear that a lot of alumni engagement/fundraising was done via hiring those who had personal connections to the school and the team structure and strategy had not been professionalized as much as it could have been. It may very well be that they’re hitting their necessary fundraising goals and it’s a cheaper approach that works for them – but as a professional, it’s nothing I’d recommend.

              Educational institutions certainly heavily rely on the bonds that are unique from having been an alumni, but I think it’s really worth questioning whether that’s serving as a shortcut.

              1. OP 3*

                That’s a good point. I would actually say that as an institution, we are over-reliant on alumni, even to the point of hiring recent grads when experienced professionals are more appropriate, and it is a chronic problem. It’s partially a way to pay low wages, and partially because the school does operate in a rather insular community, and there’s a distrust of outsiders. (Which I have a huge issue with! There’s no good reason for it, and it hurts us in so many ways).

                I should clarify that the position my colleague is hiring for is not just fundraising but other aspects of alumni relations, like running Homecoming or being a non-voting member of the board of our Alumni Association, so there is value in being an alumnus or alumna, although I do think the job could be done by a non-alumni. (My colleague strongly disagrees on this). I think the two positions we’re combining may legitimately be the only two cases where being an alumnus or alumna (and in the case of my position, a young alumni) has a tangible benefit.

  19. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    LW2 – when we began the WFH/school at home nightmare, my spouse got a little gadget to put on his office door. I’ll try to find a link and put it in a comment, but for now I’ll have to explain it, probably badly.

    It’s two plastic discs fitted together in the middle so that as you turn the back one, a different “status” shows in a space in the front one. From memory the four statuses were “in a meeting”, “do not disturb”, “please knock” and “out of office”. A very visual gadget like that might work better than an informal post it.

    But I think if LW almost always has the DND equivalent showing, her colleagues are less likely to respect it than if LW only uses such a sign when it’s genuinely needed. Familiarity breeds contempt, or something.

    1. Xenia*

      Interesting—was it magnetic or did it have some sort of battery powered signal? Because this sounds perfect for my door

    2. Mannheim Steamroller*

      I’ve seen people make up their own paper “clock dial” devices. Basically, place various statuses around a circle and add an arrow or display window to indicate whatever applies.

      Maybe each status should have an appropriate background color: “Do Not Disturb” in red, “In a Meeting” in yellow, “Please knock” in green, “Out of Office” in some other color.

    3. Rayray*

      This is a really good idea! It sounds like the kind of thing you sometimes find on bathroom doors that indicate ‘occupied’ or ‘vacant’.

  20. PspspspspspsKitty*

    LW 2 – There are cool door plaques that spin that say “Please knock”, “don’t disturb, “in meeting” that you can buy.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*


      Moar coffee required chez Klinkerhoffen, I think.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I don’t think Northern Rail could cope with an unaccompanied mocha…

  21. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    I have pink hair! It’s been pink on and off for about 10 years since I got bored of being just blonde. Never had a negative comment. 40-something woman in IT / training.

    (The woman who used to sit next to me, before working from home, had thigh length blue, purple and green mermaid hair. It was a Labour of love. We used to joke together at how my Pret A Manger for lunch every day budget was her ‘HOW MUCH on hair dye!’ budget)

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I have hip-length hair that’s 2/3 purple, green, and blue. About $45 buys the dye to do it twice. :)

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I dye it from the shoulders down, so when it’s up in a bun people mostly only see the (natural) red, unless they’re looking close. But when I go out with it down, small children holler things about princess hair and I grin.

          1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

            I’m absolutely grinning ear to ear thinking about these comments – I’d bet you hear the occassional “UNICORN HAIR!!!!!” exclamation too? That’s what my own small girl human would be yelling about at least!

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              unicorn, mermaid, peacock, princess :) One lady came up to me one day and said, breathlessly, “YOUR HAIR LOOKS LIKE A GLACIER AT MIDNIGHT!!” and that was pretty cool.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      #2 When someone comes in without knocking, do you ask them to knock next time? If so, do they do it?

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I WANT my backside-length hair to be blue (also 40 something woman in IT! Hello friend!) but given my natural colour is very dark and really coarse I’m terrified it would not work. Less concerned about what my coworkers think as I’ve turned up in a medieval dress before.

      1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        Hi! Are you me? (Also a 40-something woman in IT who has no clue how her very dark hair would show fun colored hair dye.)

        1. ThatGirl*

          There are dyes made specifically for darker hair without bleaching – I’ve used teal and dark blue successfully – but the problem with blue/blue-green dyes is that the blue tends to fade or wash out quickly, so my teal hair turned green and the dark blue ended up being gray with a hint of blue. Still, it was fun while it lasted.

      2. Queer Earthling*

        They make hair dye specifically for dark hair these days–it’s usually not as vibrant as with bleach, but they definitely show up. And probably look better as the dye fades out or roots grow in anyway.

      3. Cat Tree*

        I’ve been dying my hair since I was 14 and my natural color is pretty dark brown. My advice is that whatever you try, get it done by a professional. It doesn’t haven’t to be a high-end salon; the stylists at chain discount places still have to be professionally qualified to do that kind of work. But they’ll be able to help you get where you want. If you want something lighter than your current hair, they can lighten it first and then dye it but that takes longer. If you’re ok with really dark, somewhat subtle blue they should have dyes that will work directly. The good thing about dark hair is is easy to dye it back to your natural color if you end up hating it.

      4. TardyTardis*

        It depends. I have mixed hair types and the thin red hairs took dye pretty well. The thick black hairs, it was a waste of time and dye. Now my hair has a lot of white in it, and the dye would show up just fine. But if your hair is really dark and coarse, er, you would be to have it bleached first to take a color.

    4. Sylvan*

      Yeah, my henna’s one of the tamer hair colors in my office. (It’s a hair color some people have naturally… Just not me.) Several people dye their hair pink, blue, or purple; a coworker has split dye like OP’s son; some people dye their hair gray or white.

  22. Anono-me*

    Op 1.

    The painted nails may be more of a liability in the warehouse hiring process than the pink and black hair.

    It sounds like your son will mostly be applying for jobs that also involve atleast some physical labor and getting one’s hands dirty.

    Back when I was applying for similar type jobs, a hiring manager/family friend told me “When you’re applying for hard dirty jobs, don’t go to the interview looking like someone who is afraid to get their hands dirty. ”

    tldr: Relax about the hair, suggest short unpainted nails for the interview and a few weeks after.

    1. Nobby Nobbs*

      It might help to tell him that once he’s got the job, he’ll probably be wearing gloves for the harder work and can paint away. (Well-trimmed nails are still an asset, though.)

  23. Forrest*

    LW2, if you do shut the door, make sure it’s clear what the person should do if they knock and there isn’t an answer! I hate that thing of standing outside someone’s office having knocked, and not hearing anything, and not knowing whether that means they aren’t in and I should try the door, they’re in but they’re on the phone and can’t be disturbed, or they’re in and they said come in but I couldn’t hear or whatever.

    1. Hazel*

      I know what you mean, but if they don’t answer, I think the default response has to be – don’t open the door. And maybe send an email or IM.

  24. Good Vibes Steve*

    LW1: Kyrsten Sinema goes to her job as US Senator with pink hair on a semi-regular basis. The times are changing!

    1. TardyTardis*

      But she still wears a jacket! (dress code. Duckworth’s baby looked adorable in her teeny, doll-sized jacket, I might add).

  25. Ro*

    Am I the only one who thinks nail polish will be more detrimental than pink hair for LW1’s son? Pink hair isn’t a big deal in manual jobs, at least where I am, and is becoming more accepted in office jobs too but nail polish would be an issue because it would easily chip in a manual job and wearing it to an interview may be taken as a sign he doesn’t understand what he’s signing up to. Or isn’t really prepared to do physical work.

    1. Marny*

      If he has a nice-looking manicure or acrylics or something, sure possibly. If they just look like he paints them himself when he feels like it, I don’t think it would reflect on whether he’s too unfamiliar with the challenges of manual labor. And I’d feel the same way if a woman were applying for a warehouse job with painted nails.

      1. Ro*

        I was thinking more of him looking (fairly or not) that he is unwilling to get his hands dirty. I’d give the same comments for a woman but LW specifically mentions a “son”.

      2. Caterpie*

        I’m guessing that the young man has an “e-boy” style going on, which tends to favor chipped, DIY nail polish anyway.

    2. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

      Nail polish would also be an issue in food service – in the UK it’s kind of frowned upon because it can chip and end up in the food! But it sounds like if LW1’s son is looking to work in manual jobs that won’t be an issue, as long as he’s aware that he’ll be living with either a) permanently chipped nails from all the manual work and/or b) the need to re-do his mani every night. I still cringe when I think how bad my bitten-short sloppily painted fingernails must’ve looked when I was 17 and working in River Island (a trendy-ish ladies clothing shop in the UK).

  26. Jessica*

    LW3, at a time of widespread economic desperation, you won’t have trouble finding entry-level candidates who are willing to say whatever your colleague wants to hear, but nobody actually knows how long they’ll want to stay in the job. I hope you can convince your colleague that it’s futile to limit yourselves with a factor that you can’t actually detect accurately or control for.
    It sounds like your student worker might be the ideal person to make a particular contribution that will be extremely valuable in an entry-level, frequent-turnover job: documenting policies, practices, and procedures, to make it easier to train her replacements and get them functioning, and reduce the amount of training labor you and colleague have to spend on each one. I have an entry-level rockstar on my team right now who’s been here a year and a half; I don’t know how much longer she’ll stay, but she has helped me write a terrific procedures manual for all her job duties that’ll be great for her eventual replacement.

  27. DrSalty*

    LW4 – push back on this. It’s absurd. Or start looking for a new job. They won’t fire you because they are desperately understaffed and they need your team to save them. Good luck.

    1. 60 Hour OP*

      Thank you! Yeah, I don’t want to have to walk away from this. Despite the company needing to get its ish together I do really like my job. I’ll push!

      1. TardyTardis*

        Yes, do push. Or you and the others will end up being carried out. Seriously, not joking here.

  28. RG*

    I was hired for my cushy professional job with blue hair!

    I’m guessing that a company that has strict codes about appearance wouldn’t be a good fit for LW1’s son anyway.

    1. Rayray*

      This is a good point. I personally maintain a more conservative appearance but I’d still be put off by a company that in 2021 had dress code rules about hair color, painted nails, tattoos etc.

  29. Jennifer*

    #3 Why would it take a year to learn a data entry job? Genuinely curious about that. But yes, you can make it clear that you’d like someone to stay in the role for at least 18 months, but you can’t guarantee anyone will stay. You may not even want them to stay if it’s clear early on that it’s a bad fit. That’s what sucks about hiring sometimes.

    Would you ever consider someone other than a recent grad? Like a stay at home parent looking to get back in the workforce or a retiree that needs the income? They might be willing to stay a bit longer bc they may have different priorities. Is it super important that the person be young and a new grad?

    1. Forrest*

      Or a new graduate who is also a parent with kids in school, or has other strong ties to the area, and is likely to value security and some interesting work over making big career shifts. There are so many people who WANT secure work that they can rely on and which doesn’t absorb their total energy, who get knocked out of the labour market by the assumption that everyone is on similar career paths of “get entry-level job, move on to Real Job quickly”.

      I’m not clear on whether the discussion is about which specific people you want to hire (this particular person who is GREAT but won’t stick around), or more about how you see the job and who you are looking for. It’s clearly ridiculous to make “will commit for 2-3 years” a criterion for hiring, since you can’t hold the employee to any promises they make, and even an employee who says quite sincerely that they intend to stick around has no idea what’s going to happen in the future.

      On the other hand, if you want to *attract* people who are likely to stay longer, you can do that in terms of how you frame the job. Frame the job in the way that will fit someone who has ties to the area and whose professional development likely isn’t the most important thing in their life right now, or for whom seeing 2-3 years ahead is much easier.

      What I’m not clear about is whether LW actually wants to attract people who are likely to stay for three years. LW, you’re seeing this very much in terms of a trade-off of “great candidate, will leave for something better” versus “Ok to middling candidate, will stick around”. If you could get someone who was a great candidate, but WAS likely to stick around, would you want them? Or is your entire framing of this post that it’s effectively a fixed-term position and you want all that new starter – moving fast energy? If it’s the latter, I think you and your co-manager should probably go back to whoever has agreed this post because it sounds like you want fundamentally incompatible things.

      1. OP 3*

        It doesn’t actually take a year to learn the data entry. They’re switching to a new database system, and my colleague is anxious about that, which may be why she’s claiming a year – but it won’t actually take that long. When I did that job, and a crappy 90s-era database with no documentation, it took me two months to get 80% of it down, and the other 20% was quirks of the system that only took a year to learn because they came up so infrequently. I’m legitimately unsure where the 1-year idea came from, but it’s not true.

        It is valuable for both positions that they be an alumnus or an alumna, and on my end a relatively young one. My half of the position involves working with prospective students, and I’ve found that they tend to respond best to someone they can relate to, meaning someone young, as well as someone who can actually speak from their own experience as to what it’s like to be a student. On my colleague’s end, the position involves some work with alumni, which is why she wants an alumnus or alumna. As a full-time position, it would involve things like coordinating Homecoming and being a non-voting member of the board of our Alumni Association. It doesn’t have to be a young alumnus, per se, but – we are actually a pretty young school (est. 2000), so we don’t really have any alumni over the age of 40.

        Because I want a young alumnus, I am expecting high turnover, since that’s the nature of the beast. If we had someone stick around longer, fantastic! But I’m not holding out for it. You’re absolutely right that this isn’t really compatible with what my colleague wants (specifically, in terms of someone sticking around) – which is why this position was designed to be a temporary, one-year thing until we get our feet under us and can hire a full-time person in each department. (Which is actually another reason why I object to asking for a commitment – this position literally won’t exist in this form for more than a year! My colleague wants to hire someone who is guaranteed to transition into her department, which makes sense on the surface but does actually raise a few other issues – it will give her priority in the hiring process, and I’m concerned it would lead someone to not put as much effort into my department’s side of the job, since that’s not really what they were hired for long-term).

        1. SnappinTerrapin*

          This problem caught my eye, too.

          A job split between two departments is likely to be a bad fit for all concerned. I see why it is happening, and I have been there myself. Good luck with it.

          Maybe your colleague will open her eyes to the dissonance in asking for a 3 year commitment on a job that is budgeted for only the first year. That looks like a hard sale to close, from my perspective.

        2. TardyTardis*

          Would you consider someone older who is desperate for enough hours to eat before his or her retirement kicks in? They might well be ok with lower pay and will be ready to stay, since they are probably stuck in the area. At least they would understand what they were getting into, rather than be blindsided the way a younger person might be (and who would probably be able to leave easier).

  30. Elle by the sea*

    People often get paid more based on their level of education as well. For example, you are paid more if you have masters than those who have bachelors degrees. There are many different metrics for that and is not necessarily unethical if the conditions are laid out clearly.

  31. HRBee*

    At my last company, people would barge into my office when the door was closed ALL THE TIME. We even had professional door signs that could be turned to a green “Come In”, red “Do Not Disturb”, and a blue “Out of Office.” Didn’t matter. I would be on phone interviews with candidates or with employees making serious complaints and here waltz in anyone who pleased. It didn’t matter that my sign was on Do Not Disturb.

    Eventually, me and my other HR coworker got locks installed on our doors that could be locked from both the inside and outside. I couldn’t believe it had to be taken that far for people not to just burst into a closed HR office.

  32. ElleKay*

    #3- Alison’s last point is key! You can say whatever you want, and it can be helpful for the candidate to know, but (in the US ) theres very little way to commit someone to 2 years or 3, etc.

    Plus anyone familiar with hiring norms, interviewing, and the US job market (which might not be new college grads, to be fair) will know this and is likely to say “oh, of course- I’m planning to stay here for X or Y!”

    I’ve said this in interviews while knowing simultaneously that i mean “…unless this job turns out to be a disaster or something better comes along”

  33. Pinkie Pie*

    LW 1- I’ve worked with teens most of my professional career. Two pieces of advice I have- don’t give them things to rebel against and pick your battles. If he’s right, he’ll get a job. If you are right, he’ll change his appearance- as long as you don’t provide incentive to stay the same. It’s time to let the reigns slack and let him make his own mistakes.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      All of this. One of my younger siblings went through a hair-dyeing phase and my parents never said a word, no matter how weird it got. It was just hair. When sibling wanted a job that didn’t like the look–this was in the 1990s when multicolored hair was edgier than it is now–sibling dyed it back to a more or less natural color of their own volition.

  34. Roscoe*

    As far as the hair thing, this is how I see it. I work at a company that is very liberal. Our hub offices are NYC, San Francisco, and Chicago. People have all sorts of interesting hair styles. If I was advising someone coming in for an interview, I’d still recommend a more traditional look. Just as I’d recommend wearing a shirt and tie to an interview (for guys) as opposed to a v neck t-shirt and jeans, even if that is what I wear often to work.

    The fact is, first impressions DO matter. Very rarely do I think wild hair will get you the job. But I think there is at least some chance it could hinder you. As they say, put your best foot forward.

    I also will never understand why certain things (like hair, piercings, etc) are considered bad to judge people on, but its fine to judge people (professionally) on what they would wear to an interview.

  35. Boopnash*

    Lw4: sounds like they need to hire more staff to me. If that’s the case I would hope the existing staff have a lot of leverage to push back then, because firing any of them would create an even worse situation for the employer… just sayin’

    1. Dust Bunny*

      If they’re working 60 hour weeks AND NOW also working weekends, they need to, like, double the staff.

    2. James*

      I’ve gotten a lot of pushback regarding staff in similar situations. The arguments are 1) We don’t know if this work will continue at this rate, and 2) Hiring more staff is more expensive than overworking the same staff (not the way they put it but it amounts to the same thing) because you have to pay benefits and training and whatnot for the new staff. Workload is 2x higher, but operational costs increase by 2.5x.

      I’m not saying I agree with this argument. I’m just saying that’s the pushback I’ve gotten.

      1. irene adler*

        IF the overarching goal is to keep the bottom line lean so that potential buyers of the company are impressed, then every excuse in the book will be used to keep staff at current levels. There’s no interest in the well-being of the employees because they just want to sell the company.

      2. 60 Hour OP*

        Yep, we definitely have that problem, especially right now. Every January and February my department has it super slow, and then by the end of March it’s non stop for the rest of year. So the only time we have to discuss workflow and additional staff is Jan & Feb, and then the executives are like- you’re not busy at all, why do you need help. It’s infuriating.

  36. Workerbee*

    OP #2: My boss at OldJob had a dry erase board stuck on the outside of his door with a pre-listed checklist: On call, In conference, Okay to knock, Okay to come in, Do not disturb, etc. He’d check one or more as applicable. He didn’t always remember to uncheck them, though…

    OP #4: Your company stinks. It made you think you all had to work 60 hour workweeks plus weekends, then once it had that established, it pulled back on even the minimum of fair compensation. Now it wants you to think any protest would be insubordinate. Clever, despicable company. I wish you tons of job searching luck so you can get out.

  37. Frapperia*

    Personally I could care less what you look like, so long as you don’t smell. Now that’s a turn-off in a job interview!

  38. nnn*

    It occurs to me that LW1’s son likely underwent some kind of training to become a forklift driver, and vocation-specific training like that usually mentions these sort of expectations. So, unless LW1 is also a forklift driver and didn’t mention it in the letter, it’s likely the son has more insight into the expectations of this specific job.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I was thinking this as well. If he has a forklift cert, then the company is less likely to care about his hair color and more likely to care about his safety record.

    2. Temperance*

      Yep. And the parents apparently haven’t interviewed for jobs in 30 years (!), which to me suggests that they work in government, so the norms are extremely different.

  39. James*

    LW #4: If you want to push back, use quality. I have done 76 hour weeks, and am under strict orders to never exceed 70 again. (In large part this is due to the nature of the job; some tests we run take 12-18 hours and need babysat that whole time.) The quality of my work dropped so dramatically after 60 hours that it really wasn’t worth me doing it–the QC process, editing, and revisions cost us more time than we saved.

    The odds that you are producing high-quality work after 60 hours are nil. The odds that you’re going to produce acceptable work after 60 hours are pretty slim, and get slimmer the longer you work such hours. This will cost your business money and lose clients. It is in your company’s best interest to not do this.

    Please understand, I’m not insulting your team here. NO ONE can maintain quality standards working that sort of schedule. It’s simply not possible.

    1. irene adler*

      Not disagreeing. Humans NEED time off to recharge. Otherwise the work quality slides.

      Back in the days at a start-up, at one point I was working 6-7 days a week. No respite. They would not hire the needed personnel because they needed the bottom line to look good for potential buyers of the company.

      Eventually (couple of years or more) the company sold and additional hires were made. Not a good way to treat employees, though. I didn’t know any better. Nowadays, I ask about workload and company growth when things take off. If I get some waffley answer like “we all help each other with the work load” I know they are gonna keep things bare bones. No thanks.

    2. ferrina*

      Yes, this can be effective. Unfortunately sometimes it doesn’t work- I know someone that was working 65+ hours/week and begging for help, and got put on a PIP (it wasn’t her, she is AMAZING, but the company had unrealistic expectations).
      The other thing that can be effective is a simple “I can’t”. “I can’t work weekends- sorry.” “This week I can do X or Y, but not both. What would you like me to prioritize?”
      Then- don’t. Don’t work hours that you said you couldn’t. Spend that time job searching.
      Unfortunately, the ultimate outcome is that you can’t keep this job. The company has already shown that they refuse to staff appropriately. You will either need to quit to keep your health, or be unable to keep up with their unreasonable expectations and be fired anyways. It’s better to draw your own line in the sand. If the company lets you go because you refused to work 60+ hours, well, Alison has some language for explaining why you were let go (without trashing your previous Company from the Underworld).
      (Ideally you’d be able to unionize to address this, but that is not always possible)

    3. 60 Hour OP*

      Not insulted at all, this is most definitely true. The burn-out is real. I’ve absolutely made mistakes at 1am on Friday that I never would have made at noon on Monday. I tried this argument briefly with some team members who didn’t care, but I should double down on it with the management team. Thanks for the advice!

  40. AndersonDarling*

    #5 I had a discussion with a 3rd party recruiter earlier this year who told me he bases expected salary off of years experience and that is what the tech industry is generally doing. I was blown away! It doesn’t have much to do with your area of expertise, if you work on modern or legacy systems, or have people skills. If I had known that, I would have been padding my resume with an additional 3 years of tech experience!
    It’s hard to wrap my head around. You can have someone who has been doing the exact same thing for the past 10 years and not learning anything new, and then you can have someone who has become an expert in multiple systems and integrations and throw in some project management and they both will be offered the same salary.
    I can reflect on my own salary negotiations and see that this is true. Larger companies were less interested in what I knew and instead focused on how many years were on my resume, as if they had a chart in front of them that they were referencing.

  41. Dust Bunny*

    60-hour-weeks: Your company are jerks who need to hire more staff. If they can’t afford it, they need to charge more. They have too much work and not enough people, period.

    1. 60 Hour OP*

      You are sooooo right. There is this weird fear that they are going to lose clients if they charge them more money, so I’m constantly told to throw in extra products that are “added value”- aka nobody’s paying for them. I get that I wouldn’t directly see that extra cash, but please at least make the company money for my work so they can bring in more help!

      1. ferrina*

        Been there! It’s awful. Just make sure there’s a way out. Like- do they have metrics they need to reach, or are they vague when talking about hiring more? (“it’s not in the cards right now, we all need to work hard”).
        If they are vague, then RUN. They will just keep pushing everything on to you indefinitely until something goes terribly, horrifically wrong or you quit from the stress.
        I only got more staff when I said “which client project would you like me to drop?” I got push back, but when I flatly said I was already working as much as I could, I finally got the staff I’d been asking for for months. But they didn’t learn, and we’re running in to the same problem a year later.

        1. 60 Hour OP*

          Ug, sorry you are still dealing with the same problem. Why won’t they learn! I love “which project should I drop,” I am definitely using that!

  42. Red 5*

    Where I live, when it comes to dress code and appearance it’s a VERY conservative city. Like, famously conservative about clothes to the point where there have been some good think pieces about how the attitudes about dress are discriminating against people with less means.

    But I was also told at one point that there was a law in the city that specifically said you could not take a person’s clothing and personal appearance into account with hiring decisions (I’m assuming within reason). I remember looking it up because that sounded fake, but it was actually real.

    All this to explain that when I applied for the job I have now, in that conservative-appearing city at a very conservative-in-appearance company, I had pink stripes in my hair. Nobody remarked on them at all, and when I got a haircut soon after that took out the last of the pink nobody remarked on that either. I paint my nails regularly, all kinds of odd color combinations that are really bold (my fav is blue), the only thing I’ve ever heard about it are compliments.

    I think it’s perfectly fair and reasonable for your son to say that he doesn’t want to work for a company that wouldn’t allow pink hair, because that IS very telling about the culture and the ways that they view their workers. The jobs where I’ve had the more strict dress codes that also told me I wasn’t allowed to dye my hair “unnatural colors” were also more controlling and more difficult for me to manage because of the cultural fit. Other people would be totally comfortable there, and that’s fine too, it just wasn’t right for me and it wasn’t where I could be the happiest and do my best. Your son seems to have figured that out on some level, even if he’s not articulating it quite that way.

    *I want to note in case I missed any spots that when I say conservative in this post I am specifically only talking about clothes and not about politics. I really want a new word for that kind of clothing style, but “modest” isn’t quite correct. But since my work is politics-adjacent the word conservative is super loaded and I mostly try not to use it for sake of clarity.

  43. Delta-8*

    LW1: I know I hold the minority viewpoint on AAM. I always present my style to blend in. Let my work speak without distractions I have control over. There are very few jobs where facial piercings, unusual hair colors, gauged ears and scalp tattoos are a plus for career advancement.

    LW2: Lock the door.

    1. Queer Earthling*

      But for some folks, personal expression are more important than blending in or traditional career advancement. And as we’ve seen throughout the comments, there are plenty of people who have advanced despite (or even because of) their hair and personal style.

      Maybe your personal style is just more conservative? That’s fine, too. Doesn’t make you morally superior, or make your work better. It’s just a choice. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      1. Allypopx*

        Agreed. LW’s son may very much want to self-select out of a culture that doesn’t allow pink hair and personal expression. Even in a conservative setting I’ll generally pick pieces with a bit of pop, and while I haven’t personally dyed my hair a “fun” color in years I would be very uncomfortable in an environment that regulated that kind of thing. I don’t want to “let my work speak” to the point where I don’t have a personality – my hair goes with me outside of work.

    2. James*

      My personal style is fairly conservative as well–button-down shirt, jeans or dress pants depending on where I’m working, dress shoes or steel-toed boots depending on location. Short hair (when mine gets long it becomes an afro). Wedding ring on one hand, copper on the other, and maybe a bracelet (I make jewelry as a hobby). In an office environment or a jobsite I tend to blend in.

      The issue isn’t “Would I dress that way?” I wouldn’t. The issue is “Would I hire a guy with pink and black hair and black nail polish to drive a forklift?” If his certs, training, and safety record are good, I would.

      1. Observer*

        The issue isn’t “Would I dress that way?” I wouldn’t. The issue is “Would I hire a guy with pink and black hair and black nail polish to drive a forklift?” If his certs, training, and safety record are good, I would.

        This is exactly the point. And I think you are exactly correct.

    3. Observer*

      I always present my style to blend in.

      So? I understand and tend to agree with your reasoning, but that hardly makes it a requirement. And there are clearly fields where tattoos, colored hair, etc. are NOT a problem. So, the OP needs to back off and let Son make his own decisions on the matter.

    4. Autistic AF*

      What if it were a man wearing a turban, or a black woman with kinky hair? There are plenty of circumstances were someone ‘s style doesn’t blend in but isn’t just a personal choice.

    5. 1.0*

      Conversely, my experience as a queer trans person is that there is a correlation – not a perfect 1:1, but a correlation nonetheless – between places that are more controlling of your appearance and places that have been unfriendly towards people like me. Working in homophobic offices has lost me opportunities and advancement, while working with people who are genuinely inclusive has helped grow my career in meaningful ways.

      1. Red 5*

        This is what I was trying to point out in my comment. I come from a different perspective (cis, straight, but with chronic mental and physical illnesses) but I absolutely have been able to draw a line, not a perfect line, but a line exactly as you describe. The more controlling and adamant they were about appearances, clothing, and hair the more problems I would have down the line because they were also not going to be inclusive of someone with a body that isn’t as functional as they think it should be. And the more I’d clash with the culture in general.

        It says something about an office and it’s culture, but what it says to each person I suppose is up to them. But it does send a signal about inclusivity and openness.

  44. Temperance*

    LW1: my husband currently has blue hair, and he’s an engineer at a major pharmaceutical company. I am an attorney, and have had “rose gold” hair on multiple occasions within the past few years. We’re both in notoriously conservative industries.

    One of my best friends from law school is heavily tattooed, and she just became a partner at her firm.

    1. James*

      My wife is a teacher, and wears wigs due to a medical issue. She has fun with them. She goes for fairly vibrant colors (acid green, a purple that looks black until she moves, baby blue, etc), and the students have started trying to guess what color her hair will be tomorrow.

      We’re in the South, and schools are VERY conservative. They don’t care about the hair color. If anything it’s helped her relate to her students–wearing wigs is apparently a thing down here among teenage girls.

  45. HR Recruiter*

    For OP 1- This is really industry specific. For a forklift driver it is totally ok. If someone comes in too clean cut and dressed up for a forklift job the managers do a doubletake. Crazy hair doesn’t even phase them. Clean jeans and a t-shirt is what I would expect for an interviewee for forklift. Hair, nails, tattoos, etc are all irrelevant.

    I also recruited for hospitality and this would be an immediate disqualification and they wouldn’t have even done the interview. (I left hospitality for a reason).

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I agree with this. My employer would not be onboard with pink hair, but I also think we are a conservative outlier and that it would be fine in many other places.

      I dream of the day I can dye my hair purple without professional recourse.

  46. ReadingTheStoics*

    My husband ran a hiring fair for a warehousing company a couple of years ago in a red state in the South. He would have been overjoyed to have any candidate that 1) could read 2) showed up in clothing more durable than pajama bottoms, and in closed toe shoes of any type 3) was on time. And of course pass the drug test. “Yes, today. Right now. No, you can’t go home and come back.” I wish young master PinkBlackHair all the best, and hope he dumps half his healthy blue collar check into a Roth as long as he still feels comfortable living cheaply and thumbing his nose at conventional society.

  47. Data Analyst*

    LW #1 – “both my husband and I are insisting he lose the pink” – he is 19 so the harsh truth is that, even though it can be hard to watch him learn things the hard way, you can no longer insist that he do anything with his hair. (I’d argue that bodily autonomy wrt hair etc. should be respected for younger children too, but he’s an adult at this point).

    1. EngineerMom*

      I’m on the same page – my mom honestly didn’t care what we did with our hair as long as we could keep it neat and clean, and that resulted in 3 kids who all had pretty typical hair.

  48. EngineerMom*

    I actually laughed out loud at Letter #3 because it reminded me of an interview I did early on in my career.

    I was interviewing at a nuclear power plant for an entry-level engineering job, and they wanted a commitment of 10-12 YEARS.

    There was a substantial knowledge-transfer component that they wanted – they hadn’t hired a new engineer in a long time, and the remaining engineers were all about 5 years from retirement, with a ton of “local knowledge” that the managers wanted to get transferred to new, younger engineers.

    My husband was in grad school at the time, there was no way I could commit to living locally for that long when I knew we were going to be moving for his post-doc positions.

    But yeah – entry-level job with an expected decade-long commitment!

  49. Kimmy Schmidt*

    I worked in a grocery store while I was in college. That job was stressful and I made minimum wage, but it was made a little more bearable (compared to other stressful, minimum wage jobs I could have gotten) because I was allowed to keep my pink hair. I think fewer and fewer industries care about this now!

  50. James*

    LW #1: I help out on remediation sites (construction manager, QC officer, safety officer–there’s a pool of us that pass around hats). Pink hair and painted nails would get a funny look at first, but it wouldn’t affect my opinion of the person. If they came in with a Hammerfall t-shirt it may even be a positive (metalheads gotta stick together!). As others have said, the biggest issues are his certs, his safety record, being on time and willing to work, and being able to pass a drug test. In that order.

    Maybe his first job will be harder to get with this look, but once he builds a reputation as a hard and safe worker folks will just chalk it up to a personal quirk. We’ve all got them, and as long as it doesn’t affect the job no one really cares.

  51. Beancounter Eric*

    LW#2 – Use Ron Swanson as an example on securing your workspace.

    A claymore mine on the desk, a Czech hedgehog…..perhaps a motion-activated spotlight aimed at the doorway – nice and bright.

    Actually, a note on the door to the effect of “Stay the bloody hell away” would be good.


  52. Mockingdragon*

    LW1, for a blue-collar non-public-facing job, I’d find it very odd for a company to care about an unnatural hair color and nail polish.

    It’s definitely not “discrimination”, and talking about it that way is a bit extra. But my hair is dyed pink, and at this point in my life there’s no way I wouldn’t show up for an interview that way. I don’t want to work at a company that thinks they have the right to tell me to change it. If pink hair is a deal breaker, then let’s get that out in the open right at the interview stage. (It’s not necessarily about the hair color, so much as the boundary of what my employer is buying with my salary.)

  53. Allypopx*

    OP3: “Additionally, we tend to hire alumni who have just graduated because we can pay them low wages, but they tend to not stick around very long and leave after a year or two to continue school or develop professionally elsewhere.”

    If the college has decided that saving money on compensation is a priority, they don’t get loyalty from the employees. You can have one or the other. I read your comments about them wanting “the mission to be enough” and as someone with a long-term career in nonprofits – lol, no. Yes, working for an organization you believe in can absolutely be a perk and people are willing to take lower salaries to do so and often report higher happiness. But you see that play out much more at managerial-and-director level roles. I’ll happily have my salary cap be 70k in the long term vs the 150k I could make in the private sector because I can think I can live off 70k comfortably later in my career. But an entry-level low wage role? You’d have to be offering some HIGH LEVEL professional development to get a commitment out of me there. The fact of the matter is these recent grads can probably find work that gives them the same “mission” fulfillment, but pays and values them more pretty easily. They have no incentive to stay with the college.

    If I sound harsh it’s not directed at you, OP. I think you know all of this. But your employers are living in a fantasy world.

    1. OP 3*

      You are absolutely righ! It’s actually quite refreshing to hear this from someone outside the organization – I feel a little less crazy :)

      I also want to add that our salaries are ludicrously low, even for non-profits. With the exception of the staff hired by our recently-deposed president, no one at the college (not faculty, not deans, not directors, no one) made more than 35k – and that’s Canadian, so in US dollars that’s about 28k. There may be some long-standing faculty (ie who have been here about 15-20 years) who make closer to 40k Canadian (32k US), but that’s abnormal.

      When the aforementioned president was hired on, they offered him a salary of 70k Canadian (about 55k US) and the faculty nearly rioted because they thought he was being overpaid.

      Because of this, turnover is chronically high, and those who stay on for more than a couple years either do so because a) they don’t actually have the skills to be hired elsewhere, b) there’s been some form of emotonal manipulation and now they feel obligated to stay, or c) they’ve been here from the begininng so there’s a sense of sunk cost fallacy. Obviously this causes a myriad of other issues.

      So yes, the culture is incredibly dysfunctional, and I’m only planning on staying a couple more years because I’m very young, so the opportunity to do the type of work I’m doing now is not something I could get anywhere else. Once I have enough work experience and skills under my belt to move into a good position elsewhere, I fully intend to. (Which I guess further proves your point). And all of this actually plays into my objection to asking for a commitment – practical considerations aside, it just feels like we’re asking waaaaay too much for the absolutely garbage role they’re being offered, especially once the dysfunction is factored in.

      1. Allypopx*

        I hope your next role is in a healthier organization! I hope you’re also at least doing the one-eye-on-the-job-boards thing, in case something comes up sooner you might be suited for. But as far as this place goes, it sounds like they suck and aren’t going to change, so they can keep asking for the commitment but they’ll keep being disappointed.

        Try to be careful about internalizing the dysfunction while you’re there. It sounds like you have a good gut – don’t lose that. If you want to stay in the public/nonprofit/academic sector, remember there ARE jobs that will pay you well and give you the support you need and you don’t need to settle for this. Good luck!

  54. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

    LW1: Pink hair isn’t a big deal anymore, and that is not a level of control you can exert over your adult child.

  55. Observer*

    #1 – I’m glad you wrote in. It’s worthwhile noting that a LOT has changed in the 30 years since you last interviewed. Not just things like whether hair color is an issue. Like how you apply for jobs, what skills are needed etc.

    It’s also worthwhile noting that, barring cognitive issues that affect your son’s competence to manage his life, you really should not be insisting on much of anything. If what you REALLY mean is a version of “We really need him to get a job so he can move out” or something similar, you are on solid ground. But the way to navigate that is to make it clear that he needs to find a job and give him a deadline to move out / pay you rent / whatever you need for your sanity. But leave the job hunt to him.It doesn’t sound like your son is lazy or uninterested in working. Which means that if he discovers that his hair or (more likely) nails are a problem, he’ll figure that out and figure out how wok around it.

    I do think that pointing him to the resources that Alison mentioned is good – he SHOULD be aware of what is actually illegal discrimination and what’s not. Not being hired because he’s “too effeminate” is almost certainly illegal discrimination. Not hiring him because he “looks weird” (or some version thereof) is perfectly legal. But he could legitimately decide that if he has other options, that he doesn’t want to work at such a place.

  56. Denise*

    LMAO at the idea of anyone in manufacturing caring about the kid’s hair instead of whether the kid can work hard, do the job without whining, and possesses the thinnest veneer of manners/decent behavior.

    FWIW, 3 weeks ago my plant picked up a new operator who has waist-length, bleached hair, sides shaved, with many visible tattoos on arms, face, legs, etc. Everyone has been over the moon about this because he’s worked in factories a long time and knows how to do his job, how/when to step in and help others, and how to learn new skills quickly and well.

    If the kid can do the above and can also handle multi-cultural encounters without freaking out/behaving rudely he’ll have offers out the ears.

    (Personal experience: 10 years in factories this coming June.)

    1. Jake*

      I think there is a big difference on an experience-less guy vs. a guy with a ton of experience though.

  57. Jake*

    #1- I don’t work in warehouses, but I think construction has a similar vibe. Here in the midwest, and when I was working on the east coast there were/are exactly 0 people I’ve seen working in the field with non-natural hair colors. Our carpenter division and our ironworker division would not even entertain the idea of hiring a pink haired person with black fingernails. It would be immediately disqualifying.

    That being said, he’s going to have to either learn this lesson himself or prove his parents (and me) wrong.

  58. learnedthehardway*

    OP#3 – if your colleague wants to hire someone who will commit to being in the role for 2-3 years, that might be fine, but it means you need to look in a different candidate pool than your alumni staff, who sound like they are high potential, very fast learners, and who are going to progress beyond the role within 1 year. Of course, that means that you and your colleague are going to have to commit to training someone who will take a longer time to ramp up, as you’re going to have to ensure the role has some interest / challenge to keep a candidate of average to lower potential engaged for the longer term.

    This doesn’t mean you hire a bad candidate, but rather that you look for someone who is well-suited to the role – good work ethic, trainable, has a decent level of aptitude for the function, etc. (ie. NOT your high-flyer 4th year student, but a more pedestrian candidate. Probably one who is not a student at your university, or someone who is doing fine in second year.)

    Some industries specifically do NOT look for the highest potential candidates, because they know those people will get bored and move on. It’s okay – in fact, it’s important – to realize that the BEST candidate is the one to whom the role is best suited in all respects, including the capacity to be challenged and interested for as long as you need them in the role.

  59. Kitty Cathleen*

    LW1: I work in a very conservative industry. Standards are changing rapidly for what is and isn’t acceptable. My hair is currently lavender, I have two visible tattoos, and I’m seriously consider getting my eyebrow pierced. None of those things would have been okay 10 years ago, but now they’re just shrugged off. My company decided they care more about hiring competent people than about what those people look like.

  60. Barefoot Librarian*

    #1 – Alison’s absolutely right here. I am a mid-level manager, academic professional and I have a facial piercing and fuchsia hair. No one has ever complained to my face about it or taken me any less seriously (though I expect there’s one or two of the old guard who aren’t crazy about it). I just got tenure, in fact. I’m mid career though and in a liberal industry. I also dress very polished otherwise (professional wardrobe, neat haircut, etc.). That being said, location and culture matters a ton. I’ve seen stock boys and farmers and factory workers near me with crazy hair colors or a gothy vibe but when I lived further South (US, east coast) it wouldn’t have gone over as well. Is there any way he can get a feel for what the culture is like from the outside? Ask people who work their maybe. It’s definitely not a deal breaker in many places, but it’s a bit of a risk if you don’t know for sure. If it’s important to him to express himself that way, then it might actually be a good way to weed out jobs and employers that would just make him feel stifled and unhappy.

    1. Barefoot Librarian*

      I should add that my daughter – who works in HR and makes more than me at 24 lol – has waist length blue and green mermaid colored hair. Her boss loves it.

  61. Pikachu*

    I hire truck drivers. If you’re a talented driver with a solid safety record and good references, color your hair any way you want. Drive your truck with no pants on. Wear a tiara. Bring your dog along. Get from Point A to Point B without killing someone and as far as I’m concerned, we’re good to go.

    My previous role involved spending some time in a metalworking factory. Welding, stamping, enameling, that kind of stuff. The team in that factory was a vivid quilt of human expression–random hair colors, tattoos, you name it. But there wasn’t one person there who wasn’t absolutely excellent at their trade.

    In my experience, the more outstanding you are at your trade, the less people concern themselves with your appearance. Entry level? Maybe not so much. It might be better for him to err a little more on the conservative side.

    As Alison says, we all have a certain amount of political capital in a job. Is this where he wants to spend it?

    1. Campfire Raccoon*

      **looks at current staff**

      Pants are required, but pink hair would be a step up, really.

    2. James*

      “Drive your truck with no pants on.”

      At a Superfund site I worked on we had to institute a “pants must be worn or stay in your truck” rule for the truckers. A few guys stopped showing up. Which, if they can get work elsewhere, is fair enough–we obviously were not a good fit. I will say that some comments got made, by our manager and client. But there’s a world of difference between odd hair color and not wearing pants in the exclusion zone of a Superfund site!

  62. char*

    Re: #1, I wonder if the son’s thoughts about “discrimination” have less to do with hair dye and more to do with identity. I think the specific details of the son’s appearance may be relevant here.

    If company policy is that employees’ hair cannot be dyed any unnatural color, that is not discrimination. But on the other hand, if this guy’s pink hair and painted nails led to a perception (rightly or wrongly) that he was queer, and he didn’t get hired for that reason, that would indeed be discrimination.

    1. Nanani*

      I was thinking the same thing. Pink hair and nail polish on a guy is perfectly normal in some subcultures regardless of orientation, but there are also sectors of society that would assume queerness and discriminate accordingly. Plus LW didn’t say one way or another if that was the case.

  63. Darth Mom*

    LW2: I had a similar situation years ago with colleagues at my current job… and one in particular would just come right in no matter what – DND sign on my door, etc. So, when I needed privacy, I put my DND sign up and I started locking my office door. Pretty sure it was that particular colleague who face-planted on my door one day… :) :) :) She never barged in after that. It took all the self control in my body not to howl laughing from inside my locked office that day! Good luck!

  64. AnotherSarah*

    I think there’s a way to look professional with pink hair and black nails–hair should be out of the face, neatly styled. Nails shouldn’t be chipped. Professional posture, eye contact, not chewing on hair in the interview, etc. I interview a lot of younger people, and style choices (including clothing, because sometimes they just don’t know) are not really a factor–how they present themselves is.

  65. Gina*

    LW 1 – My daughter is in her mid twenties. She has both of her hands tattooed. She says they are Kracken (They look like badly drawn elephants to me). She’s been hired for a job in a doctors office and just recently changed jobs and no one had anything to say about her hands. Her hair right now is a shade of red not found in nature. It’s been blue, green, pink and once even a blueish gray. Times are changing.

    1. Naptime*

      Totally! I was hired into a professional role at a large, rural electricity generating station, with a fire-engine red, asymmetrical bob (it was harsh and angular, just a totally wild cut… I was working through some stuff). They didn’t blink twice.

  66. boop the first*

    5. The particular example would be frustrating because could 10 years really offer a dramatic increase in expertise compared to 7 years?

    3. And if the people in the example of #5 accepted a job they’ve already been doing for a decade, I doubt you’d have too much issue finding candidates for #3. I’ve washed dishes at minimum wage for longer than that. My shortest stint was 18 months where I was working alongside mice and spiders. A job that’s half simple, half creative sounds like a dream! 3 years fly by like nothing.

  67. rainy Wednesday*

    Re OP #2, if readers want a laugh you can imagine this as a work-from-home situation:
    “Due to increased video conferencing in the pandemic, loud office neighbors, and a very gregarious office culture, I have been keeping my door shut at times throughout the day.”

    My loud office neighbor is my partner who can get loud on calls. We don’t have a door between us. Also thinking about “gregarious office culture” in terms of the dogs / cat / pets who insist on sitting on your lap or talking (barking / meowing) during your calls. Shout out to everyone getting through WFH during the pandemic in small or cramped or not enough rooms or doors – situations.

  68. Astrid*

    #2 – When I was a young associate, the firm culture was very much open doors at all times. I closed my door one morning when I received a call from my sister informing me that our dad (4 states away) had a major health setback and would likely die soon. I was still processing the news when the head of the firm briefly knocked on the door and then came right in. He didn’t need anything, he was upset at seeing the closed door. I still feel that he got what was coming to him – me, weeping and inconsolable – just because he couldn’t accept my need for a little bit of privacy. BTW, I still recall 25 years later that he did not handle it well at all and failed to do what any reasonable and caring boss would do (e.g., reassure me that my workload would be handled because I was obviously scrambling to catch the first plane home).

    Don’t be like this. Doors are closed for a reason.

  69. Richard*

    #5 is so bound up in other dynamics. Some people get raises as they stay in a company (whether for performance or experience or loyalty or discrimination or policy) so their pay gets significantly higher with experience, so when they look for a new job, they want to match or increase their salaries. You have no idea on the hiring side what that pay was due to, but a lot of employers just match it for the sake of getting the person on board. It can definitely be a sneaky way to build inequity into a pay scale while giving everyone plausible deniability, too. Best to think of salary equaling value when possible.

  70. Anonymous Hippo*

    If it helps #1 out, I’m a finance manager at a multi-billion dollar manufacturing company, and I had blue hair last year and nobody cared.

  71. Its more about attitude than hair...*

    I love the part about “teaching him what is discrimination” because that’s something that EVERYONE should be aware of when they are interviewing/working, but something that typically is not discussed, and discussed even less if you are straight/white/male.

    I’ve interviewed, for very public facing positions, with blue hair. I kept up with it, so it always looked nice, and made sure to style it professionally. My favorite interview outfits all were purchased with that hair color in mind, and loved the way it looked all together. I would typically adress it fairly early in the interview if I was given an opening, just saying that my current job was fine with it, so I’ve been having fun with my hair color, but if I were hired I would be fine with dying it back to a natural color if it was against the dress code. And then I dropped it, and they normally did too. When I accepted the job and they told me I needed natural colored hair, the next time they saw me, it was dark brown, and my direct manager thanked me and it never got brought up again.

    As soon as I left (for very different reasons) it was back to pink though, since at the next job the person who hired me had rainbow hair and it clearly wasn’t an issue. Accepted the job with my natural color, went in on the first day with a dark pink. Got complimented, asked what brand I used, and it was never an issue.

    I find its more about how you present it. If he’s going in with “yeah, this is my hair, deal with it” that’s more of a problem than going in saying “Yes, this is my hair at the moment, lets discuss the position.”

  72. Tabby Baltimore*

    Hey, there, 60 Hour OP, your reference upthread to your bosses’ reluctance to charge more, and their associated worry that if they did, they’d lose clients, reminded me of the letters I’ve seen on this site from freelancers who have written on the topic of what to charge.

    There’s an AAM post on this that might resonate (“I can’t say no to clients, and my success is destroying me” and a subsequent post from the regular commenter Not So NewReader (located here: NSNR’s story was about a freelancing friend who raised his rates, and at first did lose a few clients. After a time, though, “An odd thing happened he started picking up more people.”

    It sounds like your business’ owners don’t have the courage of their convictions about their product/service. If you’re ever in a position to address the pricing issue with them, maybe the insights you can glean from the “I can’t say no to clients” post will help you help them.

  73. Peeped EA*

    To LW1, times are definitely changing. I’m an executive assistant for a senior vice president at a large firm in the financial industry, and I have blue hair. The only comment I’ve received from anyone was the first vice president, who said it was an attractive color, and from my SVP, who said they thought I was going to go for a more electric blue. My non-natural hair color hasn’t effected my promotions or the public facing work I do. My last review was the top most mark for performance, but Alison is right. He should go to the EEOC site and learn what really constitutes discrimination.

  74. Pam Poovey*

    I would think that a warehouse-type job where you generally won’t be dealing with customers or attending corporate meetings, hair color won’t be much of an issue. They’re more likely to care about something being a safety hazard.

    Obviously not everywhere will be the same, but it’s less of a problem here than it would be for other stuff

  75. B*

    I work as a Marketing Analyst and am about 3 years out of college. Ihave 10 piercings (3 in each lobe, a nose stud, a daith and a double helix), wear my hair up to show them off and have dyed my hair unnatural colors and the company I work for doesn’t care. Times are definitely changing. My parents are old school like that too and say piercings, unnatural hair and tattoos won’t get you hired. That’s completely wrong for the most part. Now, the caveat: if it’s a Big 4 accounting firm or a law firm for example, it wouldn’t fly. Most companies aren’t really picky from what I’ve seen.

  76. Kate*

    I currently have pink hair and work in senior management. I have also had blue hair, purple hair, orange hair, yellow hair, grey hair and green hair. Coloured hair doesn’t make anyone less professional and it’s a hill I am absolutely willing to die on.

  77. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    OP2 Alison is right, people really should knock first and wait for you to say “come in”
    The thing with your sign is that once you’ve taken it down people will simply assume you’re not video-conferencing and thus it’s once more OK to just barge in.
    I’d put up a sign saying “please knock” without explaining why. Anyone who wants to know can ask you!

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