WORKPLACE / AUG. 16, 2013
version 3, draft 3

Are Tattoos Still Taboo in the Workplace?

It would appear that tattoos are growing ever more controversial in the eyes of employers as years pass by. Traditionally, time tends to ease the level of shock or disdain that society feels over something deemed unacceptable in the working environment. However tattoos (and flip flops – but that’s another topic for another day) seem to buck the trend of slowly evolving acceptance, to remain a hot topic of debate between the inked job seeker and the employer adamantly opposed to the display of tattoos to clients.

So as an employer what are the advantages and disadvantages of hiring a candidate with tattoos?

Advantages of hiring a tattooed employee:

# 1. They must have a sense of humour right?

If they have a tattoo of a large cat stalking prey on the prairie visible on their neck, or their ex-wives name tattooed around their ring finger, they must be good for a laugh to liven up a stale working environment. Eccentric tattoos provide ample ammunition to pass some jesting fun time at work – so long as you are not the butt of the joke – and so long as you do not tell, or worse show your colleagues that inadvisable decoration that you had inked where no co worker wants to look.

# 2. The ice-breaker…

People with tattoos are often perceived as being sociable and approachable – so long as the designs are discreet and at a minimum. Some workplace colleagues find it easy to strike up a conversation or bond with a new member of the team over their tattoos, whether they are fans of tattooing or not. The story behind the tattoo or how the new colleague expresses their tale, can help long term members of a team judge the ability of their new colleague to join into the existing office dynamics and carve their own niche on the team. 

# 3.  Want to cut down on your recruitment costs?

Tattooed employees can cut your labour costs right down. You can hire a skilled worker with numerous visible tattoos to work both internally and, when the occasion calls for it, you can have him or her act as security for your building. Furthermore, you can offer employees a bonus to get your company name tattooed on their body following a trend started in the US, whereby a real estate company paid their staff a 15% bonus to showcase their intense commitment to their company! Let’s hope they don’t go out of business or get a better offer from a rival company. Bids start at 20% for the left arm …

Disadvantages of hiring a tattooed employee:

#1. Uh oh – a precedent is set…

Let’s face it, if you hire one employee with a tattoo, they may all wander in after a particularly enjoyable, probably boozy weekend with their favourite pop star of the moment posing provocatively, and angrily if it swells, all the way down the entire length of their arm. The look of sheer delight on your employees face may send your heart pressure soaring, along with the fear of what the rest of the ‘Friday night after work drinks’ crowd will show up with.

#2. The cover – up conversation

This is where your authority in the workplace will be tested to the limit. Do you need to ask the staff member to cover up or are you happy to have their independence and individualism displayed to all who enter your workplace environment? You need to decide if company policy will allow and encourage staff to be comfortable with themselves and how they dress at work, or if you feel like boundaries need to be drawn to exert your authority. If a ‘cover-up’ conversation is the result of your decision, you will need to tread very carefully not to alienate your employees, or come across as overly dictatorial. They may suspect you have something to hide somewhere on your own person…

#3. The Tramp Stamp Effect

Perception is everything in the business world, and there is and always will be people who believe that tattoos are in effect a tramp stamp on both male and female employees. The concern of some employers will be that in a tough hard fought battle to win and retain clients in an increasingly competitive marketplace, that consistent professionalism will always have the edge. And having visibly tattooed employees could be that small, seemingly insignificant, cause of a client preferring to give his custom to a rival firm. 

 

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