The term “professional” can mean a lot of different things to different people and different world and work cultures.
Each workplace needs to establish their own rules about clothing and grooming. But in cases where the employee handbook doesn’t spell it out, workers can create their own unofficial versions.
That’s what one employee did, but now they’re wondering if they’re wrong.
So they turned to the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for feedback.
The Redditor asked:
“AITA for telling my brother his 3 foot long beard and hair is unprofessional?”
The original poster (OP) explained:
“I work at a company in a position with some influence. My brother was looking for a job and I encouraged him to apply at my company. I wasn’t a part of the process but thankfully he was offered the position.”
The interview was conducted over a video call, so I know that the interview panel don’t really have a clear idea of how long my brother’s hair and beard really is. Both his beard and hair are around waist level, and are not particularly well kept.”
“Most people who see it would likely assume he is homeless or in a cult. He has looked like this for a couple years and everyone we know (aside from him and his wife) think it’s unattractive and creepy.”
“We’re talking Rasputin. Think undead warlock.”
“Unfortunately, not an exaggeration.”
“This is an office professional workplace, and a position that involves frequent interactions with the general public. The handbook doesn’t specifically state exact hair or beard lengths, but it does say appearance should be neat and professional.”
“So I told him (and his wife) that while he doesn’t need to entirely cut off his beard or hair, he does need to trim at least a little off.”
“I mentioned it to his wife and him in the same conversation because he will do whatever she says, and will not do whatever she says not to do. She commands every aspect of his life with an iron fist, so if I didn’t include her in the conversation she’d be even more pissed at me.”
“Long hair and long beard can look professional. The problem is far more about how he keeps his hair than how long it is.”
“But a long beard and hair requires skillful maintenance to look nice, and he just doesn’t have that. So if he doesn’t have the skill to keep it nice, I figure it’d be easier to maintain if it were a little shorter.”
“He could grow it as long as he likes, it doesn’t bother me at all to be around him. I just wanted to convey to him that based on what I know I expect it will problematic at the job.”
“But because my personal opinion is not unknown, my message was interpreted as being biased. I’m worried they’re going to ask him to cut it, and I’m trying to save him the embarrassment by just telling him now.”
“Well, his wife is absolutely outraged I dare even ask such a thing.”
“She compared it to asking a fat person to lose weight, to ask a Muslim to cut his beard (which I don’t think is actually a part of Islam, but whatever), forcing a trans-person to wear clothes that does not match their gender-identity, etc…”
“She says ‘If a 12-inch beard is OK, why isn’t a 3-foot-long beard?’ I reply, the recipe says a teaspoon of salt, so of course 5 cups of salt is OK.”
“She accused me of pretending it is company policy when it’s actually about my personal disagreement with his appearance.”
“While it’s true that I have been open about how awful his beard appears, it’s also true that the company does have a policy about appearing professional. And having a three-foot-long untamed, thin, dry, crispy beard is hard to justify as professional.”
“On the one hand my sister-in-law claims this is a part of his identity and reflects his self-image, and on the other hand my brother claims he appears this way because he does not care about his appearance.”
“I’m more inclined to believe him than her.”
“I tried to explain that he could cut half his beard off and he’d still have an extremely long beard that matches his identity. But she’s still absolutely offended.”
“He hasn’t started his job yet. And all I did was suggest he should tidy it up and get it looking neat. I didn’t threaten him or anything like that.”
“To be honest, I think she cares more about proving a point than what’s actually best for my brother’s health.”
“She said if he sh*t in his pants she wouldn’t make him change his clothes if he didn’t want to. I do believe she sincerely loves him, but I think this is a form of abuse.”
“AITA for honestly telling him his appearance is too unprofessional for his new job?”
The OP summed up their situation.
“I told my brother his hair, and especially his beard, is unprofessional.”
“I think I could be the a**hole based on how outraged his wife is on my brother’s behalf. My brother is a sensitive person, and his feelings are hurt very easily.”
“I don’t want to hurt his feelings, but I don’t know how to tell him the truth in a way that might not hurt his feelings. My instincts tell me, based on how he reacted, that I hurt his feelings, and his wife is pissed at me for hurting his feelings.”
Redditors weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
Redditors mostly felt the OP was the a**hole (YTA) or everyone sucks here (ESH).
“YTA. He was hired after a video call. They saw him. Mind your own business, OP.” ~ Optycalillusion
“You come off as very pretentious, just saying.”
“You weren’t involved in the hiring process at all, so obviously the people who were involved didn’t see a huge problem. And they may not have been able to see the FULL length of the beard or hair through the video call, but they can get a rough idea.”
“If they have an issue with his appearance, they’ll sort it out. It’s not up to you. YTA.” ~ mikeytruelove
“OP you knew what your brother looked like before you encouraged him to apply.”
“You could have pre-empted this by saying to your brother he’d need a haircut if he got the job or even just by not mentioning your place of business as somewhere he could work.”
“YTA and you did it to yourself.” ~ Puzzleheaded-Tale-33
“YTA. If you thought it was an issue, you shouldn’t have told him to apply.” ~ hesathomes
“Just distance yourself from it.”
“The company may not care at all, in which case, you don’t want to have fought it as you will look like the AH to brother and his wife.”
“The company may care and fire him or something, in which case, you don’t want to be associated with the reason for that happening.”
“I get that you’re trying to help him and that you may feel like you have vouched for him and may reflect badly if he doesn’t do well, but, you’re here now so just let it run its course.”
“As the suggestion has already been met with resistance, I don’t see how you can turn that around in any positive way to yourself.”
“I’m giving a light YTA as you advised bro to go for the job knowing how he looked and then tried to get him to change it only after he got the job. I get you were trying to help, but still, it’s not really a good way to go about it.”
“But also, it’s a bit ESH as bro needs to grow up and understand corporate professional environments and bros wife needs to chill the f*ck out.” ~ greasychickenparma
“I mean, he got the job fair and square with the hair and beard. If when he starts the job the company want him to tidy it up then let them tell him.”
“I think it’s sad you are embarrassed about your brother. Leave him be. YTA.” ~ Anniemarsh69
“It sounds like you want to save YOU the embarrassment. This is not your call to make.
“This is not ‘sight-unseen’, and hey who knows, this job might encourage him to do something different about his appearance. But maybe not, and maybe that’s okay with the people who hired him.”
“And literally none of this is any of your business unless you choose to, as you did when you chose to encourage your brother to apply.”
“What’s your goal here, OP?”
“To shame your brother about his appearance? To force him to change how he looks so that the people who hired him don’t think poorly of you?”
“Or to do both at the same time and still think you’re a good person?” ~ SceneNational6303
“You don’t think they have the ability to extrapolate that a beard so long it extends off-camera is probably very long?”
“You’ve warned him, and there’s nothing else you can do. If the job doesn’t like it, let them tell him. Regardless of how wrong he is, if you keep this argument going YTA.” ~ TuckerCarlsonsOhface
“Are you his boss? Has his boss asked him to trim it? If the answer is no to both questions then YTA. Let him be him if he wants a 3ft glorious beard, then let him have it.” ~ BeneficialPeppers
The OP returned with an update.
“It seems most of the replies are recommending I just let his direct supervisor handle it. So I guess I’ll do that.”
The OP probably picked the best option.
Too bad they didn’t figure that out before they said anything to their brother.