Dear Someone Else's Dad,
I work for company that markets beauty products for both younger and older customers. Our dress code is very casual, and no one has ever once commented on my style, which I characterize as "modern biker chick."
The other day I came to the office with a new partial crew cut/partial purple dye job. My manager immediately escorted me to her office and said my look was now so extreme that she could no longer have me meet clients since they'd be focusing on my hair instead of what I was trying to sell.
So two questions: 1) can she prevent me from doing what I want with MY hair? And 2) why can't I show myself as a type of our potential customer who would kill to buy our "younger" products?
What's Wrong With Purple?
This is clearly not a black and white or in this case, chartreuse or purple, issue. First, you have every right to do what ever you want with your own hair. If your company has a written dress code that includes a statement about personal grooming where “out-there” styles might not fit in with a level of professionalism, you can still do whatever you want to do with your locks, but you may want to invest in a wig for work days.
Since you didn’t mention any stated dress code at your company, you should do some soul searching about how you want to be perceived since impressions are very important. Your boss is right to say that some clients will likely focus on your hair rather than your message; and who knows, someone might bleat out, “What is your company’s purple, er, purpose?”
If you insist on doing the purple do, I’d recommend starting a meeting by saying, “You probably are noticing my new hairstyle. I’m just trying it out to see how our products jibe with the punk set. I’m still getting used it.”
Another option is to ask your manager how a new look you’re considering might be perceived before you invest in anything too outlandish. A big lip ring with an elephant ornament could offend people who worship elephants, and would bring truth to having the elephant in the room.