The “Visible Tattoo In The Workplace” Debate Continues

Xavier in Guides

The “visible tattoo in the workplace” debate continues with an interesting encounter with a guy who works in HR.

What could your present and potential bosses be thinking of your tattoo?

Courtesy of BBC
Courtesy of BBC

For over a year, I’ve been researching and looking out for updates regarding how tattoos are received in the workplace. It’s a good topic to open up for selected conversations but the opinions are often varied and I either get the frustrating and disparate reports about people getting sacked from their jobs for their tattoos or the supposed surveys about tattoos being ranked low in what would prevent an employee from being promoted. It’s a lengthy discussion with arguable points and I want to have it up for discussion once more for 2015.

Pictured, Derrick Rose.
Pictured, Derrick Rose.

Recently, I’ve read an article from a business community blog about the place of tattoos in the professional world. A guy who describes himself as working behind the “HR kimono,” recently had the chance to sit with four high-ranking professionals with different backgrounds and listen to what goes on in their minds when tattoos (or other body modifications) are put into the equation as far as work is involved. 

“I wanted the unfiltered version of what these guys thought,” the HR guy writes.

Skinhead girl wearing Fred Perry Polo Shirt, London 1980's ©Ted-PolhemusPYMCA
Skinhead girl wearing Fred Perry Polo Shirt, London 1980's ©Ted-PolhemusPYMCA

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The first man who spoke up, a business owner of a successful boutique marketing firm representing national brands shared a simple encounter with hiring and tattoos the time he was looking for a nanny. A good candidate showed up on his front door one day but the boutique marketing firm man and his wife had to decline her, despite the good things they’ve heard of her, because of her shaved head, lip piercing, and a visible tattoo. He reasoned that they didn’t want an example like that to be in charge of their two-year-old. They did’t want their little girl taking a razor to her head one of these days and trying to poke a hole on her lip. With how kids are—monkey see, monkey do—the image concerned them.

Courtesy of Daniel Stark Photography
Courtesy of Daniel Stark Photography

One of the two C–level executives and founders of successful technology companies also shared a story of his own in which he attended a wedding of a man he found very personable. The same man happened to be sporting a mohawk, facial piercings, and a tattoo of his last name on his forearm. Hearing this, the HR guy questioned the decency of a mohawk to a wedding, the level of his intelligence to need a reminder of his last name and wearing short sleeves on one’s wedding day. I can see where they’re coming from, knowing that these guys don’t work in a very unequivocally creative field. It’s only characteristic of them to receive unconventional lifestyles differently and less approvingly.

Courtesy of GQ Online
Courtesy of GQ Online

The first C-level executive went on to share the conversation he later had with his 15-year-old daughter that night:

“If you meet someone with a Mohawk, you need to wait 1 year before you marry him.” “If they have a piercing in their face, you need to wait 2 years.” “If he has a tattoo of his name on his arm, you need to wait 4 years.”

Courtesy of Comstocksmag
Courtesy of Comstocksmag

This was followed by the other C-level executive whom the HR guy perceived as someone with a hidden tattoo somewhere in alignment to his past as a musician and a bartended. But he sheepishly commented, “Don’t people realise that they are going to live a destitute life and limit their options if they have a tattoo that can be seen in street clothes?” This surprised even the HR guy, knowing the nature of his company (see further).

Pictured, Ricki Hall.
Pictured, Ricki Hall.

Lastly, the older gentleman who looked like a Blue Blood banker to the HR guy recounted an encounter he had with several lifeguards who had strips of tape plastered on their bodies. He realised that the sole purpose of this is to conceal any trace of the lifeguards’ tattoos. The supposed Blue Blood banker followed suit and made disapproving remarks toward tattoos.

via Tumblr
via Tumblr

It was mentioned in the article that in Seattle, tattoos are not too big of a deal if the position at hand does not normally require physical interaction with the clients. So if you work in the IT department for example, this should be a relief. I can assert to this. I know quite a lot of people who have several tattoos but don’t hold generally creative jobs (i. e. artists, musicians, etc). Most of them are web developers, graphic designers, or tech people. This only proves that the lesser face-to-face interaction one has with clients, the more tolerance they receive on their personal choices regarding tattoos, piercings, etc. I often ask them how their higher-ups react to their tattoos, stretched ears, and piercings. And while there is considerably a limit to them, their bosses and supervisors don’t usually mind tattoo sleeves or 18mm ears.

Top Chefs DC/The Divine Dish
Top Chefs DC/The Divine Dish

“If you were planning on going into the hospitality, entertainment, or food industry, I would say that these industries have not only accepted the visible tattoo, these industries embrace it,” says the HR guy from earlier. My cousin works at a high-end hotel and casino, engaged in various tasks. She tells me that she'll be getting a massive back piece soon and it won't really be a big concern to her company as long as they're not on the face or hands or contain vulgarity.

From “Judgement” by Lee Kirby.
From “Judgement” by Lee Kirby.

In my opinion, the words “tattooed and employed” is very relative. It's still going to be open for debate. For example, one can proudly say that he's a tattooed and employed member of society, shaking his head on those who are complaining because their tattoos are keeping them from getting hired. But that “tattooed and employed” man's line of work may be among the aforementioned jobs that tolerate the “visible tattoo in the workplace.” We belong to different fields of work, and that makes up a big part of the factors that dictate the limits concerning the designated dress codes among everything else. As I've said, it's a lengthy debate. And it will drag on for a long time. Having said that, hold on to those jobs and carry on proving that you are one rad, “tattooed and employed” citizen.

You may read the rest of the article of the HR guy, Ringo Nishioka here.

Xavier

@Xavier

When she's not writing for Tattoodo, Xavier likes experimenting with art and organizing local music shows. We're kidding, she's probably asleep. Follow her on Instagram @claudia_strife

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