Today, the topic of tattoos is a frequent issue that is circling the workplace. We are constantly surrounded by individuals who have tattoos, and sometimes, we may not even know it. Tattoos are becoming a mainstream part of society.
The millennials are changing the dynamics of tattoos. There are 42% adults in the United States that have at least one tattoo and there are at least 21,000 tattoo parlors in the United States.
The millennials are the reason for the evolving change because they have more tattoos than any earlier generations. Because tattoos are growing in acceptance to society, it is leading to acceptance within the workplace.
Medical professions, corporate, academic, and much more are accepting tattoos in the workplace because if they did not, they would lose great candidates.
Just in 2015 alone, more than 520,000 companies changed their dress code policies to allow visible tattoos in the workplace because it creates more hiring options, positive public relations, and better retention rates.
Although a high amount of companies has changed their dress code policies, many have not. That leads to the question, should tattoos be allowed in the workplace?
History of Tattoos.
They have been around longer than we want to accept.
Before we can decide if tattoos are right or not right in the workplace, we need to understand the history of tattoos and where they originate from.
We need to face it, tattoos have been around since the beginning of human history. Scientific evidence proves tattoos have been a part of the human culture for thousands of years.
In 1991, German hikers on the Oztal Alps near the border between Italy and Austria discovered the mummified remains of a prehistoric human.
Carbon dating proved that the human, named Otzi, had been mummified for more than 5,300 years. The interesting fact about Otzi, he had no less than 55 tattoos on his body, ranging from his upper-neck to his ankles.
Although tattoos have been around for thousands of years, tattoos did not appear in the United States until 1891, when the first tattoo machine was issued to an Irish Tattooist, named Samuel O’ Riley. Samuel opened the first tattoo parlor in the United States in New York City.
According to the Time Magazine, only about 6% Americans had at least one tattoo. There is a drastic difference compared to today. Tattoos were common amongst sailors, prison inmates, motorcycle gangs, and gang members.
The tattoos use to be the mark of rebels and individuals who were living on the outskirts of society and operated outside the social center. But what changed? How did tattoos become mainstream to society?
The start to the change.
Tattoos were once frowned upon and our society held prejudices against people with tattoos because of what they use to represent. Tattoos are no longer limited to just sailors, prison inmates, motorcycle gangs, gang members, etc.
But what was the cause of that? What changed to create the 6% of Americans with tattoos jump to 42% of Americans with tattoos. Society started to accept tattoos because of reality TV and famous people.
In 2005, the first tattoo TV show, Miami Ink, first aired. This is when the acceptance of tattoos for our society changed. Since Miami Ink first aired, there has been 6 seasons, last season aired in August of 2008, and two spin-offs; NY Ink and LA Ink.
The tattoo artists of the TV show Miami Ink, NY Ink, and LA Ink became very famous for their tattoo work. This led to famous people wanting to be inked by the tattoo artists.
The famous people openly displaying their tattoos and being mainstream media icons, it created the society to view tattoos as acceptable. But the rise of acceptance has created issues within the workplace.
How are employers supposed to approach the topic of tattoos being visible for their employees? First, the employers will need to decide if they want tattoos to be visible to their employees or not.
It has been proven that people will still conduct business even if the employees of the company have tattoos.
Employers are still against tattoos, but not all.
Corporate America is trying to figure out how to address tattoos policies; if to accept tattoos, or not to accept tattoos. There are various underlying issues that concern employers when making the decision of hiring individuals with tattoos, especially visible tattoos.
Employers are concerned that individuals with tattoos will not be taken seriously because of them, the image or brand of the organization can be changed or viewed differently, and the concern if tattoos are being perceived offensive or hostile towards others.
Tattoos are considered a form of expression, which is protected by the U.S. Constitution but does not mean companies must hire you. Tattoos are not protected by any laws.
The employers that are concerned about tattoos are trying to figure out tattoo policies and how to implement them into the dress code.
Employers, by law, can restrict the display of tattoos only if it is in their dress code policy and not discrimination.
Even though employees are afraid their customers will not be involved if employees openly displayed their tattoos, a Fox News Survey found that 96% of Americans claimed tattoos would not change anything if they are receiving quality services.
Employers, here is what you can expect.
If the employers do not accept tattoos, it will eventually have negative impacts. It is pretty simple as to why the millennials.
The millennials are becoming of working age and they have the most tattoos compared to other generations. The biggest impact that tattoos may affect in the workplace is recruitment.
People with tattoos will begin to turn down jobs due to the strict tattoo regulations for the dress code policies.
Business will lose chances of finding qualified, experienced, and skilled employees because of their strict regulations on tattoos.
Businesses are already seeing the impacts. Disney had to change their recruitment policies and dress code due to the issue of not finding enough qualified individuals without tattoos.
The U.S. Military has the highest percentage of employees with tattoos, the U.S. Navy even changed their tattoo policies to allow bigger and more tattoos in hopes to recruit millennials.
But businesses are seeing the positives from accepting tattoos. PetSmart changed their policies to allow visible tattoos if they were not vulgar.
The results achieved by doing this was not expected. PetSmart gained over 20,000 social media followers, thousands of new website backlinks, and a press value of over $500,000 because magazines, televisions, and newspapers covered their story.
Sailors, prison inmates, motorcycle gangs, etc., are not the only ones with tattoos anymore; CEO’s, bankers, business owners, lawyers, doctors, and even pastors have tattoos now. Companies will need to change their policies eventually or their business will suffer.
Only 4% of individuals that have tattoos have faced discrimination. While 76% of employees felt tattoos would hurt their chances with job interviews, 73% of employees say they would hire staff with visible tattoos.
Tattoos in the workplace will show diversity, acceptance of different beliefs, etc. Tattoos are unique to individuals and can be a form of an expression of who they are, what they believe in, and cherish.
Individuals that have tattoos will be judged regardless of how accepted tattoos are in society. It could be positive, or it could be negative. Tattoos are everywhere, regardless if you like tattoos or not, they are everywhere because of the millennials and being a part of mainstream media.
A polled of surveyed adults displayed that they do not display tattoos as unprofessional. Tattoos do not justify how hard of a worker an individual is or how efficiently they can do their job.
A strong work ethic, character, and values are in high demand, especially in the workplace. Professionalism is not based on how you look, it is based on how you treat others.
In the United States, tattoos are becoming disconnected from unprofessional stereotypes. Personally, tattoos are fine to me. I would not judge an employee based on their tattoos. It does not define their work ethic to me.
What do you think of tattoos in the workplace? Would you refuse service because the employee has tattoos? If so, why?