employee only does well after I warn her about her work

A reader writes:

I have a new hire who is several months in. She seems to only do well at her job and pay attention to detail when we have a conversation that she is on “notice” and things need to improve. Notice period ends — problems have resolved, and then a week later she’s back to needing her hand held again. This is my second go round at this and I’m getting alarmed. Advice?

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

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Haircut drama is disrupting my office
  • How to weigh a refused reference
  • How do I motivate my employees?

{ 187 comments… read them below }

  1. Dust Bunny*

    Motivator: Motivate them by having humane policies and a supportive work environment; dealing with problem employees or situations; supporting them when clients are unreasonable; and acknowledging their work even if it’s not glamorous. Our supervisors are always careful to call out good work down to the least skilled employees (“Wakeen is making really good progress on the Jones-Smith Collection,” even though Wakeen is just putting the same papers in clean folders and boxes. We’re an archives/academic library. There is a lot of tedious work, so it’s nice when somebody notices that you’re doing it efficiently).

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      This. Also, reasonable compensation. I find motivational gimmicks decidedly demotivating. They are time away from getting my work done, in an activity not of my choosing.

    2. Sara without an H*

      To this excellent list, I would add give them as much flexibility as you can. If Wakeen stays late to show a history class some samples from the archives, he should be allowed to come in late the next day.

    3. Smithy*

      I also think that when complimenting/shouting out work, specificity and showing that more specific understanding of where someone is actually working hard is key. There are some parts of my job that involve a ton of my work, and others that involve more or a lot of external fates coming together. For those “external fates” efforts, the work I do may be very light and more along the lines of not messing up but the results very impressive. Whereas, there are projects I may work on for months if not years (with sign off from my boss/employer) where the results don’t seem as impressive.

      Knowing to call out the months of hard work as opposed to the “not messing up”, or to present it as “achieved XYZ impressive result while balancing huge effort on ABC” matters. It’s not that I don’t get which result seems more impressive, but it’s not reflective of where I spend my time and doesn’t indicate to me that you know (or care) either.

    4. Daisy-dog*

      I was definitely asked in a stay interview before “What motivates you?” and my mind drew a blank. I now see that it is just this list and nothing more (except reasonable pay & benefits). Nothing creative or out-of-the-box.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      I should add: We’re in the odd position of being a semi-independent nonprofit (instead of a department within a university) so there is never extra money, but they make sure we get regular computer upgrades; they bend over backwards to get us special software if it will make our jobs easier, they trust us to use supplies responsibly and thus don’t nitpick over costs (archival supplies are expensive). They are also generous with PTO for both vacation and medical time, and they actually expect us to use it. They expect people to do their jobs but they also do everything they can to *enable* people to do their jobs.

      Nobody is going to get rich working here but it’s a very nice place and a lot of us have been here for decades. People will forgive you not offering catered parties if you’re good to them.

  2. It all grew back*

    My haircut drama is that I left the office on a Friday evening with hair over a yard in length and returned Monday morning with hair ~18 inches shorter. My coworkers went into a meltdown.
    It was pretty funny! “Noooooo your haaaiiirr!”

    1. londonedit*

      I did that (to a slightly less dramatic extent) in between interviewing for and starting a new job. My new colleagues were like ‘Am I going completely mad or was your hair totally different last time I met you?!’

      1. Rach*

        I also did they, waist length hair to chin length bob my senior year of high school. My best friend was so shocked she locked her keys in her car.

        1. LizB*

          I did it in between the first and second days of auditions for a school play in high school… I wasn’t actually required to show up for the second day, but thought it was only fair for the director to see what the hair/makeup department would actually be dealing with lol.

        2. Reluctant Mezzo*

          I dropped from waist length hair to a short haircut right before weigh-in on a weight loss contest (a decade or so ago). I still didn’t win, but the psychological effect was kind of fun.

    2. Nessun*

      With respect to your username – that’s how I feel when anyone comments on hair! It’ll grow back most of the time (unless there is a larger medical issue that is no one’s business unless someone chooses to disclose it)…so people need to mitigate their reactions. Are you (Mika) allowed to be sad your haircut didn’t turn out as you wished? Of course! But a) you chose it, b) your hairdresser did it, and c) it will grow back. So mope at home afterwards if you need to (I’ve done it) and then remind yourself this is only temporary.

      There are so many things more worthy of expending your anger, frustration or sadness over. Hair might be a tipping point, but you have to calm yourself – and that kind of wailing and gnashing of teeth over a haircut is Too Much. And also not Nina’s fault (see a and b above).

    3. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      But then you still had 18 inches of hair! Like, halfway down your back, right? I actually think that’s longer than my hair can even grow!

    4. LunaLena*

      Haha, that happened to me too when I went from long hair halfway down my back to a chin-length blunt A-line. People stopped in mid-conversation to exclaim “Your hair!!!”

      1. Jay*

        One of my coworkers literally fell back against the wall and clutched her chest when I cut my hair. It was a drastic change – my husband was out of town and even though I told him I was getting it cut, he walked right past me in the airport. The whole thing was pretty funny. Patient: I’m sorry, you must have the wrong room. I’m waiting for Dr. Jay. Me: I am Dr. Jay. I saw you last week. Patient: No, that must have been someone else. I saw a different Dr. Jay.

        1. Binky*

          I cut my hair drastically, from mid-back to cheekbones, and my mom walked by me on the street.

      2. KateM*

        I had a person stopping mid-conversation once, but I can understand it – we had been talking directly face-to-face, so only when she had a chance to see me in profile did she realize that where I used to have a bun I now had a tiny little ponytail. She HAD noticed (and not remarked on) my having dyed my hair, but we had talked for quite some time before she noticed I had also cut it, and I think the fact that she hadn’t noticed it before was that gave her a pause.

      3. Filosofickle*

        When I cut my very long hair to chin length and NO ONE SAID A WORD I thought everyone must hate it on me because surely they noticed!

    5. Miss Muffet*

      I did a big chop one year – not quite that dramatic, but from shoulder-length to a pixie – and my coworker in the cube next to mine thought i was someone else sitting at my desk for a couple of hours until i turned around from my computer to say something. It was pretty funny.

    6. Delta Delta*

      I did that once in high school. A kid in my chemistry class blurted out during a quiet moment, “whoa, Delta! Hair be gone!” It was very funny.

    7. sb51*

      The funny thing I get is that I have very long (past my butt) hair, but it’s fine/not very thick, and is a fairly small bun when I put it up, which is how I have it 90% of the time at work.

      Every once in a while, someone I’ve been working with for years first sees it down and is so surprised.

      1. Very Social*

        Yes, this was me–which I think is why I didn’t get any dramatic reactions when I did cut it to jaw-length!

        And yeah, it grows back. I decided to stop cutting mine and it’s down past my waist now. If I decide to grow it to thigh-length again, I probably can.

      2. Wenike*

        My hair is actually very thick, but apparently compresses quite well. I usually wear it in that “early 2000s mock french twist with a big clip” style, and between starting the whole thing as a low ponytail and then the twists, it looks like I have a lot less hair than I actually do. I’ve gotten so many surprised reactions from people (including hair stylists!) when I take my hair down.

    8. nozenfordaddy*

      I did that once, had hair halfway down my back on Monday and had a pixie cut on Tuesday. But I work with mostly guys so the commentary was mostly: did you cut your hair? Yes, I did, glad you noticed.

      1. Middle Name Danger*

        Same here. Hair reached the small of my back on Wednesday with the bottom layer blue- black pixie cut Thursday. Red bangs on Monday. It wasn’t worth baby stepping it! I would either like it or wouldn’t.

        My mostly male colleagues assumed I was going through a bad breakup or something even though I was single already.

    9. Ace in the Hole*

      Nothing so dramatic, but I have a coworker with an uncanny knack for complimenting my hair right before I crop it short.

      It’s happened three times in a row now… the last time she actually asked if the compliments bothered me, because she thought she might have been somehow provoking me to get a hair cut! Nope – all three times I had scheduled the haircut weeks before. She just has unfortunate timing.

      1. La Triviata*

        I’ve twice done drastic things to my hair – the first, I was a year out of college and my hair was hip length; one weekend I had it cut to chin length. I don’t remember any reactions.

        The second – YEARS later – I’d been keeping my hair fairly short, but it was mostly white. Went in (on my birthday) and had it restyled and dyed BRIGHT red. That got a lot of commentary, including one person running down the hall and skidding to a stop to see and another, when I was standing behind her, turning around to see me and shrieking, “Lord Jesus help me!”

    10. Daffodilly*

      I did that in college. One of my professors saw me in the hallway and grabbed my head in both hands, shook my head a bit and asked “What have you done?!?!”
      I was so stunned I just stood there and stared.
      Another professor was in the hallway and said “I should ask YOU that Lynda! Did you just grab her by the head?”
      So that was fun.

    11. Anon scientist*

      When I chopped my long, curly hair the stylist asked if I wanted to straighten it. Sure, no problem. Turns out that I actually have some wild highlights when it’s straight, and also (I already knew this) it’s actually quite thin/fine. I came back after my lunchtime haircut and the receptionist actual fell over in shock.

    12. korangeen*

      Glad you found it amusing! Oof, personally I find it obnoxious. Probably my least favorite part of getting my hair cut or dyed is having everyone comment on it. With my most recent haircut, my therapist said “I noticed your hair has changed, how do you feel about it?” And I thought it was so nice for once to have someone ask me how I feel about my own hair instead of offering their unsolicited opinions.

    13. Clueless #26*

      I used to wear an afro, sizeable but nothing compared to the 1970’s legends. Certain coworkers hated it! My 4 uncles all started balding by 30. I wanted to enjoy hair while I had it.

    14. allathian*

      I was in college and sick of dealing with the back end of a perm (early 90s). So I went from slightly above shoulder length to a buzz cut. A coworker I had a slight crush on was very complimentary at the time, he said it was much more flattering than the “cocker spaniel ears” I used to have.

  3. Goldenrod*

    I totally get that the woman who hated her haircut shouldn’t be causing disruption at work….but, as someone who has been traumatized in the past by bad haircuts, I can’t help but feel sympathetic!!

    A bad haircut can be traumatizing!

    (But obviously she needs to stop the way she’s acting at work. :p)

    1. Just Another HR Pro*

      I have long hair and am thinking about cutting it, and I totally get it. I have too been traumatized – but I logically know it will grow back. Plus – apparently wigs are a thing again? I have had pretty long hair for a while now so I am out of the loop there.

      i agree – taking that misery to work is exhausting for her and for sure her coworkers.

      1. Cenia*

        I have had long hair for the vast majority of my life (after being traumatized by a terrible haircut in my early teens). A few months back I just put it in a ponytail and whacked it off at the shoulder. It was like a breath of fresh air.

        Sometimes one has to get a good haircut to counteract the bad memories

    2. londonedit*

      Yeah, I’ve had my fair share of bad haircut trauma and I can totally sympathise! But it’s definitely too much to let it affect your work. There has to be something Mika can do to feel better about their pixie cut (go back to the hairdresser and ask for help styling it, try out some headbands, whatever) and at any rate it’s not Nina’s fault. Hair drama is not appropriate for the office!

    3. Forrest Rhodes*

      Haircut: I showed up at the office one Monday with a new haircut. Everyone who passed my desk that morning had the same reaction: “Oh, new haircut?” (pause; then, consolingly) “Well, don’t worry—it’ll grow out!” Every. Single. Person.
      Not my favorite period of time, but yeah, it did grow back, and I formed two strong philosophies:
      1. It’s only hair.
      2. And after all, it’s the rest of the world that has to look at it, not me. I’m behind it!

      1. mlem*

        I really hope they all thought your confirmation sounded bummed/exasperated/annoyed and were trying to console you *because of that*, not because they hated it. (I’m not sure I really buy it, but I still hope it for you.)

        1. A Library Person*

          Yeah, the way I read this it seemed a bit cruel. However, the commenter didn’t seem to be fazed by the comments from their coworkers so I’d assume this was an office culture/specific group where comments like that are okay.

          1. Forrest Rhodes*

            Thanks for the kind thoughts, mlem and Library Person. No, I was okay with it—my hair did look pretty stupid, but I just figured it wasn’t life-threatening and the responses were right! I did get a laugh from the consistency of the reviews.

            1. Rainy*

              I got bangs recently and I’m definitely having some Bang Remorse, but it’s just hair and if they don’t work out I’ll grow them back out.

              1. Forrest Rhodes*

                Totally with you, Rainy. I figure if hair is the worst thing I have to worry about on a given day, I’m doing okay!
                (Totally speaking for myself here; I do recognize that it can be a much bigger deal for some folk.)

              2. allathian*

                The one thing that I liked about Covid-forced WFH was that I could finally grow my bangs out. I’d been contemplating it for literally years, but I always chickened out when I got a haircut. I always figured it would be too much work to keep my hair looking even reasonably neat while growing them out…

                I haven’t had a haircut since February 2020 and I definitely need one. But no bangs this time, absolutely no bangs.

    4. CoveredinBees*

      Same. As it turns out, a pixie cut is not a good look on me and I learned that I couldn’t fall asleep with my hair even slightly damp (I prefer to shower right before bed) or it take a lot of fixing to look ok. Over the past few years, I’ve gone through a cycle of long hair chopped off into a cute bob. Being too lazy to maintain the bob length and/or wanting to have the ability to put my hair up easily and growing it all out again. Over and over.

      1. Critical Rolls*

        I have a good friend who’s had a pixie for years and as the “wash your hair less” trend began to get traction I will never forget her deadpan explanation: “There is no day two hair.”

    5. Neurodivergentsaurus Rex*

      I can’t dredge up any sympathy for an adult blaming their bad haircut on anyone other than the stylist. I haven’t done that since I was 8 and my mom DID in fact talk me into getting a haircut I hated. (Her vision turned out to be a much shorter do than what I thought she meant!) Embarrassingly for all of us, I had a meltdown in the salon; on the plus side I seem to have used up all of my hair drama as a child.

      I would be very surprised if this is the first time Mika has been involved in unnecessary interpersonal drama in the office.

      1. Pikachu*

        My mom got me a bowl cut when I was about that age.

        I have a feminized version of a traditionally masculine name.

        When you’re a little girl with a boy name and a boy haircut against your will, it’s not a great time. LOL

        1. allathian*

          When I was about 8, I wanted a haircut that I could care for by myself. All by myself. As in, I thought it was embarrassing that my mom had to help me wash my very thick hair at that age. It took a while before my parents accepted that I was serious about wanting short hair. It took time and me starting to chew gum and my hair at the same time… The resulting tangles could only be fixed with a pair of scissors.

    6. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      IMO, she gets one day to wail about her haircut and then she needs to reel it in. Signed, person who went in for an edgy/fun pixie and came out with a grandma pixie.

      1. Zan Shin*

        This riotcrone had the identical experience a few years ago: me to younger, hip looking haircutter “short, spiky, punk, assymmetrical” – haircutter “I’m a renegade!” – yep, grandma pixie. Found a new hair person!

      2. Llama Llama*

        Oh boy. I had pixie cuts for the better part of a decade and who you see makes such a difference. Finding someone who knows how to cut hair in an edgy style for a young person is TOUGH but when you find that person you will never leave them!

        I’ve had lots of ok to bad haircuts but I guess as a person who likes to change her hair/look/style I have just grinned and bared it or dyed it pink or cut it shorter. Hair grows back and while it can be a tremendous bummer (and have an effect on self esteem) there is 0 reason to cry about it at work.

        1. Critical Rolls*

          My secondhand information is that A) you need to be prepared to PAY for a good stylist, and B) it’s a journey to fine tune a very short cut. Which is why there’s much wailing and gnashing of teeth if you lose your established stylist for any reason.

      3. Goldenrod*

        “Signed, person who went in for an edgy/fun pixie and came out with a grandma pixie.”

        AHAAHAHHA! Oh no! :D

        I have been there. I’ve gone in for an edgy short style and came out with soccer mom.

    7. anonymous73*

      She has the right to be upset about it (on her own time). She does NOT have the right to blame the other person for getting her an appointment at her hair salon. She made the decision, and was not forced or coerced into it.

      1. Artemesia*

        And what is with the ‘gentle’ hint idea? This woman is driving a good employee to look to move and she is being allowed to do that day after day. She needed a pretty direct talking to on the third day and Nina needed an apology from the OP about not stepping in sooner and an acknowledgement that everyone knows it is ridiculous.

    8. IndoorKitty*

      Some women can be very attached to certain hair lengths and styles. I had a coworker with past-the-shoulder-length hair, and she once spent WEEKS crying and complaining when the stylist made it SOOOO short. Honestly, it looked exactly the same to me! I once received an unexpected pixie cut (from a short bob) that was almost too short to spike (I think my stylist was having a bad day), and I didn’t kvetch that much.

      1. Userper Cranberries*

        It’s surprising how much of a difference a little bit can make at some lengths – when I had just long hair (vs my current very, very long), half an inch could be the difference between being able to do my daily go-to styles and not having enough hair for them. Weeks of crying is definitely a bit much, but I can understand not-visible-to-others length differences feeling like a massive and undesired change.

    9. Rach*

      My stylist turned my blonde hair green once, and not a stylish pretty green. She cried and I had to comfort her. It’s just hair, which can be fixed, or grow back. Making coworkers uncomfortable is just so far outside the realm of appropriate response to an unflattering haircut.

      1. ferrina*

        This brings back memories! My mom once had her hair turned accidentally green, and when she came to pick me up from daycare I threw a fit and refused to go with her. I made such a fuss that she had to call my dad to come pick me up.

    10. Gingerbread Gnome*

      Many stylists won’t cut from very long to pixie because even if the customer insists they often don’t like it. These stylists will take it down to pixie in a couple of months instead. Some have lost customers by not doing a fast chop, but say they are more likely to come back “to get it fixed” but if they do the initial big chop they have lost the client forever.

      1. HBJ*

        I only get my hair cut once a year or so to brushing shoulder lengthish. And so that’s getting six inches off or so. That’s … not really a big chop, in my opinion. Its hard work to get them to cut it short enough. They’ll hold their hand, and say, “here?” No, shorter. I said just barely brushing my shoulders. And then they’ll trim and ask, and I’ll say no, shorter. It’s so weird.

      2. Elena*

        I went in one time with waist length hair and got it buzzed to about a quarter inch (female). They did it all at once but they entire staff came over and went “oooh!” When i was getting it cut

  4. Antilles*

    OP is the team lead, which is why OP should follow the polite and professional sympathetic answer provided by Alison.
    But I certainly wouldn’t blame any of the co-workers if they just snapped back with a snarky/irritated response like “Did Nina abduct you and drive you to the salon? No? Then for bleep’s sake, be an adult and take some responsibility for your own fashion decision!”

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Dude. It’s hair. It will grow.

      Yeah, I’d have a hard time listening to this day after day.

      When I got the Worst Haircut of My Life, I was stuck going to an event at my husband’s company. I cried. But the next available day, I was at a new salon talking to a brave soul who said she could fix it.

      Fixing it involved cutting it all down to about 2 or 3 inches long all the way around. She did a great job, for the mess I handed her, my hair looked great….. on SOMEONE ELSE. The style was not me at all. I was so very grateful she made it look like something/anything. I gave her a large tip. And I went home and cried.

      It grew.

      I think most people have at least one bad hair cut story. I can see especially if she has never had this happen before that can make the situation even worse. If I were able to make an offer, I’d offer her an afternoon off to find a place to fix it to her liking. I do understand looking at paper bags for proper fit for my head. (That sounds funny/humorous, but I seriously thought about this when my bad hair cut happened.) But the hair cut talk has to stop, regardless of whether she takes my offer or not.

      1. animaniactoo*

        The main thing is that a pixie cut is so short already, that there is really not a lot of fixing that can be done (I mean, I’m assuming that bald is off the table), so waiting for it to grow out is the only thing that will work, and if your hair doesn’t grow quickly, it might feel more devastating to have to deal with that.

        But still. Maybe extensions. Maybe a wig for awhile. Or avoid a mirror for awhile. Find a way to handle it.

  5. Just Another HR Pro*

    I have long hair and for the last few weeks I have been contemplating donating it and going shoulder length. However i am giving myself no less than 6 months just to make sure I am entirely sure. BUT knowing someone in need will benefit is a factor in me making the jump. Making that drastic of a change can be exactly what Mika is going through. I sympathize and maybe for some people hair is just hair, but for me it has a lot of emotional attachment (although I have no idea at all why).

    1. yala*

      I thought about donating when I finally got my (knee-length) hair under control. It was really too much of a mess to donate (and I shortened it gradually to avoid too much drama from my mother), but I did learn that you have to REALLY do due diligence on the hair donation charities. There’s a lot of shady ones.

      I’ve thought about taking mine shorter (it’s a little higher than midback), but like you said, there’s emotional attachment. If you think you might like it but aren’t sure, maybe just have your next trim be a few inches shorter than usual?

      1. Just Another HR Pro*

        Thanks sooo much for the insight about donating hair. I have never met anyone who has done it before so I am so uninformed. I just think it would be such a waste to have it all fall on the floor when there are little girls who would benefit from that.

        To your second point – I just got a 2″ trim to hold me over. Like you said – better to cut it a little until you get used to the idea.

        thanks again for the advice :)

        1. Wants Green Things*

          Check with your stylist – many of them will know the better organizations for donating hair and will handle the hassle of mailing it over. If they don’t know or won’t donate, definitely do some due diligence. I used to donate to Locks of Love, if that helps.

          1. Zephy*

            Locks of Love is actually one of the shadier ones (insofar as they sell the wigs, they don’t give them away; your personal calculus may vary, as they DO provide wigs to kids with cancer, but I’m firmly in camp “cancer patients and their families have enough to deal with and pay for, don’t make them buy this too”) – I think Pantene Beautiful Lengths does give the wigs they make to people who need them free of charge.

            1. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

              Seconding Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths! They do donate wigs and they also donate hair unsuitable for wigs (e.g. color-treated hair that doesn’t take the new dye evenly) to be used in creating environmentally-friendly hair mats to clean up oil spills!
              So if you, like me, want to donate your hair to a good cause but aren’t entirely sure how your hair may react to color, Pantene is a great option.

              1. All Het Up About It*

                Wigs for Kids is also an org that does not charge the families for the hair pieces. They aren’t cancer specific, but I’ve always appreciated that about them.

                1. Kwsni*

                  I donate to Wigs For Kids on a semi-regular basis, I have a lot of hair and it grows fast.

          2. KayDeeAye*

            When I had my past-my-waist length hair cut off, the hair stylist recommended Locks of Love. I haven’t looked into it recently, though.

          3. NotRealAnonForThis*

            I found out about our fairly local charity via friends who had directly benefitted from their child receiving care from the charity during chemo. Needless to say, when my girl-child wanted to donate her hair, we dropped off the ponytails at that charity. It’ll help locally :)

        2. The OTHER Other*

          I recommend Chris Rock’s documentary “Good Hair”, the donations/market for donated hair was only one part of a fascinating doc.

          Short tease–most of the hair weaves and extensions sold at shops are from India.

    2. Cenia*

      I just did this a few months back – I went from near-hip to shoulder. Would recommend. You don’t have to go straight to a bob and it felt like taking literal pounds off my shoulders.

    3. Haha Lala*

      I’ve donated 15″ and 18″ of hair a few years apart, and I’d recommend it to anyone that’s able!
      I sent mine to Wigs for Kids, since they don’t make the patients pay for the wigs, like some other places do. (They also have instructions online for how to cut and package the hair, so it’d be super easy for you and your stylist to follow!)

      It definitely took me a week or so to get used to the shorter cut each time. But I loved how quickly I could wash and dry it, and how much product (and time!) I was saving with the shorter hair. And the reminder that I was helping people in need made up for any awkwardness from the new haircut.

      1. BubbleTea*

        In the UK, the Little Princess Trust is a good one and they just started accepting curly hair! They’ve figured out how to make afro wigs from actual Black hair, and a little girl who has been waiting for literally years to donate her hair got to do so :)

        I lopped a foot or so off about 18 months ago and donated it, I love my new cut because it looks deliberate even when I don’t touch it. With a small baby, short zero maintenance hair is the way to go.

    4. Observer*

      Making that drastic of a change can be exactly what Mika is going through. I sympathize and maybe for some people hair is just hair, but for me it has a lot of emotional attachment

      I think that most people get that. But her behavior is still waaay over the top. It’s not just that it will eventually grow back. It’s that she’s dumping her misery all over everyone; she’s waaaay over-sharing stuff that no one wants to know; she’s actually harassing someone over it. Even in the case of legally required accommodations, this stuff is not reasonable. It’s CERTAINLY not ok in any other context.

    5. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I’m another long-hair who donated.

      I think going shoulder length is a great idea. It won’t fundamentally change the way your face looks – whereas a pixie cut drastically does.

      I went from waist-length to a Lady Mary Crawley and didn’t recognise myself in the mirror. I HATED that cut because it didn’t look like me and I didn’t know what to do with it. By contrast, cutting from hip to shoulder basically looks the same, and 99% of the styling is the same (just less of it) so although it’s significant it doesn’t feel as alien and nobody even notices…

  6. Princess Deviant*

    I can’t read some of the article on my phone, the ads get in the way. Is anyone else having that problem? Is it better on a computer?
    I got the gist of the haircut one though – oh my!

    1. Alice*

      Likewise, there is a video ad covering most of the screen. I understand the need for ad revenue but I can never read external articles from my phone :(

      1. Axel*

        Normally sites with ads work but this time there was a video covering the whole screen and the ads additionally forced the page to reload so many times it was impossible to navigate, if that’s useful specific feedback for them!

    2. Dumpster Fire*

      Look for an X in the top right corner of the ad. On my phone, the ad covered most of the page but I was able to X it away and now there’s nothing at all covering the column.

      1. Might Be Spam*

        If the X isn’t visible, try swiping the screen a little bit. For some reason, on my device, the X is always just out of view until I swipe on the screen or resize it.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I x out two layers of ads (video) and still the static ad covers the text.

    3. Laure001*

      I scroll the ads as they say but they “eat” 20% of the articles. I’m on my phone and on Google Chrome.

    4. Batgirl*

      Yeah, I can never read all of the letters on that website. I alerted them to the issue awhile back and they were pretty unresponsive.

    5. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

      Yes, I normally use Chrome as my browser, but for the Inc letters I have started to copy the link into Adblocker, otherwise all the ads make it unreadable. In Chrome, even when I try to close as many ads as I can, some of them still obscure some of the text for me.

  7. Jessie J*

    The person who had the hair cut may need to rethink their understanding of responsibility for personal choices. It could damage the reputation of the other coworker if negative blame-talk is continued, which can open a floodgate of people negatively gossiping about them in other areas.

    On a side note: I wouldn’t mind the idea that we don’t talk about other peoples hair styles in an office environment and we don’t blame someone else for our hair choices. I’ve had more than enough comments about my hair and how it should be cut. It’s really invasive and has made me feel uncomfortable.

    1. Amber Rose*

      I dyed my hair bright, bright purple once and nobody said anything. It was kinda nice honestly.

      I suppose its possible they were going with “if you can’t say anything nice, say nothing” but even then it worked in my favor because I loved that color and it would’ve bummed me out if someone had said something negative.

  8. Page of Cups*

    Re: new hire who only improved after a “talking”

    I had this person working for me and wish that I had cut them loose in the first 3 months. Mine did not improve without constant micromanaging and oversight and even then they were never able to truly work independently – just constant backsliding.

    1. Artemesia*

      This. One talk. Improvement; backsliding. Second talk: we need to see continued sustained improvement, if this doesn’t occur then we will need to let you go. And then do it.

    2. Sara without an H*

      Yes, at some point you have to ask yourself whether this person is actually a good fit for the job. Dragging it out with repeated “talkings” does nobody any good.

    3. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yes, if you don’t see a sustained change, it’s best to pull the plug sooner rather than later. The longer it goes on, the harder it gets.

    4. allathian*

      Yeah. Some people just need the sort of constant oversight that more independent employees would consider micromanagement. If that’s the case, this new hire is simply a poor fit for the job.

  9. Angstrom*

    -Understanding why your work is important
    -Understanding how your work fits into the goals of the larger organization
    -Getting good feedback on how your work was received
    -Having good work be recognized and appreciated
    -Getting good training
    -Having all the resources needed to do a good job
    -Knowing that your ideas are taken seriously
    -Knowing that asking questions won’t be seen as weakness
    -Having a manager interested in helping you grow
    -Seeing a path for growth and advancement
    -Pleasant, competent colleagues
    -A comfortable, safe workplace

    1. Cercis*

      So very much all of this. But especially: understanding how your work fits, path for growth & advancement and a manager engaged in helping you move along that path.

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I’m curious about OP’s goal.
      OP had my support at “I’m a new manager of two employees and I’m concerned about how to motivate them.”
      Wow, that’s great. OP is thinking about ways to make the employees excited about work, about their careers, the company. Really holistic and forward thinking. This is the stuff of inspired leaders.
      “…I feel like they can see through my attempts to get them to work harder…”
      Is that really what OP means?
      I think so, because OP doesn’t “want to feel silly. So OP isn’t asking the staff to work
      more effectively, or more independently, or with a broader view of how their contributions are part of the whole company, or how their current position can earn more responsibility (for those of us who don’t want promoted out of our cool jobs), just work harder. And be happy about it.
      OP. I think you are looking at the goal wrong.
      When you write “Just ready to take on the day” you are viewing their roles in a vacuum.
      “Let’s use all the energy you can today…so you can come back and do it tomorrow,” should not be the motivation you give your staff.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Seriously. The OP seems to cynically “motivate” their employees to produce more and be “happy” to produce more. As an employee, I would see through that too.

        The best thing you can do for productivity is make sure that your work/life balance is top notch. IIRC, studies have shown that people are more focused and productive at work if they have less stress outside of it. Good boundaries, good pay, and good benefits go a long way toward eliminating external stress.

        But don’t expect cheerful enjoyment of a ramped up expectation for more productivity. That’s just not realistic.

  10. My Perspective*

    LW2, please have a serious talk with Mika and tell her (not ask) to knock it off. No one forced her to cut her hair like that and it’s not Nina’s problem. As a manager, you have the authority to shut this down and Nina, being new, may not feel comfortable doing so herself. I would not want to hear that at work, even if it weren’t directed at me. I would expect my manager to put a stop to it. Imagine how Nina feels. Imagine how you would feel if that were you being subjected to that nonsense everyday. Nina just wants to do her job and go home at the end of the day. Please do not allow this to continue for another day. Don’t be that manager that doesn’t address problem staff.

    LW3, I understand what you’re saying about the references and spotty job history. DISCLAIMER: What I’m about to say may not be the case with your job candidate, they could just be a very bad worker who burned bridges and didn’t care. But I want to give you another possibility….
    Awhile ago, I struggled with mental health issues that caused me to get fired a lot, have quite a few gaps in employment, and poor references. After I finally got treatment for myself, my biggest problems were the issues of the bad reference (or people just not wanting to give me one due to my prior behavior) and the multiple job gaps. Of course, I could not tell potential employers about my mental health treatment, it’s not their business and I would’ve been judged probably. So I just had to give the names/numbers of people who I hoped would give me the not so bad references. I’m very grateful for my job now who took a chance on me despite my past work history. Now that I’ve gotten treatment, I think I’m a great worker. No negative feedback in the 18 months I’ve been there. And my boss is already talking about a promotion for me.

    While I do agree with Alison that it can be a red flag in this situation, sometimes people have struggles with mental health and have no references because of this. After they get the treatment they need, now they’re stuck with a crappy work history and no employer wanting to give them a chance. I’m not saying the employer is wrong, of course as an employer you have a right to hire people with good references and a great work history.

    Let me also just say that people with great references can also be really bad workers. I have a friend who uses herself as references….she had different google numbers and email addresses and will give those out pretending to be different people. She gives herself glowing references every time! But she’s a really bad worker.

    1. Rolly*

      On #2: This.

      The OP asks: ” How can I gently speak to Mika about what’s going on?”

      The “gently” is nowhere near as important as immediately and clearly. The person with the problem hair is taking it out on another person, and that other person needs to be protected. Nina needs to protected *immediately.* This is an actually an emergency for staff: will the manager protect them from abuse?

      1. Observer*

        Yes, it’s way past time to worry about “gentleness”. Mika is being a bully, among other things, and it doesn’t matter WHY she is doing this.

        The fact that her reasons are pretty ridiculous just make it worse, not more sympathetic.

    2. Underrated Pear*

      Yes, your comment reminded me about the aspect that makes this situation even worse – that Nina is a new employee! So she may not have a lot of standing to push back or feel confident she can bring the manager in on this. OP says they are sure Nina is job hunting; imagine just how miserable she must be if she has *just started* a new job and it’s already so bad she’s jumping ship. Yikes.

      1. Sean*

        Exactly. Mika makes a mistake, then offloads the blame for her mistake onto the new employee, who is wholly innocent.

        I’m starting to wonder if blame-shifting is her approach to any mistakes she makes in her professional capacity. Especially mistakes where there is uncertainty as to who is responsible, and where there is a reasonable chance of blame-shifting successfully.

    3. ferrina*

      For #3- when you’re interviewing, you tell them you have a chronic health condition which was treatment resistant and unfortunately impacted your ability to do your job, but you were able to find an effective, long lasting treatment and are now very excited to have a more normal life. Great job on finding references- it is a red flag when you literally can’t find any. References obviously aren’t fool proof, but more often than not they provide valuable information.

    4. LittleMarshmallow*

      I can’t speak to the multiple gaps but where I work HR won’t let us give references. Of course, the more rebellious still do, but our staunch rule followers would say something like “yes this person occupied this role from this time to This time but that is all I am able to say”. Which delivered by someone who is nervous about breaking the reference rule anyway may come off as “hesitant to give a reference”. Granted, I’m a rebel, so if I don’t think I can give a good reference then I fall back on the company policy of reference giving but if the person was nothing but wonderful I’ll still do what I can to offer a reference for them. Usually people ask first and you can say no too, but I’ve definitely been called out of the blue and with younger employees give a lot of grace for no knowing yet that that’s not how you do it.

      1. Clueless #26*

        My former company had a similar rule. We could only provide start/end dates Nothing more, and even for that we had to refer people to HR. Most hiring mangers did not want to sit on hold with out HR department.

    5. InI*

      I might also keep an eye on whether Mika is … a bit much about Nina in other matters? In itself, copying someone’s haircut is no big deal; people get ideas from other people all the time. But copying Nina’s hair and then blaming her sounds like Mika possibly being over-invested in Nina’s validation as well as her look. I don’t think it requires any more action at this stage than ‘be alert’, but I would just stay alert to how Mika acts towards Nina in general?

  11. Pocket Mouse*

    I get the sense that the last OP (about motivation) isn’t writing about unmotivated staff at all, but rather trying to get perfectly fine employees to work harder or longer for greater output, like in a quota-based setting where the quota incessantly grows each quarter. To which my response is: that’s not healthy, please do what you can to keep expectations reasonable and humane.

    1. Grits McGee*

      Yeah, the only way to do this in a sane, humane manner is to approach it as “removing obstacles”- are there any pain points that management can address that would make it easier for staff to do the jobs/meet goals?

    2. The New Wanderer*

      It brought to mind a Simpsons episode when Homer is put in charge of a new team who are working away at their computers. He doesn’t know what to do (having zero mgmt skills or experience!) so he eventually asks them, “Hey, are you guys working hard?” They answer “Yes” and he says, “Um, could you work any harder?” They answer “Yes sir!” (typing speed increases) Homer smiles in satisfaction, manager job accomplished.

      OP should be really clear, for themself, about what they’re looking for as a result of this motivation push. Is there a business need for an increase, and if so what kind of increase? Has there been a rise in errors, missed deadlines, or sloppy work that needs to be addressed? Does OP believe that the employees are just working for the paycheck/mentally checked out and wants them to appear more engaged? This last one doesn’t seem to be a real issue unless the employees are openly bored or unenthused, and even then there may be other reasons that a motivational push isn’t going to fix.

    3. Not_Me*

      That last letter just didn’t sit right with me for this exact reason. LW, are your employees not working hard enough and missing deadlines/not making their quotas? Or is it that you see them as drones who just need to work until their arms fall off and you have to motivate them to do so?

      If it’s the first one, that they’re missing deadlines or whatever, then as their manager you need to be firm and direct. Let them know your expectations without any cutesy motivational quotes. Let them know what they need to do and that you are there to support them. Answer any questions and address any concerns. Also make sure they fully understand what they’re expected to do and have all the resources to do it. Are workflows updated? Can everything be found easily? If you have to work with other departments, are those depts easy or are they rude/unhelpful/difficult? Do other depts dump extra work on your staff and the prior manager never defended your workers? Talk to your staff.

      If it’s the second one, then you need to understand your workers are actual living, breathing humans. Not robots. Your employees are human beings with feelings and families and lives that don’t revolve around work. Even if your life does, theirs doesn’t. Don’t try to squeeze every last drop of life out of your employees. Respect them and they will be motivated to work above and beyond. They are not married to that job.
      Let me just tell you something….my manager is the nicest boss ever. She sees us as humans, not drones. If I have an issue at home, she will allow me to rearrange my schedule, even if it’s really busy that day. She tells us what our jobs are, makes sure we understand, answers our questions, and is just there for us when we need her to be but isn’t a micromanager. Because of this, the entire team does OT without being asked, we exceed productivity all the time, everyone goes above and beyond. If you care about your employees and see them as real people, that’s all the motivation they need.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        Also, if it’s the first one make sure the expectations are reasonable! Even if a previous employee/team was able to hit those targets, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a reasonable expectation for these people. Make sure the expectations are appropriate for the level of experience and training employees actually have, make sure you’re not judging them against a standard set by someone who was exceptionally talented, make sure that their overall workload is balanced (what used to be a reasonable goal may be unachievable if they have new additional responsibilities or a smaller team), etc.

        Also, know when to listen to an employee who says “we can’t do that.” I know some people are quick to say something can’t be done because it seems challenging, or it’s new and intimidating, etc. Sometimes it’s appropriate to push people. But you need to recognize when an employee is accurately describing a limit to you. I’m a hard worker and a good problem solver, but I have been in the position of telling my boss “we can’t do that. It’s physically impossible/illegal/requires equipment we don’t have/etc.” Good bosses listen to me and adjust their plans accordingly. Bad bosses tell me to make it work anyways. Ordering someone to do something impossible is a great way to destroy whatever morale your team had.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      My big fear here was that OP randomly decided that being a boss means getting people to work harder and faster.
      I hope OP truly listens to her own boss to find out what the actual expectations for her team are before doing anything.

      One thing I have seen is when the boss is hardworking, the team follows suit.

    5. Ray Gillette*

      I think Alison addressed it really well: this is a new manager, so it’s entirely possible they think “motivating staff” is something they’re supposed to be doing based on a still-limited understanding of what a manager does.

  12. Amber Rose*

    I once cried over a bad haircut. I sympathize to the extent that a bad haircut can really mess with you, especially if you already struggle with low self esteem. But wigs are sometimes a thing, fixer haircuts are sometimes a thing, and even if there’s realistically nothing you can do, hair grows. You have to still live your life.

    I was grateful to my best friend for taking one look at my hair, going “oh, sweetie” and grabbing her shears. It was still way too short after but at least it framed my face better.

    1. irene adler*

      If petty cash allows, might offer to purchase a wig if the haircut is that upsetting for the person. Yeah, above and beyond the call.

      1. Zan Shin*

        Employee already has awful boundaries if she’s carrying on daily at work about her personal appearance. It doesn’t seem logical for management response be a further erasing of boundaries by purchasing a personal appearance item for said employee… sets a terrible example guaranteed to further annoy all coworkers.

      2. Rolly*

        “If petty cash allows, might offer to purchase a wig if the haircut is that upsetting for the person.”

        Don’t do this. It’s not right. The person messed up (OK, everyone does), freaked out (some people do) and now is abusing another staff member. Don’t reward that. Don’t have work get involved in her appearance like that.

      3. Neurodivergentsaurus Rex*

        I said “oh, no” out loud to this one. LW 2 should absolutely not reinforce Mika’s behavior like this. (I also have trouble imagining a workplace where this would be allowed. Reminds me of Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead.)
        It’s outrageous that Mika’s haircut has become this much of a workplace issue – buying a wig with company funds (!) would only compound that issue.

      4. Ace in the Hole*

        What? No, please don’t!

        I might agree with you if we were talking about paying for a fresh shirt for someone who spilled soup on themselves before an important meeting or something like that… but it sets a really bad precedent to use work funds to smooth over her distress about a personal grooming choice!

      5. Underrated Pear*

        I know this suggestion is coming from a place of kindness, but please please please do not do this. I do sympathize – I have also cried over a haircut. But to put it bluntly, there are employees with real, actual life problems going on. And if they knew the company had given funds to a coworker (who is currently making everyone miserable and harassing another team member!) BECAUSE SHE GOT A BAD HAIRCUT… I wouldn’t blame them all for quitting on the spot.

        (I’m certainly not suggesting that Mika doesn’t have “real” problems too; in fact, maybe the haircut is just the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. I don’t know. In that case, the employer can show kindness by, say, providing her with resources including and beyond the company’s EAP to help her deal with the bigger issues.)

        1. Peachtree*

          Also, from everything I’ve heard … good wigs are REALLY expensive! Like this is way beyond petty cash … which is not even part of to the issue that it would be awful to set this as a precedent …

  13. The Assistant*

    Puzzled over the reference question. Is the problem that the candidate was upfront about why the reference couldn’t be contacted, that they couldn’t or wouldn’t give a reference. Meaning is this about the candidate’s judgment?

    It could be the reference knew him ten years ago or didn’t remember him. The short work history is more of a flag to me, I guess.

    Also, I’d advise always asking for three references. Email addresses change, some people ask for references with the application, and you don’t know when they will reach out. Sometimes your in a job for a long while and that person falls out of touch. Having only is only one opinion.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Even if it was just that too much time had passed, that’s still not a good sign – has the candidate not done well at any of their more recent jobs?

      Like Alison said, maybe the other references will speak highly of the candidate and you’re all set. But it’s definitely worrisome that when a candidate gets to cherry-pick the one person who they think will speak most highly of them, their pick refuses.

      1. Rolly*

        I had an intern ask me for a reference. He’d been terrible – not listening and not trying. And he still asked. He was either clueless or presumptuous about the quality of his work effort, which was near zero. The person in the story might be like that.

      2. The Assistant*

        “has the candidate not done well at any of their more recent jobs?”
        In this case the candidate didn’t seem to have a lot of recent jobs which I think is a flag. It said a ‘short job history’ which I think is what that means.

        I didn’t give my most recent supervisor because they are still at my old job and I just want no contact ever again with that toxic place. Once they moves from there, I’ll give their name out (we parted just fine and they offered to be a reference). It’s my issue and I have two great references from two other supervisors from there. Also, I just don’t want to reach out to them. And you kinda have to so they know that a call may be coming.

        Sometimes experiences aren’t positive and it’s not on the employee. That’s why I think three is a good number. Now if you have two good references and one refusal, I’m not sure how people weigh that. I only give three references that will be glowing. So it does take some judgment in who to choose as a reference.

    2. Artemesia*

      At minimum they need to contact previous workplaces on their own and not ask the candidate to name the references. Get independent references. It is quite possible that this person has a history of mental illness and is now treated and able to work. I know people like this who burned bridges after previous good performance. But in that case, they probably need to be frank about that although if they did have good references to rely on it wouldn’t be necessary. Big red flags there.

    3. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      It can also be tough depending on the industry. My last 2 jobs in a tech industry we were specifically forbidden to give ANY references beyond confirming that they had worked there and for what dates. So your only option was finding someone willing to dodge HR or find someone who was no longer with the company.

      1. MaxFrostin*

        This was my read on “uncomfortable providing a reference.” I’m in the same position as above, where providing references is NOT ALLOWED and any requests should be forwarded to HR so they can provide an employment dates verification. Some of us are willing to work around this, but I know other managers who would be uncomfortable breaking explicit company policies.

        1. MansplainerHater*

          Ditto! I think this is the norm in engineering. It’s also pretty common in the last few years to have engineers move around quite a bit –the Oil and Gas engineers have moved around a lot as their companies finally conceded climate change was real and shut down/consolidated divisions.

  14. animaniactoo*

    Clear message: You can’t be up to par only when you’re in a warning phase. If you slide back to the point where we need to start looking at a warning phase (or PIP, etc.), we will be looking at termination, not additional chances for improvement.

  15. Decidedly Me*

    We had someone that didn’t want to give their most recent (not current) manager as a reference. Their explanation seemed reasonable, but we ended up having a lot of problems with them. I’m guessing we would have learned about it from that reference.

    We had another person whose reference refused to provide one – they did not work out.

    I have refused to be a reference for someone as I knew anything I had to say would hurt their chances. Refusing probably did the same, but it was a form reference with specific questions and it would have been a lot of negative.

  16. urguncle*

    As someone who had short hair for years, the straight up harassment that you get as a feminine-presenting woman for having short hair is out of control at times. I feel for Nina.

    1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      I’m sorry you know so many awful people. I’ve had short hair for most of my life and I can’t remember anyone ever commenting on it, except for an occasional compliment. Even when I’ve had bad d-i-y choppy cuts, no one ever said anything negative, at least to my face. Or if they did, I didn’t care enough to remember.

      1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        You’re pretty fortunate if you’ve never had some random guy opine about your appearance.

      2. Alexis Rosay*

        Same. I’ve had people assume that I’m queer because of my short hair (I’m not), but nothing negative ever came out of it. More the opposite—at some sporting events where there were a lot of queer women attending, people were actually nicer to me.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Same here. I’m an AFAB Enby – decidedly queer. One time after I got my hair cut short after neglecting it for a while, one of my acquaintances (my roomie’s girlfriend) commented “Rocking the butch look, eh?” I just looked at her and said “Yeah.” rather flatly.

          Seriously, I cut my hair short because it’s less work to take care of it – “wash and wear hair” is my style. I have zero interest in spending hours doing the super-fem thing of having my hair “just so”.

      3. Environmental Compliance*

        I had a pixie cut for a very long time, and got a decent amount of “wait, are you gay?” comments (that’s…not okay), “I don’t like short hair” comments (good thing it’s not your head, eh), but also some very nice comments. Even after the really, really bad haircut I got while growing out said pixie, in which the stylist basically shaved the back of my head. I cried for a couple days and wore a hat for 4 weeks. Thankfully this was winter and no one really batted an eye at me wearing hats.

    2. Popinki*

      The part that throws me is that I occasionally get called “sir” in spite of the fancy glasses, big earrings, purse, not frilly but clearly woman’s clothing, and general pudginess. It makes me laugh.

    3. allathian*

      I never got any harassment when I had a buzz cut for a while in college, and while I took that for granted way back when, maybe I should count myself lucky instead. But because I also mostly wore bootcut Levi’s, lumberjack shirts, Doc Marten boots, and no makeup, many people assumed I was a butch lesbian. I got hit on by more women than men, and that’s never happened before or since. The weird thing was that one of my best friends at the time was lesbian, and she was incredibly envious of the attention I got. I’m not conventionally attractive, so I’ve pretty much always been the less pretty friend of the pretty woman everyone wants to flirt with, and now I got to see it from the other side. Just too bad that I’ve never been interested in dating women…

      When my hair grew out to a pixie cut and I started wearing some makeup again, and especially when I stopped wearing the lumberjack shirts, I soon found that women lost interest. It took me several months before I realized why I was attracting so much attention from other women, though.

  17. Popinki*

    When I first got my hair cut short, the stylist was actually afraid to do it, so Mika’s reaction must be unfortunately common. I get it, it’s a radical change and what looks good on Person A doesn’t necessarily look good on Person B.

    But nothing could be as traumatic as the mall-hair poodle perm my mother made me get when I started junior high (1988). It looked horrible on me and I hated doing any kind of upkeep on it so I looked like a drowned rat most days. Not to mention the chemicals made my hair feel like straw.

    No matter how bad Mika’s pixie cut might have looked, it can’t be worse than 80s mall hair.

    1. Llama Llama*

      Weird reactions from stylists when people ask for “unconventional” hair or big changes seems really normal. I find it annoying though as someone who changes her hair frequently. I went to a new hairstylist and told her what I wanted and she kept asking me to confirm over and over that I really wanted straight across bangs. Yeah, that is what I asked for. I know there’s this whole idea that women cut their hair in big ways when they are emotionally upset. I think that’s misogynistic personally. Sometimes you just want bangs?

      1. Decidedly Me*

        When I went from long to short hair (actually, several times when I’ve done this), the stylist confirmed over and over that I was sure. Yes, I was sure! They also would cut it not quite as short as I indicated at first – just in case…

        1. PeanutButter*

          This happens to me so often. I oscillate between hip-length (because I’m too scatterbrained to actually get to a barber shop) and a very, very short pixie. (because my hair finally weighs so much it gives me headaches) There is ONE hairstylist back in my hometown who doesn’t second guess me when I say I want it all off because she’s done it for me a few times, every other time the appointment takes like 3x as long as it has to because I’m continually affirming that I know what I want.

      2. Curious*

        Given the importance and prevalence of online reviews, and the reaction of people like Mika, can you blame a hairstylist for making REALLY sure that a significant change is what the customer truly wants? Because the likelihood that a customer who desperately regrets their decision blames the hairstylist — and trashes the hairstylist online — seems all too high.

        1. Decidedly Me*

          I mean, in my case, I am literally showing them a pic of the length on me before and stating that I’ve had this style and enjoy it. There is no need to confirm 10 times in either case, though.

          Things like “didn’t believe I wanted the hair cut I had chosen”, “made me feel judged for my hairstyle choice”, or “spent more time asking if I wanted the cut I indicated than actually cutting my hair” all don’t make for good reviews either.

      3. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        Eh, I suspect that most stylists have been subjected to more than one angry tirade/uncontrollable crying jag over a dramatic change that led to immediate buyer’s remorse.

      4. Critical Rolls*

        I don’t know how much opportunity there is to second-guess men who want to go from Fabio to a high-and-tight, so I hesitate to apply the term misogyny. I agree with Everyday Crone that it’s likely stylists have been burned or burn-adjacent when someone had a big reaction to a big change. It can be shocking to the client even if they’re not unreasonable.

        1. The OG Sleepless*

          My son has actually done this twice. (Once after a breakup and once after he quit a job in the trades to go back to school, making me think that people in general do often get radical haircuts when they’re making a big life change.) Both times the barber did hesitate quite a bit, and tried to get him to do it in stages.

          1. allathian*

            My sister’s first boyfriend went from well-maintained shoulder-length hair to bald when he joined the army to do his military service. (Our armed forces are based on conscription, and men who are deemed fit to serve are expected to do between 6 and 12 months. Women have been able to volunteer since 1995, and some go on to become professional officers, the highest-ranking women so far are lieutenant-colonels.)

      5. Ace in the Hole*

        That’s a bit extreme, but I don’t blame them for double-checking when I ask for a really drastic change. The last time I went from back-length hair to a crew cut, the stylist asked if I was sure and then asked if I’d had any big upsetting life events in the last few days.

        When I said no she was happy to continue with the cut, but she explained she has a lot of people come in because something traumatic just happened and they want a drastic change as an impulsive response… but then after a few days they change their mind and are even more distressed because now they have to deal with a reminder of the trauma every time they look in the mirror for months. She said if she finds out a big dramatic haircut is coming right after a big stressful life event, she has them rebook for at least a few days in the future to make sure they’re certain this is what they want. This goes for all genders.

        Hair has deep personal or even spiritual significance to many people, so I appreciate a stylist that takes it seriously.

    2. Observer*

      Oh my! That must have been pretty awful.

      Your story proves that even if that’s what Mika had wound up with, it wouldn’t matter, and her behavior still needs to stop. After all, you were in Junior High and managed not to dump all over all of your classmates.

    3. Artemesia*

      LOL. Those poodle perms also aged older women by 10 years at least. I remember a smart looking colleague in her early 50s who suddenly looked like Sophia on The Golden Girls — absolutely turned her into an old lady. I do recall that when I had one of those awful dos, that the cat really loved curling up on my shoulder so she could nuzzle into it.

    4. Heidi*

      I also wonder sometimes why my mother was so keen on me getting a perm in the 80s. It was not cheap and did not look good. Going back to the letter, the OP doesn’t even specifically say that Mika’s pixie cut looks bad – just that Mika hates it. It would be extra obnoxious if she was terrorizing Nina over a haircut that actually looked decent.

    5. Filosofickle*

      I can barely get my stylist to take off more than an inch, she’s so used to people freaking out about taking too much off. She triple checks every time.

  18. Funbud*

    I had a boss who refused to give references, ever, in any and all cases. She was very intelligent and professional and I never found out what this was about. She just was not interested. I worked for her for four years and ended on a positive note (she helped me move to a position in another dept where I stayed for three more years). So it was not personal.

    At one point, seeking to change jobs a few years after I had left her employment, I forgot this and listed her as a reference. Realizing my error, I tried to back track by telling the potential employer that she would be unavilable and offering another (4th) reference. They ended up calling her anyway and getting her standard “I don’t give references” statement. They decided there was something fishy about this and dinged me. I didn’t really want the job (the company ended up being acquired by a larger company a year later and the job would have probably ended) but the whole experience was unnecessary drama.

    1. Jean*

      In all fairness, there was something at least a little fishy – you listed someone as a reference who had an explicit no references policy. It speaks to your attention to detail, if nothing else.

    2. Laney Boggs*

      Yeah there’s also still a REALLY prevalent idea that “legally you can only confirm dates worked.” I think its just as likely this is a fluke.

  19. anonymous73*

    #1 I know this is old, but I hope the OP was more clear with their expectations moving forward. What exactly is “on notice”? And did you spell out the consequences if improvements weren’t made? I’m assuming it’s a verbal warning, but if you don’t provide a clear understanding of the “on notice” process, you can’t expect your employee to understand what is expected of them.

  20. The OTHER Othe*

    I had someone like the subpar employee on my team, I inherited him from another manager in a reorg. His production had always been sporadic, and it was getting worse. He also had terrible attendance issues, AND this was WFH, years before COVID. Many lame excuses about looking at the wrong week of the schedule, etc.

    I talk to the former manager and he had unbeknownst to me had him on PIP’s several times, he would improve to survive the PIP and then immediately backslide. This had been going on for maybe 2 years. The manager just didn’t have the heart to fire him.

    PIP’s at the company required a LOT of work, for someone who doesn’t improve it’s an enormous wasted expenditure of time and energy. I put him on one last plan and wrote the required guidelines for SUSTAINED improvement in at the conclusion and when he failed to meet them, fired him. It was no fun, but it was the right solution after being given maybe 6+ chances.

    I know many commentators here think PIP’s are just a busywork prelude to firing someone; in my experience this was definitely NOT the case, most people want to succeed (especially in this sales role where success=more income), though sometimes it’s just a bad fit. This was the only person I fired, after 4 PIPs there. Two employees became standout performers after coaching, and the last was not a good fit but we moved him to an analyst role that played to his strengths and he really thrived.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yes, PIPs do work. Most people want to do a good job but some need very specific guidelines for what a “good job” really is. Some people are just in a job that’s not a good fit, and the PIP helps work out the parts that aren’t working so we could try to find them something more suitable within the company. It is work for all involved but it’s worth it.

      Then there was the guy who had to be fired who said this at his final meeting before termination: “I don’t understand why this is happening. I’ve been through this a few times and I do whatever stupid thing you want me to for awhile and then things go back to normal until you start bothering me again. Why are you still bothering me?” Then he turned to the HR rep and said “Explain it to her so she’ll leave me alone like OldBoss did.” The guy’s union rep just shook his head.

      1. Observer*

        I kind of have to laugh, that’s so ridiculous. I also kind of feel bad for the Union rep. At least you and the HR rep could still do your jobs, even though his behavior meant that you had to do a particularly unpleasant piece of your job. The Union Rep, on the other hand basically just had the wind totally knocked out his sales. His job was to protect the employee, but it’s impossible when the employee proves that they are uncoachable.

        Were you and the HR rep able to keep straight faces when this guy said that?

    2. miss chevious*

      I agree–PIPs can really be a useful tool, if the manager engages with them in that way and does the work to make them helpful. They are certainly a TON of work, especially for the ones that are successful in getting the employee to improve, but well worth it in my experience.

    3. Daisy*

      They often are just busywork to firing someone. I’ve seen people who are improving get fired in the middle of a PIP because management decided to just flip them the bird.

  21. Batgirl*

    I actually think Nina was incredibly laid back and cool to pass on the name of her salon to her colleague. I’m not precious about people who wear the same stuff as me, but someone deliberately copying my exact haircut would feel a bit intense to me. Instead of thanking Nina for being incredibly chill and helpful, she’s being blamed for encouraging Mika’s haircut? It’s honestly beyond the pale. Mika definitely needs to start copying Nina’s personality and professionalism instead of her ‘do.

    1. Critical Rolls*

      Agreed. And I’m not even sure how much to blame the stylist; if Mika demanded Nina’s exact cut and it was wrong for her, the stylist would not have had a good option in front of them.

  22. pcake*

    I’m a motivated self-starter and nothing annoys me more than someone trying to “motivate me”. Especially if their idea of motivation keeps me from getting my work done!

    Want to motivate your employees? Ask if there’s anything you can provide to make their jobs easier.

    1. allathian*

      Oh my goodness. Thankfully this isn’t a problem in my current job and with my current manager, but it has been in the past.

  23. moonstone*

    Re references: I think it’s worth doing a little more digging, but someone refusing to give a reference is a bit of a flag. I’ve refused to give references for people I knew I wouldn’t have 100% positive things to say. Some just refuse for benign reasons, but that’s less common I think.

  24. Daisy*

    Some people are only motivated by fear. I’m guessing the dragging coworker just hates her job but needs to survive in it. She’s probably miserable. Source: I’ve been that person so many times.

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