|Interpersonal EDGE: Does Gray Hair Ruin Career?
Sunday, December 19, 2010
By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Media Services
Q. I recently attended an unemployment workshop, and the teacher told us that if we had any gray in our hair we should run out and color it. Doesn't this advice amount to supporting age discrimination in the workplace?
A. No, this advice is supporting the current reality of the workplace.
I often get letters from readers who seem to believe that we can simply vote racism, sexism and ageism off the workplace island as if we were in an episode of "Survivor." As a child, when I railed at unpleasant realties, my Scottish mother used to remind me, "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride." Unfortunately, wishes aren't horses and unpleasant realities remain.
The point isn't that cancer, discrimination, human cruelty and other uglier aspects of our species aren't objectionable; the point is that wishing it weren't so just doesn't make it go away.
We're better equipped to navigate our workplace if we don't put on rose-colored glasses about the way "it should be" and make plans to deal with the way it is.
I am not a champion for the ugly side of the human race, but we have a better chance of changing the world if we are willing to play the current game. If we sit by the sidelines refusing to play because we don't like the current rules, we lose any hope of making the workplace (and world) a better place.
So, yes, Virginia, Santa Claus was actually your parents, and gray hair is a problem when you are seeking employment. Not a pleasant fact but a true one, which is easy to fix.
Current research has actually shown a dramatic increase in the number of both men and women who are having plastic surgery and hair transplants, and making other herculean efforts to stave off the effects of age.
Baby boomer adults are particularly interested in availing themselves of techniques to prolong a youthful appearance so they can also prolong lucrative, interesting and necessary employment.
Does this mean you must succumb to our society's obsession with youth, beauty and the American way? No! Does this mean that people who play by these rules tend to be rewarded in the workplace? Yes!
The instructor in your unemployment class was only the messenger - not the inventor - of ageism. Messengers of unpopular truths have been shot for centuries with no change in the accuracy of their message.
Your only decision is to consider the tradeoffs regarding whether to color or not to color. In this matter, not even your hairdresser would know for sure. Decide what career outcome you seek. Decide what you are willing to do to obtain that goal. And, realize you are only coloring your hair - not your soul.
THE LAST WORD(S)
Q. I was just asked to take an amazing job offer but I don't have all the details. I'm eager to just let my current boss know I'm leaving. What would you recommend?
A. Learn before you leap. Get job details and an offer in writing before you risk your current job.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. You can contact Dr. Skube at www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.