Tattoos in the Workplace

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Posted by The Editors on October 12, 2011
Tattoos in the Workplace

An old neighbor told me in a panic last night that her daughter, a college freshmen, got a tattoo over the weekend. “How will her coworkers treat her now?” she asked. I neglected to mention that her daughter first needs to worry about getting an interview—and an offer—before she’d have to deal with coworkers’ dismay.

The dad, an art therapist, cut in: “In some industries, you won’t get a job without a tattoo.” She didn’t find it funny, so I also neglected to mention that I know quite a few bars that wouldn’t hire her sans sleeve.

But it’s not so alternative anymore. Though a mere 15 percent of Baby Boomers sport tattoos, 32 percent of Gen X and 38 percent of Millennials do, according to a 2010 Pew Research Center study. But this doesn’t mean body art is accepted across the board. “We like to think we don’t judge books by their covers but the reality is that a lot of people do,” according to a source in this CNN report on the topic.

Should my old neighbor’s daughter, an international studies major, decide to enter the law, finance, and consulting industries, she might need to accept the fact that she’ll have to hide the words freshly printed on her forearm with long sleeves.

On the other hand, some companies, even industries, shed a positive light on physical self-expression. From design firms to technology start-ups to WholeFoods markets to media companies, unless it’s offensive, it’s often no big deal.

When I left my neighbors house, I lifted my long skirt and kicked off my flat to expose my miniature dog tattoo. She shrieked, “Macey!” referring to my family’s late mutt who’d been my tattoo prospect for years. Suddenly, tattoos weren’t so taboo. And considering that I dog-sit for her chocolate lab every Christmas, I’m certain that’s one job I won’t be losing due to ink.

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