Unemployed, 55, and Faking Normal

Millions of women have been hit hard by America's retirement income-security crisis

10 Overused Buzzwords You Should Cut From Your LinkedIn Profile Immediately

No. 1: "Motivated"

Can I Be Fired For Piercings That Were Okay Until They Changed The Dress Code?

Can an employer change appearance rules after you are hired?

close up of a woman ear with an ...

An AOL Jobs reader asks:
So I've been trying to find out if an employer has the right to fire an employee for piercings or covered/nonvisible tattoos if at the point of hire the employee was within the dress/personal appearance code. I have piercings (two in both ears, all plugs all less than 3/8") and no visible tattoos and when I was hired I was in code. Two weeks ago the dress policy changed to make my piercings no longer in code.

When I was hired I took out my lip ring, it wasn't to code. By code we are allowed to have one stud per ear (my second set is small and filled with a plug that makes them appear to not be there at work) with a face no larger than a 1/2", and now the code specifically states that employees with gauged ears must remove their jewelry before work. If that had been a condition of employment when I was hired I would not have taken the job since I have spent time, effort, and money to properly gauge my ears to the size they are. The jewelry I prefer for my ears is in gauged sizes. Now my preference might cost me my job if I refuse to let my ears shrink.

Keep in mind I understand the concept of at will employment and will probably be job hunting soon just to avoid the conflict if it becomes an issue. That said and set aside, I am asking mostly out of curiosity and partly because I like my job and would like to figure out the legal standing for the issue.

You probably know about the concept of "grandfathering" that you hear sometimes when laws or rules change. The idea is that people who were in compliance with the law before it changed are allowed to keep things the way they were. While this is common with things like zoning laws, I've never heard of an employer "grandfathering" an employee in on any rules change.

If your piercings are just a personal preference, then you're probably out of luck. There are limited circumstances where a dress code change might be illegally applied.

Here are some examples:
  • Religious discrimination: If the piercings relate to some religious requirement or belief, then you might have a religious discrimination claim. Your employer might have to accommodate your religious belief, especially since you've been wearing the items with no hardship on the employer to date.
  • Disability discrimination: I can't imagine how, but let's say the gauges had some medical purpose. Your employer might have to grant an accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act and let you wear them.
  • National origin discrimination: If the gauges are something you wear as part of your culture, and the dress code impacts people of your culture and not others, then maybe there's an argument for national origin discrimination. This would be similar to banning dreadlocks that had been allowed when only one Jamaican employee in the workplace has the dreadlocks. If the policy is directed at a particular national origin or race, you might have protection.
  • Retaliation: If you're the only person affected by the change, and the rules change came right after you blew the whistle on something illegal, made a worker's compensation claim or took Family and Medical Leave, you might be able to show that the rules change was done to retaliate against you illegally.

I'm betting none of these apply to your situation. You might ask if they'd consider grandfathering you under the rules. If not, you may have to either take the gauges out or find another job.

Why don't employers grandfather employees whose appearance was okay under older rules? I have no answer. Employers do lots of arbitrary stuff.

If any managers or HR people can explain this one to me, I'd love to hear it.

Do Women Make Better Managers Than Men?

Gallup poll reports female managers engage their employees more than their male peers

Businesswoman Addressing Meeting Around Boardroom Table

Lean in, ladies. According to a recent Gallup survey, employees who work for female managers in the U.S. are more engaged than those who work for male managers. Female employees who work for female managers are the most engaged, at 35 percent. Female employees who work for a male manager make up 31 percent. At 29 percent are male employees who work for female managers. Male employees who report to male managers are the least engaged, at 25 percent.

Female managers themselves also tend to be more engaged than their male counterparts, with Gallup finding that 41 percent of female managers were engaged at work, compared to 35 percent of male managers. This applies to female managers of every working-age generation, including ones who have children in their household. Managers who are more engaged tend to be more likely to contribute to their workplace's current and future success.

How does Gallup measure employee engagement? They use the Q12, a 12-item survey that addresses specific elements of engagement that will predict employee and workgroup performance. The 12 Elements of Great Managing Are:
  • I know what is expected of me at work.
  • I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  • At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  • In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  • My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  • There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  • At work, my opinions seem to count.
  • The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
  • My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  • I have a best friend at work.
  • In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  • This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.
Employees who work for female managers outscored those who work for male managers on every Q12 element but one. When it comes to setting clear work expectations, creating a positive team environment, as well as giving employees helpful feedback, recognition, and opportunities for career growth, female managers eclipse male managers.      

How and Why To Write Thank You Notes After An Interview

There's an art to writing a great thank you note

close up of old typewriter with ...

Common sense says to write a thank-you note after an interview. But like Emily Post, are thank-you notes now a thing of the antiquated past?

No, dear Millennial, they are not. And no, dear Boomer, they are not an obvious common courtesy.

When properly done, post-interview thank-you notes serve several distinct purposes. Unfortunately, most notes are not executed well and don't really contribute to your chances of landing the job.

For example, here is an actual hand-written note I received after an interview:
"Dear Rhona:
I want to Thank You for taking the time to meet with me regarding the ____ position. It was a pleasure meeting you and I hope to speak with you again soon.
See anything wrong with it? Before you answer, here's a hint. The thing most wrong is what's not in it.

A great thank-you note should accomplish a few things that this note--while still nice--does not. It should:
  • Help the interviewer consider you more strongly by showing your passion
  • Improve an answer to a question you may not have nailed
  • Answer a question the interviewer posed and didn't leave time to address
  • Provide deeper follow-up to a point you may have made
  • Provide another example of how you can help the organization based on something mentioned during the interview
Of course, one letter can't (and shouldn't try to) address all five points. But even though thank-you notes should be relatively short, the content or "meat" of them still takes precedence over brevity. Generally, when I get a pleasant but generic thank you letter like the one above, I immediately file it in the trash. It basically wasted my time. However, if a letter adds information about the candidate, it gets stapled to his or her resume and cover letter and kept for future consideration.

Length is important, though. A few well-written paragraphs should suffice--but no more than one page. With that in mind, only one or two points can be handled substantively. Pick the one that's most pertinent and then use the other bulleted goals for follow-up touch points in subsequent correspondence in a week or two.

Sometimes thank-you notes just feel like wasted time, particularly after a bad interview--but when done correctly, they aren't. Take goal number two, for instance: addressing a question you may not have handled to the best of your ability. In the thank-you note, you can write that after sleeping on it, you realized that you neglected to mention how you completed a project that addressed the issue, and add that information.

Email or Snail Mail?
Short answer: Both, but increasingly email. Here's why:
  • Email is immediate. It can be sent within hours of an interview.
  • Email allows links to pertinent follow-up information.
  • Email does not preclude you also sending a standard thank-you note that can arrive days later and be used as a second touch point.
Like interview questions, I believe thank-you notes are best used as conversation starters. Here's a redacted example of an email thank-you note I sent after one interview:
Dear ________:
Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to meet with me regarding the open position for _____________.

Regarding our discussion on ongoing learning and new media tools, some techniques I've found valuable include:
* Recorded webinars. I developed these at The NAPL Network for key management topics, and seminars were then recorded for on-demand access by members throughout the year. I also use webinars in keeping my own knowledge base up-to-date on various media topics.
* Short Explainer Videos. This new video format breaks down difficult concepts into 60 or 90 second visual spots that keep audiences engaged. Here's a link to one I completed recently for The Press. http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/site/video/. This video was also repurposed into TV and radio spots.

These and other cost-effective options can easily be interwoven into a broader strategic communications plan for maintaining consistent and targeted messaging. I would welcome the opportunity to move to the next phase and continue our discussion for broadening the audience reach and engagement of _________. Thank you again for your time and consideration.
This was not a short note. Its purpose, however, was to function like a second cover letter, allowing me to thank the interviewer while highlighting experiences and credentials that directly addressed concerns raised during the interview. It showed that I listened, understood her questions, had something to offer, and was still excited about the prospect.

I ultimately did not get the job, but I did move to the next level of consideration, and that's really the only goal of each interaction--to get to the next level.

When crafting your own post-interview thank-you notes, don't use Emily Post as a guide. Her rules of engagement were about personal connections and note cards. Business correspondence follows its own rules, including stationery over cards, and content that is less personal and more practical. Each letter, whether on paper or digital, needs to get to the point, not waste time, add to the conversation and encourage forward motion. It's a different type of art, but one that can be easily mastered.      

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