Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Back before my father went into business for himself, he worked for Marriott Corporation in Bethesda, MD. He used to tell me that while he was there, he would do his best to mentor younger folks black and white, but especially black. There was this one brother who worked in the mail room, who came into my father's office to talk. The young brother explained that although he was in the mail room, he had much bigger dreams within the company, and he asked my father for suggestions on expediting that long process. My father gave him a laundry's list worth of advice, but the last thing my father said to him is, "You've gotta cut that mess out of your hair". The guy had his hair cornrowed, and my father told him that it simply was not professional. The young guy resented my father saying that, and told him that his hair was irrelevant, and what really mattered was whether he could do the work. My father said he was being naive, and the young brother insisted on being defiant and it was left at that. The brother applied for a job in another division, didn't get it, and shortly thereafter he was gone. Later on, my father learned that the people doing the hiring, said that all the candidates who applied for the job seemed pretty even, so they went with the dude who "looked the part", and that excluded the mail room brother. I told my father that sounded unfair, and he told me as unfair as it sounded, that is how business is conducted sometiems. He also told me then that part of keeping it real, is knowing how and when to pick your battles.

So fast forward to my workplace in 2008. There is this young guy in the office..we'll call him T, since he may or may not read my blog. He comes to work everyday looking like he's an extra for a rap video. The jeans are really baggy, he has a sweat jacket on, he's rocking the cornrows, and amazingly, he was a do rag on top of the cornrows. T is real energetic, real nice, but his appearance sticks out like a sore thumb. Either no one has cared enough to tell him how to dress in a professional environment, or he's choosing to ignore it because he is able to keep his job. I don't know what the hell he does, because he works on another floor anyway. But I really do want to say something to him, because the shit bothers me. I don't want to come off like a cranky old man to him(he's like 23 or 24), but I would hate to think that no one has told him how to carry himself either. I suspect many an older person goes through this same scenario with a young person somewhere. It should be an easy choice but it isn't always.

And now, a lesson on tact and public speaking by Mr. Shaquille O'Neal:


Chubbs said...

I think it's noble of you to want to "say something" to T about his hip-hop-video appearance, but has he reached out for advice? And what would you say, "Son, if you wanna move up in this world, you've got to start looking the part"? Which is all well and good, but he could look at you with a "who the f*ck are you," expression and keep on rocking the do-rag (I still can't believe someoe would wear a do-rag at work. ugh).

But, if you feel it's your duty to say something...go for it. I'd love to hear his reaction. Here's hoping it's a positive one...something like "man, you're right...thanks." And if it's not--you should snatch his do rag off and run--and burn it!!

Miss Black River said...

Make sure you have some sort of warm up discussion with T before you offer advice. You know find out his goals, professional background, etc. For some folks they like what they do and could care less about promotions. Find out where his head is at!

lex said...

I still don't know how i feel about cornrows in the workplace. Ok i do, but i'll reserve comment for fear of public Plus im still trying to figure out if my conditioning has been conditioned.

On the other hand...i love liberal dress codes (open toes and bare legs what!) but i feel you should dress within the parameters of your environment. So mr. T should definitely not be rocking doo-rags and baggy jeans given the professional atmosphere. He should know that though. I mean really. But yeah, like miss black river said do a warm up, to see where his head is. Either way please share his reaction with us.