March 9, 2012

tattoos in the workplace

photo by s.alt via flickr creative commons

i have six tattoos. four of them are covered pretty much at all times. one can be seen if my shirt scoops a little bit down my back. one (fairly large and noticeable) tattoo is on my forearm.

what do you think: am i at risk of being considered “unprofessional”?

i asked some friends for their opinion, and got a wide variety of responses. some thought that any and all tattoos were inappropriate and unprofessional, others thought that if you had any, they should be covered at all times, and still others thought the stigma around tattoos was out-of-date and out-of-touch. where do you stand?

personally (and i’m sure you can guess my bias), i don’t think tattoos should have any influence on how a person is perceived. (if you’ve got a swastika, or some other offensive symbol or words, we have a different problem.) i consider my body a canvas, and the tattoos upon it art. they are my permanent accessories, and they tell my story. they let the world in on my style and personality. so, why would a pair of butterflies or a few words be any more inappropriate than a statement necklace or short hair?

and more importantly: how does it affect the quality of my work?

how does it affect the quality of anyone’s work?

photo by philippe leroyer via flickr creative commons

it doesn’t, really. when someone says tattoos make a person unprofessional, they’re really saying the tattoo makes you look unprofessional. which brings me right back to my earlier point: how does a tattoo (or many tattoos) differ from accessories or a hairstyle? and does being professional really have anything to do with appearance, anyways?


  • a person who is expert at his or her work.
  • extremely competent in a job, etc.
(both from

there is no reference to needing a particular style of appearance. it doesn’t dictate whether short or long hair is required, what style of dress should be worn… it’s all about what you know, what you can do, and how well you do it.

but the stigma around tattoos and the people who have them remains. while some progress has been made towards the acceptance of tattoos in the workplace, there still seems to be a barrier in place – you can have tattoos… just not too many. a single visible wrist or upper back tattoo isn’t a problem, but sporting full sleeves can put a serious damper on a career. and much of the problem stems from how people with tattoos are viewed - as though tattoos can make someone unreliable or cruel.

it’s all a bit ridiculous, really.

photo by beast love via flickr creative commons

my tattoos don’t define what i am or am not capable of. they didn’t go to school and complete an internship for me. they don’t do my job for me. my professionalism shouldn’t, and doesn’t stem from whether or not you can see my ink. it stems from the skills and capabilities i’ve honed over years of study and experience.

and that should be what matters.

how do you feel about tattoos? are they appropriate for the working world or not? why?


andrea from the fishbowl said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Oooh! Great post! This is something I've thought about because I'd love to get a tattoo of some kind and have been holding back. I think they're a great way of expressing your personality! But the reality is that yes, there is still a MAJOR stigma going on, especially with older people. Back in their day the only people who got tattooed were bikers and criminals, but today, it's seen as something much cooler. BUT, it's so personal, and can be so public. Tattooed people will always run the risk of offending someone.

I love the idea of white ink tattoos. Maybe this one?


Yael said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

thanks for your thoughts! i agree the stigma among older generations is stronger for that exact reason - but how times have changed!

a white ink tattoo could be a lot of fun! i've heard they can fade very quickly, though.

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