My friend Samir heads Human Resources at a large MNC and insists on meeting everyone who joins his team. That’s how he met Yudhishtir (Puhleez, it’s Yudi!) the new intern. In his long, illustrious career, Samir thought he’d seen it all. But that blob of hair fixed to the back of the boy’s head was new.
“It’s a man-bun.” Yudi explained to my generationally challenged friend.
“Man…bun.” The turk repeated, louder (Flash 1.0: My leader is hearing-impaired).
“What’s that?” (Futile question, Samir!)
“Y’know? Man…plus…bun? When a man ties his hair in a bun.” The fellow said very slowly - with hand gestures. (Flash 1.1: My leader is hearing impaired and slow!)
This wasn’t nearly a hair-raising experience for Samir. However, as he examined his visage in the washroom mirror a ‘brave’ thought crossed his mind: Why can’t I wear a man-bun? Oops! Samir hastily brushed the lapels of his business suit – and that thought from his mind. As the CHRO, Samir couldn’t afford such destructive thoughts. Not at his level!
Google Images throws up comic strips to the query ‘funky HR leaders’ ! Clearly, HR leaders sporting even pony tails is so unheard of that it’s actually funny!
Why? Because such an icon would rattle the investors, shake the confidence of the Board of Directors and segments of the employee population. Can we entrust our business to a person who sports a hairstyle that’s, er…um, different? Wouldn’t that be, what’s the word for it, counterproductive?
In fact, it would be down-right destructive! Man-buns, pink hair, braids… would completely demolish the staid, civilized sophisticated image of the office of the CHRO! Built painstakingly over several generations. One that evokes trust, commands respect and exudes gravitas. In one word – boring!
The optical perception of HR is one of a straitjacketed, stuffy individual, steeped in policy and corporate rituals. And it begins at first sight. The HR person resents the man-bun – because he himself doesn’t have the guts to sport one. The modern employee resents the business suit, well, because! A business suit – even without the tie – c’mon, get with it!
Exception being, for customer-facing functions, where purchasing decisions could get impacted. But for the rest? Duh!
So let’s bust the paradigm. What if the HR head (pun unintended) sported a man-bun. Or, if he grew a pony tail. Or, if she dyed her hair pink, or purple, or shaved it altogether. Would it take away from the quality of their work?A certain hotel chain that insists on every employee sporting a pony tail. Their uniform includes bright yellow clips so everyone can notice! Then there are those advertising professionals. Even Techie CEO’s. They churn out awesome stuff despite their whacky get-up – or maybe because of it!
So why not the CHRO?
What if HR Heads were to do a make-over to include hairstyle, colour, braids, man-buns, the works! What messages would the workforce receive? Here are some that immediately come to mind:
- HR is a happening place!: More youthful than Marketing! People will feel more comfortable approaching a cool, contemporary HR person. A one-of-us person.
- HR takes its work seriously: HR has always taken its work seriously! Only now it’ll become more prominent. Smart working plus a high cool quotient? That’s a great image to have.
- The real HR person: Outside the office, HR professionals are like anyone else. Fun-loving, fashion-conscious, family oriented, loving and caring individuals – exactly like you and me! So how about we bring this into the office as well!
- We stand up for our choices: Publically sporting a man-bun would indicate a personal choice. One that the person is unafraid to stand up for. HR leaders tend to follow more than lead. This could be a perception-changer.
- HR is adaptable: As new generations enter the workplace, they bring new traits with them. HR has adopted technology to attract retain and engage the next generation workforce. Imagine when, after a high-tech on-boarding process, Gen-Z meets a fuddy-duddy in a stuffy suit?
Incoming generations, Y, Z, are already rewriting the business rule books. What bets, they’ll rewrite the dress code too, reasonably, of course – and the archaic thinking that once created it!
Imagine a workplace where senior HR leads sport man-buns, pink hair, pony tails – out of personal choice. The true heads of HR! Rather HR that’s truly ahead! Disagree! Okay, let the debate begin!
- This piece is inspired by the term ‘man-bun’. It does not intend to make a diversity statement or judgment. Neither does it intend to berate or venerate any person, living or otherwise, for their personal choices.
- Names, identities and incidents have been camouflaged, for obvious reasons – we’re not there yet!
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