By Essie Bester
“In an ideal work environment employees are assessed by their work performance only. In reality appearance is almost always taken into consideration unintentionally when a person’s suitability for a job is evaluated,” says Marie Lou Andre, a corporative-image consultant. And in the professional world, where first impressions are everything, the wrong hairstyle can easily sink your chances of success.
What kind of message does your hair send out at work? Does it help you to stand out or is it holding you back?
Recent studies have found that the ideal hairstyle for women in the workplace must not be too feminine and sexy. It could rather be predictable. The results of studies have shown that 98,5% of women in professional positions wear their hair sleek and straight while about two-thirds prefer short or medium-length hair. Experts also say that there is an implied trust in a woman with a shorter hairstyle.
Blond vs brunette vs redhead
Research further shows that women in leadership positions are predominantly blond (approximately 48%). One explanation could be that a blond female leader is seen as more attractive with a warmer personality (and therefore socially more acceptable) than a brunette. On the other hand, women with fiery red hair in the workplace are seen as “strong, passionate and single-minded individuals who can do the job”. But whether you are a blond, brunette or red-head, when your hair has grown out and the hair roots are visible at an interview, you can forget about being invited for a second interview, according to experts.
Ensure a healthy hair image
Regardless of how society, employees or potential employers see your hairstyle ─ the most suitable hairstyle for the office is one that allows you to feel at ease and self-confident. “This is important because a hairstyle that falls outside your comfort zone could lead to a lack of self-confidence, says Midge Wilson, a psychology professor at the DePaul University in Chicago.
“The key to success is to create the impression that your hair needs little maintenance. Short and manageable or, if long, pulled back in a chignon or low ponytail ─ so that you don’t have to sweep them out of your face, tuck them in behind your ear, or twirl them around your finger. These habits can be very irritating and may send out a message that you are not task-focused,” she says.
Beware of bad hair days (women as well as men)
Marianne LaFrance, a professor in psychology at Yale University, also warns against bad hair days because such days could create a negative mindset in you that could have many other negative consequences. Apart from negatively affecting your performance and productivity, they also cause self-image problems and lead to self-doubt, uncertainty and a critical mindset. And it is not only women who are affected by it. Men experience the same negative feelings on bad hair days.
These feelings could cause you to experience yourself as inferior compared to other persons. You could perhaps feel that you are less intelligent than other people and this could cause you to lose faith in your own competence, which, in its turn, leads to underperformance. Surprisingly enough, it was found that bad hair days have a more negative effect on men’s feelings of competence than on those of women.
Style your hair for that specific job
Since Lili* became a red-head, she grew her tresses to shoulder length and began to wear her curly hair in natural waves ─ a style better suited to her personality. Together with positive feedback from friends her self-confidence received a necessary boost and this helped her to bag a long-coveted, creative work position. She says: “As a brunette with short, straight hair I was just as talented and competent, but I connected differently with other people. Now I take on new challenges and people notice it.” She says that everybody at work now admire her red hair, bold fringe and care-free waves ─ sufficient proof that, apart from dressing for a specific job, it cannot hurt to style your hair for that specific job.