coming to work with wet hair, I don’t want friends as clients, and more

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

1. Coming to work with wet hair

I’m a manager of a public-facing team at a large-ish company. I have a question over one of my team member’s appearance and would like your input on whether I’m being overly picky or should say something. “Jane” is in her twenties and fairly new to the workplace. She does excellent work, is friendly and well-liked, and I see a bright future for her. My one concern about her is that once or twice a week she comes to work with her hair slicked back in a tight ponytail, still wet from the shower. She is otherwise appropriately dressed and groomed. Obviously her hair dries by the end of the morning, but I feel like it looks unprofessional for her to come in, and especially meet with clients, with her hair still wet. I tried to hint about it one morning when we were walking in that she must have been cold with her wet hair. She just laughed it off and said she was fine. Is this unprofessional enough to warrant a conversation or am I just making a mountain out of a molehill?

If she weren’t public-facing and meeting with clients, I’d say it depends on the vibe of the office (how casual vs. businessy you are) and how wet her hair looks. If it’s pulled back and just a little damp, that’s not going to strike most people as nearly as unprofessional as if it’s full-on wet. But for meeting with clients, it’s reasonable to say she needs to have dry or at least nearly dry hair. That’s where I’d focus — “Jane, when you have client meetings, please make sure you’re not coming in with wet hair. It’ll read as unprepared or even unprofessional to a lot of people, and you’re neither of those things.”

2. My boss found out I was resigning via an email from my new job

I have been working for the last three years in the division of a company that rolls up to a larger parent company. Recently, the parent company reached out to me about a job opening and after chatting with them, found it really aligns with my career goals and skills. After accepting the job late Wednesday, I told them I would tell my manager today since we had our one on one scheduled they agreed (I’m remote and this was the earliest I’d be able to speak with her).

Fast forward to yesterday, when my boss called me saying that the front desk had received an email about me leaving and was understandably upset, but also berated me for not telling her I was thinking about moving to parent company. I ended up completely blanking on the script I’d planned since I was caught so off guard. She mentioned that I “hadn’t burned any bridges but she was deeply disappointed” I hadn’t communicated with her. We are scheduled to have another chat but I have no idea how to salvage the situation, especially because I will likely have to work with her in the future. For what it’s worth, I’d planned a start date with that would give them about three weeks notice.

Say this to your boss: “I can understand why you’d be disappointed if I’d accepted another job and just not bothered to mention it to you! But that’s not what happened. I accepted on Wednesday night and planned to talk to you on Thursday to let you know. I had no idea they’d inform you before we had a chance to speak.”

If what she’s upset about is that you didn’t tell her even earlier — like while you were just interviewing — that’s unreasonable. Most people don’t tell their managers when they’re thinking about leaving, and for good reason. If that’s what she’s hung up on, you don’t need to cater to it. You can say, “I wanted to learn more about the opportunity before I decided what to do about it, and I didn’t realize how quickly they’d move.”

3. I don’t want friends as clients

About 10 years ago, I built what became a very successful small business from the ground up. Our industry was decimated by the pandemic, and I am slowly starting to build back up but it’s been tough. My employees and I complete projects for suppliers on behalf of clients. However, we only get compensated by our suppliers if our clients actually utilize the projects we complete. Before the pandemic, this was not a problem, as we had a roughly 95% utilization rate. But things have changed dramatically, and last-minute cancellations have become much more widespread. That’s understandable given the fact that we are still in a pandemic, but we have had to protect ourselves with a cancellation fee that our clients are responsible for. This fee is far less than what we would be paid by our suppliers, but it’s better than not being compensated at all in the event of a cancellation.

So here’s my dilemma. The initial success of my business was due in large part to the many wonderful friends I’ve made at various stages of my life. Eventually I grew well beyond that, but their support was crucial in the beginning, and I will forever be grateful for that. But I don’t want friends as clients anymore, at least not right now. My industry is fun. Everyone wants to talk about it whenever I’m around. People want advice, they want quotes, they want to plan and dream about it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a friend ask me to complete a project for them in the last 1.5 years, only to ultimately cancel. I find it incredibly difficult to charge friends a cancellation fee even when it’s part of the contract they signed because, as a friend, I have intimate knowledge about the reasons why they’re cancelling: their parent is ill, they’re expecting a new baby, they lost a job, they got a promotion that requires all of their time and attention right now, the list goes on and on. I want to be there emotionally for them, but it’s hard to do that when I’m being financially impacted by their cancellations. Each project takes a TON of time, and cancellations are a serious financial hit. It’s become a huge conflict of interest.

When friends want to hire me and/or members of the team I’ve built, how do I tell them I don’t want to take them on as clients, especially if we’ve worked together in the past?

“I have a policy of not working with friends — I’ve tried it in the past and it creates too many conflicts of interest and I’ve ended up losing money. But I can recommend someone great for you if you’d like.”

That same language can be adapted for people you’ve already worked with in the past — just tweak the start to “I’ve had to start a policy of…” For particularly good friends, you could explain the issue with the cancellation policy in particular. You’re likely to get people protesting that they’re happy to pay your cancellation fee, in which case you could say, “I appreciate that — I’ve just found it’s too tough on me to accept it when I know someone personally, so I have an across-the-board policy now.”

4. Attending a work party right before I resign

I’m an attorney working for a large regional firm out of one of their smaller satellite offices. Due to a change in my personal life, I will be putting in my resignation shortly. I’ve already received a conditional offer (pending a complete background check) and we anticipate the full offer being made in the next week or so.

Here’s the problem. My office recently had a huge verdict against a client overturned on appeal, so the senior partner is throwing a fairly impromptu celebration where he’ll be paying for drinks and appetizers for the entire office out of his own pocket. Obviously, this is to celebrate past performance, but I feel guilty partaking knowing I could be putting in my notice any day now. How do I address this? To add to the awkwardness, my boss is one of the reasons I’m choosing to leave. He just hasn’t acted the same towards me since I came back from maternity leave (which is a whole slew of issues for another day). So, do I go to the celebration or should I bow out since it will be after hours?

It’s a work party to celebrate a work victory and you work there. There’s no reason to bow out just because you’ll be leaving soon; this happens all the time and it’s not an issue. No one is going to resent the cost of your drinks and appetizers just because you resign soon after! (If they were, say, sending you on a luxury vacation as a retention measure, there would be more to think about. But food at a party is not in that category!)

5. What’s the deal with elevator pitches?

I’m in a leadership and management class for my grad school program and am curious to hear your thoughts about elevator pitches. We have to do one for an upcoming assignment, and my initial thought is that trying to “pitch” myself to someone in an elevator ride would be over the top and gimmick-y, but perhaps I’m wrong.

It’s not that you’re really likely to pitch yourself to someone in an elevator; it’s a framing used to capture how short and pithy the pitch should be. There probably will be times when it’s useful to have a very short but compelling explanation about who you are and what you do already prepared and practiced — think job fairs, cocktail parties, networking events, talking to someone in your field who you’re seated next to on an airplane, and other situations where someone asks about what you do.

The keys, though, are (a) it needs to sound natural and not rehearsed; otherwise it’ll feel salesy and will turn off most people, and (b) it should be part of a natural conversation; you don’t want to just hit someone with it out of nowhere and without signs that they’re receptive. If those two things are being left out of the discussion in your program, that’s the part that would concern me about what they’re teaching.

{ 731 comments… read them below }

  1. Polyhymnia O’Keefe*

    When I was in grad school, we went to the actual elevator of the four-story building we were in when we were working on elevator pitches. We rode up and down for a good part of the class, practising our pitches on each other. It can be hard for some people to gauge the length of public speaking (or similar, in this situation), and it actually really helped us make it pithy and concise.

    1. tamarack & fireweed*

      I guess some excessively literal person might draw the conclusion that pitching yourself in actual elevators is a scenario they’re likely to encounter in their work life :-)

      No, Alison hit it on the head – this is about being concise, natural and convincing in approximately 60 sec of speaking (probably around 120 words if you want to draft it out, though that depends), while just using as much technical language as is necessary to not be vague. It’s a useful, trainable skill.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        Yes, an elevator pitch is just a metaphor for preparing something short when you first meet someone and describe your role. I work in fundraising where it’s essential as a way to invite interest in about half a minute, and then proceed from there in an informal two-way conversation.

        1. EPLawyer*

          The idea is to focus on how little time you have — about the length of an elevator ride. Because most people cannot “hit the highlights” as I like to say. You ask them what they do and you get a whole huge description.

          To take Woodswoman Writes example: Hi, I’m Woodswoman Writes, I’m the chief fundraiser for X organizer. Our goal this year is to raise Eleventy Billion Dollars to send a kid to Harvard for one year by hosting a series of gala dinners at various restaurants around town.”

          What people actually do “Hi, I’m Persephone, I work as a fundraiser for X organization. Well, actually I am the chief fundraiser. Our organization is dedicated to educating kids by sending them to Ivy League schools. We do this by sending out letters of solicitation, holding fundraisers at restaurants and through directed giving. The restaurant fundraisers take a lot of planning. This year I am in charge of making a list of restaurants and calling each one to see how much the space costs. Then once we have the space, we make out the list of donors we want to target ….” You get the idea.

        2. Smithy*

          Also in fundraising, so this may be why I read this and immediately thought of how very important this skill is. Both in terms of sharing the work you do you to external audiences, but also honestly to explain the work you do others – very often internal stakeholders.

          Abstractly, lots of people inside nonprofits think they roughly understand fundraising, but more often than not that emphasis is on the rough. So finding ways not to just explain what you do, but to explain why that’s of value to your colleagues and the organization is critical. And that explanation needs to be more specific than “raises money”, because that’s either a strangely veiled threat or too abstract to explain the value to them.

          I think why these types of exercises are really hard is that you’re often working with a lot of abstracts or hypothetical situations. Essentially, there’s not a specific job you’re applying for and no specific audience you’re speaking to. And depending on where you are in your own professional journey, if you don’t know the career you want – it can be hard to ground the exercise in your life and value. EPLawyer’s elevator pitch for a fundraiser isn’t technically wrong…..but as someone in the field, it feels a touch written like an intelligent AI. Not wrong, but not quite human.

          All that to say, I think for practice, it’s a lot easier to base this exercise on as many real life things as possible. Perhaps find a specific job posting from a real company that is the kind of job you’d want, and pitch for that. And if the elevator concept still feels weird, thinking of it as the opening line in a job interview. It’s a great skill, but doing it theoretically is be really hard for lots of people.

      2. Polyhymnia O’Keefe*

        Ha! No, no one took it literally. But it was fun to get out of the classroom and drive home how short it should actually be.

        1. Sashasoo*

          We did this when I was in school too! The plan wasn’t that we would ever actually pitch ourselves in an elevator, just that it gave us the approximate amount of time we should spend on it, and was a fun way to do the assignment. However, a few months after I graduated I went to a conference for my field and someone in an elevator at the hotel asked me if I knew what the conference was, and then asked about the field, so in the end I did actually give my elevator speech in an elevator.

      3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Well it does happen in films… Maybe it’s common in the film industry to grab a potential producer like that.

      4. JohannaCabal*

        I agree that it’s good to have a 60 second highlights of what you do/background. I think what gets left out of the conversation about the elevator pitch is that it needs to come across as authentic and tailored for the speaker’s personality. Right after college, I made the mistake of making mine seem overly sales-y and high energy, which is not my personality at all, and I’m sure that came through.

        When I hired recent college graduates, I also noticed the same thing and it was often hard for me to get a sense for the candidate as a person and how they’d interact on my team. After the first few interviews, I dropped the “Tell me about yourself” spiel and just started asking them how they found out about the position, why it appealed to them, and then reviewed their resume and asked situational questions.

        No problem at all with elevator pitches as a concept; just keep them authentic!

      5. Artemesia*

        This used to be an exercise I would do with undergrads — and of course no elevators involved, although I wish I had thought of doing the exercise in an actual high rise elevator as someone else suggested here.

        I framed it in terms of meeting parents friends at events over the holidays who ask what their plans are for their careers. This is a potential way to build contacts for newbies in the workforce and it happens and the people asking have some interest in their success. So what can they say in about 100 words or so to pique their interest and perhaps elicit suggestions for making connections. Lots of students got internships or even job interviews following those holiday events at home their junior or senior year. It is also good practice for preparing for interviews i.e. the ability to be clear and succinct.

      6. Tupac Coachella*

        Good definition. My “elevator pitch” developed organically as I figured out that no one cares about the minutiae of my job. People who ask what I do all want to know the same thing, regardless of context: what am I in charge of and how could it be useful to this person/audience? That template easily tops out at a minute or less. I realized that because I’M excited about the work I do (and because I know that my title isn’t intuitive), I was telling people too much. Once I figured out that people don’t usually care about all that detail, it took off the internal pressure to explain the full range of my work.

      7. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        And it is harder than you think, especially if you are in a kind of long winded, sciencey, field like mine. The urge to give all the details and caveats of what we do is strong and overwhelming for casual conversation

    2. Zoe*

      This is fun idea, it might make it stick more. I definitely need to polish mine. I work in a position where I’m often ‘chatting’ with elected officials for like 3 minutes and I had a great one during the pandemic and just after when we reopened, but now it should be kindof looking ahead probably.

    3. Formerly Ella Vader*

      Practising together in an actual elevator is a good simulation of the level of informality/pseudo-spontaneity typically aimed for in an elevator pitch. Riding in a public elevator while doing this would incidentally be an opportunity to practice the more nuanced social skills of speaking quietly to one person in a way that doesn’t assume the rest of the riders are consenting to be your audience.

      Ideally, an elevator pitch should sound appealing and clear, but also, it should not sound memorized. In real life, if an important person at a conference reception asks you what your project idea is, you might get 90 seconds to get in the whole pitch, but you should also be paying attention to your audience’s response. If they pull out their phone after two sentences, you shouldn’t try to finish the 90 seconds.

      1. Klio*

        It especially let’s you practice the nuanced social skill of not foisting yourself onto people who can’t get away.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          And its opposite, holding up your side of the conversation.

          Human interaction! You’re pretty much always steering between Scylla and Charybdis of bad extremes.

        2. Smithy*

          Lol, I would say the appeal is also finding places where people can’t immediately get away but where no one is considered trapped. If you happen to be waiting on line for the toilets with someone you’re trying to meet….technically they can flee you, but if it’s someone you’re hoping to meet in a networking situation you know you have that amount of time where you have them in your proximity.

          Obviously all of these things can be used in far more aggressive manners and I’m not condoning that. And with nuanced social skills, reading when someone is NOT into you, and letting something drop is also important. But elevator rides, waiting in line, sitting next to someone on the shuttle from the hotel to the conference, etc etc – for someone with a list of people they’re trying to network with, those are those great opportunities where you have someone for a period of time to see if a connection can be made.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            FYI If someone tries to talk business on the toilet line I bet I’m not the only one who will pay zero attention and just be wondering if the pitch will stop when I’m on the pot.
            Also for you men who may be willing to listen to a toilet line pitch, consider that it is almost exclusively “boys club” access to you. (With the exception of airplanes, I’ve seen few gnder-unspecified public bathroom facilities.

            1. Smithy*

              The reason why practicing is recommended isn’t so that you bombard someone with an aggressive pitch the moment you corner them, but rather that if you find yourself in a situation when they’re willing to engage in conversation you’re ready and comfortable to make the most of that time.

              For the women’s toilets, the line for the toilets can be long and certainly some people waiting in it are game for conversation. For others it may be the line at a bar. But the point is more that you won’t always have those opportunities and they often won’t be long. So being as comfortable as possible with what you want to say, where often the primary ambition is just securing another conversation.

              I’m in one of those jobs where I go to conferences or events with a list of people I hope to network with. And I know from jump that not everyone on that list will necessarily want to talk at all, but more so it’s a case that most of them will be open to talking to me some times. So being ready to take appropriate and polite advantage of the moments I do have are the most important. And while it may be gendered, the line to the women’s restroom has been one of those places.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      When my daughter was finishing undergrad in the hard sciences, elevator pitches were a thing professors instructed students to practice to explain their research. She had three different versions, depending on the listener’s technical expertise. (Or “how many of the words I just said did you understand” as she asked me, starting with her thesis title–for random strangers she used cues to guess which version to toss out.)

      1. Artemesia*

        I should have had this training LOL. When my parents driving up the Oregon coast asked me about my dissertation, I got about 30 words out before my mother was saying ‘oh look at those birds’ directing our attention to a flock of seagulls. And it was not a highly technical subject and one that lots of people can relate to or at least have an interest in.

      2. Drago Cucina*

        This is an essential skill. I had to learn to distill our mission into 27 words or less. Responses to common statements (“But, everything is free on the Internet”) and follow-ups if miraculously you had someone asking about a specific topic.

      3. Roy G. Biv*

        This is so important. I work in a weird technical industry, one were people have a lot of strange assumptions about what we do, and the elevator pitch has to fit at least two levels of prior knowledge; “None at all,” and “I used your company’s products at my last job.”

        1. Empress Matilda*

          This is me. I work in a highly specialized field – it’s not hard to understand, it’s just that most people haven’t heard of it. So unlike a teacher or a doctor or a lawyer, when people ask me what I do for a living, it requires a bit of explaining!

          And I definitely do want to make it compelling. Not necessarily because anyone is likely to offer me a job based on my elevator speech, but because I want people to understand how important it is and why I love doing it.

      4. Grace Poole*

        I work in an academic library, and we used to do a competition for grad students to describe their research quickly and concisely and using no jargon or acronyms.

    5. BatManDan*

      I actually make a living coaching people on this, and other elements of effective networking. I get a lot of invitations from professors of business classes to talk to the students, too. I’m fortunate to be able to make a living doing something I love and I’m naturally good at.

    6. Fernie*

      When I was working on my PhD dissertation, my advisor gave me some similar advice – when someone asks, “What are you working on?”, you need a two-word answer, a two-sentence answer, a two-chapter answer, and a 200,000-word answer. The corresponding question in business networking is “What do you do?”

      It can be especially hard coming up with the short versions, so that’s why you should spend some time writing and practicing them to have them at your fingertips.

    7. BethDH*

      I have actually given an elevator elevator pitch at least twice, but both times it was a waiting-for-the-elevator pitch, both times at conferences where we were wearing our badges and going from main areas to panel rooms so there was an obvious context.

    8. Golden*

      We had an elevator pitch competition in my PhD program and one of the contestants I guess thought it was literal (?), and filled up a chunk of their 2 minutes with “elevator sounds” and “interpretive door motions” in the pitch. Unfortunately the microphone was clipped really close to the mouth, and the high pitched elevator “BING!!!!”s were shouted at top volume, so it was a rather unpleasant pitch overall.

      Needless to say, that contestant didn’t win.

    9. L.H. Puttgrass*

      There’s an version of this called the “Three-Minute Thesis,” which is an international competition for Ph.D. students to present their research in, well, 180 seconds. That’s longer than most elevator rides (I hope!), but it’s the same general idea.

    10. Student*

      Some people are naturally concise. Others need the literal elevator ride to understand the time goal and get a sense for how they manage time when speaking.

      I have one co-worker who is otherwise fine at her job, but does not know when to stop talking. I have joked about actually locking her in an elevator to teach her the skill of elevator pitches, because her loquaciousness is holding her back professionally.

      Example: We had a meeting on one of her projects to meet a local team we were going to coordinate with. Booked for a half-hour, to say hello and get them familiar with roughly what we were trying to do and what we’d need from them. She asks us to start out by introducing ourselves. I give an elevator speech, 2 sentences tops: name, role on the project, broad type of issues to take to me. Pass it to the next person. She interjects to start talking more about me, goes on for several more minutes about things this local team is just not going to care about. Then takes it upon herself to introduce everyone else on her team in the same way.

      She goes on for half an hour this way, the entire scheduled meeting time. I start interrupting her at about 5 minutes left to try to say “Hey, we have five minutes left and there are some things I need to address with Local Team before this meeting ends, can I cover those quick?” She just… rolls on.

      The local team graciously agrees to stay another half-hour because they haven’t actually gotten to speak yet and they need some substantive info from this meeting, too. Local team and I hash out our initial needs in about 15 minutes. She spends next, final 15 minutes talking, I think thanking them for their time, and then telling them some stream-of-consciousness personal info along the lines of “Oh your name is John, my husband’s name is also John and I adore him!” (not an exaggeration; nearly an exact quote, with name changed).

      Just, no sense of time when talking. No sense of conversation flow. No sticking to meeting objectives. Practicing elevator speeches as a skill is meant to help curb this kind of behavior, so that you aren’t creating hell meetings for other people. Letting other people talk is a huge part of building a rapport with them, and one way to promote that is to talk yourself, but not ever for too long.

  2. Budgie Buddy*

    OP 1 please tell Jane to have dry hair on mornings when she has client meetings. She is new to the workplace and doing her best. Don’t hint. Or Jane is going to be writing AAM in the near future with “My manager gets weirdly obsessed with my wet hair but hasn’t said there’s a rule against it. I’m new to the workforce, what do I do?”

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      Coming to say this. LW1 was hinting at a level 1.5/10* and expecting Jane to get an extremely different message than that the weather is changing and wet hair can be a little chilly.

      Stop hinting (extremely mildly). Just tell her outright to please come in with dry hair on meeting days because wet hair can make her look unprepared or unprofessional. If there’s some other issue occurring, address it then, but the level of hint she has been given is not going to cut it.

      *I often note that there are a lot of people who really need to hear something at a 5 or 6 to get the message that this is an issue and there needs to be a change on their part. If I would get the hint at a 3 and be a little hurt at a 4, it feels extreme to me to go to a 5. LW1 didn’t even get to a 2.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        Also, I really don’t see the big deal about wet hair. I might put it up in a bun for a meeting were I her, but the fact that her hair has seen water is really not an issue for me.

        1. Observer*

          That’s all the more reason that the OP needs to be very clear. It’s not a big deal in so many situations that even someone who picks up hints could miss this one.

          In general, OP, don’t HINT about stuff. If you want someone to change something SAY SO. Kindly and respectfully, but CLEARLY.

        2. KAthlynn (canada)*

          same, If I don’t use a hair drier (and I don’t own one) to dry my hair it takes for ever to dry. Like 4-8 hours. It shocks people that I can go to work with wet hair and some of it still be damp at the end of a shift. especially if my hair is in a braid or bun

          1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

            KAthlynn- Same for me. If I do a bun or a braid at the end of the day my hair might still be slightly damp. And a hair dryer is a big no for my type of hair. Would create an impenetrable wall of frizz. I only own a hair dryer incase of frozen plumbing.

          2. QA Peon*

            Me too. I used to towel dry my hair, then put it up in a french twist – it’s easiest for me to do still damp. When my hair is longer, it’d still be damp at the tips by the end of the day since they’re tucked into the twist.

            I stopped doing that when I got a yeast infection on my scalp :-(

            1. not feeling like i wanna get lit*

              Oh my god, I didn’t know that was POSSIBLE. Re-evaluating my wet hair choices.

            2. STAT!*

              My (almost lifelong) dandruff disappeared when I started thoroughly blow drying my hair – and my scalp. I also blow dry my son’s hair or else he gets cradle cap. The fungi causing these conditions need water to live.

              I used to work with a woman who had long hair which she never dried properly. Although she dressed in clean clothes she always smelt rank. It was quite unpleasant to be near her.

          3. Here we go again*

            +1 I only wash my hair at night for this reason. I wash and braid it go to bed and take out the braid and it’s still wet. I can’t control it I have thick curly hair

          1. GammaGirl1908*

            I think I have assumed that her hair is very towel dry, but not dripping wet. Like, she probably goes to the gym in the morning and washes her hair in the shower then wraps it up with a towel, but doesn’t use a blow dryer. It would take a couple of hours to air dry, but isn’t air dry by the start of the workday.

            Not super germane to the question, but that’s what I’m envisioning.

            1. allathian*

              Yeah, me too. I agree that dripping wet hair wouldn’t be professional, although I’d have no problems with towel-dry hair.

              My coworker often goes to the gym during his lunch hour, and when he comes back to the office, his hair is wet. It’s short, though, so it dries quickly.

              1. CBB*

                This is what struck me — as a male person I would be very surprised if anyone criticized me for having towel-dried hair (which I assume is what LW means be “wet”). If anything, it’s when my hair looks its best.

                1. banoffee pie*

                  Yes many men do look better with wet hair, why is that? I’ve noticed that too!

                  What annoys me a little about this issue is that it takes longer for women (or people with long hair, usually women) to dry their hair than men. It’s just another extra thing we have to do, same as shaving legs/armpits, putting on makeup. I know we don’t *have* to but I still come across plenty of ppl who think makeup ‘looks better’. Jane might have to get up 20 mins or even half an hour earlier to blowdry her hair to a professional look. Eg if I let my hair dry natually, it will look pretty curly and nice and fit for work. But if I blow-dry it half assed and quick, it wouldn’t be ‘nice’ enough for work. I would have to spend 20 mins on it. It’s just the weird wavy nature of my hair. I suppose I could blowdry it quick and put it in a bun, but wearing a bun all day can be a pain too.

              1. Allison*

                Or hitting the gym on her way to the office, showering at the gym, towel drying it but not blow drying, and then going straight to work.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            Unless she’s literally showering at the office, it’s highly unlikely her hair will be wet enough to drip on papers.

          3. Anne*

            LOL right. Because she leapt out of the shower right into work and her hair hasn’t even been towel dried. Come on, really? That’s not going to happen.

          4. Happy*

            It doesn’t make her look unprepared unless she’s been told that meetings require dry hair.

            There’s no reason that someone can’t have wet hair and be prepared to work.

          5. laser99*

            I have to chime in here— I have very long, very thick hair. In the summertime, I put it up in a bun and drench it in ice-cold water in the shower, and periodically spritz on more cold water throughout the day. So my hair is virtually always wet, or at least damp.
            The reason? I am overweight, and therefore, run hot. I don’t know if this is the case here, but I thought it worth mentioning.

        3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I think it depends whether it’s dripping (probably not) or got her collar wet.
          Also sometime hair can frizz up as it dries, which may look messy.
          I’d feel cold just looking at her…

            1. Deanna*

              I don’t own a hairdryer and I don’t really know how to use one. It’s terrible for curly hair so I never learned. Why would I? Also I do get my hair dried and styled occasionally for special events like weddings and even with a professional who knows what they’re doing it takes the better part of an hour. Am I really expected to do all that work at least 3-4 times a week and to ruin my hair just because some people think wet hair is unprofessional?

              For the record I usually wash my hair in the evening but it isn’t always dry by the time I get to work in the morning.

              1. bamcheeks*

                Yes, I’m 20-30 minutes of hairdrying to get to “still feels damp but mostly looks dry”, and then for the next five hours after that my hair will just get bigger and bigger. It’ll have calmed down and started looking nice by teatime! Working from home and being able to brush it out and let it dry naturally twice a week has been fabulous.

                I do not know what I would do if I had an office dress code where wet hair wasn’t OK– I probably just couldn’t work in that environment!

                1. Susan1*

                  I feel the same way. I have come in with towel dried wet hair nearly every day. I don’t see the big deal. It’s not a hygiene issue so why even mention it? Especially if it is pulled back I don’t see it as unprofessional.

              2. le teacher*

                Yep! I have curly hair too and these comments are definitely from people with straight hair lol. I cannot blow dry my hair and in many cases it has to air dry.

                1. Palliser*

                  I fully agree! I’m another person with curly hair who doesn’t own a hair dryer. I’m now mid-career and if it has held me back, I certainly don’t know it! I’m client facing and once many years ago when I was working at the fanciest place I’ve ever worked, I asked the president’s secretary about wet hair. She considered for a moment and said, well, the president does it, so it should be fine for you!

                2. Caliente*

                  Ha my thoughts exactly as a curly haired person. Anyway to me curly hair looks different wet than straight, perhaps because it has more body wet that straight hair does due to the curls.
                  I actually have a blow dryer and can blow dry with the diffuser – not to blow it straight – but frankly, why bother unless its freezing or something but then I’d be more likely to just put on a hat than do any blow drying.
                  But like everyone else said, this has literally never been a problem.

                3. OyHiOh*

                  I am getting situated at the office, with damp-ish neither wet nor dry curly hair right this minute. No, it doesn’t drip. That’s what the 10 minutes wrapped in cotton towel right after the shower are for! It looks like nice S waves right now but in an hour, I’ll have soft finger width coils framing my face. A hair dryer completely ruins that effect so if I had to arrive at work with perfectly dry hair, I would have to dry it, then hot iron the curls back in.

                4. Librarian1*

                  I think it’s less about the curls and more about how much hair someone has. If it’s really think, it just takes a long time to dry.

              3. Anonym*

                Thick wavy hair person here – I’m a night washer for the same reason. I don’t deal with frizz, but am unwilling to go through the (to me absurd) labor of blow drying my hair. And it takes SO so long to dry… it’s usually still a bit damp in the morning anyway.

                I can’t help but wonder how OP can tell her hair is wet. Wouldn’t it just look a bit gelled or something?

                1. Petty Patty*

                  I’m sure the colleague in question has straight hair, and long enough that it’s wet through to the ends. It’ll be weighed down and won’t move (remember she wears a ponytail) like dry hair does.

                2. learnedthehardway*

                  Me too – I wash my hair the night before for meetings when I have to be in person. The next day, it’s still a damp, but I refuse to use a hair dryer on it – it’s damaging to my hair.

                  I think the manager is being overly picky, honestly.

              4. Cold Fish*

                I’m so glad to see all these comments! I too have long curly hair and don’t own a hair dryer as the hot air just kills my hair. I’ve been coming into work for 20+ years with damp hair and when I saw this article wondered if I was in the wrong all this time (Super casual office anyway with no client facing meetings).

                I agree to not try hinting, if it is problem, just tell her. Putting it in a bun, a braid, or other slight hair style modifications is probably enough to “hide” the wet for meetings and still look professional. If she works with clients often and she is young, it’s not a bad thing for her to at least think about but I don’t think it is necessarily something she has to change.

              5. Rainy*

                Yup. I have curly hair, and when I last had long hair (about three years ago), my stylist had to book extra time into every cut just to blow out my hair. I never blow-dry it at home because I give up halfway in frustration, even though it’s currently just a bit longer than chin-length. When my hair was long, I’d braid it or put it up if it didn’t have time to air-dry before work.

              6. Strict Extension*

                Yup. Washed my hair last night, came to work with wet hair this morning. Every stylist I’ve ever worked with, I say, “Just a warning, my hair takes forever to dry.” They laugh and say, “Yeah, a lot of people with curly hair have that issue.” Then fifteen minutes of diffusing later they say, “Wow, you weren’t kidding. How is your hair still this wet?”

              7. banoffee pie*

                yes I love how my hair looks naturally dried, I let it dry naturally in summer but always feel too cold to do it in winter. I wish I could just toughen up and do it like many seem to be able to. It’s also worse for your hair to blowdry it, so I’m not sure if work should be mandating it.

            2. LC*

              Can you check it’s actually so wet it’s unprofessional? As someone with not quite curly, not quite straight, not quite wavy hair, my hair needs to air dry. And if i wash it at night and go to bed with wet hair, I get a terrible neck ache the next day (impossible to avoid with my long hours).

              A bun stays wet in the middle until home time and it looks even worse.

              Only trained professionals can put a blow dryer near my hair without it looking even worse! she might be making the best choice she can

              1. Sun*

                Curly hair person with thin hair, blow drying my hair even w/a diffuser damages my hair. It’s one of the tortures of business norms that our hair needs to be dry.

              2. A*

                Same here! I usually put my hair into a braid until around mid-day when I’ll take it down and re-braid it in the opposite direction so it doesn’t make my scalp itch etc. I’d be in trouble if I worked at OP’s employer (or rather, I’d be job hunting because I would not be able / willing to accommodate).

            3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Right, everyone’s different! Which is why I wouldn’t want to say anything unless the employee’s hair is actually dripping or leaving damp patches on her collar.

            4. PrairieEffingDawn*

              Yeah, my suspicion is that the employee’s hair type dictates that she let it air dry a couple times a week. I think OP needs to decide if this is really a big enough deal to force someone to change their routine in a way that might totally upend that person’s schedule in a way that OP isn’t recognizing.

              1. GS*

                Even if it isn’t the hair type – I have hair that is pretty easy going but I’m a morning showerer and I refuse to learn how to blow dry my hair. It’s bad for your hair anyways to blow dry it regularly.

                1. wittyrepartee*

                  I… don’t think I own a blow dryer. I’d just go with a bun I guess, but I’d also roll my eyes pretty hard at someone who thought damp hair was an issue.

            5. Lacey*

              Yeah, I know this is super off topic, but I stopped using a hair dryer 90% of the time to avoid frizz. Sometimes I do really need it to be dry in a hurry. I do think dry hair looks more professional/prepared even though I know I have been guilty of going to work with damp hair when I was in my 20s.

            6. Kate S.*

              Precisely. I have very curly hair, don’t own a hair dryer, and have gone to work with wet hair hundreds of times. Is that different than if it was in a ponytail or if my hair was straight? This makes me think the “offender” is a white woman, and there are women of color with hair like mine that go around with wet hair all the time (I hate it, but it’s life). I’m really torn on this one.

            7. PT*

              Yeah, I often towel dry, add serum, tie up in a bun damp. It gets the fewest frizzies, and the bun is less likely to fall out if I put it in while it’s wet. But then again, it’s hard for a third party to tell it’s still damp, because it’s pulled back tightly.

            8. RC*

              As a Curly American I have to agree. There’s nothing wrong with it as long as it’s neat and professional; I have to say I disagree with Allison on this one.

            9. Elizabeth West*

              This. My hair will frizz WORSE if I dry it unless I get a professional blowout. I tried to learn to do that myself, but I don’t have eyes in the back of my head or Bucky Barnes’ metal arm. Plus, heat drying/styling is very bad for colored hair.

        4. middlemgmt*

          i agree. before you say anything, ask yourself if it’s ACTUALLY unprofessional, or if you just don’t like it. I don’t think it’s unprofessional in an way. she’s got it in a pony tail. she’s groomed. the mere fact of hair being wet does not make the hair unprofessional anymore than dry hair would be professional no matter the state. also think about if her gender was different. does anyone even give men grief about wet hair?

          1. RJ*

            Agreed! Hair seems to come up a lot here as an issue of “looking professional” and it is pretty much always something that can be both a gender and a race thing. Women need to wear their hair up! Straight! Dry! Enough already.

            1. Quickbeam*

              All the men I worked with had wet looking hair at the start of the day. No one would give 2 thoughts about that.

              1. Happy*

                Yes! These types of grooming standards are sexist and LW is indeed making a mountain out of a molehill. I wish the advice had included considering whether dry hair is really necessary.

                Since LW was asking if it’s really unprofessional, I think the answer is probably that dry hair is not necessary in their workplace…LW, be glad you have an employee who does excellent work and is well-liked. There are benefits to avoiding onerous dress codes.

          2. MoreFriesPlz*

            Thank you! I have very thick hair that takes hours to dry. Like 2-3 I’d down and 5-8 if pulled back. I don’t use heat on it because it’s easily damaged. If I were to have a boss complain about this it would mean attempting to change my entire routine (which kind of hinges on working out in the morning).

            If it’s neatly pulled back and not actively dripping wet, what exactly is unprofessional? The knowledge this person has showered somewhat recently?

            1. Just Another Cog in the Machine*

              I have very thin, fine hair, and my hair still takes a long time to dry. I shower at night, but if I work out in the morning, I use one of those hair dryer brushes to sort of dry it (after vigorously towel drying it). It’s still damp, though. But the longer I stand in the locker room (actively drying my hair or not), the longer it takes for my body temperature to cool down, and the longer I am red-faced and sweating.

              I really don’t like office (or social) norms that make it HARDER for people to be healthy. Working out is/can be good for you. If working out in the morning is the easiest/only time someone can work out, it’s horrible that this would prevent them/make it harder for them to do that.

              As long as your hair is dry-ish (vigorously towel-dried), and an attempt has been made to style it in some way (pony tail or whatever), I call that good.

              When I work out in the morning, I usually swim. The pool is literally 2 minutes from my house, I swim only for 30 minutes, and it still adds – I think – 75 minutes to my morning routine. If my hair had to be dry-dry, it would be at least another 15, probably more, plus the added time I would continue sweating, delaying my ability to put on even the minimal amount of makeup I do wear even more.

        5. LQ*

          I don’t get it either. There were a bunch of posts about how no one should ever have to wear anything they don’t find exactly comfortable and anyone expecting any professional dress was wrong, but a wet pony tail is too far?

          (My hair is wet every day, I don’t blow dry it. Maybe I should be fired and never allowed to work in an office again!)

        6. MCMonkeyBean*

          I agree; I think I’ve seen some debate on this topic here a few times and I am pretty firmly on the side of “wet hair, don’t care.” I’m sure there are some hairstyles/colors/lengths where it looks more noticeable, but in general my takeaway if someone has wet hair is basically “thanks for taking the time to clean yourself before we interacted” cause I don’t care if someone is wet but I would care if they were stinky :)

          1. Not A Girl Boss*

            The one thing I will say here is that I’m very sensitive (migraines) to scents, and depending on the shampoo brand, women with wet hair walk around leaving a cloud of perfume in their wake. I once had a boss who came in with wet Herbal Essences hair every day, and I had to decline all meetings before 10am. Honestly, I’d prefer the BO.

          2. Denver Gutierrez*

            I will take wet hair over stinky any day! I once worked with a woman who smelled so bad, her BO could fill a large room in a little amount of time. She always came in looking like she rarely bathed or washed her clothes, and this was a public-facing job. It was so bad management had to have a talk with her and things did get better after.

        7. Loredena Frisealach*

          Yes, this. I don’t own a hair dryer, my hair is long and fine and a dryer fries it so I always opt for air drying. I’d put it in a bun for a meeting as well, as it makes it less noticeable that it is wet (or a long braid if that works for her hair!) But unless the OP is explicit that she thinks this a client-facing problem Jane isn’t going to pick up on that – and I know at best I’d switch to washing my hair at night or skipping it outright on client days.

        8. Mockingdragon*

          Yeah I…. I’m gonna be honest, maybe I’m just in a mood today, but I feel like my manager caring about my hair being pulled back wet would make me start wondering if this was a good fit. Dripping all over the counter sure but… pulled back, just wet? As a client, I can’t imagine caring. Oh no, my consultant…. took a shower this morning, how dare she?

        9. Imaginary Number*

          As someone who was in the military and had very little time to shower in-between PT and the workday, I had to learn that in most civilian workplaces it wasn’t normal to go into work with still-wet hair pulled into a bun.

        10. Yea okay*

          I feel a little off about this one, because this is definitely a professionalism thing that will vastly affect women and POC more than anyone else. And people with children or other morning responsibilities may not be able to choose when they get to shower.

      2. T*

        If she wants to leave it wet, it should be in a bun instead of a ponytail so it doesn’t look drippy . If I dry my hair, my bun won’t stay in for the day. By the time I get to work, the part at the top of my head is dry but the bun is still somewhat wet. No, I don’t have interest in gel or hair spray. Most people (friends and hairdressers) say I have the healthiest hair they’ve every seen and that is more important to me than a look.

      3. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        And please also give the reason. The fact that Jane said SHE was fine indicates she didn’t get the message this is about professionalism in front of the CLIENT, not about her.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Well, the reason Jane didn’t realize OP was concerned about her looking unprofessional in front of clients is because OP didn’t even come close to telling her that. From Jane’s perspective their conversation was:

          Boss: Are you cold?
          Employee: No, I’m fine.

          I’m trying to remember being young and brand new to professional settings, and if this were me I’d probably just think my boss believes the old wives tale that going outside with wet hair can make you sick and dismiss it as a quirk on their part. This is why it’s so important to have the conversation you intend to have, rather than just hinting around the edges and hoping the other person will magically change.

          1. Koalafied*

            Right? Boss seems to think that Jane already understands wet hair is unacceptable, but hasn’t realized other people can tell her hair is wet, so just remarking on it will make Jane realize that her wet hair is noticeable and that will be enough for her to change her routine so she no longer comes in with wet hair.

            But that’s not what’s happening. Jane knows (even if she hasn’t given it a lot of thought) that other people can tell her hair isn’t fully dry. She’s coming to work with damp hair because she’s never been given any reason to think it would be a problem, not because she thinks people can’t tell. It’s the rule that she doesn’t know, not the state of her own hair.

            1. kiki*

              Yeah, beliefs on the suitability of wet hair aside, this was a SUPER light and honestly kind of confusing “hint.” Part of establishing psychological safety in the workplace means that employees know their managers and coworkers will tell them when they’re doing something incorrectly. Sometimes it feels more polite as a manager to say things indirectly, but it’s actually kinder to be straight-forward with what you mean. Trying to figure out how to do good work in an office full of light hints and no constructive feedback can be just as toxic as a workplace full of criticism.

            2. Grace*

              I have curly hair I never blow dry. Strangers talk about my hair frequently, dry or not. When it is wet I pretty frequently get told I will ‘catch my death of cold’. I would have no way of realising my boss was trying to tell me something specific when using the exact same line as random fussing strangers/ acquaintances making conversation!

          2. Denver Gutierrez*

            Heck, I’m in my 40s and been in the workplace since my teens, and if someone had that same conversation with me, I’d think she was just talking about being cold. This person is a manager, she needs to learn to communicate directly, not hint around.

      4. Michelle Smith*

        This makes no sense to me. There is nothing about wet hair that says unprofessional to me, at all. So someone who didn’t shower that morning would necessarily look more professional because their hair is dry? It defies logic. Not reasonable to mention it. Do not bring it up. Get over whatever weird hang up you have about it.

        1. Koalafied*

          Oh, it’s just the typical beauty paradox that burdens women disproportionately – you must look a certain way, but you also must not give any indication that you don’t effortlessly look that way 24/7. Grooming is done in private, which is a mild inconvenience for most men who can groom quickly, but becomes a big commitment for most women whose grooming takes significantly longer. If we spend less time on grooming we’ll look unprofessional, so we’re just supposed to accept that we have to spend more of our limited time in our one and only lives sequestered in private, preparing to be seen by others, instead of spending that time actively participating in professional and social life.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*


            Obviously there are men with long hair and women with short hair so it’s not a 1:1 correlation, but on the whole traditionally masculine haircuts will be much less noticeably wet than traditionally feminine ones so I am gonna say “nope” on adding one more thing to the pile of things women are supposed to get up early to do to make themselves “presentable” before work.

            1. Allison*

              Yeah, men’s short hair actually looks nice when it’s a little damp, like they’re super fresh and clean, but when a woman’s long hair is wet, it looks gross, like yeah she’s clean but she’s still not properly groomed yet.

              I hate blow drying my hair, I don’t even own a hair dryer, so I just wash my hair in the evenings when my hair has time to air dry before bed.

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            This. I’m not waking up at 4:30 a.m. to blow-dry my hair (and get my kids up, fed, and to two different schools and dressed/made up professionally and brave DC traffic).

            I don’t own a blow drier (the small one we have, my now-bald spouse brought into the relationship and is probably 25-30 years old) and have, to put it mildly, not had a lot of luck over the years blow drying my own hair. It looks amazing when my stylist does it; when I do it, I end up with hair sucked up the wrong end (and burnt) and more frizz than if I just put an air-dry product in and let it do its thing. Plus, I have fine hair but a ridiculous amount of it, and it even takes a professional 45 minutes to get it completely dry.

            If I have to be in a meeting, it gets slicked back into a bun or twist (that will still be wet when I take it out when I get home at the end of the day). My time is too valuable to spend all morning dealing with my hair. It will be dry and down most of the rest of the week.

          3. Texan In Exile*

            Soraya Chemaly talks about this in her book “Rage Becomes Her.”

            “Prior theories have focused on the benefits of being attractive, but this study teased out the difference between attractiveness and investment in appearance. Researchers speculate that women who use makeup signal that they are responsive to social norms, gender stereotypes, and society’s greater propensity to police women’s behavior, ‘in ways that keep women distracted from really achieving power.'”

            I cite more studies in the link to follow.

          4. Marie*


            This answer is perpetuating the gender stereotype that women have to look a certain way at work, that doesn’t apply to men.

            Unless the worker works at a hair salon that requires a certain hair style for work, the boss needs to move on.

      5. Cat Tree*

        Hints like this make new employees (and seasoned employees) feel nervous like they have to over-analyze every single minor offhand comment. Because sometimes they do need to over-analyze it, apparently! I understand that hinters are afraid to be straightforward because they don’t want to hurt someone, but setting up this scenario where every comment might have a hidden meaning is much worse for the recipient than just getting straightforward guidance.

        1. Lady H*

          Thank you for this insight. It just made a lightbulb go off in my mind to explain why I’ve been uncomfortable about something at work!

      6. hbc*

        Yeah, that style of extremely indirect hinting is worse to me than a hundred dripping wet heads.

        I can usually pick up when someone is doing the whole, “Isn’t it annoying that we can’t come in every day with wet hair? Some clients are really picky.” Or “Oh, it’s so hard to keep black cats off white sweaters, I’ve got a roller if you need one.” But there’s something about the Concern Hint that blinds me to any other interpretation. No, I’m not worried about getting a cold. Nope, the cat fur isn’t itchy to me at all.

      7. Allison*

        Yes, this! A lot of people, myself included, are really bad at interpreting hints, and can get frustrated trying to figure out what’s really wrong and what they’re supposed to be doing. Just tell her to come in with dry hair!

        I also didn’t know wet hair was socially unacceptable when I was younger, my mom had to really spell it out for me. It is something people need to know, but it’s not something we’re born knowing, someone needs to tell us.

      1. 6101*

        Absolutely agree! I work with high end clients (think multi million dollar contracts and my charge out rate is over $200 an hour) and have short wet hair 2 or 3 times a week. The only questions I get from my employer and clients is how is my exercise regime going – as my hair is wet, they assume I showered in the gym downstairs because I biked to work.

        I went to one meeting actually dripping wet (because it is more important to be on time and ready to go than to look perfect – and I’m female) and there were about 3 other dripping wet men and women cos we all got caught in a storm. The idea that people are expected to spend time blow drying their hair (unless they work in fashion or something like that) would be laughed out of every place I have worked in in the last 30 years.

        I think expecting blow dried perfect hair is a very sexist take.

        Expecting people to blow dry their hair

        1. 6101*

          Apologies for posting fail. I also work with a number of men who don’t seem to wash their hair once a week if that. No-one ever asks them if their hair is wet or just greasy and certainly no-one would ever ask about blow drying. Luckily, that applies mostly to women my end as well.

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              Haha, as a woman with hair that only looks good if it’s past shoulder-length, I so feel this. I have always been sorely tempted to shave my head but I fear it would look absolutely dreadful (but why? bald men look great). And I guess my hair does keep my head warmer, which is a plus b/c I’m usually pretty cold.

                1. R*

                  Yeah! It could be a mistake, or it could look really badass. It’s certainly a lot less uncommon than when, say, Sinead O’Connor did it. Combined with the right accessories and outfits, it could look extremely chic. And if it doesn’t, now you finally have an excuse to explore the wonderful world of wigs ;)

        2. Colette*

          There’s a difference between noticeably wet and “blow-dried perfect hair”.

          I often go to work with my hair damp – but it’s reasonable to ask someone meeting with a client to have dry hair. You want the client focused on the meeting, not her hair.

          1. Palliser*

            I see over 500 clients at big events some days, and when they see me at 9:00am, then they are seeing wet hair. It’s curly and usually around 11am, I head to a restroom and shake it out, and that’s what it looks like for the rest of the day. Not one client has ever seemed put off, and I think this is a very odd take.

          2. OhNo*

            Are the clients focused on her hair, though? It sounds like the OP is the one who is mostly noticing it, and who seems most bothered by it.

            1. Colette*

              The issue is that the clients may be focused on her hair (or think “what, you couldn’t even get up in time to dry your hair”) and not say anything about it. Even if no one mentions it, it can hurt how you’re perceived.

              1. kiki*

                I understand that this isn’t an uncommon thought process. I’ve definitely heard criticism of wet hair before and get it, I just think it’s interesting to see it laid out as, “you couldn’t even get up in time to dry your hair?” because the honest answer is no, I couldn’t. I only have 24 hours in a day to manage my career, sleep, exercise, feed myself, support my friends, be involved in my community, and have a little fun. In fact, I did not pencil in enough time to make sure my hair was completely dry before I interacted with my coworkers.
                Luckily, I work in a casual industry and don’t have client stuff early in the morning, so this isn’t an issue for me.

                1. Colette*

                  I mean, I couldn’t get up in time to dry my hair, either, which is why I don’t work in an industry where it matters.

                  But if I had a meeting with a lawyer or a financial planner and they walked in with wet hair, I’d definitely wonder about it.

                2. Happy*

                  In reply to Colette:

                  If they weren’t going to do it anyway, I’d prefer that my lawyer/financial planner get an extra 20 minutes sleep (or hour, or 5 minutes, depending on their hair) than for them to dry their hair just for my benefit.

            2. Red*

              That struck me too. The letter wasn’t that clients had complained unless I misread it. It was that OP thought they might. In fairness to OP, I get the feeling it was a norm that OP had drummed into them by others, not necessarily something OP came up with themselves.

              I know this question struck a nerve all round but kudos to OP for asking the question. I hope it doesn’t put OP off asking again.

              1. Loulou*

                Would you ever actually complain that someone you met with had wet hair? I would not, but I might notice (subconsciously or consciously) that they appeared disheveled or unprofessional.

                In the real world things don’t need to rise to the level of clients complaining for a manager to bring it up!

      2. HoundMom*

        Thank you — as someone with thick curly hair, my hair is often still wet when I go into the office or on a zoom. I have been client facing for over 30 years.

        1. Loulou*

          Would you ever actually complain that someone you met with had wet hair? I would not, but I might notice (subconsciously or consciously) that they appeared disheveled or unprofessional.

          In the real world things don’t need to rise to the level of clients complaining for a manager to bring it up!

          1. Loulou*

            Whoops, nesting fail. I meant to reply to someone who said the client hadn’t actually complained and only OP seemed to mind.

          2. Colette*

            Yeah, exactly. Some people who like to listen to the radio at their desk think it’s not a problem because no one has brought it up; other people are very annoyed that their coworkers listen to the radio, but don’t tell them.

            “No one complained about the thing I do” is not the same as “no one is bothered by the thing I do”.

            1. Loulou*

              Exactly! This comes up a lot on bra letters too — there’s always a commenter who’s like “I never wear a bra even though I have [pointy nipples/large breasts/fill in the blank] and no one has ever noticed.” Uhhh…I would rather die than tell a coworker I can see their nipples, but I would certainly notice.

            2. Librarian1*

              Except that radio can be annoying to coworkers, so they’d have a legitimate reason to complain. Wet hair doesn’t harm anybody else, they just think it looks bad. Not the same thing.

      3. AM Swimmer*

        Agree. Viewed in a a different context, if a woman came in two days a week with no make-up on and make-up on the other days, would you recommend that her manager tell her she needs to wear make-up those other days because it’s unprofessional to be without it. I would think we are beyond that. The wet hair feels like another way in which we are judging a woman’s appearance and perceived competence based on that appearance If in all other ways this employee is doing her job satisfactorily, the hair is neat and clean, mentioning the wet hair just feels like it would create unnecessary tension and would not provide any benefit to the company or client.

        1. Red*

          This is it exactly the point. Is the person doing their job competently and if they are what’s the issue with the hair?

          Unless it’s explicitly brought up in the initial interview as a deal breaker so the employee can cost the time it spends to come with dry hair every day into their salary package, then it shouldn’t be an issue. If it takes half an hour each morning to blow dry your hair, that’s 2 and a half hours each week of maintenance they are not getting paid for. If you get paid 20 bucks an hour add that up over a year.

          I’d be interested to know how much this person actually earns and what their duties are. There will be jobs where looking immaculate is integral to the position. But those jobs usually pay a premium for that.

          OP, if this is genuinely a requirement of the job, please make sure you have this up front before the person is hired so they know what they’re up for. Also policies etc. It all sounds very 1950s

          1. Colette*

            Based on that logic, people should be allowed to wear ripped jeans, ratty t-shirts, and flip-flops to work, but many places have a dress code that prohibits those things. Not all, of course! But employers are allowed to have standards for how their employees present themselves.

            And there’s a difference between “you need to have dry hair” and “you must blow dry your hair every day”.

            1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

              I disagree, clothing is not a parallel. Choosing clothing is a different kind of investment than grooming. The parallel to “you must have dry hair for client meetings” would be requiring make-up, no facial hair, and/or hair of a particular length.

              I do agree with Red’s point that that grooming requirements should be stated upfront if they’re going to be required to that level.

              I also agree with others who think this level of requirements are arbitrary and silly (on both the company and client side). I wouldn’t think twice about a coworker, employee, manager, service provider, etc. who came into a meeting with damp hair (I’m assuming no one is dripping water from their hair), no make-up, and/or a beard.

            2. Yorick*

              OP says her hair is wet when she comes in but dries off in the morning. So this isn’t a “my hair takes 8 hours to air dry” situation. I get that lots of people are looking at this with their thick, curly hair routines in mind (and I am too) but we shouldn’t assume.

              Solving this might not require her to start blow drying her hair. Maybe these are the 2 days a week she sleeps in and showers a little later, and she needs to time those around the morning meetings with clients. Or maybe she just needs to change up the wet-hair-in-a-ponytail routine. I have fine, straight hair – if I wash it in the morning and leave for the bus to work with it down, it’ll get somewhat dry before I arrive. Someone could tell it’s still damp, but it looks more like it looks when it’s dry. If I put it up in a ponytail while wet, it’ll look wet much longer.

            3. GreenGlass*

              I’m not sure this is the argument you seem to think it is. I’ve always worked in jobs without a dress code. When I was last applying for jobs, I sought out workplaces that I knew didn’t have strong dress codes; I didn’t want to have to spend my first few paychecks on a whole new wardrobe (though I would’ve made the accommodation if the salary was a large enough increase to offset the hassle). It is expected that if a workplace has dress code expectations, those are communicated in the interview process.

            4. Yea okay*

              Drying your hair can take a really long time. Just choosing different clothing to put on doesn’t take any extra effort.

              And for your second point, for many people (especially POC, who tend to have thicker hair) you are completely wrong about that. Or I guess waking up 4-6 hours earlier so your hair has time to dry naturally is also a big amount of hassle, even if you aren’t actively working on your hair the whole time.

              1. Colette*

                I washed my hair at 7:30 this morning; I think it’s finally dry now (and I did a little blow-drying), so I get that it can take a long time.

                But the fact that it might take a long time doesn’t make it an unreasonable request, if it’s out of sync with the way the company wants their employees to present themselves. (The employee can decide that it’s something she’s not willing to do and find something else, of course.)

        2. LongHairDontCare*

          Thank you for bringing this up, because this would 99% of the time not be happening to a man with wet hair. I can’t believe this is the answer to a question in 2021, or that the question even had to be asked.

      4. Librarian1*

        Yes, thank you. Who cares? My hair takes forever to dry so it was always somewhat when I got to the office back when I was in the office.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Yes. This is something no one cares about when you arrive to your college class with wet hair.

      I really appreciated Alison’s framing of “It will read as…” rather than “It is…” Random people you encounter through your day are not staring into your soul and judging you only after knowing you deeply. They are making quick judgments (“I’ll approach the person on the left; they look more welcoming” “I feel heard; with this doctor I’ll bring up the medical thing I’m embarrassed about”) because they have stuff to get through today and can’t be soul-gazing everyone they encounter. Initial impressions of competence, professionalism, empathy, etc matter.

      1. Smithy*

        I agree with this. And I also think that depending on your industry, it may be worth including “In our industry/with our customers it risks reading as….”

        As many have noted, for those with curly hair, air drying is often preferred and standards of professional hair have often been the most harshly applied to women of color. If this is a case of wet curly hair and for your industry its still reading as unprofessional, I don’t think that you’re unable to say those scripts because it truly is a kindness. But it may also benefit from being coupled with acknowledgement of an unfamiliarity of curly hair care and to be supportive of perhaps aiming for a identifying mentors or other advice for how to consider this issue.

        However, if this is a more conservative external facing sector I don’t think its a service to push for “wet hair being no big deal”. For a young staff member with ambitions the OP may be able to help them so far, but this person deserves to be armed with the knowledge of the perception and then decide if this is the specific issue she does or does not want to challenge in terms of office norms.

    3. A Pinch of Salt*

      I have to strongly disagree with the response on #1.

      I get that it may look unprofessional, but I think its one of those “women-specific norms (a la “women have to wear make up because God forbid we look tired but it’s apparently okay for men”) that has got to go. No one would tell a male employee they have to have dry hair (long or short). Hell…some men plaster so much gel on that their hair looks wet all day.

      If it’s slicked back and not in her face or dripping every where…what’s unprofessional?

      1. Smithy*

        I disagree here.

        I do think that wet hair – and not the ‘wet look’ that is a professional style used by both men and women – like many aspects of professional style is one of those dynamics that reads wildly unprofessional on some people and less on others. While overall there are heavier burdens carried by women, this strikes me far more as something like women who will be read be professional not wearing a bra to work vs those who will not be read as professional.

        For those of us with longer straighter lighter colored hair, actively drying hair (again, different from a wet look), often reads as noticeably “wet” because of a more active change in color and texture over the course of a shorter time period. And then based on the length of the hair, there’s the risk of actual wet patches or drips on clothing, that again risks reading as less professional than what happens with other kinds of wet hair.

        As noted by other commenters, there are dynamics about maintenance for curly hair where this may be an issue the OP’s staff member wants to actively push back on in their workplace and industry. Similar to bras at work, there are some who may decide this is an issue they want to challenge at work and others happy to at least know the dynamic and then make decisions accordingly.

        I’m a woman who’s never worn make up professionally and dealt with those outcomes. And one of those outcomes I’ve valued was learning which leaders and specialties valued that, however they expressed that language. It made me more informed to either challenge, avoid or blend in.

        1. Willis*

          Yeah, I think curly hair looks more similar when it’s towel-dried/damp or totally dry than straight hair does. One of my best friends has dark, curly hair and looks quite ready-to-go after towel drying and some light styling. I wouldn’t particularly notice the level of moisture of her hair at all. My long, straight, blonde hair on the other hand still looks really wet and dark even after towel drying and has a very “didn’t finish getting ready in time” vibe. It would get better further into the day, but I wouldn’t meet with a client when it was noticeably wet unless it was a pretty casual environment.

      2. caps22*

        While it’s true that wet hair looks messier on long hair, and most men don’t have long hair, it’s also true that some do. My old roommate was a guy with long hair, and he went to work with it wet everyday. It looked terrible, and I know people were put off by it. I don’t really care if people come to work with wet hair as long as it’s neatly groomed in some manner, like a pony tail or a bun. Stringy wet hair in clumps just makes you look like you were late to work. I guess it’s the intentionality of the look versus looking like you’d rather be in pyjamas or couldn’t be bothered to get ready for work.

        1. Soup of the Day*

          Totally agree. And vice versa! A woman with a pixie cut could probably get away with having wet hair. I don’t think this is a gender thing, it’s a length thing, and while women are usually the ones with long hair… well, long wet hair looks messier than short wet hair. It will look, as you said, like the employee didn’t allow enough time to get ready for work, regardless of how fair or unfair that might be.

      3. Really?*

        I agree with this. Some of the comments mandating dry hair seem oddly misogynistic, that a woman cannot be taken seriously or professional with wet or damp hair.

      4. Genny*

        I think slicking it back is key here – it actually is styled. It’s not just hanging there limply dripping all over the place. I’m imaging it pulled back tightly and smoothly like chignon, but in a pony tail instead of a bun, and honestly, that’s a really chic look. Being wet or dry doesn’t really change that imo.

        1. Mrs. Hawiggins*

          This right here. The fact that it is styled this way shows that the employee is still taking care to have a professional appearance without drip drying all over the spreadsheets. We had to tell an employee who came in with absolutely dripping hair to at least towel dry it more because she literally dripped all over the floor as she walked. Her shirts were wet. And yes she was client facing, too. “I didn’t think anybody would mind.” You are literally ruining a gorgeous silk blouse that I would die to have, right in front of me, and leaving a drip trail, a couple more squeezes with the towel is all we ask. Not asking for a bouffant do, or a style for a formal evening, just stop dripping on the balance sheets, simple as that.

    4. Ground Control*

      Hinting drives me bonkers! I take conversations at face value and avoid reading into “jokes” or hints because WHO HAS TIME FOR THAT. If you want me to do something differently just tell me!

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Same. It is not that hard to directly but politely state an expectation, and I just do not understand people insistence at hinting and then being frustrated when the target of their hints doesn’t get the oblique message. I have some family members who do this, and it’s so frustrating trying to decode whether they are actually concerned that I’m cold or telling me to dry my hair.

        It’s not that hard to say, “Jane, on days when you have a client meeting, please come in withy dry hair or a style that disguises the fact that it’s wet.” If once can’t do that, it’s time for a management training course.

    5. Sara without an H*

      We’ve kind of headed down a rabbit hole here about things like Is-Wet-Hair-Unprofessional or Is-Her-Hair-Dripping-Wet-or-Just-Damp. The real issue is that the culture of OP’s office is against wet hair at work. I like Alison’s script in that it distinguishes between “Jane’s” appearance at client meetings and her appearance on days when all she does is come in and work at her desk. (If all she’s doing is sitting at her desk answering email, her hair doesn’t matter, unless she drips on the keyboard.)

      I also agree with everybody who says that the OP really needs to stop dropping hints and explain her expectations to Jane.

      1. Mr. Shark*

        For the most part I understand your point of view. But even though we are told to take LW at face value, which in this case means that wet hair=unprofessional, sometimes it is valuable to make sure that the LW isn’t assigning stuff that isn’t there. Is the wet hair just bothering her, or is the wet hair really unprofessional?
        I don’t think I’ve ever been overly concerned with someone’s hair (or appearance) as long as they were neatly groomed (not dirty) when dealing with someone professionally. I’ve met people who had frizzy hair, wet hair, whatever, and it never made a difference if they were capable and professional at their job.

    6. freddy*

      Really, damp hair matters? This is one of the few times I’ve disagreed with Alison. I have no idea why damp hair would be unprofessional. It seems very odd to waste any work time or energy worrying about that, of all things.

    7. Wet-look curls all day*

      Question to the OP, Alison, and this thread:
      How does telling a person how to wear her hair work with the CROWN Act?

      I think that telling someone to dry her hair to ___ level similar to telling someone to straighten her hair to ___ level.

      As a black woman with thick curls, anytime I see or hear white women discussing that it’s not OK to come to work with wet hair, I find it rather narrow-minded. I know that neither the OP or Alison meant it this way, but I can only assume that this is a discussion amongst people with thin, straight hair that air dries in 20 minutes.

      The only times that white co-workers compliment my hair are when I wear it bone-straight or when I wear it in a wet look (loose curls with lots of styling gel). No, I don’t come to work with my hair dripping wet. But I do sometimes come to work with damp hair if I either have a slicked-back curly pony-tail or I’m wearing the wet look that day.

      If someone told me that my hair was too wet to be considered professional, I would refer them to the CROWN Act. I would definitely interpret “your hair it too wet” as “your hair is too curly.”

      1. Hogwash*

        I also have curly hair and I can’t brush or blow dry it. I’m not waking up at 5am so it can dry before work and if I don’t wet it down, I guarantee it’ll “read” as more unprofessional than if it’s damp. I’d honestly be tempted if someone tried to comment on something this silly. And that’s without having to deal with any racist connotations- I can’t imagine what that would be like. While the scenario in the letter could be completely different, it’s good for people to examine how grooming standards impact non-white and non-cis people.

  3. No Sleep For The Wicked*

    The wet hair employee is someone I can relate to. I hate blow-drying my hair! I have thick, wavy hair that can take hours to dry, and in uni I used to go to class with it wet all the time. Fortunately my start time is now late enough for it to dry naturally before work!

    1. allathian*

      This is why I always, and exclusively shower in the evening, a couple hours before bed, to leave enough time for my hair to dry almost completely, and then I put a thick terrycloth towel on my pillow. My hair is naturally wavy, but not frizzy. It does need a cut now, and my office is casual, so unstyled natural hair is fine (just brush out the worst of the tangles…), especially given that I don’t work with external clients.

    2. Bagpuss*

      I have very thick hair – and at present it is also pretty long .

      I also have a permanent issue with my neck and shoulder which makes using a hairdryer extremely painful, particularly for the length of time needed to get my hair properly dried. It also takes a very long time to dry, even if you do use a dryer, so if I were to wash it or get it wet in the morning there would absolutely not be time to dry it completely before going to work.

      I normally only wash it in the early evening or at weekends, when there is time to towel dry it then let let it dry naturally before I need to go to bed or go out.

      But I am not sure that damp/wet hair necessarily looks unprofessional, unless it is so wet that it’s dripping . I’m not sure that I would even register that it’s damp, especially if it is neatly slicked back. So in this case, if it looks untidy or dripping I would speak to her, but if it is neat, I would probably not mention it at all.

    3. Warmond*

      This wet-hair issue is something I’ve never considered for myself personally, I guess because I have shorter hair that dries quickly even without blow-drying. From what I see in my office (multinational, Europe), wet hair can be okay so long as it is effectively ‘disguised’ with the hair style, e.g., pulled up in a neat bun. I don’t recall ever seeing a wet pony tail, but I’m not sure that I’d notice.

    4. TimeTravlR*

      You (well, curly people everywhere) were who I thought of when I read this letter. Curly hair is it’s own monster, and long curly hair particularly!

      1. her hair was kind of curly…*

        I have curly hair and I relate so much. I do not blow dry my hair and I am actually surprised by Alison’s answer. It is making me rethink my appearance after 20 years in the professional world

        1. Dino*

          I’m not going that far, but I am somewhat cheesed off. My curly thick hair was unmanageable when I didn’t know any better and blow dried it/went to sleep with it wet. It’s so much easier now and I’m not giving that up for some arbitrary reason.

          Stop nitpicking women’s appearance. Do not insert yourself in petty grooming requests of subordinates. Start focusing on how they do the job.

          1. banoffee pie*

            I think people without curly hair really don’t get it. It’s only when I lived with a girl who had really curly hair that I finally understod how differently she styled it. Not that I went round telling ppl with curly hair not to wear it wet even before that! I really don’t care how anyone wears their hair. It’s their hair, not mine.

            Then I kind of started copying her because I realised mine was more wavy than I thought! Previously I’d been trying to copy the poker-straight brigade and wondering why I always ended up with a frizzy mess.

        2. Triplestep*

          Same. There are so many ways a manager could really step in it here when one considers ethnicity, I am really surprised Alison did not address this.

          I have the curly/wavy hair typical to a lot of Jewish people. It looks way worse when I use air/heat to dry it or when I try let it dry naturally the night before and sleep on it. It’s not as much of an issue now that I work remotely, but coming to work with wet hair might be unavoidable for some people. Given that hair texture is related to ethnicity, I’d ask LW#1 if this is really a hill you want to die on. Especially if you are a white person of European descent with stick straight hair.

          1. Michelle Smith*

            This is my experience as a Black person (African American) as well. I literally have to wet it in the morning because just sleeping on it mats it to my head. I also cannot just blow dry it without ruining my hair. I do not understand why people can’t just accept that clean = professional and move on with their lives. If she doesn’t smell gross, who honestly cares that her hair is damp?! I have literally gone into the bathroom at work and dampened my hair to try to reverse the matting that has happened because of my winter hats! I dare anyone to say to my face that I’m unprofessional for having wet hair. Enjoy your discrimination lawsuit lol.

          2. Nom*

            I’m white with mostly straight, long hair. I do not own a hair dryer. it’s a waste of time in the morning to dry it, bad for your hair, and hard on your shoulders. there’s nothing wrong with some damp hair IMO.

        3. Pants*

          Yeah, I was not thrilled with the answer either. Would LW take a man to task for this? Would LW tell a woman of colour that she must blow-dry her hair?

          I also have curls and don’t own a blow dryer. Hell, I only just bought a brush during the pandemic. (wide comb or fingers previously) Please don’t let this question your appearance. Alison was off on this one. You look fantastic.

          1. Sparqness*

            I also disagree with Alison’s answer here. I am 20+ years into my working career, with curly, shoulder-length (always, no matter how long it actually gets, silly curls) hair. The only way the curls look professional is if I shower daily and apply product, then let them air dry loose. I have never been told I look unprofessional with towel-dry hair, and it never occurred to me that evidence of proper hygiene might be, in me or anyone else. I sincerely doubt this person is coming in with sopping wet hair that’s dripping everywhere. It sounds like she’s got it towel-dry and then styled, and even then it’s only once or twice a week. If I got this kind of feedback from a manager, I would not be able to accommodate it and still have my hair look professional, rather than a frizzy mess that’s always getting in my face and which would honestly be more distracting for clients (when my hairdresser told me to wash my hair the night before the wedding and not put any product in, I had to take a picture the next morning because of how insane it looked!). And I’d start looking for a new job, because wow, what a small thing to get hung up about without consideration of hair type.

            1. Smithy*

              I do think that in this case, Jane’s hair really does matter. Because if Jane has hair like mine and it’s being worn down while drying (long, straight, lighter colored) – I think this advice is spot on.

              1. ggg*

                I go to work with damp curly hair every day. It does not look good if I wash at night or use a hair dryer. If I am giving an 8 am presentation in front of important people, I turn the heat up in the car to try to dry it a little faster. But it is certainly not dripping and nobody has ever said anything.

              2. Yorick*

                Agreed. And my assumption while reading was that Jane is white and has straight hair. Because honestly, long curly hair looks fine when it’s wet – it looks like that’s how it was styled. But when my straight hair is wet or on the wet side of damp, it just looks like I stopped halfway through grooming myself. I do let it airdry, and I used to show up to work with it on the way to dry but not quite dry – but that was when I started at 7am.

    5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Mine takes 24 hrs to fully air dry. 4-5 with a blow-dryer. I’ve had wet hair to work or wherever since I was a kid. If I need to look particularly polished (like meeting with politicians, press, or other appearance first people), I pull it into a bun.

      1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        Seriously. What do they expect those of us with long thick curly hair to do? Shave it all off? Somehow I think they’d label that unprofessional too. Almost 35 years in the workforce and I’ve had wet hair every morning. The very few bosses who felt this was an issue had tons of red flags any how.

        1. JustaTech*

          I have long, wavy-to-curly hair and while I do use a hairdryer (with a diffuser), I never, ever blow it all the way dry. Seriously, no one has time for that. I just want it dry-er, and the bits around my face to be dry-looking. Then I either braid it up or put it up in a clip.

          The important thing is that while I might know it’s still a bit damp, and if someone were to touch it (no!) it would feel damp, but it doesn’t *look* damp, let alone wet.

          If it looks like you’ve done something with it, and it’s not dripping/obviously wet, then it’s fine. And for people with curly hair that dampness looks like styling (because it is) whereas for straight hair it looks undone.

        2. in a fog*

          I was once told that my wet pulled-back hair looked more work-appropriate than my dry curls, so…yeah. This whole debate is raising my blood pressure.

          1. banoffee pie*

            Work-appropriate seems to be in the eye of the beholder. At another job the boss might arbritarily decide the opposite look is more professional. People could end up jumping through hooops if they’re not careful

        3. Curly girl*

          For real. My hair takes like 8 hours to dry, or like 3 hours if I blow dry first (I’ve never blow dried all the way to completely dry because 45 minutes is the longest I can manage before holding the dryer is too painful) I leave for work at 6:30 am, am I supposed to get up at 3:00 am to dry my hair before work? (Similarly, I don’t have time to shower the night before and give my hair time to dry because sleeping on wet hair =no, and my commitments with my children mean that I can’t shower and spend 45 minutes blow drying my hair at like 7:00 in the evening.) My hair is never soaking or dripping at work, but it’s going to be a little damp.

          1. PeanutButter*

            4-6 hours for my very, very thick and curly pixie cut to dry completely. (I always have to warn new stylists that they should plan for extra time for a cut…and still end up running out of time because there’s just so much of it.) If a manager told me I needed to come in with dry hair I would be very, very tempted to do just that…and I’d look like I just stuck a fork in a wall socket because that’s what my hair does when it gets within 10 feet of a blow dryer. I’m not too attached to how healthy my hair is so I *will* ruin it in the name of Malicious Compliance.

    6. Grapeseed Oil*

      For the longest time, I had curly hair that dried frizzy, and literally had to schedule around my hair washing schedule for this reason. It was the main reason why I couldn’t workout in the mornings, because I have to wash my hair after I work out.

      Fortunately, I have found non-commercial shampoos that don’t dry my hair as much and this is much less of an issue nowadays (hurrah!), plus I WFH. But I still am a nighttime shower-er.

      1. Aarti*

        Another here chiming in with thin curly hair – I will never use a hair dryer and honestly if my wet hair appears unprofessional that is another way of just telling humans they can’t afford to be human.

  4. ENFP in Texas*

    I always heard the Elevator Pitch as “if you were in the elevator with the CEO, could you concisely inform them about your job/project/product/etc so they had a general understanding of it?”

    I’ve worked for Fortune 100 companies for most of my career, so the odds of actually running into the CEO were minute… but I did have a Great Grandboss ask me what I did and what my role was, and I wish I’d had a better pitch than whatever it was that I stumbled over because it caught me off guard.

    1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      I am both raising money and seeking customers for my business. There are many circumstances—meeting someone at a networking event, professional lunches, even seeing someone on the street—where I need a very short “this is what my company does”. Same was true when I was in job-hunting mode. I’ve turned a elevator pitch at a social event into a well-paying job.

      Being able to cogently describe what you do, sell, or seek in 30 seconds or less gives you an amazing advantage in all sorts of ways!

      1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        This – so much this. Some years ago I was at a conference and had a chance meeting with a Big Name in my field, who I’d long admired. Our interaction was less than 2 minutes. In that time, I had to (1) introduce myself, (2) explain what I did and who I did it for, (3) explain why who I do my job for does actually have a need for people who do my job*, and (4) give her time to reply. I was really glad I’d figured out my elevator pitch before coming to the conference.

        *I’m a software developer. I’ve mentioned in previous threads that pretty much every industry needs tech people, at least in support roles. Even knowing that, my industry is still not one where you’d think of looking for software development roles. My elevator pitch actually closes with “So you see, software development really is important in every industry.”

    2. nym*

      I actually DID have the CEO – or rather our equivalent, the director of my federal agency – ask me who I was, where I fit into the organization, and the work I did. It wasn’t an elevator but it was a situation where I had at most two minutes to impress them, one on one, before they moved on to the next person.

      Thanks to a three-hour all hands meeting in our division two years earlier – yes, it was PAINFUL – I had that answer in my back pocket, and I even had time for the follow up question. At the time I worked in a division of the agency that the director had created and the follow up was “and what does your division do for the Agency and for the field?”

      This director was famous for following nonsequiturs like a hound after a rabbit and tangling people up in their own words. I was able to give back the elevator pitch for our division’s work that they had written, they acknowledged that I’d answered correctly, and my time in the spotlight was over.

      It was awesome.

  5. EDnurseJ*

    I’m going to disagree with #1. How exactly does this look unprofessional? It is out of her face and clean. We also don’t know how hard it is to dry her hair and then there are ethnic considerations that may be part of how her hair is done.

      1. Caroline Bowman*

        If a man had long hair, it would become an issue quite quickly. It’s the length and visible wetness of the hair that’s the issue.

        1. JHunz*

          I have long hair and shower in the morning. I have literally never had a single person say anything to me about wet hair across the three jobs I’ve had long hair during. Tech industry standards are a bit different, but still. Not a single word.

          1. JustaTech*

            Exactly! This person is working with clients, and we should take the OP’s word that the “obviously just washed hair” look is not something that they want.

            And I think we should also keep in mind that there are many levels of “dry hair” from “not dripping” to “expensive blow-out” and it seems unlikely that the OP is expecting a salon look.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I worked with someone who didn’t pass his probation, and one of the reasons cited was that his (shoulder length, curly) hair was nearly always wet. So for me it feels like one of those “not *because* you’re female, but more likely to come up if you are” things which therefore shake down as potentially sexist. And/or equivalently, as in this case, potentially racist.

          It’s definitely ridiculously nit-picky, but when you’re already unhappy with someone then you’re more likely to see this kind of thing as An Actual Problem rather than just a feature. I wonder if LW1 already dislikes or disapproves of Jane for another reason and is trying to pin it on something that feels objective.

        2. OhNo*

          Like a lot of things, it may not be explicitly tied to gender but in practice is heavily gendered.

          I’ve never seen a guy get called out for not wearing make-up. I’ve never seen a guy get called out for meeting with clients while having an acne breakout. I’ve never seen a guy get called out for wearing the “wrong” type of work-appropriate shoes or the “wrong” type or work-appropriate bottoms.

          But I have seen women taken to take for not wearing make-up, or not rescheduling a meeting when they are having a breakout, or not wearing heels and a skirt for client-facing work. In all those cases, those are things that are not explicitly tied to gender, but are HEAVILY gendered. Even though men theoretically could do them (and might appear more professional and put-together if they did).

        3. Happy*

          Length of hair and hairstyle are correlated with gender, so these sort of requirements disproportionately hurt women.

      2. MK*

        I would find a man with wet hair equally disconcerting. “I just got out of the shower” look is not what I expect when I go to a business meeting.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Yes, it just so happens that more men have very short hair that can just be rubbed dry and that’s it.

        2. bamcheeks*

          Can you tell the difference between wet hair and wet-look gel or hair oil? I’m not being arsey, I mean this genuinely! If I saw someone smartly dressed and their hair combed back but damp-looking, it wouldn’t register at all.

          1. MK*

            Yes. I don’t see a lot of people going for the wet-look at work, but you can definitely tell between someone who spent time doing that and someone who just put their hair in a pony after washing.

            That being said, I am not going to notice slightly damp hair. I don’t say it’s necessary to blow-dry or style your hair to be professional, just that actually wet hair does convey “I just got here from the jym” and is going to get noticed.

            1. bamcheeks*

              Yeah, that’s kind of what I mean– I can tell the difference if I’m looking, but not in a significant “that one is smart, this one is unprofessional” way. They’re both neat and ready-to-go as far as I’m concerned.

          2. Doing the best we can*

            Yep, my husband has curly short hair and uses styling gel. It does have a “damp look” to it, all day. It’s not a look he is going for specifically, but a way to keep his curls from being frizzy.

            1. Dwight Schrute*

              The damp look goes away if he scrunches the gel after his hair is totally dry- it’s called scrunching out the crunch

          3. Esmeralda*

            Gel or “product” as my hairdresser calls it doesn’t look the same as wet hair. It does look different.

            I go to work with damp hair occasionally — not on days when I will be presenting or in a meeting with someone from the dean’s office or teaching.

            I do have long, very thick, curly hair which takes forever to dry on its own. I like how it looks when it dries naturally, but I use a blowdryer when it needs to be dry and presentable. I just get up 15 minutes earlier so I have time to do it. Or I wash it the day before. (I don’t have a small child to care for in the morning any more, but I did for a lot of years, and yes, I was able to get my hair dried and my face on even when I was wrangling mr-nude-is-freedom-toddler. I always planned in time for kid-struggles)

            Janet needs to plan her getting ready for work time in the morning so that her hair is dry when she is meeting clients.

            When I worked outside academia, and someone was pitching me something, wet hair = not organized enough to get professionally dressed in the morning.

            1. ceiswyn*

              Or goes to the gym and would rather not rock up coated in sweat.

              And I don’t think that the timing of a gym’s opening hours and classes has much to do with someone’s professionalism…

            2. Green great dragon*

              I hear that you only needed an extra 15 mins a day, and could find that time even with a small child, but neither of those are universally true, and may not be true for Jane.

              1. bamcheeks*

                And I think more and more of us are making the decision that work pays us for 40 hours a week, not 40 hours + two hours either side of each 9-5pm day. I don’t have the kind of hair where 15 minutes blow-drying leaves it dry, but even if I did, I frankly champion every employee’s right to reclaim that 15 minutes.

                (Never mind that if it’s so wet it’s soaking, she is probably washing it at the gym on the way to work and “you may not go to the gym before work” is extremely at odds with the corporate wellbeing agenda!)

            3. Curly girl*

              For you it’s 15 minutes earlier, for me it would be like 3 hours. Everyone’s hair and circumstances are different.

        3. Lab Boss*

          But doesn’t that depend on time-of-day? Someone with damp hair at noon might stand out simply because it’s unexpected, but if I saw someone looking like they’d just showered first thing in the morning I would… assume they’d just showered, because some people shower in the morning, and why on earth would I expect them to cut their sleep significantly shorter just so they could get their hair all the way dry?

        4. Falling Diphthong*


          If there’s a context where I assume all the damp-haired people just left the gym (example upthread) then it reads differently–that example assumes a level of personally knowing someone that doesn’t map to all situations. The clients might be new ones; it might be the norm for clients to be seen once rather than repeatedly.

          Lots of things are fine for known quantities but land as out-of-the-norm between random strangers. If you regularly meet strangers through work, that’s different than if you were in the back office and only seeing people who know you and can judge you by more than your first visual impression.

      3. PrairieEffingDawn*

        Was looking for this response! Yes, totally sexist! Just one more way women are expected to use more time and resources meet whatever the standard of acceptable is!

    1. AB*

      This also can wildly vary based on time of year- in the summer it can fully take 2-3 hours for my hair to air dry just because of how humid it is vs how long my hair is. I have long and fine, curly hair and I don’t take a blow dryer to it every time because I try to minimize heat damage. I can imagine people with thicker hair have it as bad or worse.

      Sometimes there’s only so much control you have over this. If she’s not dripping, then is there really that much of a problem?

      1. Vendelle*

        Agreed, the hair is in a pony tail, that seems more than professional enough to me. I sincerely doubt any client would mind. And I agree was also wondering about the inherent sexism and potential ethnic considerations.

        1. kt*

          I would disagree and say that the ponytail looks more juvenile in general if she has straighter hair. If she has straight hair, try a bun; that may diminish the wet look. I am going to assume, rightly or wrongly, that she does not have very curly hair, simply because my friends with curly hair wouldn’t put theirs up in a ponytail to dry.

      2. Baal Like Bocce*

        Fine, thick, low porosity wavy hair here and if I’m *lucky* my hair will dry in 2-3 hours, and that’s with heavy assistance from a blow dryer. I don’t have the strength or patience to do a full arm workout every time I shower, nor do I like the heat damage, so air dry it is. I can shower at night, let it dry for a few hours so I don’t get fungus, get a full night’s sleep in a protective hairstyle, and my hair *still* won’t be fully dry before lunch. I don’t go to work with dripping hair (except with sweat in the summer, thanks east coast humidity) but if the line for “professional” is completely dry hair, I’m not sure what my options are. Don’t shower during the work week? Get up at midnight to shower before my 7am commute so my hair has time to maybe dry?

        1. Storm in a teacup*

          I may be missing something but is a shower cap and not washing hair daily an option? Dry shampoo has been a godsend
          Re OP: I think if their hair is damp/ almost dry and neatly tied back I fail to see the issue as often it can just look like someone has used gel/ product in their hair. If it’s dripping wet/ looking messy then I think it’s worth raising esp as they’re new to the workforce.

          1. Baal Like Bocce*

            I don’t wash my hair daily. But bone dry hair at work for the full day would mean five days of no water and even dry shampoo can’t cover that stink. Especially if I work out.

            1. LC*

              I agree! I use a shower cap as much as I can, but you can’t go 5 days without washing.

              I wonder if this feedback would be given to a male staff member?

              1. Medusa*

                Maybe you can’t go five days without washing, but you shouldn’t make a blanket statement about that. Afro hair really does not lend itself to daily washing.

                1. rubble*

                  I have dead straight hair and I don’t even wash my hair every 5 days…… it makes it way too fluffy!

                2. New But Not New*

                  No kidding, black woman here, every two weeks for me. I go to the salon. and spend a small fortune, no water is hitting this head between visits. However, hair is a whole thing with black women, we have long been deemed unprofessional just showing the hair God gave us. Different topic for a different day.

                  Wet hair may read as too casual for certain settings, like going to court. It’s a minor thing and shouldn’t really matter but like a lot of things in the office, it does sometimes. FWIW I notice men with wet hair too, this isn’t as sexist as some folks are making it out to be.

              2. Clisby*

                Some people can easily go 5 days without washing their hair – I wash mine once a week, which is all it needs.

                If I worked in a job where my hair routinely got sweaty (farmer? construction worker?), I’d wash it more often, but fortunately I don’t have that problem.

            1. Yvette*

              Or she may be hitting the gym before work and not wanting to get there early enough to work out, shower, and dry her hair. Either way, if all the excess moisture is removed and it is just damp and not dripping I really don’t see the problem. Is there a concern that damp may look greasy and unclean to clients? That would change things.

              1. eastcoastkate*

                Yeah- I think the key is here is as long as it’s not dripping or creating like wet spots on her shoulders/front of her clothing- that does come across as a little unprofessional and rushed. I have wavy/curly hair and as long as I’ve done enough “scrunching” with a towel or something that it’s damp it won’t be dripping or leaving wet marks anywhere and hopefully would still look okay in a meeting.

                1. Mr. Shark*

                  I keep hearing that “if it’s not dripping.” That seems like common sense to me, and I don’t know of anyone who would be going to work with their hair dripping.
                  So maybe more clarification is needed there. If it’s just wet, then this shouldn’t really be an issue, and I think the LW is reading way too much into the concern that clients would be worried about that and think it was unprofessional.

          2. ceiswyn*

            I have curly hair. Putting on an item that flattens it while in a damp environment is not a route to a more professional look.

          3. Bagpuss*

            I can’t speak for Baal Like Bocce but I have thick, long hair and there is no way of fitting it all into a shower cap!

            1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

              FWIW, there are gigantic extended shower caps that are aimed at folks with hair types that cannot be exposed to water every day. People with long braids or locs shower every day but usually use a XXXXL shower cap to make that work.

          4. Gothic Bee*

            Speaking just for myself, I have to wash quite frequently because I work out 5 days a week and sweat like crazy when I do. I have really dry sensitive skin, so I have to wash out the sweat or else it irritates my scalp. I don’t use shampoo, just a conditioning wash, but it still means my hair is wet afterwards. It’s not really an issue for me since I workout in the evenings, but it could be the employee is working out or just has hair that necessitates washing at least a couple times a week.

            I agree that dripping wet or looking messy is a no-go, but if it’s just a bit damp and otherwise neatly styled, I’d err on the side of letting it go.

          5. AB*

            tbh Dry shampoo can be very hit or miss depending on a lot of factors, even when you have a product that generally works “well,” but if I actually need to look nice/dressed to impress at work, I’m not using dry shampoo to achieve that. I might have to empty a quarter of the can into it depending on the time of year, and my hair is still going to look fairly frizzy when all is said and done. I don’t wash my hair every day, but even doing everything I can to minimize additional grease up top on non wash days, my hair texture and color just kind of… naturally highlights when it’s definitely not been washed recently. Some people’s hair is just kind of difficult no matter what.

          6. Allegra*

            Dry shampoo does not work on curly hair (or at least not mine and not any friends I have) because it needs to be brushed through. Sleeping with a cap doesn’t work because my hair still goes everywhere and gets squished or stuck straight up—I *have* to get it totally wet in the mornings to style it in any way that remotely approaches a neat look.

            For a converse example, my sister has very thick, straight hair. If she showers at night her hair still won’t be dry in the morning, or sometimes even when she’s home AFTER work. People are making so many assumptions in this thread about things “all people” can do with their hair.

        2. Green great dragon*

          There’s quite a way between fully dry and noticeably wet, especially for thick hair – I imagine you’re fine.

      3. Junebug*

        My hair takes way more than 2-3 hours to dry even in the winter. If I put it up, it will still be wet in the evening when I take it down. If I sleep on it, parts will still be wet in the morning. Blowing it dry damages it and takes at least 30-40 minutes. It starts to look greasy after 2 days and is visibly gross by day 4, so if my employer had a rule against wet hair, I wouldn’t be able to comply without getting a pixie cut.

    2. Que Syrah Syrah*

      Totally agreed. There’s nothing even remotely unprofessional about wet hair, assuming it’s styled neatly. Hair is so very unique and requires different maintenance that may mean it’s not always possible for it to be dry at any given time. And the thicker/more textured your hair is, the less flexibility you have re: drying options (speaking from my own experience). Plus, people should get to just wear their hair however they want, IMHO. It’s so very personal and how I wear my hair really isn’t my boss’s business (within reason obviously).

      Alison and OP may not find it unreasonable to ask of the employee, but I certainly do. I’d be pretty put off if my boss expected/demanded that of me. But YMMV.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I’m ok with Alison’s answer inasmuch as it’s “don’t have wet hair when you meet clients” and not “don’t have wet hair period”. I think LW would have preferred the latter, but hey.

        I wash my hair maybe once or twice a week and can’t blow dry it – the reasons for that are partly stylistic but would also potentially be covered by the ADA. I would therefore suggest that LW approach this as a conversation rather than a pronouncement, just as they would if an employee was occasionally attending client meetings in shoes better described as athletic than professional.

    3. Np*

      Thank you. I have hair that can’t be simply blow-dried, as I’ll look like I’ve stuck my finger in a socket. I wash it and pull it back so that it dries without frizz. It’s long, as well, so it would take half an hour in the morning to dry and then go over with a straightening iron. No thanks. I’m a lawyer and no one has ever complained.
      P.S. I also agree that it’s sexist.

      1. New But Not New*

        Serious question: In metro Chicago where I live, winters are brutal. Isn’t wet or even damp hair freezing cold when commuting? Even with a hat, few are airtight and it seems this would be so uncomfortable. Maybe all you wet hair folks live in California.

        1. Stevikay*

          Nope. I live in Chicago. I only blow dry my hair for special events. A hat works just fine to keep the air out. I have a chin length bob, so a good hat covers all of it just fine. Add on the hood of my parka, and I’m definitely fine. I think if I had longer hair, I’d put it up in a bun and stuff that under the hat.

        2. Rainy*

          I live in Colorado. I try to avoid going out with frankly *wet* hair because of the damage that freezing can do to the hair shaft, but no, damp hair isn’t freezing cold when commuting especially if you wear a hat.

        3. PeanutButter*

          I live in Missouri, and have gone out with damp curls in all sorts of winter weather. A wool hat keeps everything toasty-warm.

    4. Aphrodite*

      I agree with EDnursJ’s disagreement, Alison. I am not public facing but even when I was a long time I often went into work having just gotten out of the shower a short time before. When I was younger I always blow-dried my hair and styled it but later couldn’t be bothered. I too wear it tied back with a nice scarf or one of those silk scrunchies. I think it looks fine, and this manger should accept it without comment. There is nothing unprofessional about it, just as there is not anything unprofessional about flats (vs. heels), short hair (vs. long), no make-up (vs. make-up) and so on. The answer is edging close to gender issues.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d argue it’s about hair length, not gender. A man with shoulder length or longer hair that’s wet would look unprofessional too. You just see men with long hair less often. (But my husband has long hair and he definitely looks not work-ready when it’s wet, as I’ve had to tell him. It’s not a gender thing.)

      There are offices where it wouldn’t matter. There are offices where it does.

      1. Caroline Bowman*

        This completely.

        The whole ”well I REFUSE EVER to dry my hair any way but naturally AND ALSO it takes 14 days to dry, how SEXIST AND RACIST” crowd seem a bit… strange. It’s not sexist, racist or anything else to expect longer hair to not be dripping wet for client meetings. I get that the person in question has it tied back, but even so, it’s very obvious that it’s properly wet and that’s not acceptable in the particular workplace.

        There are ways to make sure hair is not dripping wet when going into work.

        1. Mockingdragon*

          We must all be picturing different things. There’s such a wide gulf between “soaked and dripping” and “a bit damp and slick” and surely somewhere along that spectrum is an acceptable point? I mean… sometimes in the winter just existing in the heat makes me sweat enough to get to “visibly damp” and there’s nothing I can do about it from that end lol

      2. Pool Lounger*

        It’s not just length, but thickness. My hair is earlobe-length and has been much shorter, but very thick. It takes hours to dry, and I don’t even own a blow dryer. Lucky I’ve never had a job that cared about wet hair. Gels and other hair products can make hair look wet anyway, so I don’t see why a damp ponytail is any different from a ponytail with strays slicked down with gel.

      3. Well...*

        Maybe it’s not gendered, but it may be racist. I think you’re right about the reality of some offices around this, but real professional norms can also be racist. Based on the fraught history of unprofessional hair = black people’s hair, I’d like to see more people in the work place leave hair alone.

        1. Medusa*

          There is definitely racism in the workplace that rears itself around Black hair. But I don’t really think how wet it is factors in. I’ve gone in with my hair completey soaked and no one knew that my hair was soaked because it looked the same as when it’s dry when I had locs or braids. I now have an Afro, but as long as it’s not dripping, no one can really tell whether it’s wet or dry.

          1. Lea*

            Yes. I have never noticed a black woman or man with wet hair at work. I have only ever noticed white women with long hair do this. It definitely reads unprofessional to me but maybe not to everyone.

            Similarly I would say it isn’t something I’ve noticed with curly hair, perhaps because it’s more common or reads like gel?

            1. Pants*

              My hair is curly. I will not use a hair dryer on my hair.

              While I wfh now, if I went into the office with it dry, it meant I hadn’t showered. Would OP then take me to task for not showering before work?

              My last boss was in the C-suite and had shoulder-length, curly hair. It was gorgeous. HE came in with it wet or damp quite frequently. The rest of the Cs didn’t care, including his boss.

              1. Clisby*

                I’m in camp wet-hair-doesn’t-matter, but it is possible to take a shower without getting hair wet. Unless it’s some incredibly small shower space I haven’t seen the likes of.

                1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

                  Or, y’know, shower caps? I get that there’s something really non-normative about shower caps among certain ethnicities, but they’re sold at mainstream drugstores.

            2. Littorally*

              Agreed. I’m picturing the stringy, clumpy look that seems to go most with straight, fine hair. I can’t recall ever having noticed very wavy or curly hair being wet at all.

        2. NerdyPrettyThings*

          This absolutely touches on race. All my curly hair products are made by and for Black women (I’m white with extremely curly hair). Any policies or discussions of this nature disproportionately affect Black employees, much the way Alison always reminds us that child care/parental policies disproportionately affect women. That had to be recognized for a real discussion to occur.

          1. NerdyPrettyThings*

            I should have put this in my original comment, but I often go to work with wet hair because heat makes my hair extremely frizzy. I’m sure many others with hair this curly are forced to do the same.

            1. kt*

              I really hate to wade into this, but…. as a broad-brush statement, Black women’s natural hair when damp just doesn’t look as dramatically different as white women’s curly hair when wet. I have friends from both groups and when I see my dramatically-curly white friend’s hair starting wet (shiny, long curls) and ending dry-er (bouncy, shorter curls) it is just super noticeable, and I could imagine her getting this feedback, unfair as it may be. On the other hand, a woman with 4c hair for instance, her hair in my experience is less likely to be read as wet if it’s not actively dripping water. That’s not getting into weaves etc at all, but I’m assuming that if this coworker is coming in with wet hair 3 times a week she doesn’t have a weave.

              1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

                Precisely this. Most Black-folk hair types won’t read as visibly wet unless they’re relaxed/chemically straightened. For a bunch of reasons that are weird to get into in mixed company, relaxed hair doesn’t operate exactly like straight Caucasian/Asian hair so it’s pretty unlikely that you’d see a Black woman with wet relaxed hair out at work, especially like what the OP describes.

          2. Femme d'Afrique*

            I can see what you’re saying, but our hair (people of African descent) reacts differently to water. I’ve never seen a Black person go out in public with wet hair, sometimes because (as Medusa says above) you simply can’t tell, especially if it’s in braids or locs. If the person has an Afro, other natural styles (or even relaxed hair), wetting it tends to shrink it but even then, the presence of water isn’t necessarily evident.

            I’m not “reading” the OP’s employee as being Black, although I could be wrong, of course. (African hair also requires less frequent shampooing…)

          3. New But Not New*

            Sorry, no. Wet hair at work isn’t really a thing among us black folks. I’ve been black all my life and in the professional workforce 42 years. We have other hair issues in the office (it’s improving though), but wet hair typically isn’t one of them.

            ITA with Alison on this one.

      4. Fidget*

        But this seems like a pretty clear cut case of disparate impact given the differing gender norms around hair. Would you say that a rule that people wearing skirts/kilts must wear tights or stockings (when shorts are excluded) would be totally fine just because some men might choose to wear a skirt one day?

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          … I actually would expect any rule about skirts/kilts to be written as gender neutral. Dress kilts are normally worn with thick knee socks, not bare legs.

      5. Klio*

        As mentioned elsewhere, men make their hair look all wet with gel and that’s considered professional, regardless of length. So, no, not a length thing.

        1. Stardust*

          I’m not convinced that a man with should length gelled back hair would be considered professional-looking.
          (Now I personally find visibly gelled hair unprofessional-looking regardless of length because it looks oily and yucky. But I guess I’m up against decades of pomade being acceptable and my personal icky-metre can’t really change perceptions like that.)

          1. Venus*

            My brain seems to leap to equating gelled hair with trying to fix hair so that it covers a balding spot, in addition to looking icky. Thankfully that style isn’t popular here.

          2. Kesnit*

            I have short, very fine hair. So fine that when I wash it at night and then sleep on it, it is going every possible direction – including straight up. Brushing/combing does not get it to lay down. Sometimes just wetting it will get it to lay down, but sometimes I have to use gel to get it to behave.

            Which is less professional – a little gel or a cross between 80’s punk rocker and bed head?

      6. middlemgmt*

        i don’t think i have ever so completely disagreed with Alison. no. This is not one of those things where it might or might not matter depending on the office. or the hair length. or whether there are clients. it doesn’t matter. period. it is truly not worthy of comment.

      7. The Other Dawn*

        “There are offices where it wouldn’t matter. There are offices where it does.”

        That’s pretty much the answer. I’m able to come to work with my hair still wet since I’m not public-facing; however, there’s no way it would be acceptable to show up to a board meeting like that. So when I have a higher level meeting to attend, which isn’t often, I make sure my hair is mostly dry by the time I get there.

    6. anonnie*

      This is a change. I remember this in a letter a couple of years ago and most people agreed it was unprofessional.

      1. AB*

        I think you’re seeing a harsh swing because a lot of women discovered over the last two years that their hair is either very wavy or curly and requires different care than just blow drying it straight or taking a flat iron to it.

        “Straight” and sleek hair is often implied as an industry standard and professional norm and that hurts a lot of people, especially ethnic minorities. Hair is something that shouldn’t be policed heavily for anything but safety protocols. Again- I submit: if it’s not actually dripping and leaving damp spots it’s probably fine.

        And the point is moot anyways when we get to seasons when we expect inclement weather and the snow/sleet/freezing rain makes lots of stuff a mess anyways.

        1. Librarian1*

          I don’t think women *just* discovered that they have very wavy or curly hair during the pandemic. Even if they weren’t wearing it wavy or curly, they absolutely knew about it. I’ve had very wavy hair with a little bit of curl my whole life and I’ve always been aware of it.

          1. ceiswyn*

            I ‘discovered’ I had curly hair when my hairdresser told me so, a couple of years ago. I’m in my forties. Previously I thought I had slightly wavy unmanageable frizz, because that’s what brushing did to it.

            It seems to me that there has recently been a massive growth in understanding that curly hair cannot be treated like straight hair, and that’s the reason for this pushback.

          2. bishbah*

            Like ceiswyn, I also “discovered” my curly hair in my 40s. My mother always brushed my hair out and my father always *insisted* that I never leave the house with wet hair, so I’d blowdry it as I was taught with a round or paddle brush and then wonder why my hair was always so frizzy and hard to manage.

            Since shutdown I haven’t once put heat to my hair, and I found a stylist who showed me how to handle and treat my hair so it finally looks like the 2C hair that it is. But my dad’s lessons are still ingrained in me, so I wash twice a week and only when I have time for it to airdry at home. The rest of the time I wear bonnets to bed and use styling products to keep it wearable longer.

      2. Humble Schoolmarm*

        And as a member of the thick, wavy hair that takes at least 4 hours to dry crew, I am delighted. I fretted for a week after that letter that I was not providing a good model of professionalism and that some parent, someday, would complain about my towel-dry hair.

      3. J*

        I hope that women in the pandemic had the chance to learn how many hours they were spending on blow drying and started questioning why. I had already gotten there. I dealt with damaged hair from chemo and realized I never wanted to do damage to my hair again, especially not for a job. It’s a blessing I have hair at all at this point.

    7. Another Annie*

      It must depend on your industry because I’ve never worked anywhere that it would be acceptable to come in to work with wet hair unless you were just running in on the weekend or something. Meeting with clients would be a hard no.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Yeah I cannot imagine showing up to court with noticeably wet hair. Damp that no one would notice — well no would notice. but if you can TELL, that’s a HUGE no. You are supposed to be ready to go. Wet hair implies still getting ready, not prepared. Man or Woman.

        Yes, noticeably gelled hair on a man has the same effect. Because you can’t tell if its wet or gelled. Plus that much gel can leave residue if sitting in a chair with a high back. EWWWWW. It’s just as Alison noted, most men don’t have really long hair that it would be noticeable.

        I have thick wavy hair that takes forever to dry. I wash it at night so it is dry in time.

      2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        Yes to this. I work in life sciences and since our partners and customers work in labs, they don’t give a hoot about how you look. Heck, we often Zoom with people wearing hair coverings because they just came out of the lab (plus, they are wearing t-shirts, no one wears makeup, etc.). But when I was in finance? We needed to look perfect. If a customer was thinking of using us for their billion-dollar deal, looking even a little bit “off” could be enough for the client to perceive that we were not going to do the job well. If a team member showed up to a client meeting with wet hair (or the wrong tie or an ill-fitting suit–this wasn’t about gender), they would be sent home. Unfair? Yes. But those were the rules in that industry.

      3. Vanellope*

        I agree with you Annie – people definitely have some strong feelings about this (and I agree how wet your hair is really has no bearing on how well you can do your job) but it really does depend on industry/office whether this would be ok. I started out my career in public accounting and at no point would it have been ok for me to meet with clients with wet hair – it was an extremely conservative office and it was suits all the way.

    8. Zoe*

      I have super duper thick hair. It takes hours to full dry. If I HAVE to shower in the morning I also have to blow dry like the ‘outer’ layer so it doesn’t look super wet, my boss commented on it once and that was enough.

      1. WS*

        +1, I have thick hair and “looks dry” is enough. I’ve never had any problems with that, even when I had near waist-length hair and the underneath of it just didn’t fully dry in winter.

      2. Lea*

        I have thick hair and if I don’t blow dry it it takes forever to dry in an office and in the winter it would probably be wet all day.

        Fascinated at the people who thinks it’s fine. This is one of those things I think sometimes people do in their 20s and then realize better later idk

        1. Loredena Frisealach*

          I’m 55. My hair gets as long as waist length, it’s thick, fine, and straight (though menopause has added curl). I last owned a blow dryer in my 20s. A good hair stylist willing to spend 30 minutes or more on it can successfully blow dry my hair, but I can’t. I regularly work, client facing included, with damp hair in a pony tail or bun and no one has ever complained (and yes it will still be damp when I take it down before bed).

        2. Hrodvitnir*

          It literally never in my life occurred to me that having immaculately dry and styled hair was more than a preference until reading this blog. I was not raised to wear makeup or style my hair – I wash my hair, brush it, and tie it back when long. Luckily, I have never worked in office so it has never come up.

          Obviously people who are used to it don’t see it as a chore, but I see it very much as more sexist crap (we all know the social pressures around hair length) – and people obviously do perceive it as unprofessional, so sure, in the real world you might have to do it. But yeah, the idea of spending basically any time on things like hair drying or makeup day to day displeases me greatly.

    9. Wet Pigeon*

      I agree with this disagreement. For #1, unless the hair is visibly dripping or water is running down their face, this feels sexist.

      Client-facing male employees have for decades used hair product that make their hair look slick and wet (“wet look”).

      There are also dozens of guides out there how to achieve that for both genders, especially people who have curlier hair (often women of color).

      1. BRR*

        I think there’s a difference between hair styled with gel/pomade etc that looks wet and hair still wet from a Shower. I know women who use that family of products to slick back their hair into a ponytail and I wouldn’t put it in the same category as not drying your hair.

        I think the situation is women tend to have longer hair than men so while it applies in the same way to everyone, this issue is going to come up far more often for women.

    10. JT*

      I’m so glad there are people that disagree with 1, I was getting worried! My hair dries fairly quickly but I still come to work with wet hair once a week or so. My time before work is my time. And I like to go to the gym in my time. If I have a really sweaty gym session, I think its much more professional to come in with clean hair than to pull it back and leave it sweaty! Its always brushed, and its not going to be dripping wet (towel dried, brushed, 15 min drive to work). I really don’t see the issue, perhaps if it was so wet it was dripping I would get it, but I feel like its similiar to having an issue with people that dont wear makeup and therefore look less polished than those that do etc. and just makes me think of my Nan telling me I’ll get the flu if I walk outside with wet hair. I think this is the first question I’ve vehemently disagreed with the answer on.

    11. Eden*

      It’s not OP who has to be convinced, it’s people not reading this blog. I am quite certain there are people who would be some smaller or larger degree of surprised or put off by someone with shower-wet hair.

      It’s not like she’s being asked to wear painful heels or time-consuming makeup. She’d be asked to change the timing of something she does anyway. I don’t think clients should excuse everything but they can excuse some things.

      1. Humble Schoolmarm*

        I’m afraid I have to disagree, at least on the make up front. The basic make up routine (foundation or concealer, eye liner, shadow and mascara and blush) takes me less than 5 minutes. Blow drying takes at least 20.

        1. German Girl*

          Reverse for me – while I also need 20+ minutes to fully blow-dry my hair, I can get a dry look by working on the top and outer layers for maybe three minutes and then putting the hair in a bun or other kind of quick updo.

          Any makeup routine takes me 20+ minutes because I don’t usually do it and always mess up the eyeliner and/or mascara at least twice ;)

          I’d probably get better at this if I had to do it every day but you’d probably get better at hiding wet hair too.

      2. Sparqness*

        If I was required to come to work with dry hair, I would have to get up at 3 am and shower, and then stay up. It cannot be blow dried without frizzing badly, I can’t shower and sleep in it, and it can’t be styled dry. So for me, yes, it would be the equivalent of heels or time-consuming makeup.

    12. Everdene*

      I also disagree with #1. My hair is very fine but there is loads of it. It takes me 30 min to blow dry it well and in colder months it can stay damp for 12+ hours if I air dry it. If I couldn’t ever go to work with damp hair I would have to give up my morning swim/best exercise for my disability and instead spend that exercise time blasting heat at my head.

      My solution is to french plait my hair after towel drying and brushing it. In my opinion it looks neat and professional instantly AND doesn’t frizz up as it dries. I have been going to work like this for almost 20 years in a range of roles and I am now a manager of a public facing team. Nobody has ever said tied back damp hair was unprofessional. I think this is very different than if it was loose and dripping everywhere.

    13. Myrin*

      I don’t know if that’s part of the general reasoning but for me personally, it’s that wet hair looks oily (because of the shine and how it’s usually flatter than dry hair). I can see a person with wet hair and rationalise that logically, they probably don’t have a head full of grease, but it absolutely has the same “ick” factor to me.

      1. ceiswyn*

        That’s the reason I don’t like men’s hair gel, but apparently that’s all fine and professional…

        1. Myrin*

          Ugh, don’t get me started on hair gel! I recently had a customer at the shop I work at badger me about getting a “super strong awesome gel that’s really thick and awesome and makes your hair look awesomely wet” that we don’t sell anymore and I wanted to shout at him that the apparently much less awesome, much less wet-look-y stuff he was wearing at that moment already made him look like he’d dipped his head into a vat of grease so why go even stronger?!

          1. RabbitRabbit*

            Back when I was still going into the office there was a man I’d frequently see on the employee shuttle who had very thinning hair, a short-ish haircut, and who would gel-spike his hair… so that it only highlighted how thinning his hair was because you could so easily see down to his scalp and see how much hair he had lost. That was probably not the ideal way to handle that situation.

    14. EventPlannerGal*

      I think it depends a lot on how wet we’re talking. A lot of people seem to be reading this as OP wanting no damp hair ever but I had assumed this person was coming in with actual shower-wet hair, and I think there’s a difference. If it’s damp but tied back then I think that’s probably fine (if her hair type will accommodate it then maybe a plait/bun/other style might disguise the dampness better for client meetings), but visibly *wet*/dripping water wouldn’t be acceptable at all in my workplace.

      1. Juniper*

        But how short is her morning routine and commute? Presumably, showering is the first thing you do in the morning. You at least do it before putting makeup on and getting dressed. So assuming, she has to spend at least 15 minutes on dressing/grooming, plus another half hour eating breakfast and getting her things together, then at least a 15 minute commute (but probably longer), we’re well over an hour past shower time. No hair is still dripping at this point.

        1. Myrin*

          I think the “dripping” was hyperbolic and the “visibly wet” part is where it’s at.
          (I used to take the train with a woman who always arrived at the station with wet hair. When we left the train an hour later her hair still looked like she’d literally just turned the water off. It wasn’t dripping but it looked like it would start to at any moment.)

          1. EventPlannerGal*

            I was indeed being a bit hyperbolic there, probably a poor choice… however, the reason I say it wouldn’t be acceptable is that I work with someone who did indeed used to come in with dripping wet hair, complete with a visible wet patch around her collar/upper back. So it does happen! I think she was going to a gym a few minutes from our office, showering and going straight to work so it was actually that wet. Our boss did NOT like it and made it known. I don’t know what my colleague changed about her routine in the end but the dripping wet look didn’t last long.

      2. Myrin*

        Yeah, I read it like you but looking over the comments, a lot of people seem to have a “milder” version in mind. That would also explain comments saying people aren’t going to realise Jane’s hair is wet – from the picture I’m imagining (simply going off people I’ve seen about with wet hair), there’s basically no way you aren’t going to notice it, but if we’re talking “a few still wet strands” or “slightly damp to the touch” I can see how someone might not notice anything.

    15. Oxford Comma*

      Right? Unless it’s like literally dripping water droplets everywhere, I don’t see why this is an issue. Especially not in a post-lockdown world.

    16. Urbanchic*

      This. I disagree with #1. It is 2021 and unless the office dress code says all hair must be bone dry in front of clients, I would not say a word. There are hair gels that both men and women use that make hair look wet, are those also unprofessional? As this EDnurseJ also says, there are a number of ethnic considerations on hair styling – and especially if this person is not caucasian, opinions on how hair should be worn/should not be worn can be very outdated and even considered discriminatory.

    17. RagingADHD*

      Because standards of formality and appearance (like any type of social nuance) are not, and never have been universal or subject to strict logic.

      Why are khaki slacks less formal than polyester “dress slacks” even though they’re sometimes more expensive?

      Why are open-toed shoes considered unprofessional in some offices and not in others, even when safety isn’t a factor?

      Why is makeup on women usually considered more formal and professional than no makeup, but dramatically colored eyeshadow is considered LESS formal/professional than no makeup at all?

      Because in some places, that’s just the way it is. And ten years from now, it will be a bit different than it is now, just like it’s different now than it was ten or twenty years ago.

      There are times when you want to change/fight the rules, and there are times when you just want to make a living and work with the rules you have. The manager just needs to decide what the rules are, and tell the employee instead of expecting her to guess.

      1. Hrodvitnir*

        Absolutely this. All this stuff is weird and arbitrary – I feel the need to note that I *hate* it, but if the reality is that it’s an issue (and there are people in the comments who are bothered by it), it needs to be communicated clearly.

      2. Tali*

        Great points. Especially the point about open-toed shoes regardless of safety, and brown eyeshadow being more professional than an equal amount of, say, purple eyeshadow. These things are never logical, and vary greatly by time and place and context! Best to tell the worker clearly what the expectations are, and let her decide if she wants to fight the rules or go along with them. It could be a big issue for her, it might not!

  6. Curly hair don't care*

    Eh, I don’t love the idea of bringing up the wet hair. I think it can kind of put women and minorities (with so called “ethnic hair”) at a disadvantage. I can’t use blow driers because my hair needs to air dry to look anywhere near normal. I probably sound a bit overly sensitive, but I speak as someone with very difficult-to-care-for hair, and I lived a long life of people making comments on it (and touching it without permission, but that’s for another day). My advice: if possible, let it go!

    1. Daffodilly*

      Same. I cannot use hair dryers, I have to let my hair dry naturally. That can take hours, which is why I usually wask my hair in the early evening. And if I wake up with horrid bedhead, my alternatives are to come in looking like that, or come in with wet hair, or take the morning off to sit around waiting for it to dry.
      I would NOT be happy if someone called me unprofessional over it.

      1. Quoth the Raven*

        Because honestly, as someone with long, thick hair that straddles the line between curly and wavy and than tends to be frizzy, whatever the hell I do to it is never professional enough. Using a hair dryer is only going to make the frizz worse, and damage my hair. Sure I never go anywhere with hair that is dripping wet, but being called unprofessional for it being or looking damp on top of everything else would upset me.

        1. PeanutButter*

          “whatever the hell I do to it is never professional enough.”

          Eeeeeyep. Here are all styles I’ve used on my curly hair that I have been told “aren’t professional” for one reason or another:

          -pony tail
          -blow-dried/straightened (which frizzed immediately)
          -single braid
          -braid crown
          -double braids

          at this point I’m so f’n over it. It’s my hair. It is what it is, it does what it does. If that’s a problem I’ll just buzz it off so it can’t upset people anymore.

      2. tangerineRose*

        I’ve got curly hair, too, and a hair dryer dries my already dry hair, which is not good. Curly hair tends to be dry. When I deal with clients, I towel-dry my hair and gel it.

    2. Np*

      THANK YOU. I’ve spent my entire life having my grandmother ask “but why don’t you just brush it?” Um, that’s not how frizzy curly hair works, Nana.

      1. Curly hair don't care*

        Oh my gosh, we need to start a support group. To this day, my straight-haired mother simply thinks I just don’t brush it enough. She was always so perplexed when I was little and she would blow dry and brush my hair and it would turn into a frizzy afro.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Mine cut my (Merida-like) hair off at the nape of my neck when I was 8 and wouldn’t let me grow it more than 4” long until I was 16. Only it defies gravity until it’s past shoulder length. I spent junior high and high school being called Ronald McDonald because of the frizzy red puff on my head, and at this point my last actual haircut was May 1999. :-P

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            I have the opposite situation. If I let my (likewise red) hair get cut too short and it goes wild, but if I keep it long, gravity tames it.

            Can’t please everyone.

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              That’s actually the same situation :) growing it out long enough for gravity to kick in again took almost two years, and I’m pretty sure I kept at least two bobby pin factories operating single-headedly during the interim.

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                My apologies; I completely misread your initial comment. I thought it was after 4″ than it got unruly!

                1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

                  Oh! Sorry, I was unclear — it gets unruly pretty much anywhere between a buzz cut and shoulder-length, haha. Mom wouldn’t let me grow it longer than about 4” because that was apparently unacceptable lengths of unruly, but it stood on end pretty much no matter what length it was until I sucked it up and got it past shoulder length so gravity would kick in :)

      2. ceiswyn*

        Ahahaha. The years I spent with frizzy, damaged, unmanageable and VERY unprofessional hair because nobody ever told me you shouldn’t brush curly hair…

        So I kept trying to brush and treat it into well-behaved professionalism, and you can imagine how that went. These days I get TWITCHY about advice on making your hair look ‘professional’.

    3. HelloHello*

      God, same. I’m white so don’t have the “ethnic hair” side of things, which obviously comes with a whole unique set of problems, but I do have very curly hair and have been petted by strangers semi-frequently my entire life. It’s not pleasant.

      I think I’m also overly sensitive about question number one, but I feel like so few people knows what actually goes into caring for/styling curly hair and how different it is from straight hair.

      1. ceiswyn*

        Yeah. I solved the problem of getting my fine, curly hair to look not-terrible by a) regularly paying a lot of money to a skilled professional to keep it short and shaped and b) being over forty so not having the ridiculous thickness of my youth anymore. These are not optics open to everyone with my type of hair. And again, I’m white, so that’s even without all the added issues that come with non-white hair…

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      I feel like this stance leads to a world in which one gives young white men with short hair starting out helpful feedback about whether their appearance sends the message they want (“Lost the hair oil”), but anyone outside that demographic you say nothing because what if someone interprets it as a gender thing or a race thing or a something? And yet, that interpretation still is pretty common. “Whether your hair appears obviously wet” is an appearance thing within your morning’s control, barring rain.

      In the past there was a discussion re explaining to the young people in their new suits that you’re supposed to cut the threads holding the loose bits in place on the rack.

      1. kiki*

        This is a tricky thing! And one of the reasons representation of different backgrounds in senior levels can be so important. As a biracial person with curly hair, sometimes well-meaning white people try to offer mentorship suggestions around professional presentation that reinforce Eurocentric beauty ideals or just wildly miss the mark (e.g. “you should straighten your hair before all client meetings,” “you should talk to X {other person with curly hair but a completely different texture than mine} about how they do their curls! It looks so much better and more professional than yours!”) But at the same time, yeah, it does suck to have a bunch of senior folks act scared to tell me I’m missing the mark on something obvious.

      2. Hrodvitnir*

        I guess the answer IMO is to tell people, but commiserate that it can be discriminatory. And try to examine which of these things are discriminatory/make an effort to be more accepting of things that seem like a step in the right direction – like not expecting makeup, and expecting hair to be tidy, not unnaturally smooth and perfectly dry.

        And I know a million people have made this point, but I hate the argument about it being an easy thing to do in the morning. I want to go to the gym before work, and I want to wash my hair (sometimes I’ll use dry shampoo), and I really do not want to blow dry my hair – my hair is very thick so dries slowly either way. So if I worked in an industry where I had to, I’d figure something out, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to not want to prioritise what I view as basically totally arbitrary and effectively sexist rubbish.

    5. Sparkles McFadden*

      “Professional” hair sounds like a fancier way of saying “good hair” – meaning straight, sleek and shiny.

  7. Maggie*

    Oh gosh I definitely was #1 in my first office job aged 20…. No one said anything outright but it definitely wasn’t done and was not approved of especially as I was customer facing ish…. And I didn’t see the difference in that vs coming with wet hair to work as a summer camp counselor. At my current job I will admit to having come in with slightly damp hair every once in awhile, but it is a MUCH more casual environment lol, my boss wears sweats regularly. And my hair takes 10+ hours to dry so on the days I realllllly don’t want to blow dry it :/

  8. Frizzmonster*

    I agree with the comments disagreeing with #1. Some hair types just don’t respond well to blow-drying and it’s hardly unprofessional to look clean! It’s especially not a problem if her hair is tied back. Definitely let this go- I doubt any client cares about this.

      1. Observer*

        You’ve got to be kidding. Clients frequently notice stuff like this. And it DOES affect their perceptions of competence.

        1. Sandy B*


          Your clients are jerks. I’m sorry you have to deal with them. That must be horrible.

          I’ve never worked anywhere people would care, or even notice, if my hair was damp post-workout-shower. I will endeavour to be more grateful for this in future!

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I was picturing clients who need help, say with an immigration or custody case. And looking super casual and like you just got up would make them feel ill at ease.

            I wouldn’t call those people horrible.

            1. miro*

              Yep, same. One of the strictest place I ever worked, dress-code wise, was an organization providing free legal services to refugees. Part of the idea was to err on the side of extra professional as a sign of respect to clients who were often otherwise ignored or pushed aside. Now, did the clients really care what support staff like me were wearing? I have no idea. But I definitely don’t think that it’s only evil, multimillion dollar clients who can/might have feelings about how people are dressed.

          2. RagingADHD*

            Key phrase: “I’ve never worked anywhere people would care.”

            Good for you.

            Other people work in other places than you do.

        2. Hair Today*

          Yep. “I’m going to spend big $$ with your company and you look like you barely had time to roll out of bed to get to this meeting in time.”

          1. singlemaltgirl*

            ‘rolling out of bed’ and being well groomed, well dressed and having wet hair neatly styled and pulled into a bun or ponytail are very different things.

          2. Anon for This*

            I’ve worked with Fortune 500 executives and the U.S. military. I can clearly envision many of them saying exactly that. Since there are dozens of companies competing for their business, these executives and officers can care about these things. Many of the readers may think that’s dumb, but that’s the fact of business.

            1. Anon for This*

              BTW, we had diverse teams and these clients never had problems with people with men with long hair or BIPOC team members with hair that reflected their heritage. This was about looking for clues that said “these people are not prepared” or “you don’t take my business seriously”. Again, readers may think this is ridiculous, but when a senior executive at a multi-million dollar client says “it looks like you couldn’t get up early enough to be ready for this meeting”, it matters.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                I agree re cues that read as “These people are not prepared.”

                And read as is important here. Yes, these strangers use cues of external appearance to make quick decisions about how much to trust you–this is a thing humans do when they interact with other humans.

              2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

                And you can look prepared with damp hair. When mine is wet and I have an important meeting, I pull it into a bun or a chingon and it look 100% more polished than it does when dry and down

            2. a woman who wont have it all*

              Ok many not “NO ONE” — superlatives rarely do. But no one whose opinion matters will be voicing such a petty concern.

            3. layup laydown*

              I’m kind of curious who gave you the impression the military cares if someone’s hair is wet or not. if it’s not visibly dripping, I would assume it’s full of product, not wet. I’m not trying to get pedantic, but that’s not something the military generally notices. if it’s messy or otherwise styled in a way that’s out of regs, then it would be addressed on that level.

          3. Curious*

            I’m MUCH more concerned with substantive preparedness. Better to spend time before the meeting reviewing the issues and materials than drying your hair.

          4. AvonLady Barksdale*

            Exactly. I meet with clients, and even via video call it’s important to have some polish. This is why I buy clothes that don’t need to be ironed (I am a terrible ironer.) I have thick curly hair that I air dry. I talk to a client and my hair is presentable, my clothes are neat, nothing stuck in my teeth. That’s not oppression, that’s business.

            For what it’s worth, I usually start my work day with damp hair but I wouldn’t meet a client that way. That’s when I use my diffuser.

        3. bamcheeks*

          The thing is, your clients can notice all sorts of things. Some clients will notice and disapprove of an attorney because she’s a size 20, or isn’t wearing hose, or hasn’t chemically-straightened their hair. Or they’ll want to speak to the man in charge, no, the MAN in charge. Clients can be assholes! But it’s managers and companies who have the power to decide how much of their clients’ assholishness their staff have to accommodate and when it’s time to push back and say, “Jane does excellent work, and we don’t have a problem with her hair.” All employers retain that power.

          1. Observer*

            Which is fine. But doesn’t speak to whether people notice or not.

            An employer who is willing to step up and say “You are misreading these seeming cues. We can vouch for the fact that Jane is always well prepared in her work” is a good thing. An employer who pretends that no one is noticing and drawing conclusions is a bad thing. The comment I was replying to was the latter.

          2. Fence Sitter*

            I don’t know about this. It’s nice to be able to take a stand on some things, but I don’t know many businesses that would choose their employee’s wet hair over a paying client. Why is having dry hair at work so much to ask or expect?

            1. American Job Venter*

              Why is having dry hair at work so much to ask or expect?

              Haven’t dozens of people described in these threads why their thick hair can’t always be bone dry at 8 am every day?

              1. Fence Sitter*

                Literally for decades before the current era of wokeness, people with all sorts of hair types managed to get themselves to work with dry hair. This is not new. If billions of people could figure it out before, it obviously can be done. Figure out another way and time to do it.

                1. American Job Venter*

                  A recommendation that we go back to the days when chemically straightened hair was required for employment, garnished with a sarcastic reference to Black American idioms. No, I don’t think I’d recommend any POC take your supposed advice.

        4. Just Somebody*

          This. Sorry but these commenters need to understand that being asked to be groomed and professional at work isn’t oppressive or racist. Even when I worked in places where jeans were allowed and you didn’t work with clients you still had to look presentable.

          If I had an employee who met with clients and showed up to work with wet hair on days they had meetings they would get a talking to.

          1. middlemgmt*

            some commenters do need to understand – you are making arbitrary decisions about what’s is and isn’t presentable. if you can just declare that jeans are okay, then please explain what is not ok about wet hair.

          2. Le Sigh*

            “Sorry but these commenters need to understand that being asked to be groomed and professional at work isn’t oppressive or racist.”

            Except those standards can and frequently are oppressive, racist, or sexist, because standards are subjective — there are entire comment threads on this website digging into all of the ways that happens. They are based on the dominant norms, which certainly in the U.S. comes out of a very white, Euro-centric, often male standard. You can go back and forth on the specific wet hair issue, but to broadly say grooming standards aren’t oppressive or racist isn’t true.

            1. Name (Required)*

              Okay, give objective professional standards that are acceptable to all races and cultures, and exclude all and any that are based on those of Europeans (because you see those as being the problematic ones).

              I’ll wait. But I’ll start you off: Body odour in natural and acceptable in many cultures, people shouldn’t be expected to hide it.

          3. American Job Venter*

            these commenters need to understand that being asked to be groomed and professional at work isn’t oppressive or racist.

            And here we have an ambiguous example of why we need the CROWN act on a national scale.

        5. middlemgmt*

          hard disagree. i work with a lot of high-powered people in a high powered city. no one cares. “but clients care” is crap reasoning anyway, used to excuse and reinforce sexist and racist norms.

      2. Eden*

        That’s very wishful thinking. I work from home for a company that was super casual ever before work from home, hoodies and leggings are normal, and I’d 100% notice if any of my coworkers had visibly wet hair on zoom, let alone if I was a client somewhere. It’s extremely Not A Thing that people dovin my experience and this definitely stands out.

        1. Dahlia*

          I think you’re picturing dripping wet straight hair.

          Whereas wet curly hair can look like this*&output-format=auto&output-quality=auto or this

          Would you notice those?

          Also her hair is described as “sleeked back in a ponytail” so would you really notice this on zoom?

          1. Anonya*

            In the curly hair examples, I can’t tell. The example of the straight hair slicked back in a bun? Yep, clearly wet.

          2. Eden*

            I think you missed where I said “visibly” wet. Obviously if it’s not visible then there’s 0 issues. I’m pushing back that people won’t notice when it’s visible.

            OP noticed it, so clearly it’s visible, unless we think they’re touching the report’s hair. Not sure the point of posting pics that aren’t of OP’s report.

          3. Tali*

            I think these images perfectly illustrate (hah) the issue.
            I suspect most people who oppose wet hair are picturing the last image you posted, or if that person were to let their hair down. It clearly looks wet. This may or may not be acceptable if it is pulled back in a bun, braid, etc.

            I suspect most people who don’t mind wet hair, especially those with curly hair themselves, are thinking of the first two images. Those barely read as wet to many people, unless there are damp spots around. And again I bet it would be more acceptable if pulled back in a bun/braid/etc.

            I think everyone is picturing different hair types and different levels of “wet” and determining based on the image in their head.

        2. Cambridge Comma*

          Yeah, I don’t remember ever seeing anyone with wet hair in the office unless it was raining heavily so I’d definitely notice. I’ve worked with people from over 50 countries, including 40% from the USA so my impression is that most people arrange their lives to avoid going to work with wet hair, however they do it.
          I don’t know that I’d care, but I’d definitely notice.

  9. HelloHello*

    re: #1: I have very curly hair that, if I want it to not look like I either just rolled out of bed or am a human cotton ball, either involves doing a full blowout or letting it air dry. Either option is going to take an 45 min+ of styling time or waiting. It has to be done in the morning because sleeping on it messes the whole thing up.

    It just really bums me out that because I have the hair I have, I apparently need to spend an extra 5+ hours a week on my appearance to look “professional.” whereas if I had straight hair that was more easily dry-able or that I could sleep on at night, or if I had short hair that dried quickly, it wouldn’t be a concern.

    1. Jo*

      You may have already considered this, but covering your hair when you sleep (bonnet, headscarf etc) can often do the trick of keeping it presentable without having to do it in the morning.

      1. Medusa*

        I know HelloHello didn’t ask for advice, but in addition to wearing a bonnet or scarf, it helpsme to put my hair into four to eight braids before sleeping and take them out and fluff or pick it out in the morning

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I’m always astonished at people who are able to use tricks like this and have decent-looking curly hair in the morning. For me, when I wore it curly, the only option was to wash it every morning.

          1. hellohello*

            Yep, same. If I put my hair in braids it looks like a raggedy ann doll when I take them out the next day, and a bonnet will keep down the frizz but won’t stop my curls from being mashed into odd sculptural shapes from the pressure of my head being on a pillow. After three decades of struggle I’ve learned the only way to have a nice looking curl is to get it wet, put in a little product, and then let it air dry.

            1. bishbah*

              I’ve been having luck with reviving/fixing my crushed bonnet curls with just a fresh application of styling mousse in the morning rather than using water or rewashing. The product takes some time to dry but that’s usually while I’m applying makeup. I also toss my head once upside down and back again right after removing the bonnet to unflatten things. I can get three good days out of a wash that way, and sometimes even a fourth.

        2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          and if I spent the time to do that (which, uh, no), my hair would be four feet wide of frizz when I was done.

    2. Evergreen*

      Yes! This is my hair as well!

      That said, though, my commute is usually 20-30 mins anyway, so between commuting and breakfast that usually ends up drying it by the time I get in.

      But perhaps there’s also a difference between damp and wet hair. I wouldn’t be able to wash my hair at work and come upstairs immediately (my hair would be dripping, which I would consider very unprofessional); but 20 mins after I’ve towel dried it and it’s air dried some you’d have to look pretty hard to tell what’s water and what’s hair product..

    3. ecnaseener*

      A lot of commenters are pointing out that curly hair needs to air-dry, and that’s true, but my guess was actually that the employee in this story has fairly straight hair. Damp curly hair generally has lovely defined curls. Damp straight-to-slightly-wavy hair looks stringy, in a distinctly not-put-together way.

      1. Eden*

        Yeah “tight slicked-back ponytail” doesn’t sound to me like someone with curly hair. And OP says it “obviously” dries by the end of the morning so clearly this is not a “hair that takes 5 hours to dry” situation. I do think people are reading a lot into this that just isn’t there.

  10. TG*

    I’ve seen men with wet hair and no one has said a word. I wouldn’t mention it. She otherwise is well out together so I think she’s over analyzing it.

    1. rudster*

      Plus, unless it’s dripping water, there’s really no way to differentiate hair that is wet from hair that is simply slicked back with gel. They should definitely let this go.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I agree, and I think women with short hair can also get away with gel the way people keep pointing out. It’s a length thing, as Alison said elsewhere. And we can talk all day about whether it shouldn’t matter (maybe it won’t in a couple years! As another commenter pointed out the tone in the comments was completely different than it is here) but the point is in *some* client facing industries it still does, and LW seems to be in one of those.

          I typically dress pretty casually but I keep a tube of hair gel and a blazer in my office in case a client meeting comes up. You can lose business if you look less polished and prepared than your competitor. Some of these things are just the reality of certain jobs.

    2. Esmeralda*

      I really think this depends on where you work. For some places, especially those that are client facing and for some industries, whatever your gender you need to look polished and put together. And wet hair often does not look professional.

      I think we should trust the OP on this one. If the OP says that wet hair in a ponytail does not look professional enough to meet with clients, then for the OP’s office, it is not appropriate. Just because it is ok in my office or yours, does not mean it is for the OP’s office.

  11. nnn*

    If I were advising Jane in #1 (with the understanding that all of this depends greatly on variables we can’t see through the internet), my first thought would be to see whether putting her hair in a bun instead of a ponytail hides the wetness better. For some hair types, a ponytail can look drippy while a bun at the same stage of dampness just looks like you’ve used a lot of product.

    I’d also wonder whether it’s possible and compatible with the employer’s culture for her to keep a hair dryer at work (in a desk drawer or a locker, if she has access to such a thing) and do a bit of last-minute drying in the washroom before seeing clients (like how you might fix your hair or touch up your makeup before seeing clients.) For some hair types, it only takes a short time and causes much less damage/distress to the hair if you use the blowdryer as a finishing touch after a period of air drying – so it could mean 1 minute of blowdrying at work rather than 15 minutes of blowdrying at home.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I went to visit a very fancy corporate law office for my work once and was amazed that they had communal GHDs in the loos!

      1. nnn*

        I love that! Meeting people’s actual needs, regardless of what’s “supposed to” be provided in a washroom!

  12. Annie J*

    It’s just wet hair, that’s all.
    I think client-facing has become too much of an excuse for employers to dictate what their employees do with their bodies, often these expectations re-inforce employers own poorly concealed prejudices couched in the language of customer satisfaction, I doubt most clients would care.

    1. MissElizaTudor*

      Agreed! Clients may care about all sorts of things, but that doesn’t mean employers need to care about the same things. I’m sure there are clients who think natural hair or protective hair styles look unprofessional, and it may even make them doubt someone’s competence, but employers don’t need to pass that along as rules for their employees. Same here.

      I think not passing client ideas of professionalism to employees as rules may be slightly different for orgs like non-profits where someone needs to feel confident in an important service they’re getting, but there are even limits to that.

    2. Not Today*

      Yeah, I also think somehow “client facing” has become synonymous with like, client at a white shoe firm or something…. lots of clients are pretty chill and casual.

    3. Fence Sitter*

      As a client, if I am paying thousands in fees for the professional assistance of a lawyer/realtor/banker/agent etc. you can absolutely bet I care if the person has wet hair. I may not say anything, but I would think to myself, this person can wear a suit and dress shoes and perhaps put on some makeup, but they can’t figure out a routine for their hair that doesn’t require them to come to the office with it wet? Why wouldn’t you want to put your best effort forward when it comes to your professional reputation? What’s wrong with having higher standards?

      1. Coder von Frankenstein*

        Huh. I absolutely do *not* care if they have wet hair. I care whether they have a good track record (as far as I as a layman can determine), and whether they seem to listen to and understand my needs, get back to me in a timely fashion, etc.

      2. Annie J*

        I think it’s Historically there was a belief that people who dress professionally, particularly in white collar environments, will also be good at their jobs but really I don’t see the correlation, especially nowadays when we have so many people working from home you might not even see the person you’re dealing with, and if you do they can easily change backgrounds and filters and so on.
        I also think Son of the most inane people, like politicians, dress very crisply and smartly but their ideas are just as silly and ridiculous.

      3. Happy*

        “Why wouldn’t you want to put your best effort forward when it comes to your professional reputation? What’s wrong with having higher standards?”

        Maybe they have better things to do with their time in the morning. Let them have their home life as long as they are diligently working on your case when you’re paying them.

      4. American Job Venter*

        Is there one objective set of standards, especially on something as variable as hair? This argument reminds me distinctly of what too many well-meaning people said when I stopped straightening my hair.

  13. Zan Shin*

    Re elevator pitch….slightly off topic but it recalled to me that the admin assists for the program at my last job (I was a RN community case manager at a nonprofit, government-funded) always hemmed and hawed awkwardly when answering the phone or calling a potential client – they simply had no easy way to describe our program. Finally I wrote a one sentence description and handed it over so they could read it as a script the several times a day they needed to!….it’s REALLY helpful in any professional situation to be able to go for concise brevity!!!!

  14. WET HAIR*

    I work in medicine. I arrive every shift in a damp pony tail. As long as it’s pulled back off the face I don’t see a problem.

    1. WS*

      Medicine really has its own rules for personal grooming – clean and tidy is 100% required, everything else not so much.

  15. TB*

    I don’t disagree with Alison’s answer at all, but MAN I wish wet hair wasn’t seen as unprofessional- so often, it’s a bigger issue for women because we tend to have more of it and it takes much longer/a much bigger effort to dry than most men’s hair. I have super long and thick hair, don’t use heat on it 99% of the time, and absolutely can’t shower any time other than first thing in the morning. I tend to shower early enough that it’s more on the damp side by the time I’m at work, and I’ve been lucky that it’s never been a major issue to have damp hair some mornings with the roles I’ve been in, but I’m SURE I’ll run into it eventually and I just don’t see a solution that doesn’t involve either putting in a hell of a lot more effort than normally goes into my morning routine, or becoming a lot more friendly with dry shampoos which really aren’t an every day solution. It’s an obnoxious problem, but one I don’t see a super real solution to, because I can understand why wet hair doesn’t necessarily look out together.

    1. Curly hair don't care*

      I think the norm is changing. I remember when Michelle Obama told black women to stop worrying about their hair and go ahead and get their workouts in. I don’t see another solution but for “dry hair is professional” going the way of “pantyhose is professional” (another thing Michelle Obama wasn’t having– I love her so much!).

      1. Kiki*

        Yes! I hope this is a norm that’s changing. I think even though people may not mean for it to have sexist or racist implications, the expectation of dry hair often ends up being more burdensome and restrictive in practice for women and people of color.

    2. MoinMoin*

      I agree, and I’m a little surprised that a slicked back pony or bun would also be unprofessional because that would be my solution if I ever had to wash my hair in the morning and look particularly put together at work (another night-washing, never-dryer, office-casual, curly person here).

      I guess at least in this specific case it sounds like the employee only washes her hair some mornings and is only meeting clients some mornings, so it seems reasonable to ask that these things just don’t fall on the same mornings and OP can get past what seems more like personal preference on the other days.

    3. NNN222*

      All of this. Some days, I can either have damp hair in the morning or kind of gross looking hair for all or most of the day, even with dry shampoo. Sometimes my best option is to just hop in the shower and dry as best I can before running out the door. At least then I’ll have clean hair all day.

  16. Aggretsuko*

    Possible explanation for the wet hair: as an apartment dweller, I do NOT want my neighbors to be blow-drying their hair loud and long in the early morning, waking me up. I’m not a morning shower person for many reasons, but that’s one of’ ’em, and I have gone in with wet hair but nobody cared.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Wow you can hear the blow dryer of you’re neighbors? I live in a century old house that’s converted into apartments we have 0 installation or sound proofing and I’ve never been able to hear a blow.druer, and I know the gal did her hair every day before water running in the shower, yes. Heals on the floor or the toddler in her walker, yes. But never a blow dryer.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        The heck with the hair dryer. I could hear my neighbor’s *shower* in my old apartment. And television, and alarm clock and…

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I am a very light sleeper and I hate noise, but I’m also an apartment dweller, and things like that are just part of apartment living. If you want to blow dry your hair then do it, just like you would run your dishwasher or walk around or accidentally drop something.

      1. Librarian1*

        Yeah, you just have to deal with it. It’s not reasonable to expect people to not use blowdryers in apartments.
        also, I’ve never heard my neighbors blow dryers.

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I’ve lived in apartments basically forever and never run into this! I’m impressed with either the thinness of your walls or the power of their hair dryers

    4. Nope.*

      I’ve lived in apartments for 10+ years now and consider myself a fairly considerate and polite neighbor … and this has never once crossed my mind, nor has it ever been something that has bothered me. Don’t vacuum at 10pm, sure, but blow drying?! You’d have to have really thin walls for this to be something that bothers you.

  17. Observer*

    #5 – Did your program not explain what an elevator pitch actually is? And where the term comes from?

    Elevator pitches are not given in actual elevators, nor are they generally intended to pitch ONESELF, but an idea or a proposal. Did whoever gave you the assignment not explain this?

    I’m going to post a link to a decent explanation that will help you understand why it’s part of your management assignment.

    1. Observer*

      What Is an Elevator Pitch?

      Elevator pitch is a slang term used to describe a brief speech that outlines an idea for a product, service, or project. The name comes from the notion that the speech should be delivered in the short time period of an elevator ride. A good rule of thumb is that an elevator pitch should be approximately 30 seconds long, with a maximum of 60 seconds.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      My program never did, they just used the phrase. I had to explain it to a classmate once who was queasy over the idea he’d have to professionally make small talk in elevators and sell stuff. I think sometimes we (professors included) assume some things are common knowledge until someone asks, and then sometimes people are too embarrassed to ask. It’s bad teaching but it happens.

    3. kiki*

      I’ve noticed a lot of people focus a lot of energy explaining how to do something but don’t actually address why, which is often the most important part. Addressing the why also helps develop the how– people can be innovative if they understand the reason they’re doing something. So many silly work situations happen because people know only the how, not the why. Hearing that the reasoning behind elevator pitches wasn’t properly explained is frustrating but not actually surprising to me, in all honesty.

  18. Thick Wavy Hair*

    My hair takes forever to blow dry, much less air dry. At what point should workplaces start compensating (mostly) women to come in with dry hair if it takes up to an hour with a blow dryer to get it that way?

    I’m glad I work in a casual office or I’d spend my whole life making choices dictated by when I can wash my hair.

    I do like the suggestion of the bun for damp hair though. It would work best with darker hair colors, but even with my lighter hair, it’s much harder to tell it’s still a little wet if it’s pulled back well.

    1. RagingADHD*

      People with mobility issues take longer to get dressed, and they don’t get compensated for the extra time.

      People who live further from the office take longer to commute, and they don’t get compensated for the time.

      People who have multiple living beings to feed and/or take to daycare have a much longer morning routine than people who don’t, and they don’t get compensated for the time.

      All of them are expected to show up ready to work in whatever state the company culture considers “ready” and “on time”. Because the way you live your life when you’re not at work is your own business, and not your employer’s. You get paid to do work at work, not to manage your own self to get there.

      And thank goodness. Because the last thing this world needs is for every waking second to be “on the clock” and for employers to intrude even further into their employee’s personal lives.

  19. Eden*

    Honest question, can someone enlighten my why blowdrying or wet hair seem to be the only options for so many commenters here? Would love to understand. I have long hair that does better drying naturally too but I simply wash it at night. It just seems like something that 90% of the population has written off and I genuinely struggle to understand why it’s not an option for so many people.

    1. HHD*

      For a lot of folk, washing and sleeping on damp hair leads to horrendous bed head, which often can’t just be brushed out. Disproportionately this affects people with curls and natural Black hair styles.

      1. HelenofWhat*

        I literally can’t wash my very tightly curly hair after 2pm or it soaks my pillow. And I’m not great at braiding so even with a satin pillowcase it’s much frizzier in the morning than it would be otherwise. I look less put together when that happens!
        I am getting a hair dryer to help but from experience/the salon that is about 30mins to get it dry looking, and it’s already a 45min shower to wash it in the first place. And I’m a VERY low maintenance woman otherwise, no makeup most days, so this is a huge time suck.
        I’ve moved to one weekend wash and one WFH midweek morning wash and also cut my hair much shorter (was upper back length wet, now is shoulder length wet). When job searching, I scheduled interviews in the afternoon so I could wet my hair in the morning and air dry it by then. I do squeeze most of it out but it tends to be very wet for the first hour. With commuting time that’s only the first fifteen to thirty minutes of work, though!
        Curly hair care is a skill, and one that a lot of us only started to gain as adults. I’ve only been naturally curly for ten years, and back then women like me were rare to see. It seems everyone loves the stock photo image of the woman with big circle of curls but it’s so freaking much work.

        1. itsame*

          Growing up in the 90s with curly hair was such a nightmare. My hair texture was super unpopular, there was little to no easily available information about taking care of it, the readily available product and tools were almost all complete garbage, and to top it off neither of my parents have curly hairs so they had no idea how to handle it either. Life is so much better now that there’s real information on caring for a range of hair textures but you’re right on about a lot of people only learning how as adults.

    2. Klio*

      Sleeping in damp hair on damp pillows and blankets and then need to dry is not good for getting a restful sleep (or wake with a hurting stiff neck in the morning), not to mention that the hair is still damp in the morning.

    3. Everdene*

      The internet ate my first comment so I’m going to try and answer it again.
      – Not all hair behaves like your hair.
      – When I wash my hair at night and go to bed with it tied back it is still damp in the morning.
      – When I wash my hair at night and go to bed with it not tied back it looks like a wild, unkept ball of frizz in the morning.
      – Sometimes, for example due to exercise, it needs to be washed in a morning.
      – Some people have greasy hair types that will look unclean/uncared for by lunchtime if washed the night before.
      – Some disabilities/conditions leave people without the spoons to wash their hair at night.
      – Short hair doesn’t necessarily fix this as it needs more work to look professional.
      – Not all hair behaves like your hair.

      1. amoeba*

        Yeah, I have pretty uncomplicated hair in general, but if I sleep on it while still damp, it’ll still look terrible in the morning. Could of course wash at least 2 h before bedtime but at that time of the evening I generally have other plans…

        Luckily my commute is long enough and my hair dries quickly enough outside that the damp’s not really noticeable in a bun by the time I come in. But would definitely not change my morning routine for that and in home office, I definitely have video calls with visibly wet hair!

      2. The Other Shoe*

        In a similar vein as your comment, not everyone knows what a “spoon” is in this context. Just use the word “energy” instead. Personal pet peeve of mine – I HATE the spoon theory. Just use energy, don’t need this cutesy way of describing someone with less energy than others.

      3. StudentA*

        Pretty sure she’s aware people have different types of hair. While you provided some insight, your condescending tone could discourage people with different experiences than you from asking questions. As a person with high-maintenance curly hair, I found Eden’s question perfectly valid. Also, there are valid reasons for people with high-maintenance hair to wash their hair at night. Personally, I shower whenever (spoons and all that), even at the sacrifice of how my hair will look.

    4. Also Amazing*

      Can’t speak for every curly haired person, but I can’t style my hair in any other way than frizz ball when it is dry. Sure, I can wash it the night before, wrap my hair so it hopefully stays relatively styled, and go to bed, but half the time, the wrap comes off or else I still need to get my hair wet in the morning to fix it because it’s all squished from sleeping on it. So yeah, I go to work with damp hair every day. I work with clients and nobody has ever said anything about it and I honestly doubt anyone notices since it isn’t dropping and I have dark hair.

    5. Wendy*

      I usually do wash my hair at night, but it’s often still visibly damp in the morning. Not as much as it is for a morning shower, obviously, but that’s just what my hair does. (I think I own a hairdryer – somewhere – but it’s been used for more kid science experiments than it has for hair. Using a hairdryer properly is a skill I never learned.)

      That said, if I have to go somewhere immediately after a shower, I put my hair up in a braid/bun so it’s not quite so obvious that it’s wet. I generally have to brush it multiple times and let it rest in between (brush in the shower, brush after toweling off, brush 2-3 hours later) if I want it to settle into its best possible “natural” state, so just letting it hang loose when I’m going to be trying to look professional for several hours usually doesn’t work.

    6. Nursey Nurse*

      I have very fine, light-colored hair and if I wash it at night it looks greasy again by noon the next day. I feel better about myself when I have clean hair, so I wash it in the morning. Fortunately, in my industry we start very early so nobody cares if your hair is damp as long as it looks neat.

    7. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I have curly hair that is also fine (and fairly thin) hair, and it gets terrible bedhead! There’s really no way to ‘reset’ it in the morning other than getting it wet, or else it’s just a ball of frizz, alas.

      And I’ve spent over three decades and a small fortune on products trying to get it to do what magazines have told me it’s supposed to do.

    8. ceiswyn*

      Ah yes, sleeping on curly hair while it’s damp. Because the part-squashed, part-sticking-up look is tres professional.

      1. Pants*

        My friends and I send photos of our terrible bedheads if we wake up with particularly sculptural hair. I send far more pictures than anyone else because I’m curly. I usually accompany it with “Do you like a Flock of Seagulls?”

    9. Green great dragon*

      I can’t really take a shower at night till the kids are in bed, and going to bed with wet hair would create some very interesting styles. And some people like to do exercise in the morning and shower afterwards.

    10. Catherine*

      Hair is weaker and more easily damaged when it’s wet. If you’re a “rough” sleeper (tossing, turning, repositioning on the pillow), your hair will get pulled around and you’ll break more strands than you do sleeping with dry hair.

    11. Juniper*

      Everyone else has covered the issue of bed head and attempting to style slept-on wet hair. But also, wet hair on a pillow is just gross. I use down pillows, and damp feathers are a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and mold. Not to mention that no one likes to sleep on something that’s damp. Plus, most people with thick hair will still wake up with wet hair, so it doesn’t even solve the problem in the first place.

    12. Bagpuss*

      I have long and thick hair. If I wash it the moment I get in from work it won’t be dry by the time I go to bed, and damp hair / pillows = uncomfortable.
      If I leave it loose it will look terrible by morning and if I don’t, it will still not be dry in the morning.

    13. londonedit*

      I have a bob haircut with a fringe. If I washed my hair at night and slept on it, what I’d wake up with in the morning would decidedly not be a bob haircut with a fringe. I’d look like that scene from There’s Something About Mary. So I wash and blow-dry my hair every morning – it only takes about five minutes to blow-dry my hair into its style, and my hair is in really good condition (just to head off all the ‘but it’s bad to wash your hair every day!!’ comments) and that way it looks the way it should. Some haircuts just don’t work with the whole ‘why not just wash your hair at night’ idea.

    14. Kiki*

      For me, it’s a combo of two things:
      1.) My curly hair does not do well drying overnight. Even wrapping it, it ends up drying weird. Because it’s curly, it can’t really be brushed out and fixed in the morning like straight hair without looking like a frizzy puffball.
      2.) I sweat a lot in my sleep. I really need to shower in the morning to feel fresh enough to go to work. Showering twice, once at night for hair and again in the morning seems wasteful to me.
      Luckily, I’m rarely client-facing, especially before 10am, so my wet hair is only visible to coworkers and I doubt they care (casual industry).
      In my observation, wet hair at work has been becoming more common, even before the pandemic, I think in part because working out before work has become increasingly popular. Because this employee is client-facing, I can see why the boss feels like this should be addressed, but I personally don’t find damp/wet hair to be a big deal.

    15. bee*

      Just to swim against the current here a little: I have long curly hair that I do not blow dry, and I always wash it at night or sleep on it dry. It’s not a mess! I am not a monster! We exist!

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        No one is doubting the existence of people with low-maintenance hair (congrats!), but rather pointing out that for many people, meeting the standards of “professional” hair involves a lot of time and effort.

        1. Anon for this*

          I doubt it’s low maintenance. I’ve got curly hair that I wash at night, style, and let dry overnight. I spritz my hair in the morning and add a little serum in the back. Blow drying takes 45 min that I’m not interested in doing.

          My pillows aren’t molding! I’m not going into work with wet hair! No one goes into my work with wet hair, yeesh.

          1. The Other Shoe*

            Love this comment – exactly. Most of us have figured out how to be presentable at work without moldy pillows.

        2. bee*

          For sure! But there’s definitely a strain coming through of “ALL curly haired people MUST do this” and I just wanted to push back on that

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Or I’ll sleep in a braid and style it in the morning and it’ll be damp – but will have dried by the time I get to work. Totally with you. But each head is different.

      3. Eden*

        Lol, my hair is somewhere between curly and wavy too. I appreciate people’s responses but a little put off by the “duh anything but straight hair HAS to do this or it’s BAD” implication in some.

    16. Lacey*

      That’s been my solution for a lot of my life, but it damages my hair. I accepted that as a trade off for a long time, but I understand why it’s not worth it for a lot of people.

    17. sb51*

      I get horrible dandruff if I sleep on wet hair. Or if I have wet hair near my scalp for longer than it takes for the part of it near my head to dry — it will also be an issue if I’m out in the rain all day or sweating hard all day (obviously in those cases it’s unavoidable, so I just break out the prescription-strength dandruff shampoo).

      I feel much more professional with wet hair than flake-filled hair, ew. But I’m also not client facing, and when not WFH we have an in-office gym and a lot of bike commuters, so people of all genders puttering around with absolutely soaked hair is very common.

    18. CCC*

      Washing it after work but before bed is an option. As is washing it over the sink with a little hose attachment so you don’t have to take a whole shower. Blow drying the sweat out and then using dry shampoo after a workout is an option. Drying out the top layer a bit but not all of it is an option. Diffusers and concentrators are an option. Etc. Etc. It seems like many folks are appalled and even angry at the suggestion that they might change their routine and it’s startling to me.

      1. Sparkles McFadden*

        I think people are reacting to the idea of “Here’s yet another standard of appearance for women (not men) at work that’s based on the standard set by white women with straight hair.”

        Yeah, I know that’s not the actual question posed by the LW. Comments sometimes veer off into people answering the question they read into the question. That’s usually because there’s a related hot-button issue in their personal experience. Then things spiral when someone comments “Why don’t you just do this simple thing that works for me and my pin-straight hair?”

        Hair, particularly what people refer to as “ethnic hair” can be the source of some very painful memories – such as having an elementary school teacher yank you out of your chair by your “messy” hair, waving scissors and threatening to cut it, or having a college dorm-mate comment that you’re “disgusting” because you don’t wash your hair every day, or people thinking it’s OK to just walk up to you and touch your hair because they “want to see what it feels like.”

      2. jiggle mouse*

        Yeah, letting strangers and anyone who feels the urge dictate the fundamental daily tasks that get me through the day is a great idea.

      3. Allegra*

        Because “change your entire daily routine because some people equate ‘signs that a person is a human with hygiene needs that may not sync 1:1 with business hours’ with a Lack Of Professionalism” is honestly pretty wild to suggest. It feels ridiculous to spend so much time legislating how wet women’s hair should be to be work-appropriate instead of discussing how to lead by example to show that clients and colleagues shouldn’t be bothered by a normal result of showering.

    19. LQ*

      I did this for a while but it was horrible and I ended up replacing my pillows about every 2-3 months because they’d get wet and start to reek and then I wouldn’t get good sleep on top of the chill of putting my head and neck on cold wet surface. Even with 3 layers of towel’s over my pillows. It’s just not feasible for me.

    20. awesome3*

      It’s not that night showering isn’t an option, it’s obviously a good one, but plenty of jobs don’t have enough reason to dictate when you shower, and people certainly have their own personal reasons to decide when they want to shower. Even people whose jobs dictate when they shower do it for personal reasons, not for the job itself (example, a day laborer deciding to shower after a hard day’s work)

    21. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Add me to the list of people who wakes up with a painful stiff neck if I sleep on a wet head. (And it’s terrible for the feather pillow.)
      It’s also useless with short hair now. Unless my hair is long enough to braid, sleeping on it wet gives me such weird cowlicks that I have to wet it down again anyway.

    22. Librarian1*

      Because for a lot of people it looks bad after it’s been slept on. If I sleep on it wet the waves/curls end up getting smushed on the said of the head I sleep on, but not the other side, so that looks weird, and it just generally messes up the curl pattern. If I sleep on it dry, it gets flat and kinda frizzy. I can comb it out, but IMO it doesn’t look as good as it does if I wash in the morning at let it air dry.

      You’re lucky that your hair looks fine (or is easily fixable) after being slept on, but mine doesn’t.

  20. Marya*

    Hi. I have a medical condition that makes it hard for me to sleep—some nights I can’t fall asleep until 1 or 2 in the morning, even when I have to be awake at 6:30 for work. I cannot get up any earlier than I do right now without harming my health. I also have thick, wavy hair that takes hours to dry fully. I can’t wash it before bed because it will be frizzy and refuse to lay flat on my head in the morning. Hair dryers also are not an option for me because my hair is sensitive to heat.

    My options are 1) not wash my hair and come into work with dirty, frizzy hair or 2) come into work with damp but neatly styled hair. I cannot for the life of me figure out why doing the latter would be seen as unprofessional. People have hair. People need to wash that hair. And when you expect people to be at work early in the morning and not leave until late evening, and when there are a plethora of hair textures in the world and some of them take a while to dry… sometimes people will come into work with damp hair. I genuinely cannot understand why anybody would even notice this, let alone be bothered by it.

    It’s also very worth noting that this is something I have literally only ever seen applied to women. I have never seen someone tell a man with short hair that he’s unprofessional for having damp hair in the morning. That’s just the nature of being a woman in the workforce, I guess—you get held to rigid and incredibly arbitrary standards that are based on a vague, nebulous idea of “how women should dress” rather than actual logic.

    1. BubbleTea*

      My feeling has always been that I can either arrive with damp hair, or I can arrive tired. As the day progresses I will get more tired but my hair will get less damp, so I’m going to do what helps me start out less tired.

    2. Katt*

      Back when I worked in the office I’d frequently arrive with damp hair! I despise the noise of blow dryers, so I try to avoid using them whenever possible. I usually didn’t have to shower in the mornings but there was the occasional morning especially in winter (since I bury myself in blankets) where I’d wake up and realize it was necessary. To be honest, my only concern was walking into work on really cold mornings with damp hair. It did freeze once or twice, but also I’m sure that’s not exactly the healthiest thing ever. I would wear a hat and my hoodie, though. (It gets down to -30 C with wind chill sometimes here and I used to start work just after 7 AM!)

      My office was pretty casual but no one ever said anything to me about it. Now that we wfh I can sometimes go days without showering or I’ll shower right before a meeting and then just have wet hair, nbd… There were men who did the same – no one would ever say anything to them, I’m sure, even in more formal environments…

  21. Developer Number 10*

    For LW #3, around cancellation fees and friends as clients…

    Obviously, I don’t know what industry you are in, but perhaps instead of a “cancellation fee”, you could charge an up-front deposit for your work (for the same amount). That way, you don’t ever have to have the awkward conversation of “I’m really sorry your happened, please give me some money” – you’ll already have the money, and can just commiserate with the client and say “Don’t worry, there’s nothing further to pay”.

    1. Developer Number 10*

      Oops, lost some words from my comment – the awkward conversation was supposed to read “I’m really sorry your unfortunate life event happened, please give me some money”

    2. Wendy*

      I was coming here to say this too. This can be one of those weird psychological hangups people have. It’s the difference between “money I already have that someone is taking from me” and “money I don’t have yet but will shortly” – buying a $10 thingamajig is no fun, but buying a $20 thingamajig that’s on sale for $10 makes us happy even though financially it’s the same thing :-P People who might get shirty about a $100 cancellation fee would probably be perfectly happy to pay $100 upfront on top of whatever you’d normally charge and then get a $100 “discount” at the end if they don’t cancel!

      1. ceiswyn*

        I have to say that when I’m a customer, I regard the ‘I have cleaned myself thoroughly recently’ look as exceedingly professional.

    3. Cambridge Comma*

      Or just ask for enough of a payment that covers costs in advance so that you couldn’t be out of pocket? If they don’t want to pay that, you have to question their intention of paying at all.
      I’m having loads of trouble imagining the kind of product, though, so perhaps this isn’t applicable.

    4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yes, payment upfront “to cover costs” so that you don’t lose out whether or not they end up using your work. And you make it clear before they cough up that it’s not refundable. And while you’re at it, make it clear that you don’t start work until you see the money in your bank account.

      It doesn’t sound like it’s the same industry at all, but in mine, even if the client suddenly no longer needs my work, they have to pay for it. If they cancel while I’m in the middle of it, they pay for what I’ve done.

    5. Green great dragon*

      Yeh, this seems the solution to me if you’d otherwise be happy to take your friends’ business.

      It seems unusual that your industry is set up so that you are doing bespoke work for a client that they can then choose not to pay for; is some sort of staged payment throughout at all possible?

      1. Travelagentsunite*

        Because I’m in this industry I’m positive LW3 is a travel agent. I’m so friggin grateful to work for a company that only works with strangers and we charge a deposit that it’s non refundable period. And even then it sucks to not be able to refund someone when they cancel last minute for a big reason. But they signed the terms and conditions and a business is a business. But it would kill me to do this to friends.

        1. TA*

          You called it :). And this is exactly the issue: as I mentioned below, we DO sometimes do exactly what you’re describing, but I know I couldn’t do this to a friend.

      2. TA*

        OP here! I am a travel agent so that’s (unfortunately) how it works in our industry. We put together quotes, we book trips, we set up all the personalized details (and in the particular niche of travel I specialize in, there are a LOT of details to take care of), and we don’t get paid until our clients actually travel. We sometimes do ask for an upfront plan-to-go fee that we apply to our clients’ packages if they do travel but keep if they cancel. But typically, we only do this for people who have asked for multiple rounds of quotes without booking or who have cancelled several times before (I leave this completely up to the discretion of my employees, and I support them 100% if they decide to charge an upfront fee in some situations). If we did this regularly, new clients would just go somewhere else instead of paying the upfront fee, so it’s not something I can see myself wanting to add on a regular basis.

        1. Junior Assistant Peon*

          Sounds like you’re working with vacationers. With business travel, any fees for a last-minute trip cancellation are just a cost of doing business.

          1. TA*

            The bulk of our clientele are leisure travelers, yes. We do some business travel, but that’s a whole different ballgame.

        2. Cambridge Comma*

          That changes everything for me since the services you offer are so widely available elsewhere so no harm in turning people away or suggesting another agency. Probably what your friends are hoping for are insider tips on locations and saving money? If there are any tips (or blogs with tips) you can share that might scratch the same itch without meaning extensive work for you.

        3. CAA*

          It seems like charging a non-refundable deposit for your friends will solve the problem. If the friends do travel, then the deposit gets applied to the trip. If they don’t travel, you keep the money and don’t have to ask for a cancellation fee. If the friends don’t want to pay a deposit, then they will just go to some other travel agent, and you’re o.k. with that anyway.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Yeah, if you can tell them something like “I don’t usually work with friends anymore because it’s too difficult to deal with cancellation fees, but if you would be willing to pay an up front deposit then I would be happy to work with you! If not I can recommend XYZ, they’ll do a great job for you” or something.

        4. generic_username*

          Ooof, rough business to be in these past couple of years. Fingers crossed things continue to get better and we can all go back to travel soon

          1. TA*

            Thank you. I’m keeping my fingers crossed too. It’s been…not great. We had our best year in 2019, so it was very deflating especially after 10 years of blood, sweat, time, and tears (and more and more and more tears this past year). But I have literally the best team ever and a super supportive family, so I put myself in the lucky category, all things considered.

        5. Developer Number 10*

          Wow… I have to say, you have my sympathy, and I totally understand that my oh-so-obvious solution just doesn’t work in your industry.

          Being from the UK, my experience of TAs in the past has been our high-street agencies. With those, it seems to be salaried employees manning the desks in the offices, and I’d never really seen much value to their offering. Sometimes they could put together a better package than I could achieve booking direct with hotels and airlines, but it didn’t really seem like a whole bunch more. On the flip side, I never really used much of their time – maybe 15 minutes in the shop finding out if they had a good recommendation for a hotel in an area I wanted to visit – so I never really felt bad about deciding not to book…

          However, my wife’s friend’s sister recently started a TA role, and offered to find a fun weekend away at a luxury cottage for that friendship group. I was amazed at the amount of effort she put in to find different locations that met the rather quirky requests of all the ladies, while still being well within budget. I suddenly had a whole new respect for the industry – and I have to confess, I was really worried at one point that after all that work, they wouldn’t end up actually making the booking.
          Fortunately for all involved, they agreed on a package, and had an amazing weekend away.

          Having experienced this myself (albeit second hand), I see that there are multiple costs incurred by TAs: There’s the booking cost, potentially including a non-refundable deposit, which clearly the client has to pay (even if they have a life emergency and need to cancel – that’s what travel insurance is for).
          However, there’s also the cost associated with the TAs time and effort – which, in an ideal world, is paid by the commission on the booking. If the client only “researches” the vacation, and never books, the TA is out of pocket, with no way to get paid.

          I’ll offer as a suggestion the solution found by my acquaintance:
          She now offers “pre-researched” packages to friends and family, and only goes to the effort for bespoke packages once there’s a solid “intent to book”. She’s up front about any cancellation costs too.
          Having seen her work, I’d be happy to pay a £50 up front deposit for the research if I was after something specific… but I get that many wouldn’t.

  22. Rosacolleti*

    #3 If you have staff, can you not assign one of them to manage jobs from friends? I loved when my business got big enough to be able to do that. I can offer them mates rates and then hand them over to someone who will handle them like every other client.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      ooh I don’t know about that. When my boss did that back when I worked at the agency, the friend definitely got special treatment, with other projects being postponed to fit theirs in asap. If the boss said “he needs it on Thursday” we wouldn’t say “Friday is the earliest I can do it”. We’d just work out what to postpone in order to fit it all in.

    2. TA*

      Hi! OP#3 here! I think this would work in a lot of industries. But in our industry right now, cancellations are still high compared to what they used to be pre-pandemic. If a friend cancelled on one of my staff, I think that would be even more complicated and I would ultimately lose more money as I would feel compelled to compensate my staff for their time (as I should). I have faith that we will eventually get back to a place where the completion rate is high again. When that happens, it will be a whole different story! But for now, I was looking for the right words to tell my friends that I just can’t blur the lines of friendship and business at this time (and I totally plan to use what Alison said!).

      1. hbc*

        I think it’s going to come off a little weird if you used to do the work for friends, stop doing the work for friends, and then start doing it again later. You should just tell them, “We’re getting a lot more cancellations and are charging X non-refundable fee up front in most situations, and I would hate to have you cancel and not get that money back. I can recommend another agency until the policy changes.”

        I suppose you could still just stay strong on that, but if they tell you that they’re okay with that situation, I would dispense with the guilt and take them at their word. Frankly, anyone who gives you grief about not getting their non-refundable deposit back is probably a lousy friend/customer/human in other ways.

        1. TA*

          Honestly, I just don’t think I want to take friends on as clients anymore, even when things get better. It’s not really about them…it’s just not working for me! I was just looking for advice on the best way to say it, and I’m definitely going to use Alison’s ideas (thank you for that Alison)!

  23. ExpatReader*

    OP#4: Flip the situation. If you don’t go to the party, and turn in your resignation a day or two later, it could look like you were cutting ties early and didn’t really care about your relationships with the people you’re currently working with. Go to the party, enjoy yourself without guilt, and resign when it all lines up – again without guilt. No one’s going to whisper that you were just trying to get a free meal, and if they do, their opinion is not worth your time.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yeah it’s important not to resign before the party, because that would take the focus off the reason for the party and “make it all about you”, so if anyone said half an accusation, that’s what I’d be saying. “Not making it all about me” is a great deflection that it’d be hard to find fault with. If they want to celebrate you, they can organise another party to say good-bye to you!

      1. Green great dragon*

        I don’t agree with this! Resign when you need to resign, and go to the party anyway, just don’t talk about your new job unless asked directly. It’s to celebrate work that’s been done, which you were part of, so you’re totally entitled to be there. We’d invite back people who’d left the team to join our post-project celebrations (from internal moves in a large company rather than a totally new job, but still – we’d certainly expect someone in their notice period to come along).

          1. Green great dragon*

            Don’t resign in the middle of a party seems a pretty good rule in general. Unless you can think of a really spectacular way to do it, in which case go for it and to be sure to send us an update.

        1. Phony Genius*

          If you resign before the party, read the reaction of your bosses to decide if you should go to the party; if they seem upset, skip it. If you’re resigning after the party, and you don’t want them to know until you actually resign, then you should go.*

          * – If you’re really uncomfortable going, you can always fake an excuse not to go.

    2. Don P.*

      It’s not even a free meal, it’s “free and drinks and apps”! Which would strike me as pretty cheap except that OP mentions that the manager is paying personally, so I understand the limitation.

  24. Roeslein*

    I went to work with wet air throughout my 20s (I always had long or long-ish straight hair) because I had no idea it was perceived as unprofessional. I never pulled it into a pony either as that would take ages to dry. Mostly it dried in the train during the commute (does this person work next door the the office?) but was not necessarily fully dry by the time I reached the office. As a teen, I had been told that hairdryers damaged hair so had never owned one. I didn’t start using a hair dryer until I was about 32 and my hair got thinner after childbirth so needed blow-drying. And I was wearing full make-up, business casual etc. the whole time so it wasn’t a grooming issue – I just didn’t know because no one had told me. Please let her know.

    1. SAS*

      I assume she’s washing her hair at the office (as in, after an early gym workout). A few people at our office do this either in the morning or at lunch time. I assume there’s a difference in culture as we don’t work with paying clients, it’s never seemed super unprofessional.

    2. dal*

      I come to work with wet hair the time. I wash it >one hour before I get into work, it just takes about three hours to dry. So, no, not required that she has a short commute; I’m lucky if my hair is dry by lunch.

      1. Colette*

        Yeah, I washed my hair an hour and a half ago, partially blow-dried it, and it’s still definitely damp.

        1. dal*

          it is currently 11:49 AM. I washed my hair at like 10:30 (it’s a WFH flex day, don’t judge). it is still QUITE wet.

          also I just really hate blow dryers, OK? I don’t *want* to blow dry my hair, and it’s not clear why I should have to.

          1. Colette*

            Sure, but if having dry hair was a requirement you might be able to wash your hair at a different time (e.g. the night before), change to a shorter hairstyle that dries faster, wash your hair less often and put it up so that it’s not noticeable that you slept on it, or decide that you want to work somewhere it doesn’t matter. No one is telling anyone they have to blow dry their hair; however, it seems that the requirement in the OP’s company is that hair be dry when you meet with clients, regardless of how it gets to that state.

            1. dal*

              I mean, yes, but it is annoying and a weird requirement that puts more burden on curly-haired people who also tend to more often be people of color.

              (I have fine, greasy, curly hair; sleeping on it wet is an adventure, and not washing it for several days is Not An Option; it will look *much* worse than it does wet within two days. So I really do need to wash it in the mornings, every day. But I do not have a client-facing role, and I work in tech, so the dress code is basically “is it clothing? good”.)

  25. TechWorker*

    Agreeing with all the damp hair people. I have not owned a hairdryer since I was a teenager and tbh my manager telling me I had to either a) buy a hair dryer and straighteners & spend an extra hair hour or so a day blow drying and straightening it (can’t just blow dry because it WILL just turn into a frizzy mess) or b) give up on exercising in the morning is something I would seriously consider quitting over.

    I braid my hair when damp and whilst I would probably try to do so early enough that it looked dry-ish by the time I had an important meeting, I just really don’t think it looks that bad, unless I am like 10min out of the shower.

  26. ceiswyn*

    I have to say that when I’m a customer, I regard the ‘I have cleaned myself thoroughly recently’ look as exceedingly professional.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Personally I’d be fretting about the possibilities of catching a cold, but I may have read too much Jane Austen.

      1. ceiswyn*

        If I do catch a cold, do I get to languish around a country house full of eligible men? Because I’m potentially up for that…

        (I once ended up standing outside wet in a towel at below freezing due to a fire alarm at my gym. The hair was not my biggest concern at the time.)

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          oh my yeah! We had a fire alarm at the swimming-pool when I was just showering post-swim, luckily it wasn’t too cold and we were able to wait in a sunny spot, but it was horrible!!

  27. Annie j*

    In regards to elevator pitchess, I’m not really sure how useful they are in reality especially now with social media people are have their own LinkedIn profiles and if a potential employer or networking contact wanted to know more, presumably they would go to LinkedIn first or one of the myriad social media networks to find out more about a persons business.
    Not to say that condensing your value proposition down into a small, easy to remember segment is not valuable.

    1. Going Up!*

      Maybe we should change it from ‘elevator pitch’ to ‘tweet’. It’s really the same thing: being able to explain what you do very concisely. It’s not always easy and it is worth practicing – whether you’ve randomly stumbled across a VC who is going to fund you or you’re just trying to explain a complex thing on twitter.

      (I run my own small consultancy in an extremely niche market (along the lines of ‘wait, that’s a real thing?’)and I have 3 or 4 different versions of an elevator pitch to deal with the inevitable questions of ‘what do you do?’ Some of them are tailored to the folks who might hire me, some of them are tailored to the small talk we make when meeting people who just want to get to know you, some are tailored to the folks who might recommend me to other people.

      1. LQ*

        Yes, an elevator pitch is just a tweet with your face. You definitely still need to be able to do it. (I’m horrible at them.)

    2. Naomi*

      Sure, potential contacts can look you up on social media… if they care to. They’re probably not Googling every person they run into at a networking event. The elevator pitch is how you get someone interested in a closer look.

    3. Colette*

      It’s still useful, because sometimes you’re going to talk to someone (at a career fair, networking event, socially) and want to quickly explain who you are professionally.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        If nothing else I find them useful for the “so what do you do?” social questions which have gotten more probing recently for whatever reason

  28. RS*

    As long as hair is not dripping onto equipment or customers I don’t see the issue. There is so much regulating of people’s bodies and appearances that is truly unnecessary, it’s just classist or sexist or racist or ableist some combination. So best to only regulate when it is a matter of genuine necessity.

    I have thick curly hair as is typical for my ethnicity and it will take hours, if not a day, to dry on its own. I spent too many hours of my personal time as a young person straightening it and worrying about it – that’s time that could have been spent doing virtually anything else of value, and not feeling like I was failing at this arbitrary thing. As a matter of principle now I refuse to straighten my hair and refuse to denigrate its frizziness, “wildness” etc. I use a diffuser to speed things along and because I can now afford a hairdryer with a diffuser, which I couldn’t always do, but I leave it partially damp.

    1. I Like Stripes*

      Yep, this absolutely. Times are a changing and I would not appreciate this as an employee that you’re focusing on my wet hair and not my work. Some hair has to be wet for quite a while to get the curl to set. That’s how it is. There is no blow drying curly hair. You can diffuse but it is very likely you will end up with frizz. Air dry is sometimes the best option. And yes, that air dry can take hours. I also refuse to conform to these beauty standards. I no longer use heat on my hair because I get way less damage that way. I’d really reconsider mentioning this to the employee.

  29. Lily*

    Wet hair — how much does this depend on location? I don’t blow dry my long thick hair, but when I lived in dry climates, it was dry by the time I got to work. Now, in a damp climate, it sometimes doesn’t get fully dry for DAYS. I think norms around this may vary by climate. In dry climates, I’d be a bit more surprised to see a client-facing person with wet hair, but here in the damp, it’s pretty common. And while long hair is its own special problem, short hair doesn’t always fix everything either; I can’t speak for others, but unless I get a buzz cut, my hair is LESS manageable when it’s short.

  30. Lily Rose*

    Wet hair — how much does this depend on location? I don’t blow dry my long thick hair, but when I lived in dry climates, it was dry by the time I got to work. Now, in a damp climate, it sometimes doesn’t get fully dry for DAYS. I think norms around this may vary by climate. In dry climates, I’d be a bit more surprised to see a client-facing person with wet hair, but here in the damp, it’s pretty common. And while long hair is its own special problem, short hair doesn’t always fix everything either; I can’t speak for others, but unless I get a buzz cut, my hair is LESS manageable when it’s short.

    1. Just delurking to say...*

      I was wondering the same thing, as my thick fine hair always dries fully by morning even though I wash it last thing at night. Using a microfibre hair wrap to take off most of the water probably helps, the rest of this apparent miracle might be living in a climate that’s dry and mild in winter and hot in summer.

      Yes, I tend to look like Medusa until I’ve brushed it into submission.

      1. Quoth the Raven*

        I have a lot of thick, wavy/curly hair and I live in a city that is hot year round (the high today is 19°C / 66°F and that’s just shy of long sleeves weather for a lot of us) but is also dry, and my hair can take up to six hours to fully dry. The only place where I’ve had it dry in less than two hours is the beach, and that usually just means my hair is a mess of frizz and puffiness.

        1. Just delurking to say...*

          Going all O.O here because 19°C where I live is a seriously chilly winter’s day that sees woollens and puffer jackets out in force.

          1. ceiswyn*

            19C sounds like summer to me.

            Where I am, the high today is 12C and this month has been unseasonably warm.

            1. Quoth the Raven*

              Yeah. I was in Michigan in the beginning of the month and some of the “oh, it’s not THAT bad yet” days by my Michigander friends’ standards saw me wearing a down jacket or three layers to keep passingly warm.

            2. allathian*

              Yeah, me too. Last year we had two months of maximum temperatures that reached at least 25 C, and several weeks of at least 30 C, although not necessarily on successive days. But the definition of a heatwave here is 3 days straight when the maximum is at least 25 C. This doesn’t happen every summer, although most years we get at least one heatwave.

              1. Just delurking to say...*

                You’d need to add at least 10° to that to reach heatwave status here … the occasional scorcher is 38° (or 40°+ in the next city inland).

                Those “it’s not THAT bad yet” Michigan days would probably see me blue from head to frozen toe and desperately trying to hibernate until summer.

              2. UKDancer*

                I think you’re in Finland (unless I’m confusing you with someone else). The last meeting I had there (pre-Covid) the UK company representatives were all wearing thick wool suits and thermals and the Finns we met with were in shirt sleeves and saying what a lovely warm day it was.

                I think the temperature senses were definitely different. That said Helsinki was lovely!

            1. WulfInTheForest*

              In FL we keep room temp somewhere between 74F and 78F I’ve noticed. Cool enough to be a respite from the 95F outside, but still warm enough to not crank the energy bill to high heaven.

            2. Just delurking to say...*

              25° is nice – a touch cooler than the government’s money- and energy-saving recommendation of 26° in summer. (A recommendation cheerfully ignored by offices and shopping centres everywhere.)

              1. londonedit*

                Oh my goodness I’d boil if room temperature was 26C! I usually keep my thermostat at 20, any weather above 25 is starting to get too hot for me. Over the last few years we’ve had a week here and there in the summer of 30+ and I find it absolutely miserable every time.

              2. bamcheeks*

                I can’t get my head around “hotter is energy-saving” places! The idea that energy heats rather than cools is so ingrained that I just can’t make it work in my head.

            3. Clisby*

              That’s going to vary wildly from person to person. I consider room temperature to be about 68F/20C in winter and about 76F/24.5C in summer. (I live in coastal SC). I would not consider 66F to be a chilly winter’s day. Or even a chilly fall day.

          2. Cold Walker*

            This morning I walked 1.4 miles (2.2 kilometers) in 32 degrees F (0 degrees C) from the parking lot to my office…with wet hair. The wind was the worst part since it was a lazy wind…goes through you rather than around. Fortunately I had my heaviest sweatshirt with a hood and gloves. Attire of others on the trip ranged from shorts and a t shirt for a runner to a heavy down coat. It wasn’t the most comfortable that I have ever been, but I would have been fine without the wind.

  31. ed123*

    There is also Polar Bear pitching where you go into the freezing water (hole in the ice) to do your pitch. So similar length to elevator but a lot colder :D

  32. Pickaduck*

    I think the only issue with coming to work with wet hair is if you rake a comb or your fingers through it the entire time during a meeting, as a co-worker of mine used to do.

    1. Observer*

      Well, that’s pretty off-putting no matter if the hair is wet, damp or dry. I’m not saying never touch or adjust hair, but this is a bit much. I can imagine that it wasn’t pleasant for you.

  33. Goat*

    I personally think the OP1 is making a mountain out of a molehill. Would you rather someone have dirty hair, or wet – but clean – hair? Most people won’t notice or care, clients or otherwise.

    If I’ve ever come to work with wet hair, it’s because I haven’t had time to wash it the night before because of long hours and a long commute.

  34. Chris*

    #4 – In addition to what Alison said, which is 100% correct, don’t get too hung up on the fact that the partner is paying for it out of his own pocket.

    The way law firm finances work, and depending on the size of the firm, there’s not a huge difference between something paid for by an equity partner and something paid for by the firm. And my experience is that partners even in large firms with dozens of equity partners see firm expenses as coming directly out of their bottom line anyway. Not to mention if the big verdict came with a big contingency any amount of drinks the partner could buy you aren’t going to take a noticeable chunk out of their share.

    A friend of mine who was a senior associate at a large international firm once made a suggestion to a partner she worked with about something cheap the firm could do to make life better for associates, and the response was: “If you want that to happen, you’re going to have to show me how it’s going to make money for me personally.” Don’t think twice.

    1. ShysterB*

      #4 — As an equity partner at an AmLaw 100 law firm, I want to say: GO TO THE PARTY! Celebrate the victory for the firm. Consider it a step as maintaining and continuing to build relationships with your colleagues (a) who might refer you business someday, either from that firm or from positions they may move on to or (b) to whom you might refer business some day.

      As another commenter noted already, there’s not a huge difference between the equity partner paying out of pocket and the firm paying out of pocket. If it’s a small firm, it’s pretty much the same thing. If it’s a larger firm, there’s a greater than 50% chance that partner will be submitting a request for reimbursement to cover a business expense (which it is, just like an annual holiday party is).

  35. Bookworm*

    #1: Also disagreeing. Unless it looks like she literally just walked out of the shower (ie, her hair is dripping wet), are clients *really* going to notice? Do they meet her first thing? This seems needlessly nitpicky and veering into sexism.

  36. Mawrtyr*

    I’m torn on the wet hair issue. A few factors I haven’t seen discussed:

    1. I think it definitely depends on how much the employee is earning. If the job is at a law firm making making 200k (most of my 30 year old, mid level associate attorney friends make closer to 300k or 350k after bonuses), a dry hair requirement feels different (and much less objectionable) than for someone making 35k. I would fight to the death to let my junior prosecutor or public defender friends come to the office however they want, and I could not bring myself to have a drop of sympathy for someone who makes 6 times my income.

    2. If it’s only an issue for client meetings, hopefully there could be some flexibility on when client meetings are. Can there be client-free days? Or days where the earliest client meetings are in the afternoon? Or days where morning client meetings are phone only / zoom and camera off? A dry hair at 9 am requirement 1-2 days a week feels better than a dry hair requirement 5 days a week.

    1. So Tired*

      I’m sorry, but I really disagree with your first point. It’s great that you’d fight to allow junior employees who don’t make a lot of money to have flexibility with their appearance. But a higher salary doesn’t add more time to your day. It wouldn’t change whether an employee has naturally curly, wavy, or frizzy hair which cannot use a hair dryer.

      1. Mawrtyr*

        Even if a higher salary didn’t add more time to your day, it’s appropriate to limit our sympathy for people who choose to become rich by taking high paying jobs that are a hassle.

        But, a higher salary absolutely adds more time to your day! You can:

        – buy a shorter commute
        – buy food already prepared for you
        – buy your way out of running your own errands, walking your own dog, cleaning your own house, doing your own laundry
        – buy exercise equipment to keep in your home
        – buy better hair products and access to better stylists who can help mitigate the problem

        And if you’re earning 300k+ by the time you’re 30, you have enough skills and credentials to leverage against your current boss for more flexibility, or to find another job with less onerous appearance requirements that are still quite lucrative.

        I’m not saying that such requirements aren’t obnoxious and arbitrary. They absolutely are. I’m saying that highly paid people have exponentially more tools available to them to deal with it, so it’s ok to not be terribly sympathetic.

    2. Juniper*

      I don’t get this — past a certain salary threshold people must be held to higher grooming standards? That’s both condescending to people in lower income brackets and does nothing to address sexism/racism/classism inherent in the standards to begin with.

      1. RagingADHD*

        It doesn’t address problems with the standards themselves, but it’s absolutely true that those standards make much less practical impact on a person the more money they have. The high-income attorneys I used to work with certainly had an easier time maintaining high grooming standards, because they didn’t have to do their own grooming at all.

        On days my (female) boss had an important meeting and had bad hair, she’d go to the salon on her way to the office, or come in with less-than-fresh hair and go out to the salon at lunch. And she had the time for those things because a) her stylist would take her pretty much as early as she wanted, because $$$, b) she had a nanny dealing with the kids and c) she wasn’t taking public transit. She didn’t even have to hail her own cabs- she could order a car in advance if she wanted.

        The more money you have to throw at a problem, the smaller the problems become, to the point that the folks who are the standard-setters don’t see them as problems at all.

  37. Kate, short for Bob*

    #4 if you believe that someone is going to publicly resent the small cost of a plate of food and a couple of drinks when you resign – your workplace may be more toxic than you think.

    If so, you might need to take a breath and reset your expectations when you get to your new role. Have a dig through the archives here and see which situations ring a bell, then really try to internalise what Alison says the healthy response should be.

    If I’m off base and you’re expecting Beluga caviar served on a diamond dish to keep then ignore the above :-)

    1. Ganymede*

      Honestly if I as an employer were having a celebration about a big success that OP had contributed to, and OP had already left, I would invite OP *back* to celebrate! A contribution is a contribution. Possibly this attitude doesn’t fit with the cut-throat nature of business! But I do think OP 4 needs to worry less about this, it’s not something unearned.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Yes, I think it’s significant that this is a celebration for a thing that has already been achieved, completed. I hope LW wouldn’t be turning down a bonus earned during the same period!

        I might feel squeamish if it was a “we are launching our new service which nobody has started work on yet” party, but celebrating a past win is not in the same ballpark.

    2. generic_username*

      Yeah, it never would have crossed my mind to avoid going to a party just because I was planning to put in my notice in a couple of weeks. I doubt anyone will correlate the two events (unless as another commenter joked above, you resign at the party). If anything, it would read to everyone that you’re leaving because you’re sick of the people and don’t want to socialize with them, or that you’ve already got your foot out the door

  38. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP1: as long as it’s not dripping on things, soaking their clothes or scattering droplets on nearby people just suggest it be tied back.

    My hair hasn’t seen a hairdryer in over two decades, it takes over a day to dry (extremely thick, waist length, frizzy black (and grey), in the famously damp UK) and I’ll tie it back if it’s still damp after its weekly wash. If I don’t then it flaps about and leaves wet marks on everything. Which is unprofessional.

    Don’t suggest hairdryers. Suggest hairbands. Just scraping it back gets it out of the face and away from client view.

    1. Coder von Frankenstein*

      OP1 said the employee wore her wet hair in a ponytail, so it sounds like she’s already doing this.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Then I don’t see the problem.

        I mean, unless she’s going into a cold server room after because lemme tell you, wet hair and LAN rooms = very very cold Keymaster.

        1. Coder von Frankenstein*

          I live in northern Indiana and have a ten-minute walk from my customary parking lot to work. Every winter, there are several days where it gets cold enough for my wet hair to freeze on my way in.

          1. Rez123*

            Nothing like being on the way to a first date and your mascara freezes outside and runs down your cheeks when it defrosts.

  39. Shiba Dad*

    #3 – Some people can put their professional ethos and their personal ethos into separate silos. Others not so much. I’m in the second camp and it sounds like you are too.

    Keep in mind if they deal with anyone else your industry your friends are going to be charged a cancelation fee anyway. If you are upfront with your friends about why you are uncomfortable dealing with them you may find they will tell you not to worry.

  40. WulfInTheForest*

    I fully disagree with the advice on OP1. As someone with curly hair, it takes forever to dry, as in, I’ve actually gone to bed with wet hair and woken up with it still wet. I can’t use hairdryers unless I want to look like a cottonball of frizz. OP shouldn’t say anything.

  41. a woman who wont have it all*

    Alison – I must whole-heartedly disagree, a rare occurrence. The concept ‘wet hair is unprofessional’ is yet other way we control how women look.

    No Makeup – unprofessional. Wet Hair – unprofessional. Limited wardrobe – unprofessional.

    Each of these requires more of women’s resources — time and money – to fit the standards of professionalism. We are expected to find time to do it all. If the hair is not impacted the quality of her work or dripping on you, products, or clients… why should we give a hoot if she opts for an extra 30-45 mins of sleep or a workout over blown-dry hair?

    1. Nopity Nope*

      Early in my career, I was advised to wear makeup by an older (female) supervisor. Even in my 20s, I didn’t take that crap. Ironically, no one has ever mentioned wet hair, which I’ve always done.

      To add to your list: Direct communication style = bitchy and aggressive when it comes from a woman. Assertive and leadership material when it’s from a man.

      I’m so tired of it all.

    2. Observer*

      No Makeup – unprofessional. Wet Hair – unprofessional. Limited wardrobe – unprofessional.

      Except that Allison does not say those things – ESPECIALLY not the limited wardrobe. (See the letter from someone whose boss was worried that “people might draw conclusions” because that OP wore the same clothes twice in one week.)

      Also, Alison commented earlier that she actually tells her husband (who has long hair) the same thing.

    1. Shiba Dad*

      In this case, new company is the parent company of the old company. In theory, contacting the current job shouldn’t be that egregious.

      Sometimes the new company will contact the current employer to verify employment, which can cause issues for the employee. Happened to a current coworker (technically my boss) when we worked together at another company. Our current employer contacted Old Job before he gave notice. He wasn’t particularly happy about it and it was a bit awkward, but everyone eventually got over it.

    2. Emmie*

      I disagree with the advice. Applying for a job with a parent company is an internal transfer in my world. In that case, it’s common – and our policy – to inform your manager that you’re interviewing for an internal role. OP should’ve told her manager she was interviewing with the parent org.

      1. Annie E. Mouse*

        Completely agree. Leaving to another role within your organization is different from leaving the company.

        OP mentions that the new role will likely involve continued work with manager. OP probably needs to do a little damage control here.

      2. Deanna Troi*

        Yes, any place I’ve ever worked, it would be a huge misstep not to inform your manager that you’re applying internally. And by internally, I mean all other organizations under the parent organization, not just my own.

    3. Nopity Nope*

      It’s the same company—OP is moving to a role at the parent company. The email was likely a boilerplate informing of a final date or similar, probably from HR or even system-generated, and not from the hiring manager. Just a bit of unfortunate timing, nothing malicious, as I read it.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      I was assuming at first it was a kind of “we are excited to be welcoming Jane to our team” and didn’t think about the implications of sending that so soon or something but then she said the email said that she was leaving–if it literally said that then there is really no excuse.

      Though there wouldn’t be much excuse for sending a “welcome Jane” email too early either, surely this is something that has come up before?? They should really be prepared to handle it way more delicately!

      1. Alcott*

        My employer is also has a parent org and multiple divisions. We also have a one-stop-shop personnel management software. You submit your application in it, you receive and sign your offer letters in it. Once you’re employed, you use it for benefits elections, time off requests, your performance evaluations, etc. If I accept a job in another part of the organization, my current manager can see that as soon as I’ve clicked “accept” on the offer letter. So everyone gives notice before accepting an internal offer to avoid OP’s situation.

  42. LadyByTheLake*

    #4 Also remember that most reputable attorneys and law firms realize that former associates are a key source of referrals. When I left my last firm they insisted that I attend a lavish museum opening party even after my last day (and bring a guest) because maintaining my goodwill was important to them. Go party without giving it a second thought.

  43. rubble*

    ……… today I learnt that elevator pitches aren’t actually about pitching yourself to someone in a lift. here I was thinking it was something only rude, demanding people did! but the actual explanation of what it’s for makes more sense

  44. So Tired*

    I really don’t agree with the answer to #1, and I’m surprised that we’re still viewing wet hair as unprofessional. The employee is clearly showering and washing her hair, which means it’s clean and shouldn’t that be what matters? People used to say women not wearing makeup or pantyhose was unprofessional, or that tattoos and brightly dyed hair were unprofessional. Why can’t wet hair also move out the “unprofessional” category? If an employee is there on time, has everything organized and ready to go, and has a history of doing excellent work, why does wet hair suddenly mean they’re unprofessional?

    I have curly hair, and no matter if it’s short or long, I cannot blow dry it. Washing it in the evening isn’t an option for me, as sleeping with wet hair will cause even more issues. My sister, on the other hand, can have her hair air dry in less than an hour, so she never goes to work with wet hair. Different types of hair require different care techniques.

    It’s not as if the employee is dripping water all over everything–if she were I’m sure OP would have mentioned that. But why should some employees have to put extra time and effort–and do additional damage to their hair–when it’s something that they can’t control about their natural appearance? I’m really surprised this letter didn’t get a similar answer to other letters about employee appearances.

    1. Teapot Librarian*

      Me: Reads AAM in bed. Decides not to shower before job interview this morning.
      Me: Takes shower anyway.
      I did pull my hair back into a bun, which will keep me from fiddling with it during the interview, which is much more unprofessional than it being wet!

  45. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    Elevator pitch … love them. Some of my colleagues teach jobseekers to do 2 minutes. I teach 10 seconds (but with more to offer in your pocket).
    You should be able to turn to the person standing next to a party and answer a basic question about yourself & your work if they ask … without making them start scanning the room for different snack tables.

    Hi, my name is ___, I’m this kind of person and this is why I do this kind of work.

    e.g., Hi, I’m Chicken Lady. I’m a counselor — I help people get jobs and change careers — it’s a blast because I get to meet all of the kinds of people.

    or (if I’m in job seeking mode) … Hi, I’m Chicken Lady. I’m a counselor and love working with adults in periods of change in their lives, like changing careers and choosing school plans. I’m currently hoping to find a position in a community college career center, or something like that.

    Then stop. Wait to see if the person has any interest in listening further. If it’s the opening bit of a job interview, you can assume the follow up question will be “so what interests you about this position” so you can just do a sentence or two about that. But if it’s a networking event, and you don’t know the person you’re talking to, you might kill the conversation if you put the wrong fuel on the fire. So let them say something back before you decide how much more to say. (And listen to them too, networking goes two ways.)

  46. PRM1*

    It’s also worth thinking about who can come into the office with wet hair (!). There was an excellent essay out on the internets some years ago — sorry, can’t locate the link! — about this very subject and the race and class implications.

  47. Dwight Schrute*

    OP1: I would let it go assuming her hair is not dripping wet and getting onto her shirt ( but really, who does that? It’s so uncomfortable.) I have curly hair and I can’t blow dry it, it takes an entire day to dry if I shower in the morning. I usually shower at night and it’s still damp in the morning. As long as her hair is tied back I don’t see the issue with it being damp

  48. JaneLoe*

    I am loving all the discussion on whether wet hair is professional because I actually wrote in a couple years ago asking about wet hair! (see link below) I also DO NOT AGREE that wet hair is unprofessional. I have curly hair, as do many of the other commentators – if you don’t have curly hair please don’t police those who do – Someone with stick straight hair will just not understand how much time and energy it can take to style curly hair any other way than the way it wants to style itself naturally! A blow dryer does not work for me and I have always thought it was a huge waste of time (I genuinely do not own one and have not for 12+ years). I try to shower an hour before being expected to arrive somewhere, but even then I am not perfect. I don’t see the big deal about wet hair !!! It means that I have showered, and *shocker* IT WILL DRY!

  49. CCC*

    Wow. TIL that many people are really protective about any criticism of their hair care/styling routines. I understand that everyone’s hair and lives are different, but some of these comments are kind of a lot.

      1. CCC*

        No, it takes a long time to dry by white lady standards– but that’s not really what I’m surprised by here, I’m not taken aback at how some people have it much harder than others in regards to hair. This isn’t a hair blog so I don’t really feel the need to go through my hair style/needs/etc. But the reality is that my hair looks wet when it’s wet. Some people find that unprofessional. Now that might be crappy, but it’s still true. So I can (a) change my expectations of how I look and change my routine or (b) accept that some folks will judge me for having wet hair and whatever consequences come with that. I’m more flexible on (a) than I am on (b), at least in regards to hair, and I’m a little startled that so many commenters are hostile to that.

        Outside of hygiene and safety issues, professional norms around dress and appearance is subjective bullshit in our heads. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, or that others don’t notice, etc. Humans judge each other by how we show up in the world; your choices in regards to clothing, makeup, hair, shoes, whatever are a form of communication whether I like it or not.

    1. Coder von Frankenstein*

      Folks are irritated because long curly hair is a PITA to manage, and we work out our hair care routines to accommodate that, and being told “You’re doing it wrong” by someone who doesn’t have to deal with it (sometimes with a suggestion that has been tried and found unworkable, more often with no suggested fix at all) is pretty irritating.

      1. CCC*

        I totally understand that it’s irritating when you’ve worked out a way to care for yourself that has results that others might find unprofessional. I understand the irritation. I don’t understand the hostility in some of the comments because I don’t think that “some people think wet hair looks unprofessional” is exactly news, any more than “some people think leggings are unprofessional” or “some people think bitten nails are unprofessional” or “some people think tattoos are unprofessional.” Allison suggests that the LW consider whether it matters in the setting she’s in, and gently say something if it does, which afaik in line with most of the advice regarding appearance issues she gives.

        1. PVR*

          Because the type of pants you wear is a choice. Getting a tattoo is a choice. Chewing nails is a habit. The type of hair you have is not. As others have pointed out, different hair types require different types of care, some of which conflict with having perfectly dry, perfectly styled hair at the beginning of a work day. Yes, people can wash their hair the day or evening before and go into work with dry hair as a result, but for many that dry hair will have a decidedly less professional appearance. Some hair types are quite fragile and the damage sustained from the heat of a blow dryer or flat iron are catastrophic. Caring for curly hair is entirely different than caring for straight hair. Fine hair reacts to heat differently than coaster hair types. Thicker hair takes a long time to dry. So some hair really and truly does have specific requirements that are not easily changeable and being asked to do something you know will harm your hair and/ or make it look terrible does anger people. The fact that you can’t relate to that feeling tells me that you have pretty easy going hair that blow drys well and is very manageable and that you have a lot of choice in how you style and cut your hair. From some of us dealing with curls, hair loss, or hair breakage there really is only way to do our hair.

    2. Littorally*

      Agreed. One of the things I’ve always valued about Alison’s advice is that she strikes a good balance between the “should” answers (yes, the details of someone’s hair care routine shouldn’t be an issue in the office) and the “is” answers (right or wrong, the details of someone’s hair care routine may be an issue in the office).

      This is an “is” answer. It’s the kind of thing where someone might choose to continue doing as they’re doing because the tradeoff is worthwhile — ie, coming to work with wet hair, even if it somewhat impacts first impressions, is better than the alternative. But that’s a choice to make knowingly, not in ignorance.

    3. Really?*

      You’re policing what people should and should not do with their hair. My hair can be blow dried but it’s a lot to manage in an already busy morning. I can smell the fragile white male from here.

      1. CCC*

        I’m a woman. And hence it is not news to me that sometimes people will judge me by my appearance. It’s shitty, but again, not news, and is just part of life. My life is full of all kinds of lame things that I do because people will judge me by my appearance. I iron my work clothes, I don’t wear athletic gear to work, I buy new clothes when the old ones don’t fit or are worn out, I paint my nails sometimes, I wear jewelry, I use acne treatment products, I wear dress shoes that are far less comfortable than my sneakers, and sometimes, yes, I blow dry my hair. I don’t really see how this is a “policing” issue any more than the other items are.

      2. Colette*

        No one is policing what people should do with their hair. People are pointing out that there are consequences to some choices.

        1. American Job Venter*

          This is the logic used to, for instance, tell Black women that we must chemically straighten our hair to be “presentable” or not “disgusting”. The longstanding history of that attitude is at least part of the pushback here, from what I can see.

    4. American Job Venter*

      Hair can be a very touchy subject, not least because of the oppressive uses of the differences between many ethnic groups’ hair and the “professional” standard set by White hair. Native Americans have been forced to cut their hair and Black women have been forced to chemically straighten ours in order to “look professional”, as just two examples. Also this hair-related bruising can show up between family members, as demonstrated by anecdotes above from curly-haired people whose straight-haired family members didn’t understand or even punished them for their hair. So with those backgrounds on the subject, some people push back against the idea that there is only one “professional” way to wear one’s hair.

    5. Exhausted Educator Was Exhausted*

      TIL (along with numerous others in this thread) that regardless of qualifications, talent, and work ethic, I would not be able to have a career in an industry whose clients require bone-dry hair by the start of the work day in order to demonstrate professionalism and credibility. That’s not how my hair operates.

  50. Let me be dark and twisty*

    OP1: Let it go. Wet hair is the least of anyone’s problems and it’s not even worth mentioning to Jane unless it’s truly affecting her performance. From your letter, Jane’s wet hair is only affecting your perception of her as a professional adult. But it doesn’t appear that the clients have an issue with it? I understand that Jane’s position is client-facing but there are more pressing, and more work-related, issues to be discussing than policing a young woman’s appearance, especially if the clients haven’t said anything. I agree with the others who say that Alison’s advice is off the mark here.

    People get caught in the rain unexpectedly all the time. If you police Jane having wet hair when she meets with morning clients, are you ready to have that same conversation about wet hair with those people when they come in from the rain to meet with clients? I realize these are two different scenarios, but using your logic, they’re rooted in the same issue — people with client-facing jobs shouldn’t have wet hair, no matter the cause.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I also wonder if Jane’s age comes into play. She is early in her career so OP might be thinking “oh she doesn’t know how to be professional” because she has wet hair.
      Unless it is literally dripping wet or causing problems OP needs to let this go. Plenty of people come to work and even see clients with wet hair.

  51. 867-5309*

    OP1: I don’t even own a blow dryer and have very long hair. I’m also in a fairly senior role (director+) at a publicly traded company. It definitely comes down to your work culture but it does not sound like anyone has mentioned it, nor is it affecting anyone’s perception of Jane. This makes it more of a personal preference for you.

    OP2: I disagree with Alison here. You moved within the same company, if I understand correctly? To me that warrants a different kind of internal notification process than when you are looking externally. However, the bigger error is on the company for not having a process in place to ensure current mangers are aware when someone is interviewing within the organication.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      To #2- maybe true, but they made an agreement and then behaved differently, which I think is the bigger issue. Some conversation ensued where OP explained manager didn’t know and they planned to tell them at x time. Given that, the email was premature. If it was “our process dictates we send out this communication” OP should have been told that.

    2. Lauren19*

      Came here to say the same thing re: OP2. I’m in an org that does a ton of internal moves across divisions within the same company and across operators under a single parent company. It’s heavily frowned on to proceed with a move without the hiring manager talking to the existing manager. But these are also not viewed as ‘leaving your job’ it’s more career pathing moves.

  52. Tabby Baltimore*

    #4: I hate to be the wet blanket here, but as other past letter writers can unfortunately attest, something could go wrong during your background check. If/when that happens, it will take some time to solve, so you might want to consider not giving notice at your old job until you’ve for sure passed that check.

  53. Julia*

    #1 is funny because I’m at work with damp hair right now. My hair was probably wet when I left the apartment but dried on my commute. If you look at Corporette or some other style blog it seems like most people are fine with damp hair, or damp hair pulled back in some way. I don’t use heat on my hair and you probably want my hair freshly washed for client meetings, but if it was too wet I probably would probably start towel-drying it more or put it up in a way that it didn’t look wet. I don’t think I’d love it if my boss commented on it – definitely feels a bit nitpicky.

    #5 – When I was in business school and we did elevator pitches I thought they were corny too, but I’ve found that you do need some version of it. Now what’s become my elevator pitch takes inspiration from my grad school application essay (!), has been my answer to “tell me about yourself” in job interviews, and I’ve used it in meetings with clients and vendors. It’s at least good to have a concise few sentences about your career and your interests/where you are today.

  54. The answer is (probably) 42*

    #3: I’m going to assume that the LW already considered implementing non-refundable deposits ahead of beginning a job, and decided that it wasn’t viable for their business for some reason. I am really curious to know why though! I was originally going to suggest it but I realize that any solution that I can think of in 3 seconds flat has probably already occurred to the LW and doesn’t work for them.

    1. TA*

      Hi! OP #3 here. I am in the travel industry and non-refundable deposits are tricky, especially right now. I think it’s a psychological thing but when people hear “non-refundable deposit” when it comes to travel, it makes them nervous. Most travel agencies do not charge non-refundable deposits, so new clients would likely just go somewhere else if we implemented something like as an across-the-board policy.

  55. WendyRoo*

    I’m a black woman and my hair is damp every morning at work. If that bothers you, I would recommend getting a hobby or taking some deep introspective time to figure out why you’re policing the appearance of employees and perpetuating harmful ideals about respectability instead of focusing on the actual work that they do.

  56. awesome3*

    For #1 my question is, is the back of her shirt getting a wet puddle from the ponytail? If it is, then that’s the part that would be unprofessional in my opinion. If not, then what kind of clients do you have, royalty? I’m hard pressed to think of a time I’d be a client of anyone and tied back wet hair that’s not even wet enough to dampen their shirt is something I’d notice, or care about if I did. Really only if they were supposed to be presenting me with an award or something? But even then… you say it’s dried by the morning. Doesn’t feel like a big deal to me.

  57. Really?*

    I so vehemently disagree with the wet hair is unprofessional trope. Policing an otherwise professional appearance of someone who is doing great work to begin with sounds like it’s a YOU problem, OP. As someone with a busy morning schedule before I even log on, I am not going to add 15-30 minutes on to my morning just to placate some unwritten rule developed in 1962 when women were in the workforce. The comments are also oddly misogynistic. We wouldnt think twice of a man coming in with wet/damp hair but it’s an issue when a woman does it? Please. Find hobbies or meetings to become involved in.

    1. Valancy Snaith*

      Comments like these are part of the reason I don’t comment here any more. This is a lot of vitriol to aim towards someone who wrote into a website in good faith.

      1. American Job Venter*

        Without context this comment may look to you like a warhead aimed at a mosquito. But the context I’m seeing, not least due to my own experiences, is years and years and decades of frustration at the policing of hair and other features of appearance, quite possibly policing related to gender norms and/or to forcing POC into White-based norms. I read Really?’s comment as the tip of an iceberg of frustration.

    2. Sylvia*

      I feel that the wet hair standard is misogynistic as well. I have yet to hear about a man’s wet hair in the office, even a man with long hair. Just my own experience, but if a man comes to work with wet hair, it’s because he woke up early to work out. It’s great that he makes the time to stay fit with such a busy schedule! If a woman comes to work with wet hair, it’s because she overslept and can’t manage her time appropriately–how unprofessional.

    3. Amaranth*

      Also, if an employee showed up with their hair slicked back in a ‘wet look’ would it be considered unprofessional? If water isn’t dripping down someone’s back, I don’t get the issue.

  58. generic_username*

    People who go out with wet hair (including myself) have heard about it giving us a cold or making us feel cold for our entire lives. Your hint didn’t even register – be direct. I come into work with wet hair all of the time and no one has ever said anything, but I’m not client-facing. If you’re in an industry where this will impact client perspective of you, then say something to her; otherwise, get over it

    1. Observer*

      People who go out with wet hair (including myself) have heard about it giving us a cold or making us feel cold for our entire lives. Your hint didn’t even register – be direct.


  59. ThatGirl*

    People are mostly not talking about #2, so I just wanted to note — I wonder if because the new job is part of the larger/parent company, the current manager saw it as more of an internal transfer (and that’s why she got the email about it)? And in my understanding it IS kind to give your current manager a heads up if you’re applying for an internal position. But it’s certainly possible that I’m misunderstanding the structure.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      It reads to me as one of those things that is *technically* an internal transfer on paper but isn’t…like if you worked at Charmin and then got a job at the Proctor and Gamble office? So internal but a big change? I dunno it depends on the company structure I guess.

    2. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Yes that’s what I thought too. It was odd that they sent it so soon. The person at the parent company should have waited at least a day to give the OP the chance to let their boss know. But it sounds like the boss is being a little unreasonable too. I think the OP should take Alison’s advice.

  60. Falling Diphthong*

    Hair: I am now thinking that the problem is the ponytail.
    • Because it’s gathering all the damp hair tightly together (unlike loose hair) but then hanging (unlike a bun), the hairstyle exaggerates the still-wet aspect, when most other styles wouldn’t have a big difference between dry and a little damp to the casual observer, e.g. a new client who knows nothing about you beyond your appearance.
    • Because it’s behind her, the young worker doesn’t know what the pony tail looks like–she knows it looks smoothed neatly back in front, and that the back looks clumped and wet is literally invisible to her.

  61. Frapperia*

    Oi, OP#1. I won’t repeat what everyone else has said, but a couple of thoughts… I always leave the house with wet hair, but because mine is fine, it dries by the time I get to work. I have colleagues who aren’t so long, and will come in with it pulled back. Literally no issue with this. I can’t believe we’re still talking about this.

    Plus I used to go swimming at lunchtime, the only time I could find to do so, because there was a pool just across from where I worked. I had just enough time to get changed, swim, get changed, get back to the office within the hour. Blowdrying my hair? Nah.

  62. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-I had a former colleague who came in with wet hair, not quite dripping but close, almost every day. Wore it down and let it air dry without any styling. Her performance in the job meant that it mattered exactly zip to anyone. I have very thick hair. We are talking 45 min to fully dry my hair. So, I wash at night. But rarely I’ll go in with a bun or scrunched with gel where it’s kind of supposed to look wet. Not a big deal. I think this may be a YMMV scenario depending on the industry. It’s still kind of a weird thing to get hung up on. Unless it’s actually dripping on stuff then I’d probably say something.

    #5-I teach this to undergrads and it’s exactly as Alison says. It’s so talking about yourself, goals and successes are more comfortable and natural. And using a “normal” elevator ride as the time framework helps from veering into monologue territory. It’s needs to flow in the conversation. So, practice helps.

  63. velomont*

    Regarding wet hair, I’m a guy and if a female co-worker came into the office with wet, but still tidy, hair I either wouldn’t even notice or I would assume it’s some sort of style thing. I really don’t understand the apparent gravitas behind OP’s question.

  64. Hex Libris*

    I wish we had a sense of what “wet” means to LW#1. Because I feel there is a large difference between having your hair look like it’s about to drip, vs damp/not fully dry. I’d like to note that Alison also makes this distinction, which it seems like a lot of people are overlooking.

  65. E*

    I hate using heat on my hair, so I’ve had to start showering at night so my hair has time to dry before work in the morning. It’s really annoying that this is some professional norm but it is what it is.

  66. El l*

    #5: The purpose of any elevator* pitch (and not just the “hire me” one) is to get you to focus.

    Namely, focus on what matters or will interest your audience, and how to get it quickly.

    That’s how memories are formed and action is started.

    In a world as awash with irrelevant information as ours, it’s absolutely a crucial skill.

    *If you find the concept of sharing an elevator old-fashioned, think of headlines on modern social media. What got you to click on something? It can’t be 100% logical, there must be an emotional component to it.

  67. TiredMama*

    Re: wet hair. I don’t know that I would notice unless it was so wet it left a wet spot on her shirt.

  68. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

    Letter 1: I have naturally thick curly hair that is impossible to do anything to without wetting. Seriously there would be no way to run a comb thru it. And a blow dryer would just turn my hair to frizz. So unless I work very late in the day it would be impossible for me not to have wet hair. My hair is thick enough that sometimes a braid will still be damp in the middle in the evening. I can understand dripping hair being unprofessional but there is literally no way unless you want straight up bed head and knots for me not to have wet hair in the mornings. Not ever one has straight easily styled hair.

  69. Madness takes a toll... please have exact change*

    Re LW1: Assuming that the hair is not dripping or wet enough to dampen a collar or anything…

    Would they even be having this conversation if the employee was male?

  70. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk-ox*

    #4 – shoot, when I worked retail and our company would throw a huge holiday party every year, I 100% attended it a week after my last day. I’d already contributed to the party fund throughout the entire year, and all of my coworkers (a manager or two included) urged me to come.

    I don’t know if it was bad form tbh; I was younger and it was retail, so it may have been more chill. But I wouldn’t think twice about attending something if I was still employed. Yes, you’re leaving, but you haven’t left yet!

  71. The Other Shoe*

    I do think hair type matters in whether it’s ok to come to work with wet hair. Here’s my personal take on whether wet hair looks professional or not (and for what it’s worth, I would never say anything to anyone else, this is just what I’m thinking):

    Straight hair – should be completely dry by the time you’re at work. I guess I assume that everyone with that type of hair can figure out some combination of blow drying, washing at night, dry shampoo, cutting their hair to a manageable length to allow for drying.

    Curly hair – ok to be slightly damp the few hours, but not overly wet. I happen to think the slightly damp with defined curls looks really pretty, plus it’s hard to tell if it’s actually damp or just full of product. But I think I start to wonder what’s going on if it’s still looking that way past a few hours in.

    Also, I used to sleep with wet hair as a teenager (played sports so showered at night), and my pillows got SO MOLDY. I didn’t even realize what was happening until I was in my early 20s and I was so grossed out. I now replace my pillows pretty regularly (even in my guest room). And no longer sleep with wet hair.

    I have straight hair, but like double the normal amount of hair so it takes forever to dry, either by air or blow-drying. One thing that helps is not keeping it incredibly long, and get layers cut in it to thin it out. My hair is still pretty, a few inches below my shoulders, but a good cut helps tremendously in making it easier to dry.

    1. Goat*

      With respect, I think both you and OP1 are overthinking this, and I also completely disagree with Alison on this.

      Jane having wet hair is not a problem, unless it is literally dripping onto people, equipment, or the floor (but only to the extent it is creating an OH&S hazard).

  72. Hope this helps*

    #2 – If I read this correctly, there was a longer lag between the offer and your boss finding out. I would update the script to reflect that you had waited to tell her in person, as opposed to an email. I would also let the parent company’s HR know, as an FYI. I would want to know if one of my staffers had revealed this information preemptively. Was it in error, or had they not informed you of their policy? (I could see that being a possibility – still wrong on their end, just a different mistake to manage) I’m sure your boss will move on from it; I’ve been there where I found out just after I made plans for something and it is so darn irritating. I grumped and moved on! :-)

  73. Suzanne*

    According to this blog you can only be professional with long hair if it is tied back or up so LW1’s employee passes that requirement. There should be no issue.

    1. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk-ox*

      I’ve been reading AAM for five years and have never seen Alison say this. Link?

  74. Sylvia*

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a man being criticized for coming to work with wet hair, even a man with long hair. It seems to be a standard directed primarily at women.

    1. Boba Feta*

      In my own experience, the one time such a prohibition was expressly made was when I did field work in a predominately Arab country, where all the (Western) women on the crew were given a separate orientation talk *by the lead female researcher who had been on site before* in which we were advised on some “house rules” intended to inform/remind us of some very specific cultural differences. One of these was that, while it would be fine to walk around the living compound itself with wet hair from the shower, we should take care never to leave the living compound and go out in public that way, as it was generally regarded in that local culture as being a “signal” of sexual openness. The rest of the rules included not remaining in one of our rooms alone with the caretaker/ housekeeper (e.g. give him his space and just come back later to get whatever you needed): the overall intention was framed as things to ease our transition to life on site for the # of months we’d be there, and also help make the local staff working at the site (house cleaners, cooks, guards, etc.) feel comfortable having us around. Thinking back on it, some of the “Rules” were just weird, but overall I appreciated getting a lesson on cultural differences that would allow us to avoid making our local hosts uncomfortable.

      All that said, I get NONE of those vibes here, so this OP should kindly rethink their priorities and concerns about what is and isn’t “professional,” please and thank you.

  75. OCDInTheCity*

    The wet hair thing bugs me. Maybe she can’t use heat tools for whatever reason. I can’t because my ocd is so bad I would constantly think I had left them on and burned my apartment down. The number of times I’ve had male coworkers come to work with wet hair (yes, even long hair), food caught in their beards, looking rumpled/not put together was a daily occurrence and my boss would just chuckle and say “rough night?” The number of times I got nagged about damp hair in a very neat tight braid: too many to count.

    1. Grapeseed Oil*

      Tangential, but I remember talking to a guy friend of mine how whenever I have a formal work event (like a client meeting or job interview), I wear makeup to cover my acne spots since I want to look professional and “polished”. He looked confused and was like “what?? I never thought that was necessary!” This guy has acne and is a high level manager in a prestigious firm. Double standards, I tell you.

  76. Allison*

    #1 is reminding me of my manager in my last job. We were all remote, and most of my work tops are sleeveless; my manager would often ask if I was cold, or say things like “Allison is never cold, she’s always rocking the sleeveless tops!” Now, maybe she really did just think I looked cold, but in hindsight I suspect she didn’t like the sleeveless tops, and wanted me to second guess my wardrobe choices without actually having to say “Allison, can you please put something over your shoulders? I think the sleeveless tops look really unprofessional.”

    I also remember the executive at my very first job who’d look me up and down and say “Hmm, that’s a cute dress Allison . . .” even though she probably hated them, and just wanted to make me feel self-conscious so I’d buy better clothes. Or the time she caught me powdering my nose at my desk and said “looking pretty!” as she rushed by. I was young, it was my first job, I was still learning professional norms, and the passive-aggressive comments were frustrating and not at all helpful!

    Then there was the coworker back in my retail days always commenting on me “showing [my] legs” and asking me “what’s with all the leg showing?” and in hindsight, my skirts were too short, but I was young and didn’t understand that, and I wish someone had just TOLD me!

    I know conversations about someone’s clothing and grooming habits are hard, but you do need to have them in plain English – hints, nudges, and other passive “suggestions” that someone’s doing something wrong are just not effective for some people.

    1. American Job Venter*

      This definitely. I got distracted by the Straight Dry Hair Or Else side of the discussion but/and this is a very important side of #1. So many managers hint and hint and then punish workers for things that were never actually communicated.

    2. What?!*

      It sounds like these two managers were passive aggressive, and likely jealous of your ability to wear cute dresses, sleeveless tops, etc. I very much doubt this had anything to do with so-called professional norms, and everything to do with jealousy. And yes, I speak from experience.

  77. Elsie*

    Re: #5. I’ve been thinking about this for a while and have re-read the letter a few times. I’ve zeroed in on this description of the employee in question: “My one concern about her is that once or twice a week she comes to work with her hair slicked back in a tight ponytail, still wet from the shower. She is otherwise appropriately dressed and groomed. Obviously her hair dries by the end of the morning, but I feel like it looks unprofessional for her to come in, and especially meet with clients, with her hair still wet.”

    It is really hard for me to picture this person looking at all unprofessional (unkempt, unprofessional) if the only item at “issue” is the wet hair slicked back into a ponytail. It even dries by “the end of the morning.” (Personally I have long thick hair so this would not be true of me, it would take nearly the whole workday). If this person had long wet hair that fell into her eyes or that she was playing with (or dripping, as some have suggested), sure, maybe. If the ponytail was accompanied by stray strands of hair stuck to her clothes. If there were obvious wet spots on her back. But if the hair possessing some moisture is truly the only thing “wrong,” I think this OP sounds really nitpicky and this is not something even clients would notice. So I disagree with AAM on this one.

  78. Spicy Tuna*

    I think commenting on people’s hair is like assuming someone is pregnant. Don’t do it.

    As a curly girl, I am very limited in what I can do with my hair. It MUST air dry. Air drying takes several hours. It cannot be washed the night before because it needs hours to air dry and the curls get smooshed by the pillow. For years, I would wet it in the morning before work and slick it back into a bun with styling products so it wouldn’t frizz out into a halo around my face. Not unprofessional at all. As long as it’s not dripping onto paperwork and clothing, it’s fine

  79. Orange You Glad*

    When I first read the wet hair title, I assumed the response would be something along the lines of as long as she has it pulled back in a way that the dampness isn’t noticeable then what is the problem? It sounds like that is what this person is doing. As long as it isn’t dripping wet and she is making an effort to look presentable, then I doubt any clients would notice or comment.

    1. Yorick*

      If OP is noticing that the hair is wet when it’s pulled up so often, then it is definitely not pulled up in a way that the dampness isn’t noticeable.

      1. Just Somebody*

        Agreed. And Alison has said in past letters that there are jobs where, fair or not, appearance matters if you’re meeting with clients or want to move up. In an ideal world, LW1’s employee wouldn’t be judged for this, but clearly in their industry/the employee’s job, having wet hair for a client meeting is a bit off-putting.

        I have worked in offices of all different dress code ranges. Some were business causal dress but didn’t care if employees didn’t wear makeup or high-end clothing. (I went to Kohl’s for some of my business casual clothes and no one ever cared.) Some allowed jeans five days a week. And a couple of them were companies where employees were expected to have a higher level of polish. I never saw the sales reps at the local TV station I worked at with a head of wet hair before they met business owners. Attorneys and paralegals never showed up with wet hair if they had a hearing or needed to make errands to the courthouse as part of their job.

        Commenters can cry how unfair it is all they want, but there is no getting around the fact that some jobs and companies can and will require employees to put more effort into their appearances. Don’t like it? Don’t work there. If you’re meeting with clients you don’t get to show up looking sloppy.

        1. American Job Venter*

          “Women can cry how unfair it is all they want, but there is no getting around the fact that men are simply more rational and should be the ones to vote.”

        2. Humble Schoolmarm*

          I’m a firm member of team “damp hair in the morning reflects hair needs, not how well you can do your job”, but I do agree that different businesses do have different standards. That being said, dress codes should be consistent. If you’re in a conservative industry that expects full suits, heels and make-up, then sure, dry hair matters to enough people (as shown by this thread) that the curly folk will probably either need to adapt or look elsewhere. If the dress code is clean and no holes, then Jane shouldn’t be expected to re-arrange her life outside the office to accommodate people who are maybe a little too rigid in their understanding of people’s differing needs and experiences.

          1. PVR*

            “Curly folk should adapt or look elsewhere”—this is so problematic… perhaps the standard shouldn’t be friendly to only those with straight hair.

        3. What?!*

          Would you rather people had visibly dirty, smelly hair, or slightly damp, clean hair?

          I’m sorry, but the only type of meeting I can think of where a client would react badly (or at all) to a woman having wet hair is a client from a background where they do not see women’s hair on a regular basis. This is a cultural norm that the client would need to build a bridge and get over.

  80. Decidedly Me*

    OP1 – asking if she’s cold with wet hair is not a hint that you want her to arrive with dry hair; it’s asking if she’s cold with wet hair. If you have an expectation that she arrives with dry hair (or any other expectation), please state it directly. It’s not fair to her and it will only lead to frustration for you when people don’t get your “hints”.

    On the issue itself, have any clients complained? Is there any metric that indicates a potential issue (lower satisfaction rates, fewer sales closed, higher churn, etc)? I’d take a look at these things first.

  81. Dr. Doll*

    “I wished to avoid a mildly uncomfortable conversation about a minor issue, so I tossed down a hint so vague as to be non-existent. The hint was not picked up. What shall I do so as still to avoid the mildly uncomfortable conversation but get what I want?”

    Answer: Power through the mild discomfort and say what you need to convey, for which Alison’s script is perfect. This could have been about almost anything from damp hair to a sloth-shaped pencil case to not putting caps back on the dry erase markers.

    And I’m not judging or criticizing, good heaven knows that I hate mildly uncomfortable conversations and wish that others could read my mind, too.

  82. adnealon*

    ah yes, the final nail in the coffin of professionalism: showering in the morning. C’mon, ma’am, it’s clean hair. Stop being such a corporate weirdo

  83. American Job Venter*

    #1 seems to have come down to an interesting discussion of mos maiorum. Whenever I hear “it’s just the way it is and your only choice is to put up with it,” I can’t help but think of all the different bits of progress that statement has been deployed against.

    Sometimes there are long established reasons why something must be as it is, but it seems to me that it makes more sense to examine norms periodically rather than to assume that every one of them is worthwhile to keep in perpetuity. So, why is dry hair so utterly important and damp hair so ‘unprofessional’? Is this mandate really worth rearranging already delicately-balanced daily schedules, getting up hours early, and damaging one’s hair? In the end is hair really more important than job performance, effort, or team contribution?

  84. What?!*

    I’m sorry, but I really, really disagree with Alison on OP1.

    OP1 does indeed need to take their own advice and accept they are making a mountain out of molehill.

    An ex-boss of mine (who was an old, BALD, white guy) tried to “ban” people having wet hair in the office for reasons unknown. We were not client facing at all. But it was an office full of hun junkies of both genders who took the time before work, or in their lunch break, to work out at the gym; swimmers who used to swim before work or in their lunch break; and women (including me) with hair that does not dry in five minutes an either takes an hour to blow dry, or doesn’t take well to heat. We all worked long hours and we were not allowed to work remotely, even though pretty much all of us could at least most of the time.

    It got to the point where we all had to have a Stinky Hair Day so that the boss understood what an unreasonable idiot he was being about this. The unkind rumour in the office was that he was jealous of not having any hair himself, but I think it was a control issue. Naturally, this was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to problems with that boss and workplace.

  85. damp hair don't care*

    I’m going to assume that everyone who thinks or agrees that wet/damp hair is ‘unprofessional’ probably has short, thin, stick straight, or very heat damaged hair LOL.

  86. AngryOwl*

    I’m frustrated by OP1, there are both gendered and racial caverns around hair discussions, including this one. “Wet hair comes off unprofessional” ignores all of that, and doesn’t question a pointless requirement.

  87. Fury.*

    This has already been well covered but I’m absolutely so emotional about the topic that I had to chime in. LW is fine to tell employee not to come to work with wet hair for client facing meetings because it unfortunately is a thing that wet hair can come across as unprofessional. I hope that changes in the future. But I beg you, anyone reading this in a decision making capacity that does not have that client or public facing component, do not comment or even think less of anyone for their wet hair. Certain hair types, particularly curly ones look better damp because the moment they are 100 percent dry they are frizzy no matter what. My hair completely dry looks like Annie’s hair unless I spend 90 minutes in the morning straightening. Ever heard the term heat resistant? If not, lucky you. Occasionally I do straighten it but I didn’t do it 100% perfectly so it smells like burnt popcorn and I have to wash it out, taking even longer. Or I had to spend so many passes going over one strand so it actually gets straight that it becomes oily. I only need to spend 20 min if I come in with it slightly damp and geled. If I work 261 days a year spending 20 min on my hair instead of 90, I’ve wasted 300 hours less of my life. It’s not just slow at the straightening. The minimum time I spend in a salon is 60 min, but it’s more often 90+ The other option is the overnight braid. That can also go wrong because the top still gets frizzy and unless you have the correct product and materials it can get smelly. My curls are still uneven in that instance. Leave people be. My number one reason for switching to a work from home job is that I no longer waste hours of my precious life on my appearance. Not even kidding. Dripping hair, no. Anything else, fine.

    1. Fury.*

      I can also imagine some guys reading this and just wondering what the fuss is, so I’ll add for the uninitiated: when you wash your hair it removes the straightening you did. Unless you get into the shower with a literal shower cap and do not wash/condition your hair, it’s a one day thing. Don’t make me go to work looking like Annie circa the 1982 movie about orphans.

  88. ThisIshRightHere*

    The implications of “wet” hair is something to which I was completely oblivious until very recently. I normally wore my naturally curly afro-textured hair in protective styles that last at least a week because styling (let alone washing) my hair each morning was simply not an option. I decided to start wearing my hair “down” to give it a break from the tension which required I spritz it daily with a little moisturizer to tame the curls and prevent frizz. I’d use the product right before I walked out the door. My hair was never dripping or stringy, just shiner/heavier than usual indicating that it was slightly damp. Everybody who saw me during the 60 or so minutes before the product fully dried reacted badly including one colleague asking if I was sure I’d prepared fully for the upcoming client meeting since I was “clearly having a rough start.” Note, my suit was perfectly pressed, my makeup was on point, and I was in my usual good mood. I immediately went back to protective styles. It had never occurred to me that “wet” hair would evoke ideas of having recently gotten out of the shower (because non-Black people apparently wash their hair everyday?), maybe I overslept (so perhaps I’m not very responsible), probably having a rough morning, therefore I must be rushing/unprepared.

  89. Pam Poovey*

    OP 1: This is such a weird thing to be concerned about tbh. She’s doing good work and is professionally dressed. All wet hair means is she took a shower recently.

  90. a*

    My nephew’s elevator pitch practice is great – not an ad or anything, but if you search YouTube for Online Learning Week 8 by Matthew Rasmussen, you may be entertained.

  91. Leela*

    OP #1 if you’ve hinted, you’ve said nothing. Hints rely on context and in this case that context (you really wanted her to stop coming in with wet hair) was locked in your head and not shared with her, it’s pretty unlikely that she would have gone “oh! Since she’s calling attention to my hair, that must mean something’s wrong with it”, she most likely assumed you were just bantering with an employee for connection or checking in or something.

    It’s not fair to either of you to hint. She’s going to wind up finding out down the line that she’s been bothering her boss or doing something you didn’t want her to do when she wasn’t told and that’s going to be stressful for her (and if it were me, I’d wonder whatever “hints” my boss thought were being successfully dropped and it would be so anxiety inducing to honestly, ever talk to that boss), and you’re going to get exasperated wondering why this employee isn’t taking your hints. Just talk to her outright!

  92. judyjudyjudy*

    I don’t think of wet hair as being unprofessional. Do you truly, in your heart-of-hearts think your clients are put off by her damp hair? I’m not sure if this is the case here, but it feels like another way to scrutinize and gatekeep female employees. But maybe you’d have the same concern if a male employee came to work with wet hair? In any case, I’d let it go.

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