Tattoos In the Workplace?

“Never judge a book by its cover” is something we hear all the time, but what about that statement when it comes to employees with tattoos?

For years, having tattoos in the workplace was a big no-no, and if an employee had a tattoo, they were usually required to cover them up. Recently, though, there seems to have been a change. (And in extreme cases, some employers have even gone so far as to encourage their employees to get tattoos, pay for them, and give those employees a raise.)

So what’s the general consensus on tattoos in the workplace in 2013? Here are some thoughts:

Joshua Coburn is a blogger for TLNT who also happens to be a “heavily tattooed and modified professional.” A former body modification artist and small business owner, Coburn now works for a corporate company (Brownells Inc.) as a promotional marketer, as well as a youth speaker and life coach who often speaks about body modification and tattoo culture.

  • According to Joshua, companies seeking innovative and forward thinking candidates should consider exploring the market of tattooed talent, especially as the number of tattooed individuals begins to rise. (About 36% of U.S. adults 18-25 years of age and 40% of U.S. adults 26-40 are tattooed, according to the Pew Research Center.)
  • Coburn believes that the growing number of tattooed individuals shows that society is beginning to be more accepting of the practice. And, if companies follow suit, they could potentially start tapping into a talent pool that would otherwise be passed up because of social stigmas.
  • In the end, Coburn thinks that diversity can end up benefiting the brand, stating, “Why not toss in the potential of an additional 40 percent of tattooed talent vying for a prestigious position within what could be perceived as a very forward thinking brand?”

And Joshua isn’t alone. In an article by Forbes earlier this year, spokeswoman Ferris Morrison of the Bank of America talked about the bank’s tattoo policy (or lack thereof), stating, “We have no formal policy about tattoos because we value our differences and recognize that diversity and inclusion are good for our business and make our company stronger.”

Still, having a tattooed employee may not be for every company, and some industries are particularly stringent when it comes to changing their policies–like the health industry, education, and childcare.

The argument against tattoos in the workplace is that tattoos can have a negative impact on professionalism if they:

  • Become a distraction to customers and co-workers
  • Or, if they’re offensive in nature

These fears are certainly legitimate. Should you happen to be considering making a change to your company’s tattoo policy, it’s best to consider who your customer base is and how you wish to be perceived. If anything, make decisions on a case-by-case basis. You never know–a lot of talent could be behind those tattoos.

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