Advice: The salon owner won’t let me ask my hair stylist if she’s vaccinated – The Boston Globe

Need advice? Send your questions to Miss Conduct.
I am “hair-challenged” due to a medical condition, and found a stylist who gives me a beautiful cut that makes me less self-conscious. I followed her to her own salon, where she now employs others. She e-mailed her client list about new protocols, including forbidding us from asking if a salon employee is vaccinated. I found this curt and unreasonable. How can we make an informed choice? I understand her concern, but asking a person their vaccine status does not fall under HIPAA (I’ve managed HIPAA policies). Should I say something? If the tone was misinterpreted by me, it might be by others as well, who may go elsewhere.
C.F. / Westborough
Your stylist is a gifted cutter and no slouch as an entrepreneur, either. That’s an impressive range of things to be good at, and if managing unprecedented social upheaval and risk assessment and crisis communication was a stretch she wasn’t ready for, there’s no shame in that.
She could indeed lose business if the e-mail was off-putting — people are wicked sensitive and still traumatized. For this reason, it would be a kindness to write her back, but only from your own perspective. Let her connect the dots herself, or else your message will inevitably carry a whiff of “that’s a nice little salon you got there, be a shame if something happened to it.”
These are your talking points: “You are wonderful and it’s awful you have to deal with this. But in a spirit of openness, I felt a little ordered around! And while you never signed up for HIPAA management, I have, actually, and your facts might not be correct. If you’d like help with some message crafting or sorting out the policies, let me know — if not, I won’t bring it up again. Looking forward to seeing you on [next scheduled date]. P.S. [Interesting piece of gossip, recommendation for a TV show, etc.].”
The P.S. is important. Our primate cousins that don’t have language groom each other after an altercation, because what are they going to do, apologize? We humans have our own version, a bit of friendly small talk or a gesture after a conflict or awkwardness, something to show that the relationship is back on normal footing. Remote work makes it harder to engage in these soothing monkey rituals; if you critique someone’s work in the morning, you can’t stop by their desk in the afternoon with an offer to include them in your Dunks run. The friendly P.S. is the remote worker’s (or customer’s) best friend.
How much of your home life should you let co-workers see over Zoom, particularly if you don’t have a separate work space?
J.B. / Chicago
As many companies go hybrid, questions like this are back in vogue. Your company has probably evolved some norms by now, so suss these out and don’t let it all hang out more than your colleagues do. Think about using a room divider or Zoom background. Privacy aside, home interiors are distractingly fascinating! It can be easier to focus on what a person is saying when you’re not trying to read the titles on their bookshelves.

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.
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