Admittedly, this blog began before the Miss America Pageant this year. For those of you not up on the latest pageant news, Miss Kansas (Sgt. Theresa Vail) brought the issue of tattoos and peoples’ perceptions of them to the forefront with her own two tattoos highly visible during the competition —believed to be a first for this pageant. It was Miss Kansas who convinced me it was time to publish on the subject.
When I started researching the topic of tattoos in the workplace, I have to confess that I approached it with the idea of “proving” my view point that “visible tattoos are a kiss of death” in finding a job.
According to the Harris Poll, my view point is still popular by those not inked,but the overall perception of tattoos is changing. If so, then so must I. So instead of my blog being primarily directed at job seekers, I will address employers as well.
To begin with, let me say up front that the legal system is typically behind you in whatever decision you make about visible tattoos in the work place. I refer to Robert vs. Ward
We realize that you must consider the customers you are serving and decide if the artwork is going to be a distraction. In Laws on Tattoos in the Workplace published in the Houston Chronicle, Diane Lynn suggests,
If you do not already have an appearance policy that includes body tattoos, working with your attorney or human resources professional will help you prepare one that fits your organizational needs. You can limit the number of tattoos that are visible when an employee is working at your organization or ban tattoos, assuming you have a legally defensible business reason to do so. Legitimate reasons to ban or limit tattoos in the workplace include your customers’ level of comfort with dealing with tattooed employees and the perception of businesses with which you have professional relationships.
According to Barrie Gross in Tattoos in the Workplace: What’s an Employer To Do? having a signed written policy about body art is extremely important. He encourages you to be sensitive about tattoos used as religious expressions and being consistent in policy enforcement.
Keep in mind that many employers are loosening the restrictions on visible tattoos in an effort to be more inclusive of staff and reach out to new marketing areas. On this note, what I found surprising in the Harris Poll was that the largest inked population was in the 30 to 39 age group. Therefore, you would probably be surprised by the number of staff members you currently employ that have body art and you sure do not want to screen them out.
To Job Seekers
Now before you go out and get your facial tattoo, let’s face a little reality (pardon the pun). First, though the perception of those with tattoos is changing, according to the Harris Poll the following opinions of the non-tattooed population are still present.
“At least two in five say that people with tattoos are less attractive (45%) or sexy (39%). One-quarter says that people with tattoos are less intelligent (27%), healthy (25%) or spiritual (25%).”
Second, though many more companies are lenient about body art, many still prefer you cover it up. Just think about this past summer and having to wear long sleeves or a turtle neck all day in 100 degree temperatures. Not exciting. So be prepared to cover up or make up.
Finally, Sgt. Vail did break a barrier. As Miss Kansas, she made it as a top ten finalist, so huge strides have been made in the perception of tattoos. As with any job searching aspect, research employers, staff, and customers so all will be served well.
Cheryl Sandifer is a Regional Facilitator with Workforce Solutions. In that role she has been able to apply her knowledge and experience as both an educator and social worker to conduct job search skills seminars throughout the Houston-Galveston area. She has had opportunity to work with those ranging from entry-level to C-level to help them find a job, keep a job, or get a better job.