As beards are becoming popular with men, we are fielding more questions about suitability of beards at the office.
Facial hair recently came up at our Human Resource Institute of Alberta HRIA presentation. Many managers and senior staff were not sure of the appropriateness of beards. So here are our tips and advice if you want to sport a beard at the office.
Our career advice is to look around at the male leaders in your organization. Do any of them have a beard? Exercise caution if you are in a conservative business such as finance or law. Beards are not yet seen as acceptable in these professions.
This may be part of an unwritten dress code, which often has more impact on your career and upward mobility than a written dress code (leaders assume you should know how to represent the organization’s brand).
As a career enhancing move, we advise to emulate the dress of the movers and shakers in your company. The same advice goes for facial hair.
Keep it well trimmed. For beards at the office, go for contoured and suave rather than just returned from a desert island look, where we see neck hair sprouting below the beard line.
If you have very dark hair, a beard may make you look stern and unapproachable. Think Brutus/Bluto. (see photo A – Hard to believe that is the elegant Don Draper aka Jon Hamm from Mad Men.) This is an especially important consideration if you are client facing or in sales and business development.
Caution for men of a certain age. If you are older (like me) and you have a fair amount of grey in your beard be cautious of the in-between look aka stubble, because it can make it you look like a street person.
If people are dropping coins into your coffee, maybe the clean-shaven look is more appropriate. If you didn’t know that photo B was Robert De Niro, you might be forgiven for offering him a handout.
In conservative industries, stubble can perceived as you had a rough night and forgot to shave. To avoid that awkward in-between phase of starting a beard and getting it to the presentable stage, you might want to start growing your beard when you’re on a vacation.
Another good strategy is to sign up for a charitable facial hair fundraiser like Movember. People will excuse the stubble because it’s for a good cause.
At the end of the month you can see if the look suits you or poll your significant other and colleagues for their advice or reaction. (Many beards don’t survive the significant-other poll, but unlike a tattoo, beards are easy to undo and much less painful or expensive.)
When it comes to your personal brand, we are all about helping you make informed choices. When it comes to beards at the office, as Clint Eastwood/Dirty Harry once said, “You’ve got to ask yourself one question.” (Okay, three questions, actually.) Does it make you look better and does it support your professional image and your organization’s brand?