Tattoos and piercings in the workplace

Colorful+tattoo+of+a+bird+siting+on+a+branch

A large back tattoo of a bird sitting on a branch

Taylor Frick

Historically, tattoos and facial piercings have been considered unprofessional and improper in a workplace, but that mindset may be changing. In most high paying white collar jobs, you won’t find many people displaying this art form even though cheapism.com states, “more than 4 in 10 people in the United States have at least one tattoo.” 

According to salary.com, “The younger generation is most likely to have tattoos, as people age 26-32 edged out the 18-25 demographic by a 22% to 21% margin. That number drops steadily with age, bottoming out at less than 1% for people age 60 and older. For body piercings, the 18-25 age group topped the charts at 11%, compared to a combined 3% of people older than 40.” 

Tattoos and piercings are associated with youth and recklessness. They’re often seen as past mistakes and can have a negative effect on careers. This stigma comes from the relationship of tattoos to gangs. Cheapism.com said that 10% of people believe tattoos have a violent intent, and although this stigma is not true in most cases, their appearance can affect employer’s opinions. In fact, salary.com went on to say, “76% of respondents feel tattoos and piercings hurt an applicant’s chances of being hired during a job interview.” It also stated that 42% of people thought tattoos are inappropriate in a work environment, and 55% of people thought piercings are inappropriate in a work environment

One profession where having tattoos and facial piercings is particularly controversial is teaching. Gina Taylor, an visual arts teacher at Bythewood, said, “I never felt like any of my co-workers or employers judged me but I did worry about it. I consulted one of my bosses in education when I was about to get my nose pierced. He told me just to not make a big deal about it and I would be fine. I do know that people will judge you on things like piercings and tattoos because they can be seen as a counter-culture statement, especially to older generations.” 

Blythewood English teacher, Victoria Beck, said, “When I was studying to become a teacher, our professors and advisors told us to keep them hidden. I wore things that concealed tattoos during job interviews because I was concerned about impressions they could make.”

Principal Matt Sherman said, “Personally, it doesn’t bother me, except if it causes a disruption, such as a tattoo across someone’s forehead. We’ve come a long way and are much more accepting now.” Mr. Sherman continued, “I’ve had concerns from parents in the past, but I always ask how it bothers them. As long as it’s not offensive and doesn’t infringe on your rights or beliefs, I see no problem with it.”

As a whole, society has come a long way when it comes to not being so judgmental. In a Statista report on cheapism.com it says, “Nowadays, tattooed people are often still considered more rebellious and less respectable than those without, but having a tattoo does not lead to social ostracism anymore.” Instead of judgment, people are choosing to ask questions and start conversations, particularly when it comes to tattoos. We still have a long way to go before everyone with tattoos or facial piercings is accepted in a professional workplace, but progress is being made.