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It has recently been mentioned by a colleague that I should look at shaving my beard as it may limit future opportunities in my company as it can be perceived as lazy and too casual. It may or may not have been said in jest, but looking around I notice that none of my co-workers have one and that anyone in a higher up position doesn't have any facial hair. I maintain a beard of around 2cm (if you can call that a beard). It is always kept at the same length and it can be considered a slightly overgrown chinstrap.

Would it be seen to be unprofessional to keep my beard?

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    Related (not duplicate) question – enderland Jul 17 '13 at 14:20
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    beards and long hair don't matter if they look neat and kept. stereotyping programmers is off-base, as well – squeemish Jul 17 '13 at 16:46
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    I love the way this question is immediately followed by "Edited by jmort253 (bearded avatar)" – Carson63000 Jul 18 '13 at 3:57
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    Some cultures have strong preferences for beards. Hence any answer is culture dependent. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Jul 18 '13 at 7:52
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    @ThorbjørnRavnAndersen and as its the UK discriminating against people with beards would be illegal for that very reason - for example Sikhs – Neuro Jul 19 '13 at 10:26
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It would depend on the corporate culture. There are places where beards, tatoos, nose rings etc are acceptable and places where they are not. If colleagues are telling you it is limiting you where you are then you are at one of the places where the culture is more conservative as far as professional look and you need to either conform or move on.

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    Or, just accept you won't necessarily get those future opportunities. For a lot of people, this is a completely acceptable tradeoff. – enderland Jul 17 '13 at 14:24
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    Hell no, my company told me they liked the beard because it was individual – Marriott81 Mar 28 '14 at 9:45
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Basically, the decision at play here, that your superiors would have to make when deciding to promote you into a position where you might interact in person with customers or business partners, is "do I want this guy meeting the money people face to face?". That is a question that requires a look at various aspects of you from both a personal and professional standpoint, including your speaking skills (including impromptu), your wardrobe choices, and personal hygiene and grooming. There are plenty of very highly-skilled, talented members of the workforce who don't give a flip what they look like or even what they smell like. As a senior manager, you generally do not want these people representing your company in person, however high the quality of their work is behind the scenes. This is where this kind of thing becomes a bar to advancement.

Various things come in and out of fashion; facial hair is one of them. Clean-shaven is pretty much always fashionable, while facial hair runs on about a 30-40-year cycle. Facial hair denoted the hippies from the "normies" in the late 60s, then mustaches became fashionable in the 70s, then it was back to clean in the 80s and 90s, and then a close-trimmed beard with various amounts of trimming work started coming back into fashion in the 2000s. The driver of this current trend is a change in the perception of wealth over the last couple decades; "new money", the dot-com startup types and young celebrities, cultivate a look that says "I'm wealthy enough, smart enough and busy enough to not have to care whether I shave every day". Therefore, while fashionable, it still gives the impression that maybe you don't care how you look. That's typically not a good image for a business type to be projecting.

So, in summary, the expectation in most of the business world is to look clean and presentable. Beards are generally acceptable as long as they look well-groomed, but getting and keeping it acceptably clean-looking could be more trouble than it's worth versus just running a razor over your chin every day.

  • KeithS, while I appreciate the enthusiasm, in no manner is he suggesting he is a software developer, that this has anything to do with promotion or customer-facing. – jmac Jul 18 '13 at 0:04
  • Edited to be more industry-neutral. The point remains that beyond a certain level of the hierarchy, regardless of your specific position, you will be meeting current and potential customers, investors, etc, and are, at your level, an ambassador for your department. As such, you're typically expected to be presentable. – KeithS Jul 18 '13 at 14:48
  • @KeithS I have not specified if I would be meeting anyone or not. – Michael Grubey Jul 18 '13 at 14:56
  • You don't have to. Whether it's part of your day-to-day duties or not, once you advance beyond a minor supervisory role, your implicit job description includes being available to meet at a moment's notice with people the company needs to impress. Even if the position you'd advance into next, such as a team lead, doesn't have this responsibility, managers pick people for these levels based on who they'd want to further promote, so the idea that you'll eventually be in such a position is at the back of your managers' minds. – KeithS Jul 18 '13 at 15:47
  • @KeithS Many office jobs deal with mostly internal people (especially in larger companies), and the only person you would have to impress is someone in the internal hierarchy, if at all. I think you are making leaps that aren't necessarily justified for all careers. – jmac Jul 18 '13 at 23:05
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It is also possible that your colleague is wrong. I had one colleague who had in his mind strict rules about dress, hair and tattoos. The rules only existed in his mind. He refused to notice that management sometimes dressed casually, and that they didn't have buzz cuts.

There is a difference between not shaving today because I over slept and making a decision to have a beard.

Unless there are safety or health rules banning beards, most companies aren't going to have an outright ban.

You also have to evaluate the opportunities you are supposed to be missing. Technical tracks tend not to care about your appearance, as long as it doesn't cost them business with the customer. Public facing positions do have some guidelines. Only you can decide if a beard fits in the definition of 'professional'.

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It will really depend on they style of beard you wear. If you just let your beard grow and do not trim it up cleanly or if it looks like you only grow the beard because you do not want to take the time to groom it, then many people will find it unprofessional in appearance. If it appears well groomed then most people will not give it a second thought.

There will always be some very conservative people who believe that anything short of smoothly shaved face, well groomed (short) hair, suit and tie is unprofessional. And there are those who find that dress repressive and if you are in a culture that hates suits and ties then it is unprofessional to dress in one there. There is no one size fits all solution to this problem.

7

Part of professionalism is being well-groomed, bearded or not. Your colleague may be referring to the way you groom your beard, as opposed to having a beard in the first place. Your co-workers may be clean-shaven because it is easier to shave than maintain a well-groomed beard.

This is not a well-groomed beard:

enter image description here

This is a nice beard:

enter image description here

  • Richard Stallman's beard is a bloody work of art. – Miles Rout Oct 17 '17 at 9:57
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Beards are perceived in the same manner that our personality is perceived. By themselves, they are nothing.

I agree that the cultural issues should be taken into account, but my point of view as a psychologist and social dynamics student is that, as any other thing in the world, the problem is the way that we stand for our beliefs and behaviors.

See this experiment to watch how these guys leave their own personalities and beliefs just to blend:

Asch's experiment

If your frame is strong, you can overcome almost every problem/social obstacle. This has to do with your personality.

Viceversa, if you have problems in social pressure situations (like being noticed, or be in the center of the laughs for something), maybe is better to try to blend, although this is not recommended as a way of living.

Hope this helps!

MAG

protected by IDrinkandIKnowThings Jul 19 '13 at 18:02

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