Permanent black or colored ink representing symbolic messages and pieces of art on the human body has become commonplace in the 21st century. People from all sorts of backgrounds are getting tattoos, making it more of a societal norm rather than a counter culture like it was decades ago. However, societal norms don’t always translate into the professional world.
For some employers, a person’s professional skill is also represented by their appearance. A February 2012 survey conducted by Harris Interactive, one of the world’s largest research market firms, revealed that one quarter of the people surveyed felt those who had tattoos were less intelligent (27 percent), healthy (25 percent), or spiritual (25 percent). Half of those without a tattoo say people with tattoo’s are more rebellious.
The Arizona Supreme Court issued tattoos as freedom of speech, protected under the First Amendment in 2012. However, tattoo policies vary within industries. In 2011, a Careerbuilder study revealed 31% of surveyed employers ranked having a visible tattoo as a personal attribute that would caution them against promoting an employee.
Tattoos are more common in some professions compared to others. Forbes Magazine reports the auto, military, construction, careers in the arts, digital media, styling and athletic professions find tattoos to be more common among employee. On the other end of the spectrum, business, government, educational, medical and law professionals traditionally have no tattoos. A tattoo won’t necessarily stop a person from landing a position, but certain professions have stricter policies on concealment and standards for external professionalism.
The law tends to support employer dress codes or appearance policies that require workers to present themselves in a way that is consistent with the employer’s image. This doesn’t ban tattoos altogether, but certain tattoos can become a concern depending on what the message is. If the message isn’t in favor of an employer or their clients, then a tattoo that can’t be covered up can be problematic.
While tattoo policies vary from one office to another, the main argument for tattoos, like any bold fashion statement, is that it can become distracting to co-workers or clients. While linking tattoos to gangs, bikers or those who lived their life against societal norms is rather outdated for some, tattoos can send the wrong message of rebellion to some instead of self expression.
Jon Bruno, an insurance broker for a family owned company in Staten Island says while there is no tattoo policy at the company, if a prospect employee had an uncovered tattoo of something he didn’t find appealing there may be an issue. Like bold clothing, certain tattoos can be distracting to clients or other employees.
“As long as it’s tasteful, personal, or a piece of art than there is no reason a tattoo should hold a person back in their job.” Bruno said.
Potential employees need to remember that their job requires them to fulfill the employers hopes and expectations. If self-expression is an important part of being employed at a given location, then finding a job that allows various forms of expression will be a challenging priority. If keeping open options in career choice possibilities is important, then it’s probably a good idea to refrain from getting the tattoo. That or have it in a place where it can be easily covered up.