Should tattoos be more accepted in workplaces?

How would it make you feel if a tattoo was poking out a doctor’s sleeve? 

Would you treat a waiter in a Michelin star restaurant different? 

A lawyer? 

How would it make you feel if a tattoo was poking out a doctor’s sleeve? 

Would you treat a waiter in a Michelin star restaurant different? 

A lawyer? 

A social stigma for people with tattoos

I, who doesn’t actually have a tattoo but have bounced around with idea for numerous years – side with those that think it doesn’t matter in the slightest. But there seems to be an embedded social stigma towards people with tattoos and if you get one you throw your professional credibility away.  

Tattoos are no longer associated amongst niche groups, like the ‘badass’ biker and ‘scary’ goth. They have developed into an expression of art, individuality and creativity, much like fashion. If we are to cast tattoos in the same light as fashion, then don’t employers that restrict tattoo exposure in the workplace have a point?

Following a uniform policy

Most companies often follow a uniform policy or dress code that all employees have to adhere to. This restricts an individual’s fashion expressionism in favour of a communal company image, meaning that if clothing restrictions are allowed surely tattoo exposure restrictions are expected also to satisfy the company image.

As with all things, there are the exceptions.

Wanting to share their passion for something

It is agreeable that for someone in the position of say, a doctor, shouldn’t brandish Grim Reaper tattoos or any other death images, so patients and families aren’t unsettled and upset. However, I see no harm in an office worker wanting to share their passion for something (e.g. a flower or symbol) through the medium of a tattoo. So as you can see there are notable exceptions in regulating tattoos in the workplace.

The retailer I used to work for launched a flagship store and was on the hunt for employees that reflected its in-house brands. The particular brand was seen as ‘edgy’ and ‘urban’ and so wanted someone that mirrored this. It so happens that the ‘perfect’ candidate was someone who expressed themselves through body art and piercings (another form of artistic expressionism). 

Strange how this was deemed as an appropriate interview technique whilst people are getting turned away for having them. 

Another retailer who specialises in jewellery is expecting an employee to fork out £50 for a jewelled strap to cover her small bird tattoo on her wrist because they ‘didn’t notice’ it during the interview process. 

Full body checks in interviews?

Are people going to be subjugated to full body checks in their interview to find these barely noticeable expressions of individualism?

Although some companies don’t include covering up tattoos in their policies, some employees feel pressured to do so. The 1.7 million strong Facebook group , Tattoo Acceptance in the Workplace, aims to:

…take away the stigma attached to people who have tattoos in the workplace. Tattoos are art. Some of us have chosen to express ourselves not with vibrant shoes, or a colourful tie, but with body art. What is the difference?

One of the members of the group claims to feel pressured to cover their ink at work, despite it not being part of their company policy. This makes the individual uncomfortable in their work environment even though they feel comfortable in their own skin with tattoo displays.

Companies should learn from this

Surely companies should learn from this. If an employee is relaxed at their workplace then they will achieve more than someone who feels outcast. 

This will make a huge difference. 

If a client or customer sees a tattooed person performing perfectly well regardless of their ink, then surely this will help remove pre-conceptions. Another member of the group describes it perfectly:

…so long as the work gets done our expression of art makes no difference to anyone.

It’s understandable that stigma surrounding tattoos cannot be alleviated by companies. But it must be a step in the right direction for a healthier society as it may transcend to removal of all appearance based judgements.

What do you think about tattoos in the workplace? Are they worth having? Have your say in the comments section below, on Facebook or on Twitter.