"Good morning ladies. For those of you who haven't met me before, my name is Virginia Richards and I'm the Chairman of the organisation. As you know we now have the results of our customer survey regarding promptness, quality of service, and appearance. The results have been analysed by the management team and an action plan established to help us improve.
"We would like to remind you at this stage that you have agreed to abide by the decisions made as a condition of your continued employment but, and we must stress, we don't lose anyone from the organisation.
"The results on promptness and service have as you know already been published and are most encouraging. We can, of course, continue to improve and some actions have been established to do this. So today we shall focus on your appearance. I shall now hand over to Annabelle Jenkins to provide you with our findings."
"Thanks Virginia. Well most of our customers like our uniforms and we plan no immediate changes although some of you may be relieved we may be lowering skirt lengths in the future, as well as toning down the trim a little on the jackets. General appearance was reported high, although perhaps some of you should tone down your makeup up a little. Now that brings us to the question of your hair.
"This gave rise to the biggest difference of opinion, as well as the greatest number of additional comments, on the survey form. As you know we have asked you all to wear your hair up. We haven't encouraged short hair, fringes or perms and it has been pleasing to note that all of you have complied with this requirement. The range and suitability of the styles you have worn have been, in our opinion, most satisfactory. We believe a neat updo, worn off the face, is not only the most practical hairstyle for your type of work but also the most elegant with the uniform that we provide."
Virginia, now sitting off to one side, nodded her head thoughtfully resulting in the carefully trimmed layers of her shoulder length hair falling forwards.
"However, this view isn't shared by our clients. When questioned on the suitability of the hairstyles many of the respondents thought them appropriate. However with regard to their attractiveness, the comments varied - no women, and only a few men, found them attractive. Comments included too severe, too upper class, too prim and proper."
"As some of you know we have tried several experiments. We have asked some of you to wear your hair down in a variety of styles and issued the same survey form. Again we received many comments. While most men, but not many few women, found these styles attractive everyone commented on their inappropriateness for the work you perform."
"We are amazed by the strength of opinion on this matter. But, given those opinions, we have decided that we have no choice but to take immediate action."
Virginia stood up once more. "We have taken advice from top consultants in the field. Allow me to introduce you to Carol, Beth and Anna."
Three women marched onto the stage wearing the organisation's uniform, and walked and turned like models on a catwalk.
The major difference between them and the women in the audience was their hair. Not an updo in sight - in fact very little hair - as each of them sported a short hairstyle. Indeed, not just short but cropped.
One of them wore a bob of sorts. It brushed her cheeks at the front but angled up at the sides, above the ears to finish high at the back. All the hair at the back and sides was cropped close.
Another wore her hair in a simple crop. Again clipped close at the back and sides and fading to longer, half-inch layers which were combed forward to lay flat in a very short fringe at the forehead.
The final woman wore her hair at the crown in short, sharp layers which were brushed away from her forehead and which appeared to stand up, a little like a brush. Once again the back and sides were clipped close and, on this blonde model, appeared almost shaved.
The three women all looked quite elegant, their hair not looking too dissimilar to a close to the head updo - at least from a distance. However as they mingled amongst the audience it looked a little odd not to see a sweep of hair from the sides and the nape, rather peculiar not to see a braid or a topknot, strange not to see an assortment of clips, barettes and combs. Just neatly cut, unadorned hair.
The audience were given a short period to view Anna, Carol and Beth but it was not clear to the audience why they were there.
Virginia spoke once more as the girls returned to the stage and perched themselves on stools that had been placed there.
"Thank you girls. Well, we asked the consultants we engaged to propose a few hair styles that could be adapted to all hair types and would meet my requirement for elegance, the clients demands for naturalness, and the overriding requirement for practicality. From those proposed I have selected the three worn here. With immediate effect each of you will be given the opportunity to choose one of these styles. We will then arrange an appointment at our salon for the style to be agreed and cut. Once again I would like to thank you all for your co-operation in the past and we look forward to your continued compliance with organisational code in the future. Do you have any questions?"
There was a silence in which you could hear a pin drop. It was very clear that few of the audience had immediately grasped what was being said. Some had, while others patted their elegant coifs as they began to imagine what was being asked of them.
A hand went up. The women stood as Virginia nodded. "Nicola Carter. Er, what if we do not wish to take the opportunity you are offering?"
Virginia smiled. "Nicky, that is of course an option. We don't intend to require you all to have your hair cut against your will."
There was a collective sigh of relief around the room and a couple of strained faces smiled once more. After a short pause Virginia added, "But of course if you choose not to follow the organisation's dress code then we will be obliged to ask you to leave. But let me reiterate we wish to lose none of you."
There was a collective intake of breath and the brief smiles that had formed faded once more.
Virginia nodded towards another hand. "Gillian Hunter-Smith. I assume we will be permitted to make our own arrangements regarding the cutting of new styles and subsequent trims."
Once more Virginia smiled. "A good question Gilly. We considered that. As you know, in the past, before you have started work, the stylists in our own salon have checked or assisted you with your styles to ensure our code is followed. They have provided you with washing, drying and trimming services as well as the guidance and the equipment to style your long hair yourself. We think you have appreciated this free service and it is one way of ensuring standards are maintained."
"So, we have decided to continue offering this facility. All hairstyles will continue to be checked upon arrival and any adjustments that are necessary will be made. This does, of course mean, that will you continue to have to check in for inspection one hour before starting work. I hope that answers your question Gilly."
Virginia nodded to the one remaining hand. "Victoria Pearson. I presume that the three styles you have presented are for guidance. How much variation will be allowed in length and style?"
"Ah Vicky. Well I'm afraid your presumption is incorrect. Each of you will select one of the styles and it will be cut precisely the same as you see here. Perhaps one or two of the styles will be inappropriate to your type and texture but we are assured by our consultants that at least one will be appropriate to everyone.
"So, same style, and most importantly the same length to ensure it looks neat and tidy.
"I would just like to add that our consultants have said that the shorter the hair the quicker it grows out of shape. We will therefore be checking that each of you has your hair trimmed at least every two weeks, but hopefully more frequently that so it remains neat and tidy."
"OK if there are no more questions then I will hand you back to the capable hands of Annabelle."
"Thanks Virginia. Well we are going to be rather busy for the rest of today so I ask you all to assist me with maintaining the programme of events." She looked at her clipboard. "Could Nicola Carter, Gillian Hunter-Smith and Victoria Pearson come forward please."
As they slowly got up wondering what was to happen next the three models vacated their stools and stood next to a table on which stood several boxes.
Annabelle said, "Nicky, Gilly, Vicky please could you sit on the stools."
They did so and, as they did so, the three models each produced a cape from the boxes on the table and fastened them around the necks of the three women. The capes were not long, serving only to cover the uniform of the women - their leg, in each case, emerged from the still short skirt now hidden by the cape and were demurely crossed.
Each wore their hair pulled tightly back from the forehead. Nicky's was pulled into a high top knot at the crown, Gilly's was french braided close to the head and Vicky's swept into an elegant and elaborate pleat at the back of her head.
Virginia approached the girls and whispered to them so only they heard. "Thanks so much for coming forward and agreeing to co-operate. The success of this operation now rests with you. I'm relying on you. So be brave, and keep smiling."
They tried to smile, but it was strained. They didn't know what was going to happen now. They could make a good guess but each was hoping they were wrong.
The models came forward once more and proceeded to unpin, uncoil and unfurl the elaborate styles of Nicky, Gilly and Vicky. They were clearly unfamiliar with such styles - not surprising given their own cropped heads - and hence there was clearly a little discomfort as the clips were pulled out. And even more when the models started brushing through the lacquered and gelled locks from the top to the bottom rather than starting at the ends.
The models then stood to one side. Nicky's topknot was falling straight down to mid-back. Gilly's unbraided hair was very full and wavy and stretched to her waist. Vicky's pleated hair only fell just below her shoulders although the masses of hairspray that must have been needed to hold it in place still remained and the lengths stood out at all sorts of strange angles.
From behind the curtain at the rear of the stage came Marina, the lead stylist from the organisation's salon. Most of the audience had had the pleasure of Marina's attention in the past. She was extremely skilled and could, in a very short time create elaborate but long lasting updos. Two of her assistants followed and each went to the table on the stage and from it took a set of hair clippers. They plugged them in and stood behind the women on the stools.
There was a collective intake of breath, followed by silence. After a few seconds Virginia nodded and the silence was suddenly broken by a loud buzzing. The sound of Marina's hair clippers as she stood behind Nicky.
Virginia stood up and commented over the microphone. "Your three colleagues here have all agreed to immediately undergo their transformation to demonstrate that there is nothing to concern you. It's straightforward and will look wonderful on all of you I'm quite sure. But we will of course allow the rest of you to have yours cut in the comfort of the salon."
She nodded to Marina, her own hair falling forwards once more, almost mocking the three women who were about to be cropped.
Without further prompting Marina moved the clippers to Vicky's forehead and pulled it back through the tangled mass of hair. There was a guard covering the clippers and a half-inch furrow of hair remained from front to back. The clippers repeated their journey again and again until her whole head had been reduced to this length.
Throughout this exercise Vicky didn't utter a sound - whether mindful of Virginia's remarks or just in shock it was difficult to tell. But she sat there, ramrod straight on her stool with her eyes tightly closed.
Marina removed the guard and now clipped the back and the sides up to a line above the tops of the ears and then graduating it with the aid of a comb into the slightly longer top layers. Using the comb once more as a guide she used the clippers to even out the brush-like top layers until finally Vicky was left with a perfect flat-top. Cut any shorter she may have resembled a marine but at this length it emphasised her delicate features and she looked beautiful.
As Marina finished, her colleague standing behind Nicky brushed all the crown hair back into a topknot but then turned on her clippers and proceeded to remove all the hair at the back and sides. Nicky's hair, being blonde, appeared shaved below the sectioned hair. The hair was let down and swiftly trimmed into the short bob with the angled back. It looked stunning.
And then all eyes turned towards Gilly and her magnificent full and wavy hair stretching to her waist. Once again the clippers started and in no time at all that hair was on the ground. All the remaining hair was cropped very short with the slightly longer fringe area combed forward. She looked so exposed, so vulnerable, but absolutely beautiful.
A mountain of hair appeared to surround the chairs on which the women sat. All three women had reacted very little and few of the audience had uttered a word. Perhaps they were all imagining how they would feel when this happened to them later today.
Virginia stood up looking very pleased with herself as she ran her hands through her own long layers. It was quite obvious that many of the audience were thinking how lucky she was being the boss. At least she wouldn't have to make the same sacrifice the she had asked her staff to make.
"I would like to thank all three of you for taking this in your stride as I expect anyone who has joined our organisation to do.
Please get up and sit back with your colleagues."
All three women stood up, trying to ignore the mounds of hair on the floor and trying desperately not to reach up and feel their denuded heads that they had yet to view in the mirror.
"I can imagine that you are all thinking that Virginia is so lucky being the boss. At least she doesn't have to go through with this." There were some murmurs of agreement, which were quickly suppressed as Virginia sat down on the centre stool and surveyed the room.
"Marina could you come back out, please." As she walked towards the stool Virginia combed through her beautifully cut layers which stretched nearly to her waist.
"Marina, please would you cut my hair!"
There was a roar of surprise from the audience. It was clear they appreciated the gesture. It was the sort of thing their boss would do. But, almost as one, the audience mumbled no. Virginia's long artfully highlighted grey hair was, after all, her trademark.
She held up a hand to quiet the audience. "Marina cut it in the way we agreed."
Marina picked up her clippers once more, flicked off the guard and turned them on. She moved them towards Virginia's forehead where she allowed them to rest. Virginia then suddenly moved her head forward and hair flew everywhere, leaving a grey fuzz behind.
Once started, Marina wasted no time and repeatedly and rapidly passed the clippers over Virginia's head until she was left with a mottled grey crewcut.
Then, to the surprise of everyone, one of Marina's colleagues approached with a large can of shaving foam which she squirted over Virginia's head. The third colleague then approached, massaging the foam into her scalp.
Marina the picked up a razor, pushed Virginia's head to one side, and began to scrape away the foam and of course the remaining hair.
After a few minutes - during which there was not a murmur from the audience, although a few gasps seemed to escape from Virginia's lips - her whole scalp had been scraped clean.
More foam was applied and the whole exercise was repeated. One of Marina's colleagues then washed her scalp clean of all remaining foam. The other helper then poured some oil into her hands and massaged it in to Virginia's scalp until it shone.
She was totally bald and totally captivating. She seemed designed to be bald so well did it suit her.
"Well that will delay my next session of highlighting for a while! Enjoy your new styles girls!"