What Your Tattoos Say About You to Your Employer

Tattoos in the Workplace

Once upon a time, tattoos were the mark of outsiders, pirates, and outlaws. Today however, they’re totally mainstream.

According to a recent poll, 32% of Americans have at least one tattoo. This is a sharp increase from the 22% of Americans that had at least one tattoo in 2012.

While tattoos may be more popular than ever, how they are viewed in the workplace depends on your role, your industry, and the overall culture of your office. 

Tattoos Can Be Acceptable in the Workplace

There’s no need to assume that all companies and completely against tattoos. Here are a few reasons why many employers wouldn’t have any issues with tattoos on their employees.   

  1. You’re in an ink-friendly industry: Chefs, baristas, graphic designers, writers, musicians, personal trainers, publishers, beauticians, entertainers, and athletes are more likely to have tattoos than others. These are creative fields where personal expression is valued. So, there’s almost an expectation that members of those professions would have tattoos.
  1. Tattoos appeal to clients: Depending on what industry you’re in, tattoos can signal to a client that they’re working with a hip, edgy firm that has a keen aesthetic sense. In the retail industry, a tattooed sales person can almost be part of the store’s branding. Seeing a young, tattooed salesperson tells customers that they’re in a trendy and cool store. It can even help drive sales.
  1. Increased job satisfaction: Employees feel more satisfied with their jobs when they can bring their “whole selves” to the office. Satisfied employees are more creative and productive. Asking them to cover their tattoos can be a minor annoyance that turns into a big source of employee dissatisfaction down the line.
  1. More potential for co-worker bonding: Employees with tattoos are likely to connect with each over their shared interest in ink. More office friendships lead to a better workplace environment for everyone.
  1. Diversity and inclusion: For some, tattoos aren’t just an artistic statement, they are part of their culture and heritage. Having a tattoo-friendly office is another way for a firm to promote diversity and ensure they are truly being inclusive.
  1. Wider talent selection: Tattoos are especially popular with younger generations. Approximately 40% of those aged 18 to 35 have at least one tattoo. It’s inevitable that job applicants will be showing up to the interview table with ink. Employers with a strict “no tats” policy will find the number of applicants they can choose from start to dwindle.

Why Some Companies Are Anti-Ink

Tattoos in the Workplace

As widespread as tattoos are, there are some industries that are still against ink. 

  1. You’re not in a tat-friendly industry. Just as there are jobs and industries that don’t mind or even welcome tattoos, there are those where tattoos may still be frowned upon. For example, you are less likely to see employees with tattoos in law firms, financial institutions, and the insurance industry. Teachers, nurses, morticians, members of the clergy, social workers, doctors, dentists, and administrative professionals are less likely to have tattoos as well.
  1. Customer disapproval: Your company may have a conservative customer base that doesn’t approve of tattoos or who might judge the entire business based on one employee’s tattoos.
  1. Distraction. Tattoos might be distracting to employees in one of two ways. Some employees may love tattoos and want to discuss body art with their colleagues at length. On the other hand, someone coming from a more conservative environment may be distracted in a negative way by the tattoos. A firm may decide to not hire anyone with tattoos to avoid the whole thing.

Forget the Face Tattoos

While corporate America is more accepting of tattoos than ever before, don’t expect the same amount of acceptance if you get a face or neck tattoo. Face tattoos are rising in popularity, but you’ll be putting yourself at a serious disadvantage at the interview table if you decide to follow this trend.

Employers see face and neck tattoos and may think that the person they’re interviewing is impulsive or even irresponsible. They most likely won’t want to have someone with a face tattoo interact with a client. Maybe someday, face tattoos will gain more mainstream acceptance. For now, if you don’t want to limit your career, then forget the face tattoos altogether.

Know Employers’ Tattoo Policies

Tattoos in the Workplace

If you have tattoos and are looking for a job, be strategic. First, research the companies you are interested in. Then, apply to those firms where it seems that your body art won’t cause a conflict.

During an interview, tell the hiring manager that you have tattoos and ask for an explanation of the company’s tattoo policy. That way, you can be sure you cover them up if needed, or if it’s okay they are on display.

If you are employed and have tattoos, or are considering getting some ink, then you can find out about your company’s tattoo policies in a few ways.

  1. Talk to HR: Have a conversation with your HR representative to get the straight story on the company’s tattoo policy.
  1. Read the employee handbook: In the section on dress code or personal appearance, it’ll likely include information about tattoos. Some organizations may only allow tattoos on body parts that are easily covered, like shoulders, backs, feet, and legs. Other companies might have a more or less strict policy.
  1. Ask your supervisor: Talk to your direct supervisor about the company’s policy on tattoos. If he or she doesn’t know they will probably be able to tell you where to get the information. In some cases, the company leaves it up to each supervisor to decide on tattoo policy in their department. For example, the warehouse manager may not have a strict tattoo policy, but the head of the sales team might have strict rules about tattoos and the general appearance of the sales team.

Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate and motivate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. Her interests range from writing to programming and design. She is also passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.

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