Picture yourself walking down a bustling street in the heart of the colorful city. A cafe, its open doors adorned with hanging vines, catches your eye. You stroll in, notice two baristas chatting behind the counter, and invite yourself take a look around.
The products look appetizing, the drinks posted on the menu sound warm and familiar. When you have made your rounds alongside the counters a few too many times, the barista prompts herself to greet you with the shell of a smile that spoiled two weeks ago and a “hello” that manages to echo throughout the petite shop.
This greeting was unpleasant, but you still want a latte.
A couple weeks later, you pass by the same cafe and see a notice that it is under new management. Intrigued enough, you peek inside to find two baristas, who then draw you in with gentle smiles and welcoming “hello”s. They are pleasant, helpful and not over bearing.
In hindsight, you remember the first two baristas you met at this cafe were dressed in jean shorts – one of them wearing Bermuda’s, the other wearing shorter shorts with the hems folded up – and one wearing a baby pink, fitted polo shirt, another wearing a decent button-up.
You also remember that the second pair of baristas, the ones hired under the new management, were dressed slightly more abstractly. The first was wearing a long shirt and a shirt decorated with glass beadwork, and didn’t bother to hide the tattoo wrapped around her wrist and forearm, which quite resembled the vines you had seen strewn on the café’s door. The other barista had been wearing all black, a velvet choker necklace, and had a septum piercing.
My point in sharing these scenarios is to point out that the quality of service and company offered by employees does not depend on their physical characteristics or fashion choices they make. Though the norms are budging nowadays, it is incredibly common for employers to immediately first – and heavily – judge their employee candidates based on their outward appearance.
I believe the employer’s intentions are good, to a degree. Objectively, they are trying to ensure the most professional environment they can. And this is good for customers because they appreciate being treated with respect and decency.
This idea of good intentions, however, is skewed. Professional dress does not equal respect and kind mannerism.
I know and appreciate the fact that it’s impossible for people to turn off their initial judgement of anything. It’s a primal reflex. We judge our surroundings to determine whether or not to flee from potential danger. We judge those around us to guess who we might be interested in talking with, and who we would probably not enjoy talking with. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
There is something wrong with overindulging in such judgment, though. There is something wrong with feeding a habit that judges people so heavily on the clothes they wear or the tattoos they have gotten and wish not to hide.
This is a problem of habit more than anything else. Don’t forget to act on the saying you already know rings true: Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Better yet, don’t judge a human being based on the ink on their skin or the clothes that they choose.