interviewer asked “how low I was willing to go” on salary, will almost-floor-length hair hold me back professionally, and more

I’m on vacation. Here are some past letters that I’m making new again, rather than leaving them to wilt in the archives.

1. My interviewer asked “how low I was willing to go” on salary

I had a wonderful phone interview that lead to an in-person interview. Both went extremely well and the job is one that interests me.

However, at the end of the interview, I was asked for a ballpark salary requirement, which I gave along with the standard caveat that I would want to consider a complete compensation package. The hiring manager suggested I spend my weekend thinking about how “low I was willing to go.”

I bit back the urge for a snarky reply that they should spend their weekend thinking “how high they were willing to go.”

Needless to say, I sent the requisite thank-you letter and am continuing my search with other companies. Is this a new style of salary negotiating?

I don’t know that it’s a new style — there have always been companies that are pretty open about trying to lowball people — but it’s certainly a crappy one.

This isn’t a job you want (unless you are extremely desperate, and even then, you would only want it for as long as it takes you to find a better one).

Good employers do not pressure people to work for the absolute lowest figure they’d find tolerable. Good employers understand that in order to attract and keep good employees, they need to pay a salary that feels reasonably fair and in line with market rates, and that if they are blatant about their desire to cheap out on salary, they will reap the results of that in low performance and high turnover.

All that said, there’s one scenario where I can imagine an interviewers saying this without it being so outrageous: If you asked for a salary range that’s wildly above market range in your field but then added in that you’re willing to be flexible, I could imagine someone saying, “That’s pretty outside our range — we’re thinking $X to $Y. Will you think about how far you’d be able to come down and let me know?”

But if that wasn’t the context, then yeah, these people just told you that they want to cheap out on salary. And since money is probably the reason you’re interested in working in the first place, you’re pretty safe in declaring this organization Not High On Your List.


2. Should I get an educational lesson on a new employee’s religion?

I work in a small (less than 20 employee) company. We are in a moderate sized city, but a very conservative town and our company generally reflects that. They just hired a new employee who is expected to start in a few weeks. We have no concrete evidence of his religion, but his name and background suggest a particular religious practice.

At least that’s the execs’ assumption. It’s noteworthy, but I don’t plan to make any assumptions. I’m personally agnostic, and my coworkers’ religious beliefs are non-starters for me. But we’re in a meeting now getting a history lesson about this faith, their prayer practices, etc.

Is this a good idea? Is this necessary? Again, for myself it makes no difference what faith my coworkers practice, especially if we don’t even know he actually practices. But on the other hand, we do have some highly conservative (I might say narrow-minded) employees. A lesson in tolerance might not be so bad.

Nooooo, this is not a good idea. Many people would be tremendously uncomfortable to learn that their new office had held a session to educate people about their religious practices. And this is made even weirder — and frankly more offensive — by the fact that they don’t even know if this is his religion or whether he practices it or to what extent. Assuming that you know anything about someone’s faith or lack thereof based on their name is pretty gross.

I suppose in one light, it’s good that they want to be welcoming. But this is not the way to do it. If your office is concerned that people will be hostile or insensitive to someone of a different religion, they can address that by explaining they’re not going to tolerate that — and then not tolerating it. That doesn’t require a course in any particular religion. And they’re undermining their own efforts here by the ignorance involved in their underlying assumptions.


3. Will almost-floor-length hair hold me back professionally?

I have very long hair (almost floor-length when it’s down, and I keep it that length just because I like it, not out of any religious or cultural obligation). I always wear it in a conservative updo that hides the length during interviews and for the first few weeks of job-related situations because I don’t want it to be the first thing people notice when they meet me in a professional context, but it’s much easier and more comfortable for me to wear it in a braid.

Do you think letting on that I have this unusual hairstyle is something that’s going to hold me back career-wise? I love it, but it’s pretty far outside of the norm and tends to provoke a lot of questions and comments, and I would hate to have people make assumptions about me or be distracted from the quality of my work. So should I suck it up and wear it in updos at work forever, or can I sometimes go full-on Tangled at work and wear it in ways where it’s visible?

If you’re awesome at what you do, almost-floor-length hair isn’t going to hold you back. But it’s definitely unusual enough that you’re likely to become known as The Person with the Floor-Length Hair and some people will find it odd. You might be totally fine with that, but there’s also an argument for not wanting people at work to be thinking about your hair at all. It’s up to you where you come down on that.


4. My relative is angry that I backed out of an interview — after he trash-talked the job

A family member of mine offered to pull some strings and get me a job working at their place of employment. Nothing against the job, but I just never felt it was a great fit, but figured I’d apply anyway to appease this person. I applied, a few weeks went by, and I was contacted by a hiring manager and set up an interview.

The second I told this family member about the interview, they were saying things like “avoid this place like the plague,” “you don’t really want to work here,” “the place feels like a sinking ship and the new manager has no idea what they are doing,” “his place is chaotic all of the time,” etc. Since I never really felt that the job was a great fit anyway on top of this person’s negative comments about the company and the people who work there, I decided to cancel the interview for reasons of “pursing other opportunities at this time.”

Ever since I canceled the interview, even though it was done in a polite and professional manner, the person who referred me — the very same person who talked me out of considering even interviewing for the job — has been angry with me. It seems like he would have preferred if I simply no-showed the interview as opposed to canceling with 24 hours notice. He now fears that his boss will take it out on him over my cancellation. I’m not sure why he would try and talk me out of taking the job and then get angry over the fact that he succeeded or even why he would refer me to a company that he doesn’t even like working for in the first place.

Yeah, I don’t know either. And if anyone should be mad at anyone here, it’s you at him for trying to push you into taking a job at a place that he finds so misery-inducing. I’d just say, “You were very convincing that it’s not a happy place to work at, so once I knew I wouldn’t accept a job there, I wanted to be considerate of your manager’s time and not waste it.” What he does with that is up to him, but it’s a reasonable thing to say (and do). Unfortunately you can’t make people respond rationally.


{ 187 comments… read them below }

  1. Aphrodite*

    OP. #1, as I read your letter my first thought was that the company would bring the same mindset / attitude / words to every interaction with you if you did get the job. They want to get the most out of you they can while providing the least. Not good if you are looking at a promotion or raise or anything else negotiable down the road. I hope you didn’t take it.

    1. Office Lobster DJ*

      Yeah, it’s hard to see where the person is coming from. The best I can come up with is that he is scared that management will suspect the truth, that he said something that caused LW to back out. As for the preference for just not showing up, it could be a setting where a no show would have just led to him saying “So sorry. Honestly, the kid’s always been a flake and I’m just as annoyed as you are” where the cancellation means he has to field questions about what he said to LW or even just “So, Fergus, your family [that you talked up so much] is too good for us now?”comments.

      1. I am Emily's failing memory*

        I’m a little more cynical so my first thought was to wonder if he was angling for a referral bonus, felt pretty confident he could sway his manager to make sure LW was hired, talked LW up aggressively to management to try to ensure that, and now is both embarrassed to have lobbied so hard for someone who didn’t end up even being interested enough to interview AND salty about being out the bonus.

        1. FrivYeti*

          If that was the case, why try to sabotage the placement by bad-mouthing it to the family member you were referring, though? That’s the part that makes this weird – setting up a referral, then adamantly arguing against taking the referral, then getting upset that someone listened to you is very unusual behaviour all around.

          1. Teach*

            I’m probably putting too much of my own family’s baggage on this, but it is it possible he was drunk on one of the occasions and sober on the other? XD

  2. Irish Teacher.*

    What bothers me most about the second letter is that they are doing this…without any evidence as to what the guy’s religion is. This would be like assuming somebody from Ireland called Mary Bernadette or John-Paul must be Catholic and teaching about all the details of Catholicism based on that.

    Plus most religions have a fair bit of variety in their practice. The hypothetical people I mentioned above probably would be from Catholic families (though even that isn’t necessarily true), but that could just mean a granny or grandad they were named after. They themselves might not practice at all. Or might be the attend church at Christmas and Easter and have the kids baptised, but don’t practice much beyond that.

    Teaching about what prayers somebody says based solely on name and background is…an assumption. There are Catholics who swear by things like novenas and first Fridays and others who think some of those things are closer to superstition than religion (yeah, I know there isn’t always a clear boundary between those two things, but like we had a priest who was adamant that God was not going to decide whether or not to answer your prayer based on whether or not you went to Mass on the first Friday of nine months in a row).

    I don’t know what religion this person something but I’d strongly suspect there are differences in practice and people raised in the religion who don’t practice at all and possibly people who identify with it culturally or who believe in its central beliefs but practice rarely or not at all.

    I know all religions are different but I think it unlikely there is any where you could be sure of a person’s practices just from their name,

    This sounds like it could lead to stereotyping.

    1. Kaye*

      Or, indeed, they might have had a horrible experience with the religion and never want to hear about it ever again. It’s a really dangerous assumption.

      1. Jade Rabbit*

        And why just this religion? Sure there’s a new person, but unless similar has been done for every single staff member it’s discriminatory.

        It obviously shouldn’t be done at all. It’s a can of worms that should never be opened. However, what do I know? I’m an atheist and cannot be permitted to have freedom from religion. /rolleyes

        1. Fishsticks*

          I’m going to suggest that with the LW noting that it’s a conservative workplace, that they likely assume everyone is either actively practicing Christian – and likely a specific flavor of Christianity – or that they at least were raised that way.

          I’ve worked for similar workplaces. And I genuinely believe the employer thinks they are doing the ‘right thing’ by giving everyone a baseline understanding, and they think they’re ensuring there won’t be ‘misunderstandings’ or something. It’s horribly wrong-headed and it’s a recipe for incredible discomfort and it’s discriminatory, but I bet they would be shocked – shocked! – if anyone told them so, since they ‘mean well’ and just want to ‘make things easier’.

          1. Eater of Hotdish*

            Really good point. I went to a religious elementary school in a fairly conservative tradition, and we did have a unit on other religious traditions meant to give us a “baseline understanding” of what other people believed. The problem, looking back, is that there was a not-so-thinly-veiled attitude in play: “Here are the things they are Completely Wrong about, and by extension, the ways in which *we* are Actually Right.”

            Even if it’s done with the best will in the world–which is not an assumption worth making, where human beings are involved–learning about Religion X from practitioners of Religion Y is never going to be the best way to do it.

            1. Rainy*

              I had a college classmate who belonged to a…fairly mainstream variation on a fairly common type of US Christianity and came to class one day talking about how she was doing her religious education unit in her Bible Study and so now she knew all about all the other religions, and she couldn’t believe how stupid everyone else was. How in the world could they believe such nonsense, she marvelled.

              Okay, Andrea, but you really don’t want me to give your beliefs the same treatment, because I have got some *observations*.

              1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

                In general I don’t understand people who think a quick comparative religions unit in Sunday school teaches them anything useful at all. I was a comparative religions minor in college. I took entire semester long classes on Judaism, Islam, and Zen Buddhism (all taught by appropriate clergy of the religions in question), plus a semester long general “world religions overview” (and a couple more on specific aspects of Christianity). I still barely know what I’m talking about even on the ones I took “deep dive” on.

          2. Sara without an H*

            What they were doing was setting up an expectation that the new employee should be treated as “other” — not really one of us, but here are a few of his strange customs you should watch out for.

            A desire to be helpful isn’t carte blanche for this kind of stupidity.

          3. Artemesia*

            I can see a religious orientation that touched on half a dozen major religions, but if this is their first Sikh or Muslim and they are just focusing on this without even KNOWING that new hire practices that religion — way icky and discriminatory.

            1. Rainy*

              We’ve had quiet emails go round the office from a supervisor in specific situations where there are culturally okay things to say in condolence or sympathy and there are things that are culturally not okay, so that when we express sympathy to a coworker we don’t inadvertently make it worse, and that’s actually super helpful. I think proactively doing that in a staff meeting, even if it included multiple cultural or religious groups, just on the idea that maybe somebody’s going to die that year, would not be a good idea.

    2. Maz*

      If I were in that guy’s position, I’d be utterly mortified when I started work and learned that’s what had happened. The organisation would have been far better off doing a seminar on tolerance in general.

      1. Rainy*

        Trying to imagine coming into a new job and discovering that my new coworkers had been given a training on atheism… Zoiks. I’d probably unpause my job search.

      2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        I’m not sure the aim was to ensure tolerance. It gives off a “wow these people are weird” vibe. I’m thinking “turbans and knives” for Sikhs, “four wives who only count as two legally” for Muslims “Hanukah balls” for Jews, in a spirit of giving ideas for ice-breaker questions to make the poor guy feel welcome. Not having thought through just how “you’re our first [whatever]” might come across because they barely realise the guy might have feelings.

    3. Sandgroper*

      Yes to all of this.

      Better off to do a general “tolerance diversity training” if your workplace has issues… and not make it about the new guy at all.

      If the new guy comes on then manage with a zero tolerance approach, and if he asks for considerations for his religion (I am wondering if his name is Ibrahim Mohammed, and you assume he might want to pray in the Muslim style, five times a day?) then accommodate when he asks. (It’s actually nice to onboard ALL new employees with a “come and see me if there’s anything you need to help make your settling in here easier – not just stationary or desks, but also anything you need help with or accommodations for your working day”.)

      1. ferrina*

        YES, if they want to ask about accommodations, they should make it part of standard onboarding for everyone. This is great in so many ways- 1) not othering someone by assuming they need accommodations; 2) making the info easily accessible for folks with invisible illnesses (again, so many reasons why we shouldn’t guess about who needs/doesn’t need what accommodation) 3) giving info for folks that may not need it right away, but may need it later in their career 4) telling managers what the process is in case a team member asks 5) sending a clear signal to everyone that this company cares about their employees.

        1. Lizzianna*

          There is a lot about our annual diversity/anti-harassment training that is not useful, but I do appreciate that there is a section on religious and disability accommodations, so that every employee (and manager) is told when those may apply, how to request them, and how management will consider the request.

      2. WantonSeedStitch*

        This. Make sure folks–especially management–are educated about how to promote an inclusive workplace in general.

      3. JustaTech*

        Yes to this!
        One of my friends who works in childcare had this come up at a previous workplace: most of the teachers for a specific classroom were practicing Muslims, which meant they all needed time for prayer, but they also needed coverage in the room, so they couldn’t all make it on time to prayer every day.
        But rather than making assumptions, the teachers approached my friend and the site director to figure out how to make sure that they had enough coverage while also letting all the teachers get to prayer on time. And it all got figured out. (This only came up because my friend had an app with the call to prayer on her phone and it went off one day when we were at lunch.)

        But the very important differences are 1) no assumptions were made about anyone’s religion based on their name and 2) it was a *conversation* among staff, not someone from outside making decisions for them.

    4. UKDancer*

      I definitely agree, you can’t tell what religion people have based on their name, you can be wildly out sometimes. If the new person has particular needs then it’s for them to identify them not for the employer to assume it knows what they are.

      In our company everyone has mandatory training including on Diversity and Inclusion when they join and it’s part of our values. So this shouldn’t be something that’s done when you think someone with particular needs join, it should be embedded in the company / organisation as a whole.

      1. Sara without an H*

        +1. Suppose the new hire had an Arabic name, management did elaborate training on Islam — and then discovered that the new hire was a Christian?

        Agree with you that, if the company is concerned, they’d be better off developing general D&I training.

        1. Artemesia*

          My cousin in law was an immigrant from a Muslim country but he was Christian; his name was typical of his country of origin but he would have been mortified if everyone treated him as Muslim.

          1. TrixM*

            Yes, I literally had a meal with three guys from Iran – with typical given and family names for the country – on the weekend. They each left the place as soon as they were able to as adults, because they are not Muslim. They revealed that after they all exclaimed about how delighted they were with the current protests in their homeland.

            Assumptions are never a good thing – awareness that someone might request a prayer space is fine, but as other commenters say, that info should be company-wide.

    5. Phryne*

      My guess is it is Sikh. It is the only religion I can think of that does have a strong correlation beween names and religion, and which for most people is unknown enough to make an employer think an introduction is needed.
      Not that that would make it less of a horrible idea, but at least that would explain the assumption.

      1. FashionablyEvil*

        Nah, other religions have this too. Someone named Moshe Finkelstein or Sarah Cohen is very likely to be Jewish and someone named Muhammad is likely to be Muslim. It’s just impossible to know what that means and wildly presumptuous to act on it. I had a colleague whose last name was Rosenthal—I assumed Jewish, but her family was all Lutheran. And Matthew Yglesias is a journalist who people tend to assume is Hispanic but he has one great grandparent who was, but the seven others weren’t. You really just never know.

        1. Phryne*

          Except Sikh assume names based on their religion.
          Yes it would be foolish to assume religion on basis of an inherited last name, but that is not how Sikh names work.

          1. many+bells+down*

            Yes, but also men use the last name Singh, which is a pretty common name in general use. I’ve known several Singhs and I don’t think any of them were Sikh.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              And not all Sikhs take that as their legal name.

              I assumed that the person has an Arabic name, so they’re assuming Muslim, even though not all Arabs are Muslim & not all Muslims are Arabic.

              1. Clisby*

                Interestingly, as a child I acquired the impression that Arabic last names signified Catholics, since people of Arab descent were by far the biggest distinct ethnic group in our small-town Catholic church. (These were mostly the children and grandchildren of immigrants from Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria.)

                1. Pippa K*

                  The majority of Arab-Americans (for a long time and possibly still now; I’m too lazy to look it up) are Christian, not Muslim, because of immigration patterns. The majority of Arabs in Arab countries are Muslim, but as pointed out above, not all. The vast majority of Muslims in the world, however, are not Arab. I use this example every year when teaching about the concept of ethnic identity and its possible components.

                2. TrixM*

                  Similarly, I assumed for many years that anyone with the last name “Lewis” was Jewish, since that was the most common name in my home city’s Jewish cemetery. It’s a relatively small community, and at that time, most members had arrived via the British branch of the diaspora.

              2. Russian In Texas*

                Stepdaughter’s inlaws have a “Muslim” last names, and one of her husband’s brother is named Fadi. People presume they are Muslim. Particularly step-daughter’s mother, who threw a fit (long story).
                They are Lebanese Catholics.

          2. bamcheeks*

            Honestly, the fact that they think “a seminar about the person’s presumed religion” is an appropriate response means it’s FAR more likely that they are going, “Oh, a non-WASP name— Susan, please read A Very Short Introduction To Judaism and tell everyone what you learned!” than that it’s anything like as specific as that.

              1. Nightengale*

                I once – as a minimally observant Jewish medical resident – gave a group of nurses a “short” introduction to Judaism as we were waiting for a patient to be admitted after surgery. This was a mid-Western hospital where the nurses on the unit were all Christian and besides me, may never have met a Jewish person before. I’m not sure if until that moment they knew I was Jewish or not, all I knew is that I got onto the unit and everyone was talking about this patient and it was clear the staff were very well meaning but very much feeling like the family was going to be “other” in mysterious ways.

                Admittedly, I did not try to cover any theology or history and limited myself to things like, the family may or may not have these dietary restrictions and if they do want someone called from the Chaplin department, the name for the person to ask for is a Rabbi, practical things that fell under usual nursing areas. But it was certainly interesting trying to in-service the unit about relevant aspects of Judaism in like 15 minutes.

              2. Pippa K*

                Oh, but there is! :-) Oxford University Press has a great series of “Very Short Introductions” to a huge range of subjects, and there is indeed one on Judaism!

              3. JustaTech*

                Years ago my husband and I were visiting my grandmother in her small Texas city and he asked “why are there so many different churches here?”.
                “Do you want the long answer or the short answer?”
                We didn’t have anything else to do, so he said “the long answer” – lunch, the whole afternoon and dinner later I finished explaining the various major schisms of Christianity. (At least I didn’t have to explain more modern groups like LDS, since his college roommate had already done that.)

          3. FashionablyEvil*

            My point is, you can’t really know or guess and it’s a bad idea to start down that path.

          4. Despachito*

            I wonder what is the right measure of interest in other people’s potential limitations/requirements as to their religion?

            I agree that just assuming with no real knowledge can go wrong but is it OK to not assume anything and just wait what the specific person says they need/want? I mean, we have talked about things like observing certain traditional holidays and that it is not fair to assume it is Christmas for everyone because some people can have different religions and observe other holidays. I’d think the most logical thing would be for the newcomer to be specific about what they need/want in this sense (or to be asked that), if it is different from the mainstream, and then work with this information to accommodate them as much as possible, but is this doable, and are there any pitfalls in this I am not seeing?

            1. UKDancer*

              I tend to think it’s best not to assume and just wait for someone to tell you what they need. I usually ask my staff when they join whether they have any reasonable adjustments / working pattern requests and encourage them to let me know. Good managers I’ve worked for tend to do the same.

              People have different levels of religious observance / disability / family and caring responsibilities, and they’ll tell me what they think appropriate. I find things tend to come out in conversation as people settle in or when you need to know (e.g. organising a conference usually gives me a lot of information about dietary and access requirements).

              We have a strong policy in the company of inclusivity and diversity so we’re all encouraged not to make assumptions but to value people as individuals.

              1. Despachito*

                This is very close to what I think, too. But I tend to favor “tell” culture, and I was wondering whether those who are rather “guess” would perhaps consider it a bit thoughtless (I’d imagine that it is perfectly OK if I have no idea about other than mainstream, in my case Christian, holidays, and if there is someone who wants time off for a Jewish or Muslim holiday, they should ask for it and explain, but from some discussions here – and elsewhere – I infer that some people would prefer the boss knows this without them telling her).

                1. Kit*

                  I mean, unless the company allows flex holidays based on one’s specific religious observance, I can’t fathom why anyone would balk at telling their boss they need X days off! Unless, of course, they have my old boss, who met my note that I would need Rosh Hashanah off with a complaint that she didn’t know why she had hired two Jews. (Yes, Karen, it turns out when our religious holidays aren’t on the company calendar we need to ask for them off and they are at the same time for both of us! Your other eight employees all want Christmas off, which would be even worse if the company wasn’t closed then.)

                  But even then, in the midst of guess culture, business norms are still weighted very heavily in favor of it being the employee’s responsibility to communicate the time off they need, not the boss’s to assume when that might be. Ask v guess would apply much more to, say, offers of food that might not meet a religion’s dietary requirements, than to use of an employee’s benefits package.

        2. CommanderBanana*

          I have an Irish first and last name and am…surprise surprise, Jewish! And since we’re Sephardim, not Ashkenazi, the Jewish side of the family doesn’t have stereotypically Jewish European last names either.

          1. HannahS*

            I have a (Jewish) cousin whose name is a lot like Brian O’Reilly. He once let his math teacher, Mr. Christiansen (real name) that he would be away the next day for a Jewish holiday. Mr. Christiansen said, “Yom Kippur? Me too….’O’Reilly,’ eh? Never would have guessed.”

            My name is obviously Hebrew to other Jews, but reads as Irish to non-Jews. And as you say, when people think of “Jewish” names they’re usually thinking of, like, Rosenberg rather than Azulai, Gur, Salomon, Binyanimi…

            1. Avery*

              Reminds me of a family friend’s son whose name is something like Mario Coppola, very clearly Italian… and he’s Jewish. My mom still likes to joke about “Mario Coppola, the nice Jewish boy.”
              For that matter, my own name sounds pretty WASP-y, but I’m Jewish too.

              1. Ali + Nino*

                This is my family’s situation – my FIL is not Jewish, so people are often surprised to learn that we are.

              2. Charlotte Lucas*

                My cousin’s kids’ pediatrician assumed her family was Jewish many years ago, despite her very stereotypical Irish American Catholic given name. Because her married name is similar to a common Jewish name.

                They both just laughed about it & moved on.

            2. Jessica Ganschen*

              There’s also a joke that I heard near the beginning of my conversion about an Irish man who is converting to Judaism, who asks his rabbi if he should change his surname. The rabbi says that isn’t necessary, and the man anxiously says, “But Rabbi, Fitzpatrick isn’t a Jewish name!” The rabbi looks at him and kindly says, “It is now.”

            3. doreen*

              I had the opposite. A Jewish coworker once told me that we would have to reschedule some training, and I asked why. He gave me a strange look and said ” “Because we’re scheduled on the holiday.” ” What holiday?” He gave me another look and said ” Yom Kippur” at which point I said “I’m not Jewish”. He was embarrassed but I told him I was used to it – I got my German name from my father and my complexion from my Italian mother and I live in NYC , so it happens all the time.

            4. Russian In Texas*

              My first name reads as Latino/Italian in the US, but when I grew up in Russia it was an immediate Jewish signifier.
              It’s not a name you would think of Jewish here. Think of famous mosque/former church in Istanbul.

            5. Nesprin*

              Yep, I know a Jewish person with the last name of Christiansen. The assumptions in this article really suggest a lecture on tolerance would be needed.

        3. CommanderBanana*

          Judaism is an ethnoreligion, so you can be Jewish but not practice the religion of Judaism at all or have been raised practicing it.

          (Just imagining my bewildered atheistically-humanistically raised Jewish friend showing up at work and finding out that everyone was learning about Judaism-the-religion as opposed to Jewishness-the-ethnicity.)

          1. alexa+k*

            Personally really enjoy the bewildered looks most christians get when I tell them that I’m a Jewish atheist and answer all their questions about what Jews believe with “what an insightful questions! we’ve been debating that one for centuries. did you have any fun debates in church last week?”

      2. Asenath*

        I grew up in an area which was Christian, and everyone pretty well knew who was Catholic and who was Protestant, based on their names. Not with 100% accuracy, of course; some given names were used by both groups and some families had Catholic and Protestant branches, and the name given at birth didn’t always reflect the religion (if any) the person practiced as an adult. But no one thought you needed an introduction to the religious beliefs on new hires.

      3. Cat Tree*

        I have literally had coworkers with the last names Christian and Islam. But honestly, if this workplace is as “conservative” as described (bigoted and naive) it could have just been a man with the first name Mohammed that they assumed was Muslim.

        1. ecnaseener*

          And even those coworkers of yours might not have been Christian and Muslim respectively just based on their last names. They (or their parents or grandparents or etc) could have simply not felt it was necessary to legally change their last name.

    6. EPLawyer*

      Could lead to stereotyping. It is already stereotyping. This person has such and such a name with a presumed such and such background. Therefore they MUST be X.

      This is so cringeworthy. But this is what you can get when people are very insular and now have to deal with something outside their experience. They are NOT tolerant because they are ALREADY making assumptions about this person.

    7. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      In my company, we have a copy of the book “How to be a Perfect Stranger” readily available. I find it a good reference work just in case one wonders what a Pastafarian may believe and practice, and how to respectfully behave if invited to a wedding, funeral or other celebration.
      This is of course not because a particular employee; we are a quite diverse workplace and our clients are just as diverse.

      1. JustaTech*

        Oh, that looks like a fascinating book, thanks for the recommendation!

        (I could have used it years ago when I was going to my first LDS wedding and wanted to know what to wear. The internet told me a lot about Jello, but nothing actually useful.)

    8. K+in+Boston*

      I’m very curious what constitutes “background.” My gut reaction would be something about race or country of origin, but I suppose it could also be something like “his resume says he’s spent the last 10 years volunteering 20 hours a week at the local Unitarian church” — which still wouldn’t be a good reason for what his employer is doing, and of course that doesn’t mean he’s of that religion necessarily, but it’d at least be a bit less of a stereotype-based leap.

      Anyway, as someone who grew up around a lot of Christians but is not myself Christian, sure, I would’ve been a lot less alarmed by a bunch of my classmates showing up to school one day with what I thought was dirt rubbed haphazardly on their foreheads, if I’d learned about Ash Wednesday before then. But, you know — You live and you learn and you try your best to be respectful. It would have been much weirder if any of the teachers in my somewhat liberal, secular, American public school thought it necessary to preemptively take the non-white kid aside to teach them about Christianity…

  3. Sandgroper*

    For number 3 it’s almost impossible to advise without knowing the profession.

    The fact that you are writing in suggests you feel it might be an issue, in which case can you look for some hair styles that can reduce the obviousness of the length? Braid doubled over? Pony tail doubled? Loose low bun sort of stuff?

    Maybe wear it in a more conservative style when you are meeting with people who don’t know your professional capability yet?

    I only suggest this because you seem to think it will be a problem. I assume you are working in an environment with clients, rather than predominantly with a small team of coworkers? If it’s just mostly coworkers then I’d worry less because they’ll be used to you fairly fast, but if it’s anything involving meeting a lot of new clients from outside then you might need to work out the professional norms for this career and find a way to slide between them as best you can. Same as a very short or high pitched voice female might need to find a balance if working in a career where maturity and masculinity is given more credence, or if a male is working in a female orientated role (nail manicures!), there are ways to skirt the norms and still be professional it just takes some research, planning and a willingness to be a little flexible yourself as you are asking of the clients too.

    1. kicking-k*

      “Maybe wear it in a more conservative style when you are meeting with people who don’t know your professional capability yet?”

      My hair is hip-length rather than floor-length but that’s still an outlier for someone of my age and ethnicity, and this is more or less what I do, and I don’t think I’m primarily known as the woman with the long hair. I wear my hair up for job interviews and more formal meetings – basically, if I wear a suit I also wear an up-do. On a normal day, I braid it. I don’t often wear it loose at work at all as it would get in the way (my job has physical aspects) and be a distraction for me.

      I will say that it’s been my experience that braiding hair does disguise the length somewhat. If people are facing you, especially on video calls, a very long braid looks no different from a shorter one. There are also styles of braiding that eat up more length, though they may be too time-consuming for the OP on a work day.

      1. Maglev+to+Crazytown*

        I sound very similar to you, and also work in a field where I may need to wear safety PPE. I have natural butt-length hair. Most everyone has only ever seen it up in a bun. The times I have had to quickly rerack it when it taking a helmet off, I get impressed shocked reactions for colleagues at the length, who actually encourage me to keep it down more (not in a creepy way, but in a “you should feel like you NEED to hide it, if you don’t want to!”).

        I actually envy the OP with floor-length hair! You do you, OP!

        1. What Angelica Said*

          I have hip length hair and always wear it up in a double messy bun type thing, and people are shocked when they see it down. (Which happens like, twice a year, because I shed like a Golden Retriever.) So yes, there are ways to “hide” it, but don’t feel you have to, OP!

      2. As Per Elaine*

        I will note that in high school I cut something like 20 inches off my hair, bringing it from all the way down my back to just below my shoulders — and NO ONE NOTICED, at least, no one said anything. I wore it in a braid before; I wore it in a braid after. (I’m white.)

        People will probably notice a very long braid (thinking of an elementary school classmate’s mom whose braid was nearly long enough to sit on, although part of what I found so remarkable there was how even the braid was — just as wide and neat at the bottom as the top, which my hair does not do), but I will agree that people don’t seem to actually notice how much hair one has, past a certain amount, as one would expect.

        1. kicking-k*

          Yes, I agree. Anything past bra-strap level just seems to fall into the “very long” category. I’ve also had severe trims that nobody noticed.

      3. GreyjoyGardens*

        I used to have thigh-length hair and would just braid it or put it in a ponytail. Granted, I worked in a more casual industry and didn’t meet with clients all the time. But nobody said anything. I think what people don’t want is loose hair flying everywhere – some people think that is kind of icky. But sometimes I’d just wear my hair down and clip it back from my face with barrettes and nobody said anything either. If you’re not coming off like Cousin Itt, you’ll be fine, unless you’re in one of the stodgier fields where “polish” is everything.

    2. Lady_Lessa*

      I have worked twice with a woman who apparently has very long hair, and she wears it in a snood. (we work the election at the same vote center)

      Depending upon the texture of LW3 hair, that might be a workable solution.

    3. K8M*

      I have Very Long Hair, which I wear up all of the time at work because I work in a lab, however, when I’ve taken it down to restyle it in my office and someone has seen it’s length it always results in shock and questions. Once someone asked me if I was in a “non hair cutting cult or something” (I don’t even know what group that might be, and I’m definitely not). My hair hasn’t held me back, but it does invite sometimes intrusive questions.

      1. As Per Elaine*

        Amish and conservative Mennonite women tend to wear their hair long, especially among the groups where covering one’s hair is the norm, but I don’t actually know what the expectations are there.

        I had a (Black) classmate in elementary school who gave me grief for “not being a good Christian” because I cut my hair, but I don’t know what branch of Christianity his family practiced, though I have the impression his dad was a minister/pastor. (I will note that HIS hair was less than a centimeter long; apparently this was only an expectation for women.) I was maybe 7 years old at the time (and had long hair!), but I was like, “Yeah, no, my hair would be a nightmare if I never cut it; split ends are a thing.”

        1. Raw Flour*

          While I of course cannot say with certainty which denomination your classmate belonged to, some Pentecostals forbid women from cutting their hair.

        2. ThatGirl*

          Most Amish women don’t cut their hair, and the men don’t cut their beards, but with Mennonites it varies wildly.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            And to bring this round to the letter about assuming religion based on name: Sikhs also don’t cut their hair or beard. (A Sikh friend in high school had a brother with hair to his feet, but he kept it up & covered. She was always a little envious that his was prettier than hers.)

        3. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

          He *was* in elementary school, so he might not have had as firm an understanding of his denomination’s hairstyle practices as he thought he had.

      2. kicking-k*

        Yeah, I’ve very occasionally been asked if I have a religious reason for my long hair (no). Never at work. I sometimes wear longer skirts in summer which could be mistaken for intentional “modest dress” and I think that was a factor also.

        1. JustaTech*

          Yes about the clothing choices as well. When I was a kid we lived near Amish country and I had an inclination to “prairie” clothing and had long hair. My mom was forever encouraging me to be aware of how I looked and that I could be mistaken for a Mennonite (except not, based on the color of my clothes).

          Then again, who was the only teen on the street who didn’t get the 3rd degree from the cops when a car was vandalized? This gal, who answered the door in a long dress with an apron over it and flour in her hair (we’d just gotten back from church and I needed to start a cooking project so threw on an apron to protect my dress). (To be clear, I didn’t do it and I didn’t know who did. Also, we weren’t very religious then and I quit church/religion a year or two later.)

      3. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

        I haven’t been asked if my calf-length hair* is long for religious reasons, but I get asked All. The. Damn. Time. if I’m growing it out to donate it. People get reeeaaaaaally angry and aggressive over the fact that I wear it long for myself.** I once went in for a trim when my hair was still “only” waist-length, and had to leap out of the hairdresser’s chair and slip out of the shop while she was away because she *insisted* she was going to cut all my hair off and donate it whether I wanted to or not. She bluntly stated she thought I was being selfish by not giving my hair away.

        (I’ve later heard from multiple sources that hair cutoffs aren’t even generally used for the actual wigs, but are just part of a trading process that *might* result in different hair acquired for an actual wig somewhere down the line?)

        Haven’t let someone else touch my hair in almost twenty years due to that, even though I’d love to splurge and dye it fantasy multicolors just once. But I can’t trust anyone else around it anymore. :/

        *I wear my hair long for four reasons:
        1) I like it.
        2) I came from an abusive upbringing where body shame was the daily game, and growing my hair out is the only time I’ve ever felt like a part of my body was really “mine.”
        3) I like it.
        4) I like it, and fsck you if you have a problem with me being the tiniest comfortable with my very uncomfortable physical shell.

        **How dare people exist for themselves while AFAB instead of being everyone else’s servant and unlimited donor!

        1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

          I had to post this as a separate reply because the hypocrisy really does stand out on its own: all the people who shame me for not donating my hair? Have never donated their own hair even once. When they start in, but before they get aggressive, I always casually ask, “Hair donation? How did it work the last time you did it?” and the reply is always, “Oh, I never have. But *you* should!”

        2. Chrysanthemum*

          Re: What hair donations are used for

          Depends on the organization, but if the hair meets the requirements for length and health, it almost certainly goes into a real hair wig. Some organizations *also* (not instead of, but also) provide false hair wigs. All organizations have this information on their webpages, so go ahead and look into it more!

          I am lucky enough to be old, so nobody asks me anything about my long hair.

        3. Verthandi*

          Solidarity fist bump!

          On hairdressers: I won’t set foot in one again. Ever since I was a teenager, I had long (just past shoulders) hair I wanted to grow as long as I could. Today my hair is past my waist and hasn’t yet found its length. Every time I’d go in for a trim, specifically requesting no more than a half inch, I’d come out minus 6 inches.

          As soon as I came of age, I simply stopped going. My hair has never been cut in over 30 years. Some day I’ll know just how long it will get.

          I have also gotten the “You Should Donate Your Hair” speech.

          I also got the “Your Hair Is So Beautiful, You Should Cut It” speech.

          Fun colors are awesome! I do that every once in a while. Last time, I took two fun colors and tye-died my hair by putting it in tight braids before applying dye. The results got a lot of compliments.

        4. Sorcyress*

          Eyyyy fistbump from one calf-long to another, and also THIS THIS THIS! I cannot stand it when people ask me if/when I plan on donating, it’s _mine_.

          For a while, I had the bottom eighteen inches died green, and that was a useful deflection “oh, I can’t donate it, it’s been dyed, ~darn~”. It worked even when it wasn’t visibly coloured anymore “oh, I used to dye it, darn”.


    4. another+govt+agency*

      This is a great point. If you work with the same people internally over and over again, no big deal. If its external with a more conservative set – then maybe an updo on those days.
      I work in and around the legislature in a very conservative state. When we have meetings with staffers and legislators (many you will meet only once, for 20 minutes and that’s all you have to make your pitch), you don’t want them focused on anything physical about you. It has caused us to second guess some people we bring to those meetings, and have some blunt conversations about it (ex: a coworker who does EXCELLENT work and has an enormous tattoo across her chest. For those meetings, she wears a button up or a scarf or something and it isn’t an issue). Wish that people were more ok with all of this, but it is what it is right now.
      Internal meetings, no one cares and it would be fine. Zoom mtgs would be fine too.

    5. ND Designer*

      I think the profession is definitely relevant, but also the general styling of LW makes a difference to how people would react to it. Does it fit in with a fashion “type”? Because my first mental image is of an artist like Marina Abramovic, then there’s the earth-mother hippy look, a conservative/religious-coded aesthetic, etc.

      For any of these, I’d think “ah, that’s part of a broader lifestyle.”

      If LW’s appearance doesn’t fit into a visual trope (for lack of better phrasing), then I’d get more cognitively “stuck” on it, because it isn’t easy to characterize. My brain would try to find a reason for the long hair and “because I like it” isn’t really satisfying for whatever reason. Just on a subconscious level! LW shouldn’t have to explain why her hair exists as it does. But our brain’s instinct is to explain the unexpected before we can move on to the next cognitive task.

      I wonder if having an easy “why” — even if it’s the why you “just like it” — would help people move on quickly:

      “Oh, I love that it makes me feel like Rapunzel. But of course without all the problematic stuff. Like, could I use my braid as a ladder in an emergency? No, but it’s a fun thought.”

      “I started seeing how long I could get it, and it turns out I really like it! I’m really fortunate I can keep it long and in good condition, so I want to take advantage of that.”

      Or whatever. Of course it’s not anyone’s business, and it won’t stop people from being creepy or inappropriate, but it would help make it less remarkable to reasonable people.

      1. Giant Kitty*

        Why isn’t assuming that someone is doing [unusual thing] simply because they like it a satisfying answer? Most of the time, that really IS the reason people do things outside of the ordinary. No deeper meanings to it.

      2. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

        Of course it’s not anyone’s business, and it won’t stop people from being creepy or inappropriate, but it would help make it less remarkable to reasonable people.

        If you can’t accept “I like it” as a valid reason for someone doing what they want with their own life and body, then you’re already NOT being a reasonable person. It’s doubly gross and offensive when you factor in that it’s usually women and AFAB’s whose lives and bodies you’re wanting a justification for, to put that nasty little cherry on top of a sundae made of misogyny/internalized sexism.

    6. EUXlead007*

      I have long, thick locs (like Valerie June) but longer. My hair has its own celebrity and it ca. be annoying. It hasn’t held me back professionally tho.

  4. bamcheeks*

    Does anyone else keep reading, “how low I was willing to go” and “almost floor-length” as question and answer?

    1. That One Person*

      I read “How long I was willing to go” and thought that was a weird phrasing, but maybe they really liked the candidate while wanting to get the “best price” they could so to speak. Maybe I was also tricked by the hair question right after in the title XD

  5. inko*

    Oh nooo, letter 2 is so terrible. Good grief. No, you cannot tell someone’s religious beliefs from their name. Aaa. Aaaaaaa.

    1. Ash*

      Yup. I have a friend whose last name is Islam, and she is Christian. Every year she gets texts wishing her Eid Mubarak, which she does not celebrate or observe.

  6. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    As someone with hip length (and multicolored) hair, one of the things I’ve noticed since the initial the pandemic closure days is that suddenly NOBODY who looks at my hair goes “oh my god that must take so much maintenance!!” anymore – possibly because the long-hairs weren’t the ones three weeks into lockdown panicking because we couldn’t get in for a haircut :)

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      Somehow hip length strikes me as different than floor length? I feel like once your hair is longer than your bum, you get people (including me) thinking things like, “Doesn’t she end up sitting on her hair? What about when she uses the restroom? Or when she rides a bike? Doesn’t it get in the way? Isn’t it hot/heavy?”

      I’m not suggesting I’m in any way entitled to answers to those questions or that folks should be anything other than professional, but floor length hair is definitely into “that’s kind of weird,” territory.

      1. The+Answer*

        As someone who used to have below the waist hair, the answer to the restroom question was tuck it into your bra strap before you position yourself.

        Another thing to consider is hair thickness. If you have really thick hair, no amount of buns or clips will hide the sheer volume and length. My thick waist length hair was always really obvious due to the sheer size of any bun or updo. But a colleague had fine almost waist length hair and her bun was quite small.

        Even how often you have your hair trimmed will impact on the size of the updo. Some folk don’t trim their long hair so it gets really thin and straggly (and dead and unkempt) at the ends, which reduces the volume so it will result in a smaller updo.

        1. Quinalla*

          Yes, this is very true. My sister has fine, thin hair and she’d grow it out to waist length often before chopping it short again and I’d always be amazed by her little, tiny bun that would pop out waist length hair. My hair was so thick growing up I would have a very different experience if I tried to do the same :) It’s actually been one nice thing about getting old enough for my hair to thin out a bit is I have normal thickness hair now basically – it is so much lighter!!

          1. MEH Squared*

            This is me. I have mid-thigh-length hair that is very fine and thin. When I put it up in a bun, it’s so teeny-tiny! These days, I wear it in a high pony and then braid the pony. and I never notice the weight. My aunt used to have knee-length hair and had to cut it because it was too heavy for her to wear comfortably.

        2. bamcheeks*

          My 7yo has the family thick hair and it’s currently approaching her waist. I am hoping it just naturally stops growing soon (it’s about as long as mine ever got naturally) because her buns and plaits are ridiculously chunky already!

        3. Ann O'Nemity*

          The other thing about thickness is the weight of all that hair. My colleague with very long hair has noted that ponytails and updos tend to strain her neck. She prefers to braid it.

          1. kicking-k*

            My sister cut her hair for that reason. Mine has never been so heavy, but I can also get it into a chignon which effectively disguises that it’s particularly long. And a braid spreads the weight better than a ponytail, but a ponytail is pointless anyway because the tail is easily two feet long below the elastic, so it’s not really contained by that style!

        4. Polly Hedron*

          the answer to the restroom question was tuck it into your bra strap before you position yourself

          That’s a good solution, but now I’m wondering where someone would tuck a floor-length braid while she is sitting anywhere else.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Speaking from 20 years of personal experience, people get weird, and ask the weird questions out loud, about hair length once it’s past your armpits. Heh.

      3. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

        As someone with calf0length hair:

        Doesn’t she end up sitting on her hair?

        All the time. *LOL*

        What about when she uses the restroom?

        I have to wrap my braid/ponytail around my neck multiple times and then tuck the end into my shirt, or a bra strap if I’m wearing one. It’s very risky to try it with my hair loose since it’s very thin and might just slip out into the toilet (ew), so I’m looking into getting a tichel or snood to stuff my hair in for bathroom trips. The neck-wrapping startled my partner the first few times, but now “gonna go hang yourself?” is slang for “going to the bathroom?” It helps that we embrace extremely macabre humor in this house, having both had unfortunately close relationships with death.

        Doesn’t it get in the way? Isn’t it hot/heavy?

        I’m used to it, so it doesn’t really “get in the way” so much as it sometimes just ends up where I didn’t intend if not properly secured. Like my dinner plate. Not hot or heavy, because my hair is *extremely* thin and lightweight, which is why I can grow it so long. The two mini-scrunchies I put in my braid often feel like they’re heavier than the hair itself. Meanwhile, my cousin’s hair is so thick and heavy she gets headaches if she tries to grow it past her shoulders.

    2. Hotdog not dog*

      I had started growing my hair color out just before the lockdown and was seriously considering going back to coloring it because I was getting sick of the “gray hair ages a woman” comments. Now, fully silver-gray, if I get any comments at all it’s, “you’re so lucky you don’t have to spend all that time and money on color,” so I suppose the pandemic was good for something. My long haired son (waist length) and I were the only 2 people I knew who were not inconvenienced by the salons being closed.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        My husband struggled through cutting his own hair with some occasional assistance. My brother leaned into it, embraced the in between stages, and came out the other side of lockdown with a gorgeous silver mid-back-length mane, hah.

      2. kicking-k*

        Yeah, my lockdown look was no more or less tidy than my anytime look. I own clippers, so was able to shear the short-haired members of the household periodically; it was £15 well spent some years back.

        Full silver hair often looks amazing (mine is stripy – I’m rather looking forward to all-silver when it happens).

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          In my household those with short hair just paired up to use the clippers every few months. The people with long hair just let it grow.

          1. JustaTech*

            During lockdown I was fine (long hair FTW) but my husband was so miserable with how his hair was growing out I violated the only hard-and-fast rule my mom ever gave me for a happy marriage: never cut your spouse’s hair.
            For the most part it worked out fine, I only cut it too short once, but eh, who was going to see?

            1. Giant Kitty*

              That’s funny- my parents had a happy marriage and my mom ALWAYS cut my dad’s hair. He looked good, too.

      3. ND Designer*

        I was already DIYing a buzz cut (then letting it grow out to a pixie, then repeat) so I at least had THAT going for me during lockdown. Not much else, but that I did have.

      4. Nina*

        I sailed through the pandemic with a set of electric clippers from the local Target equivalent :D
        (I have a side-shave. The top is long enough to braid. The sides and back get clipped back to 1 mm length once a month. I do this myself with one mirror.)

    3. MeepMeep123*

      I actually started growing out my hair because of the pandemic – it was very very short (pixie-cut) when it started, and I couldn’t get to the hairdresser, so I just let it grow. By now, it’s at the middle of my back. I do think it’s way lower maintenance than short hair.

  7. The Original K.*

    I had a recruiter ask how low I was willing to go and I repeated the salary range I was seeking and didn’t say any more. She was clearly rattled – her client was really underpaying. I ended up withdrawing. I work for money; I don’t want to pretend otherwise.

  8. Susan Calvin*

    My two cents for #3 would be, while there will always be a chance that you draw the short stick of working with someone who gets weirdly obsessed with the details of their coworkers’ appearance, it’s hard to overstate how much most people just. Don’t notice. In college, for instance, I had hip length hair I sometimes put up in a bun, but almost always just had in a ponytail. I remember leaving it open one time, and some classmates (who had seen me daily, frequently from behind, for over a year at that point) absolutely lost their minds!

  9. Camellia*

    #3: Seems like women’s appearance is always going to matter to people.

    When I joined an insurance organization as an IT professional back in 1980, the heyday of Women’s Lib and Dress for Success, I wore skirt suits, stockings, and 2 inch heels to work every day. Because I wanted to appear professional. All, and I do mean all, of the other 500+ women at the company dressed like they were getting ready to wash their car. Jeans were not allowed, but all manner of VERY casual pants and tops were worn. The men were required to wear shirts and ties. The only ones in the company who wore suits were the underwriters, and at that time there were no female UW in our company. And there were no female managers in our IT department.

    One day early in my career I was going to another floor to talk to someone and asked my lead to go with me and introduce me. His reply? “Oh, everyone knows who you are, you’re the one who wears suits.”

    So yeah, it’s going to have an impact and it could be negative. All you can do is, if you want to keep your hair length, either do your best to mitigate the impact via hair styles and (possibly) personality changes, or decide you don’t care, be your professional self, and let the chips fall where they may.

  10. KHB*

    Q1: It’s bad enough that companies make you name the first number in a salary negotiation, but here they’re making you name the first number and the second number too. Even in the context Alison suggests (or in pretty much any other context), the proper response from the company should be “We can offer you $Y. Does that work for you?” Simply saying “That’s too high, you need to go lower” isn’t just lowballing you – it’s asking you to lowball yourself.

    It’s especially bad because it sounds like there wasn’t even an offer on the table at this point – which makes it sound like one of their selection criteria for who to hire was who would be willing to do the job for the least. I hope they got what they were willing to pay for.

  11. Grace*

    I hope that this time around the hair letter is going to get fewer “I think long hair is gross” comments than it did last time. The length and vehemence of a couple of those threads (and the person saying they would refuse to hire the OP!) were really quite bizarre.

    1. Workerbee*

      Yikes. No wonder OP wrote in with her concerns in the first place, evidently having already encountered folks with brains the size of peas.

    2. inko*

      Oof, I’m looking back at those now. There are some strong feelings about other people’s physical appearance. Yikes.

    3. Kristen K*

      I gotta say hair is one of my “Things™”: I HATE when hair -anyone’s- touches me, hence my pixie cut. My teenage daughter has long hair that she never puts up and in always leaning over me so her hair bushes me, which makes my skin crawl, like I am covered in bugs, sometimes to the point of tears. If I have found a hair in my food I can’t eat for at least a day. Just thinking about this while I type it out makes me need a shower.

      So honestly I would be pretty skeeved out by OP’s long long hair. But that’s my issue and as long as her hair stays away from me, I would be able to just be secretly grossed out but outwardly fine and friendly.

      It’s unacceptable that someone would not hire her for her hair length!

      1. sdfsfs*

        I have had several colleauges with incredibly long hair (longer than hips) that they leave loose, and they are always known as the person with the long hair… Even if the hair is clean and neat, people always mention eventually how they think its gross, especially if finding the hairs around the office. I would find floor length really unproffessional is left down. If its braided or kept tidy, most people might not notice.

      2. ND Designer*

        I have sensory issues and hair feels like bugs crawling on me (and consequently have a buzz cut). But since the LW’s hair wouldn’t ever be touching me, I wouldn’t have any issues with it.

        I’m fascinated by intense the “hair = unclean” visceral reaction folks have. It’s certainly not just you! But just as you can’t help but think the LW is “gross”, I can’t help but think of that reaction as “nasty, judgmental, and almost certainly straight up wrong” — unless I understand that more akin to phobia than a hygiene concern, which yours sounds like.

    4. Chief+Petty+Officer+Tabby*

      I remember that, and it was so. very. BIZARRE. I was left wondering if these people didn’t realize that long hair gets washed like short hair, though it probably takes more shampoo, because, well, it’s long. But it isn’t any dirtier as a rule than my buzz cut! And she keeps it in a bunch, so it’s not, like, sweeping the floor! And she can move it out of the way when she uses the bathroom!

      Some people are just bizarrely fixated on cleanliness, like… worry about your own hygiene and leave the poor LW alone!

      1. ND Designer*

        Also, I feel like people with hair that long — at least when it’s not for religious/cultural reasons — are actively interested in taking care of it, like some people are into skin care or makeup or I dunno, growing a really rad mustache. So they’re FAR MORE likely to be clean than my nasty, slovenly self.

        1. My+dear+Wormwood*

          Oh even when it’s for religious reasons, there’s usually a very active hair care culture. It’s a thing you learn from your mother as a child and there’s an understanding that converts will need help learning how to care for very long hair.

  12. Betsy Not Elizabeth*

    OP #1: This is Michael Scott level tone deafness. Might as well have everyone watch Diversity Day.

    1. Smitty*

      Haha right? Diversity day and Prison Mike both came to mind. Seems like OP’s management took notes while watching the show lol

  13. DannyG*

    I taught sterile procedures for a decade. About once a year I had a student whose hair exceeded the capacity of the standard bouffant style cap. The first time we figured out how to use two caps + an up do to achieve the required coverage. After that I ordered a supply of hood type head covers which were able to work with the longest hair encountered after that. Really, except for medical or industrial environments where safety is an issue, hair length should not be an issue.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I go just a tiny bit further in that I don’t care what length your hair is, it just needs to be kept clean (which I define as I am unable to smell it and it doesn’t have noticeable dirt/grime in it), and if needed controlled to prevent hazards.

      And I’ve known lots of people with dreadlock hairstyles, none of which were smelly. A bit of product smell when I am right beside you is fine – but I don’t want to be able to tell from across the room what products you use either.

      1. Chief+Petty+Officer+Tabby*

        Lol yeah. People hear how white people don’t wash their hair while getting locs (I don’t know how true that is; I assume a white person’s hair will loc if you don’t comb it, though it will take longer than a black person’s, since our hair really lends itself to that) and think everyone who has locs does that. Nope. I can let my hair grow out, wash and conditionas usual, and it will loc up on it’s own if I don’t comb it, people.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Ewwww. I’m white, with really fine hair, and it doesn’t loc if I don’t comb it; it just gets tangled and wild. Some hair styles just aren’t suitable for my hair. It won’t start to matt/loc until it’s gone several months without combing. I just can’t imagine not washing it to try to get locs. (I’ve known white folks with nappy hair, but it’s not common.)

        2. ScruffyInternHerder*

          I think you’re correct. Mine will loc up if I don’t comb it (in the shower, because its wildly painful otherwise, and honestly breaks my ends off) after a bit, honestly, I haven’t tried it since I was in high school and did so as part of an experiment with a couple of friends who were trying to get into hair product creation. My hair is quite a curly mop of chaos, so I’m not sure if straight/fine hair will do this.

          That experiment definitely changed how I cared for my hair long term though. My mother’s hair is fine and straight, and I’d care for it like mine was up til that point. Spoiler: the results weren’t great.

        3. I+went+to+school+with+only+1+Jennifer*

          So true! Would you like some science? :-)

          Hair has scales that can interlock in the right conditions. In people hair, it locs up. In cat or dog hair, it mats. In sheep hair, it felts — all different names for the same phenom. Those scales are why hair has a “grain” — if you run a strand thru your fingers, it will feel different (smooth or rough) depending on direction. The scales (aka cuticles) come in different sizes/shapes/how flat they lie, and that also affects texture (and in wool, the best use of them). And that’s before we even talk about the individual hairs being coarse or fine. Hair that is very curly & coarse will loc up/felt pretty much on its own, while straighter or finer hair will need assistance.

          I work with wool a lot to make felted items (cat beds etc), and it needs agitation + moisture to start to felt (and warmth speeds it up). If it’s easy to felt, I can moisten it and rub it together with my hands – it will take longer but it’s possible. Most of the time, I use the washing machine — hot water, soap for lubricant, and machine agitation will get it done.

          All of this background is to say: the scales of curly hair will interlock faster and more easily than the scales of straight hair. The scales of coarse hair will interlock faster and more easily. Kinky coarse hair will loc most easily. And cleanliness is not a factor, just like you said.

        4. Giant Kitty*

          Most of the white people I’ve known that had locs kept them clean, but they generally stopped using conditioner. The ease of forming them really depends on the hair texture. White people with coarse and/or curly hair may not have to do more than stop brushing with perhaps a bit of evening out or shaping, straighter and/or slipperier textures will need to be more or less cultivated. I have baby fine, pin straight hair, so I had to start them by making very loose braids and back combing, twisting, and knotting them.

          1. Nina*

            I’ve always been curious – how do you keep the roots locked? I can kind of intuitively understand how to make hair loc up to start with, but I can’t visualize how to make new growth keep locking up as it grows.

  14. Cookies for Breakfast*

    I had a very similar experience to #1, only that the person asking how low I was willing to go was an external recruiter – someone who would have made more money by helping me pursue my desired salary!

    My current salary at the time was the top of the range I was initially given (via a job description written by the company), and when I rejected the job offer because I wasn’t willing to go low, the recruiter switched gears, saying the salary for the role had always been fixed as the bottom number in the range.

    I later reasoned it was a mix of a) recruiter incompetence (I got other signs of it later on) and b) the company, in an industry that isn’t known for high salaries in general, saving the top of their range for someone who met 100% of requirements and figuring they might get me for less. Nothing I knew about the company had been a red or even yellow flag up to that point, and I was interviewing with people I’d have been excited to work with, so to end it like this was very disappointing. And while it’s not unrealistic that the role I ended up moving to will position me even better for jobs with this same company in the future, in my next job search I’ll think twice before applying again.

  15. Hiring Mgr*

    I’ve got a guy named Brian Sullivan starting on Monday.. guess i should get to Mass this weekend to make sure I’m up on all the latest

    1. The Eye of Argon*

      I have a coworker with an Irish last name who is Jewish. You might want to go to synagogue as well just to cover your bases.

      1. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

        I used to play softball in my synagogue league with three guys who had a very Christian last name. Their father was Italian, and he had converted.

  16. Raw Flour*

    LW3: While I certainly don’t think anyone should judge you on the length of your hair, expect others to voice safety concerns if you wear it in a way where it nearly touches the floor. Correctly or incorrectly, others may perceive this as a problem as you use turnstiles, elevators, stairs, automatic doors, heavy emergency doors… You may very well have workarounds for all of these things, but I’m speaking to perception.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      One of the violinists of a favorite orchestra has fairly long hair and I wonder how she is able to control it. But, since all concerned are happy with her musical skills, then it is only 0.1 (on a scale of 10) level of curiosity

    2. TrixM*

      If “others” thought about it for five seconds, hopefully they’d realise that is anyone with hair this long were in their presence, they were somehow able to navigate all those terrible hazards that were out to trap them.

  17. RagingADHD*

    Sounds like LW2’s company should actually be having a training on racism, rather than religion.

  18. No Clever Name*

    While providing training based on the religion of a particular (or worse assumed) religion of an employee is a terrible idea, but is training on the basics of various religions always a bad idea? I plan events for the public and it’s helpful to know that some major religions don’t eat pork or beef, that some refrain from activity on Saturday, when important holidays are. Is consistent training like this appropriate as part of a larger DEI initiative?

    1. OtterB*

      I agree that’s useful training for event planning. I think the key is the difference between “here’s what we assume this individual will practice and need” which is icky, especially when they’re making assumptions based only on name and background, and “here are things that some of our participants may practice and need” which is useful for being welcoming and inclusive in events. My organization also does events for a diverse population and besides thinking about the menus we have found, for example, that it’s useful to have a small room set aside for Muslim prayer times (it can be used for other things like breakout groups at other times).

    2. Butterfly+Counter*

      This is what I was thinking. There are often a lot of myths and outright lies that people believe about religions other than their own. Having information that followers of Islam are actually worshipping the same G-d as Christians might go a long way to prevent confrontation and hostility, for example.

      I think a meeting to address some of the realities of religion, to be given to everyone as part of diversity training, would ultimately be a good thing.

      1. Oliver Boliver Butt*

        Having information that followers of Islam are actually worshipping the same G-d as Christians might go a long way to prevent confrontation and hostility, for example.

        I don’t think that’s quite true, actually. I believe both Muslim and Christian theologians would tell you they are worshipping the same God as the Jews did in the Temple (though both would say they know more things about God and about how humanity ought to behave than the Jews of the Second Temple did, and contemporary Jews would disagree), but the divinity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity are such fundamental issues of the nature of God that I don’t think you’d get consensus on whether this is actually the same.

  19. Another glorious Morning*

    #2- don’t ever assume someone’s religion based on a name. While it is certainly possible they follow the religion you assume them to be it’s possible they don’t. Perhaps they grew up following another religion. Maybe they converted to someone else, are agnostic or atheist now.

    My first name and maiden name are VERY irish sounding. One might assume I am Catholic bc of this. But my Dad converted to the religion of my mother and we grew up following that faith.

    1. londonedit*

      My last name is very Irish sounding (and in fact my dad’s full name is the same as that of a famous figure from Irish history). But one of my relatives went back nearly 400 years through our family tree and there’s no Irish whatsoever, it’s all one small region of England. Turns out the surname that’s famous for being Irish is also very common in our part of England. It would be utterly bizarre for anyone to assume I was Irish (and probably therefore Catholic) based solely on my surname.

  20. OtterB*

    Re #1 When I had the first phone screen for my current job, the discussion went a bit like Alison described. I was somewhat overqualified for what they were looking for, and that combined with the fact that it is a not-for-profit meant that their salary range was lower than I was looking for. My future boss asked me to think about whether it made sense to keep talking. I decided yes; there were good things about the content area of the job that made it worth continuing. They came up a little (and also offered great benefits and flexibility) and I came down a little, my “overqualification” turned out to be very useful in a project that was just ramping up and they gave me an extra salary boost a year or two later, and I’ve been here 18 years and expect to retire from here in another year or two. So “how low can you go” is a dubious way to word it, but the question itself isn’t inherently disqualifying unless they want to severely underpay for the tasks they want you to perform.

  21. Despachito*

    OP3 – I ‘d say – let your hair down :-)

    Unless it somehow negatively influences your work (there is a risk of getting tangled in heavy machinery/hygienic reasons, if are a cook or a surgeon or the like), I’d wear it as you like and let people think what they like.

    (I personally think it is awesome but what is more important, it is a part of your identity, and if someone doesn’t like that, I think it is a case of them sucking it up rather than you changing it).

    1. Rainy*

      I had hair to and sometimes past my knees for years, and I mostly wore it in a big braid. I don’t feel like it ever really changed how people looked at me (aside from being the one with the super long red hair). The long braid is one of those things that people notice “gosh, long braid” a few times and then as long as it’s out of the way, it sort of becomes one of those things that people stop noticing.

  22. Disco*

    I literally just had a phone screen two days ago that asked me “what the bare minimum hourly rate would have to be for [me] to even consider taking the job.” They were also very cagey about the travel requirements for the position and refused to give me an approximate breakdown, so oof. :/

  23. Decidedly Me*

    For Q5, I can’t imagine how canceling would look worse than a no show. If a referral of mine no showed, I’d be worried it looks like I refer people that are unreliable.

    1. RagingADHD*

      It’s not. The relative is obviously playing some kind of mind games with the LW, and the whole thing is more about their dysfunctional relationship than about the job at all.

      The LW felt like they needed to “appease” them by interviewing for a job they didn’t want in the first place. Right off the bat, this is not a healthy relationship. Healthy adults don’t need to appease each other.

      Either the relative is totally chaotic and reactive about everything, all the time, or they just want LW to be beholden to them and are angry that the LW will not “owe them one” over the interview.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      I wonder if the OP’s relative has a history of putting people into these kinds of double-blind situations. Because it sure feels like the kind of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation a former (toxic) boss used to put me & my coworkers in all the time.

  24. MicroManagered*

    On #1: Why bite back an honest response to that question?

    In an interview, being asked “how low can you go” on salary would be a hard-stop for me, especially after I’ve just given my desired salary range. My thank-you note (if I sent one) would be thank you for your time but I’m withdrawing from consideration.

    It doesn’t have to be rude, but couldn’t you say “That’s a surprising question. As I said, I’d consider leaving my current position for a salary in the X to Y range. Depending on how my search goes, that range might go higher, but not lower. With that in mind, does it make sense to keep talking?”

    1. Rainy*

      I said to my husband that if I got that question in an interview, as long as I was in a position where I already had a job and could tell them to shove it, I’d pretty much do so, civilly but unmistakably. And I think I’d do it in the moment, just to make it as awkward as possible for them and maybe make them rethink their terrible, terrible approach.

      “I place an appropriate value on my worth and my ability to contribute, so I don’t think it makes sense to continue. I’d like to formally withdraw from consideration, and I wish you the best of luck in getting exactly what you pay for.”

      1. Meep*

        I mean, maybe he didn’t know that? Maybe he assumed it was if they got the interview? People are silly.

  25. Yes And*

    Re LW#2 – in addition to the problem around assumptions many others have noted, I’d like to know who is conducting this “training”? There is a long and ugly history in the US of Christians getting their “education” in Judaism and Islam (in particular) from other Christians, and not even realizing how much antisemitism and Islamophobia they are absorbing.

  26. Meetings+Everywhere*

    LW #1: Seems a bit harsh. Could be that the hiring manager knew she couldn’t meet the candidates request, so she gave them a heads up that they’ll probably get an offer for less than what they want. This should be discussed prior to an in-person interview, but it clearly wasn’t. That doesn’t mean that they’re lowballing the candidate.

    1. Despachito*

      But wouldn’t they word it differently, then? I can imagine (and had it happen to me), that they say: the highest salary we can offer you is X, does it have sense to continue? What they did is just plain weird.

  27. The Eye of Argon*

    Another problem with assuming the new hire in #2 must belong to the assumed religion based on name, he might be atheist, agnostic, or just not give a hoot about religion. Or even have had a bad experience within the religion, like for example the sexual abuse by clergy in the Roman Catholic Church and the rampant denials and coverups by same.

    Just keep religion out of the workplace and we’ll all be better off.

  28. Good+Enough+For+Government+Work*

    RE: 3… I cannot imagine anyone being sad enough to care about your hairstyle beyond a passing ‘oh, what lovely hair!’

    Anyone getting stuck on it clearly has serious problems of their own. It’s just HAIR, for goodness’ sake.

  29. Retired+(but+not+really)*

    In regards to the length of hair, my thought is that there are certainly going to be various comments made, mostly out of curiosity or envy. However I don’t think it is very likely to be assumptions made regarding professionalism. Possibly gender assumptions if the person is otherwise male presenting. I included this due to the most amazing very long straight hair I’ve ever seen was worn by an acquaintance’s teenage son.

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