For most of us, the workplace environment is on the horizon and as we prepare our resumes and job applications some people might warn us to conceal tattoos too. It’s been commonplace to call tattoos “unprofessional” but what about tattoos constitutes un-professionalism? In the end, tattoos are just another form of self-expression like clothing or a haircut, just permanent. There are various perspectives on this but society is changing and the people who are in it — including those who have tattoos— are switching up the rules in the workplace.
According to the Pew Research Center, about 20 percent of all American adults and 40 percent of millennials have tattoos. So maybe it’s not common for the baby-boomer generation to have tattoos but the millennial generation is changing that. By doubling the percentage, it’s safe to say that the ideology of tattoos is changing. There has always been a stigma with tattoos.
An article in the journal of social psychology titled “Tattoo or Taboo?” wrote “people view tattooed individuals as possessing a number of negative character attributes, including being less inhibited, less competent, having worse character, being less sociable and being more sexually promiscuous”.
These characteristics might be okay in a personal life but in the workplace, these characteristics become a huge downfall. But it is still a stigma. Just because someone has a tattoo that doesn’t mean they exemplify these qualities, if anything, people with tattoos are anything but. No matter an individual’s reasoning to get a tattoo be it self-expression, religious reasoning or cultural representation, this shouldn’t limit them from getting a job. As long as an employee follows company rules and complete desired tasks, is it really important what ink is on their skin?
Most companies sight the reasoning for such strict discrimination at work based on the perception from customers. In the past, maybe that was a strong enough reason to turn away potential employees but with today’s understanding of tattoos, it’s not necessary.
An article written in the journal of human relations wrote, “tattoo discrimination was perhaps more prevalent during earlier decades when tattoos were less common, but the overall level of prejudice has attenuated over time.”
Still, having tattoos and the impact that can have on employment also depends on the type of employment. If it’s a entry-level job or a more laid back company or field such as writing, field research or any of the arts, the question of having a tattoo might not even come up. But for the professional careers like business and the medical field, it may become more of a problem. With that, there are loopholes as well. It’s fine in most companies to have tattoos as long as they aren’t visible to customers, clients or patients in normal interactions. In that case, an individual could be covered head to toe— save for the neck, face, wrists and hands— and no one would know, not even employers.
In general, this is just another sign of changing times. The current generation is known to push the envelope and make changes in social stigma, whether that be tattoos or otherwise. As long as self-expression doesn’t prove offensive towards customers or towards the company, there shouldn’t be a reason employees shouldn’t take charge of their self expression. Companies tend to forget that although employees represent their brand and image at work or even outside of work, they also want to represent themselves when they clock out. As much as people are at work and involved in the respective companies, their personal life should be left personal and not be the difference between a career and the unemployment line.They have a right express themselves outside of work as long as it doesn’t negatively affect the representation of the company. So feel free to get tatted, just save some areas for business attire or don’t, in the end it’s up to the employee to represent themselves the way they choose.