For the vast majority of people, the No. 1 argument they're given against getting tattoos when they're younger is that it will be limiting or damaging to career prospects down the road. Whether or not Mom and Dad were right, the fact remains that in most professional circles, visible tattoos remain something of an oddity, if not an outright no-no.
Fortunately for those who are inclined toward ink, tattoos in the workplace aren't completely verboten anymore. Varying industries and even individual companies have begun slackening up on their tattoo policies, going easy on body art or even embracing it altogether. Of course, that doesn't mean you should run to the tattoo parlor right away. While some industries are easing up on tattooing, there's still quite a ways to go before body art fully reconciles with the board room.
The current tattoo performance evaluation
Tattooing's relationship with the workplace in general terms is probably best described today as tenuous. As The Economist reported, many employers are still wary when it comes to inked staff members, and it seems some even harbor potentially hidden prejudices. According to the source, employers who were asked to rank hiring potential for candidates based on their photos consistently ranked those with visible tattoos – especially on their necks and hands – lower than those with virgin skin, even when qualifications among the candidates were the same. This trend is particularly prevalent in service industries, especially positions in which employees would be interacting directly with customers.
A study conducted by U.K. researcher Dr. Andrew R. Timming further corroborated this, finding that most managers revealed a bias against visible tattoos in job applicants. However, it should be noted that not all tattoos received equal discrimination – Timming said that symbols such as flowers and butterflies were much more widely accepted than other designs. Interestingly, military tattoos were also regarded by survey respondents as acceptable, seen by many as a badge of honor.
Finding a home in certain sectors
Despite the general reluctant acceptance of tattoos in the workplace, some industries have opened up in recent years to embracing their employees' body art. Of course, tattoos are far from achieving universal acceptance in employment situations, but change is definitely happening. As you might expect, attitudes vary widely depending not just on field or position, but also geographic location as well. As USA Today noted, Vermont is famously very accepting of visible tattoos, even in many business environments.
And some entrepreneurs have even begun using their employees' ink as a positive force for business. According to AL.com, Mobile, Alabama, is something of a tattoo hotspot in the southern U.S., and the restaurant and cafe industry has jumped on the bandwagon. As the source noted, eatery owners are embracing the area's vibrant tattoo culture as a means of establishing and expressing a culture and personality for various restaurants. Short of professional tattoo regret, these future-looking business owners are instead serving up a portion of workplace harmony. Even coffee mogul Starbucks, known for its rigid policies regarding tattoos and piercings, is considering lifting its ban on visible tattoos, according to San Francisco publication SFGate.
Change is slow
While there have been steps made in recent years toward integrating body art into the workplace, in may fields, older attitudes still prevail. For example, The Daily News reported that one woman looking to start a career as a probation officer was undergoing a series of tattoo removal procedures to prepare for her new field. While not a requirement from any prospective employers, the source noted that the woman was motivated more by a desire to present a more professional image to clients and children – demonstrating the difficulty the U.S. workplace is having with tattoo culture.
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