Home YourTurn SubscriberWrites: Professionalism cannot be used as an excuse for denying jobs based...

SubscriberWrites: Professionalism cannot be used as an excuse for denying jobs based on hair colour, tattoos

Organisations should look into aptitude instead of scrutinising for tattoos and hair colours as 'viable' reasons for denying jobs to eligible candidates, writes Aditya Sundaray.

Representational Image | People working at an office | Anindito Mukherjee | Bloomberg
Representational Image | People working at an office | Anindito Mukherjee | Bloomberg

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The 21st century is two decades old and has already seen much evolution from its predecessor. Climate change is turning heads, competitive examinations actually being competitive, billionaires sporing like fungi, LGBTQ+ becoming an unoffensive word and many more. Society did take these changes quite impressively amidst the preset fascism and patriarchy. And yet, so much stigma has been established somewhere around the 1920s, which is still causing a lot of stir. 

If we talk about the professional sphere, over the last few decades, multi-national corporations have created a very strong concept of professionalism. If put into numbers, professionalism in the modern world is 10 per cent working environment and ethics, while the remainder is appearance. Every organisation, in the public as well as the private sector, is adamantly practising dress codes as the only attribute of determining professionalism and aptitude in employees and that hasn’t evolved in the mechanism like switching from paper to computers. At the end of the day, most employers want to see you as a suit-bearing, suitcase-holding executive and anything else becomes unacceptable.

Over the years, finely stitched shirts, trousers and shiny coats have been classified as “formal” wear. A small wave of change hit the American coast in the 1950s when Hewlett-Packard brought in “casual Friday”, however, small waves don’t reach far. Casual Fridays became a little more prevalent in the Nineties as a cooler work environment practice. Ever since many organisations have adapted to this phenomenon and it is only becoming a much-accepted concept worldwide. Whether it is India or the West, relaxation in the dress code is now a little more acceptable. This is somehow not applicable to certain choices made by employees. The workplace environment to this day becomes hostile when it comes to tattoos, piercings and most importantly, hair colour.

In 2020, a 19-year-old intern from Brighton was denied the completion certificate due to early termination without cause and when asked about it repeatedly, her supervisor said that her work was subpar and her workplace behaviour was immature. It didn’t take her long to realise that her 10-hour shifts, straight As in school and friendly behaviour were not the real reason but the pink and blue hair created the disturbances. A similar case was seen in India in 2019 when an MD in orthopaedics was straightaway denied the position at a hospital as the management thought her green hair would make patients “nauseous”.

Hair colouring or dyeing is something that is not acceptable and currently, many organisations start frowning upon highlights, which obviously brings questions to people who are getting judged regarding their academic and professional aptitude on the basis of their decision of how to look in public. At this stage, organisations should associate themselves with being more open to actually looking into the aptitude of the candidates than looking for a tattoo slipping out of the sleeves or a fringe of red hair falling in front of the candidate’s face as the selection criteria. Candidates might even get selected at the time of recruitment but most employees with tattoos, beards, piercings or coloured hair speak up about stagnation, no increment, overworking as well as overlooking amidst other colleagues.

The year is 2022, which is socially more progressed than what offices tend to be and this needs to change, but at a faster rate to keep up.

Email: sundarayaditya@gmail.com

Twitter: @sstagordnramsay

These pieces are being published as they have been received – they have not been edited/fact-checked by ThePrint.

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