Kelvinwright's Blog

postmodern thoughts

Tattoos in the 21st Century Workplace

As a HR professional, I am often drawn to articles such as one I recently in Forbes: “Tattoos No Longer A Kiss of Death in the Workplace”.


This article drew my attention because it surprised me that a simple tattoo should even be thought of as a kiss of death in the 21st century workplace! I began thinking: is a tattoo any different to jewellery? A big, loud watch? A hairstyle deemed different? A suit or clothing that speaks individuality? Is a tattoo any different to a person who has a red streak in his or her hair?


A tattoo is something individual, in the same way as other number of personal body art concepts: piercings; dyed hair; etc. The article in Forbes opens with the stereotype comment from friends, along the lines of, “Oh my God! Why have you gone and got a tattoo? You’ll never get a job now!” Is this still true? In my experience I’ve had very talented colleagues, and have very talented friends with tattoos, some sporting rather a lot of ink. Does this change them as workers? Does a tattoo make them any less talented? Perhaps it comes down to each company’s corporate image. However, we live in the 21st century. Most companies, at least in the Western  world have corporate policies that emphasise commitments to diversity, and equality of opportunities. We’re used to seeing a car mechanic with a tattoo, so why should it shock us in an age of “supposed” increased freedom of speech and intelligence, white collar workers may role up a sleeve to reveal an individual piece of artwork? Why should it shock us to see an image on a woman’s should as she removes the jacket of her suit when she leaves a meeting? Should it indeed be shocking to see a candidate for a Board appointment with a tattoo showing through the crisp white shirt?


Of course, nobody is saying that companies should ignore potentially offensive tattoos, in the same way as an item of clothing with offensive wording. And we may not quite be ready for colleagues with facial ink. However, as somebody interested in hiring the best, I’m not going to discriminate based on hair dye, a piercing, or any number of other areas that companies once discriminated on, age, colour and race amongst them, so why should a tattoo provoke a shock? I’m interested in hiring the best for the company I work for.


We laughed when we read the article about North Korea, quoting that there are 28 permitted hairstyles in the communist regime. We laughed when the North Koreans stated that the state approved hair styles were “the most comfortable styles and capable of warding off the corrupting effects of capitalism”. If companies adopt a style that is too strict, be it hair, tattoos, or piercings, are we reducing the talent pool? Are we limiting ourselves to missing out on potential employees that may have the creative ideas to gain a competitive edge? Are we ignoring people who believe themselves to be individuals, able to stand out from the crowd and challenge and improve the way things have always been done? Or is it all in the name of “corporate image”?


Original article:


July 10, 2013 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

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