What can I do about manager with ‘unacceptable’ personal appearance?

One of my sales managers has died his hair blonde and had his tongue pierced. I find this unacceptable for someone who stands in front of clients and is an ambassador for our company’s brand. What can I do?

A. Derek Kemp of Liquid HR writes:

The most appropriate way to deal with this will be shaped by the context. For example, there are some commercial contexts where died hair and a pierced tongue are commonplace.

For this reason, and recognising that the sales manager will want to know why he is being asked to change, the context is important in helping decide what is a reasonable response by the employer. Assuming the business context is relatively formal it would be fine for the employer to speak to the sales manager and point out how serious commercial concerns might arise from the way he has chosen to dress. Common sense suggests the employer should expect to be more successful in persuading the sales manager to change if the discussion is kept on the level of business concerns rather than personal preferences.

The aim of the conversation would be to help the sales manager see the potential for damage to the business, and as a result, agree to change his appearance while he is at work.

Should the employer fail to get the sales manager to agree to change, providing there are reasonable grounds to believe that his appearance is causing, or has the potential to cause, commercial harm, it would seem appropriate to consider alternative options. According to the context, is it practicable to consider reassigning the sales manager to a different role, where he doesn’t face customers? If not, then disciplinary action, even to the point of dismissal, might be called for.

In parallel to the considerations described above, if the employer believes personal appearance is an area where the business faces commercial risk, it may be worthwhile to develop guidelines that set expectations about what is and is not acceptable.


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