Case Studies Sample Answers: Managerial Communication

Generational differences abound in the workplace, but few are quite as visible as body art: tattoos, piercings (other than ear lobes), and hair dyes in unconventional colors. According to survey data from the Pew Research Center, people younger than 40 are much more inclined than those over 40 to display some form of body art. For example, people 26 to 40 years old are four times more likely to have tattoos than people who are 41 to 64 years old.

With such profound differences, it’s no surprise that body art has become a contentious issue in many workplaces, between employees wanting to express themselves and employers wanting to maintain particular standards of professional appearance. As employment law attorney Danielle S. Urban notes, the issue gets even more complicated when religious symbolism is involved. Who is likely to win this battle? Will the body art enthusiasts who continue to join the workforce and who are now rising up the managerial ranks force a change in what is considered acceptable appearance in the workplace? Or will they be forced to cover up in order to meet traditional standards? So far, most companies appear to be relying on the judgment of their employees and managers, rather than enforcing strict guidelines.

Many seem to accept that tastes and norms are changing and that body art has become a widespread form of self-expression rather than a mode of rebellion. Job seekers are still advised to be discreet, however, particularly with facial piercings and large, visible tattoos. The nonverbal signals you think you are sending might not be the signals a hiring manager receives.

Questions:

A. Should companies have stricter standards of appearance for “customer-facing” employees than for employees who do not interact with customers? Why or why not?

Ans: Companies according to their nature of jobs make different organizational culture. Appearance of the employees depend on the type of job they perform. Also, it depends on the space where they work, the culture and the age group they belong to. The service industries like education, banking and health in some part of the world might set strict standards of appearance for uniformity and to assert the company identity. While imposing the stricter standard of appearance the organizations should also take care of the types of clients. Because organizations and companies are to satisfy their clients, they should very carefully set organizational standard as far as uniformity and appearance is concerned.

Formality is considered as one of the important parts of an organization. Now the question is what is ‘formal’. So, the formal is defined by the community and it is very sensitive for an organization to evaluate the standard the community thinks and expects. If the community the organization serves think formality as decent quality (in its perception) such as not having tattoos or unusual piercing except in the ear lobe and nose, the company should have the stricter standards of appearance where employees should not look different with their body ‘fabricated’ in tattoos and piercing or extremely colored hairs in multiple colors. In such situation, the companies must have stricter standards of appearance to meet the prospects of its clients otherwise the companies may allow their employees to be casual.

The subject of appearance is considered as a personal freedom, however, once an employee enters into the organization s/he should abide by its custom. It’s very difficult for a company to make two different sets of regulations in the same company. The 2 differences in terms of regulations might create conflict among the colleagues. There is division between those who feel privileged and the other forced. On the other hand, sometimes the subject of appearance depends on the type of job one performs: such as an IT officer or a consultant who doesn’t need to be in the office like the other regular staff might be given leverage and they can have relative freedom. But the employees who are in the interface reflect the company image and they have the ‘face value’ by which the client judge company’s formality in a way. Therefore, making the difference in appearance for customer-facing employees and employees who don’t interact with the customers is totally the matter of emotional intelligence of a manager.

B. Should companies allow their employees the same freedom of expression and appearance latitude as their customers exhibit? For example, if a firm’s clientele tends to be heavily tattooed, should employees be allowed the same freedom? Do people in Nepal have different perspectives and attitude on a colleague who has tattoo or dreadlock hair or both?

Ans: The freedom of expression and appearance of latitude as the customer exhibit depends on the type of service the company offers. If it is a company related to fashion or cosmetics appearance latitude is almost mandatory for the employees because it serves like an advertorial for the clients.

The clients can be attracted with the appearance of the employee and can demand similar service. Or it is even easier for the clients to customize and improvise the type of service or product they want to consume whether it is tattooing a body or choosing a dress. However, the organization like bank and insurance where various fashionable people receive service can’t practice the similar trend because the client might have different perception towards the organization. Hence, the company at first should recognize its audience/consumers expectation and perform accordingly.

Individual perspectives are never the same. The perspectives are determined by culture, generation and location. Usually heavily tattooed body and dreadlock hair are considered informal by the older generation in Nepali community. Therefore, the employees with such exposes are not expected to be decent and gentle. They are not even recruited in the offices where formality is strictly followed.

Most of the workers born and brought up in the Nepali community have different perspective and attitude on a colleague with tattoo or dreadlock hair. This may be because of the films, TV serials and media representation which project such people as villain and evil power. No matter people with customized body are intelligent, sincere and decent, first impression and their nonverbal gesture does not communicate formality and decency for some people.

But the case might be different with an employee who grew up in hip-hop generation with high influence of rock music. They don’t have different attitude such as negative towards tattooed body and dreadlock hair. Hence, people belonging to different generation, location and culture in Nepal have different perspectives and attitude on a colleague who has tattoo or dreadlock hair or both.

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