Starting a New Job

Your Guide to Tattoos in the Workplace

February 22, 2021

Tattoos can be a fun and exciting way to display individuality. As this type of body art has become more prevalent in culture, employees with tattoos have also become more prominent in workplaces. However, there are some considerations to keep in mind when displaying tattoos at work. In this article, we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of tattoos in the workplace and how to ensure you're following your employer's policy.

Are tattoos in the workplace acceptable?

Whether tattoos are okay in a workplace will depend on that employer's industry, company culture and particular preferences. For instance, a fine dining establishment may not permit its servers to have prominently placed tattoos because the server has close interactions with customers. In contrast, a warehouse employee may not have the same restrictions because they have little or no face-to-face contact with the public.

However, public contact is only one aspect of a company deciding whether its employees can have visible tattoos. Some owners or managers may have more conservative preferences and won't allow their employees to show tattoos in the workplace. In more relaxed company atmospheres, employers may accept tattoos at work as a sign of individuality.

Ultimately, if you have tattoos and are looking for a job, you'll want to consider in advance the culture of the companies you're applying to. Being strategic about where you apply can minimize the possibility that your body art will conflict with the organization's policies. If you're already working and are thinking of getting a tattoo, check your company's employee handbook or ask your supervisor to ensure your new ink will be permitted.

Advantages of allowing tattoos in the workplace

Here are some positive reasons that employers may allow tattoos in the workplace:

  • Promoting individuality: A person's choice of tattoos is often a very personal and unique form of self-expression. When an employee is allowed to display their tattoos at their workplace, they may feel more valued as individuals.
  • Appealing to clientele: In some industries, it can be a wise business decision to allow employees to display body art. In a design role, for instance, a tattooed employee can demonstrate a highly developed aesthetic sense, which could appeal to many clients. Even in an industry like retail, allowing tattoos can appeal to trendy clientele and help drive sales.
  • Fostering workplace friendships: A fondness for tattoos can often be a way for individuals to bond over a common interest. When employees are friendly with their coworkers, they often have more productive and fulfilling work relationships.
  • Promoting diversity: Tattoos are often an integral part of someone's culture. By allowing tattoos in the workplace, an organization can be sure they're being inclusive of a variety of backgrounds.
  • Attracting a greater array of applicants: Since tattoos are becoming more prominent in society, so too is the number of tattooed applicants for jobs. To ensure that a company is attracting the greatest number of talented potential hires, they may consider having a more open tattoo policy.
  • Inspiring creativity: If a business allows its employees to have tattoos, there's already some degree of creativity in the workplace. In a field like graphic design or even culinary arts, having employees who think creatively can lead to a more innovative business.

Disadvantages of allowing tattoos in the workplace

Here is a list of potential downsides to allowing tattoos in the workplace:

  • Customers may not approve. Depending on the organization's clientele, they might not allow tattoos because they believe customers would respond negatively to them. However, an organization should consider its whole customer base rather than just a few people who may object to tattoos.
  • Tattoos may promote an overly casual atmosphere. Getting tattooed is a leisure activity, so conversations around that topic may be too casual for certain companies. To ensure that workplace interactions remain focused on work, organizations may decline to allow tattoos at the workplace.
  • Tattoos might be distracting to some employees. If another employee comes from a more traditional or conservative background, they might be distracted by prominently displayed tattoos. Similarly, if someone is very fond of tattoos, they may spend valuable work time looking at others' body art. A company may choose to forbid tattoos in the workplace if there's a chance that they can cause workplace interruptions.

Tips for understanding your company's tattoo policy

Follow these suggestions to make sure your body art is in line with your organization's tattoo policy:

  • Discuss your tattoos in the interview process. If you're going in for an interview, it can be beneficial to let your prospective employer know you have tattoos in advance so there are no surprises. They might also clarify their tattoo policy during the interview process so you're sure you're in compliance. For instance, if they only allow tattoos above the elbow, you can wear a long sleeve shirt if you have tattoos on your lower arms.
  • Read the employee handbook carefully. If your company's employee handbook has a section about personal appearances, it will likely mention tattoos. Check to see if visible tattoos are allowed at all, and if so, what guidelines there may be. For instance, some companies may allow visible tattoos as long as there is no profane language or graphic imagery. Some organizations may allow tattoos on certain parts of the body, like arms and legs, but not on other parts, like the neck or hands. Other companies might strictly forbid visible tattoos altogether.
  • Ask your supervisor. If your employee handbook doesn't specify guidelines for tattoos or the instructions are unclear, ask your manager or supervisor. They will likely know the specific directions for whether you can display tattoos, where on your body it's okay to show them and what they're allowed to contain. If your supervisor doesn't know the specific policy, they can go to their manager or the company owner to clarify.
  • Review the company's core values. There may be more to your employer's expectations for tattoos than it states in the company handbook. If your company promotes specific core values, make sure the images or language of your tattoos are in line with those values.

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