Do Tattoos Affect the Way You Treat Your Employees?

Joe Weinlick
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The issue of tattoos at work tends to spark a lot of controversy. Many employers worry about employee tattoos conveying the wrong message to clients and vendors, while employees believe they should be allowed to express themselves with colorful body art. If you work in a conservative industry, tattoos at work may be considered completely taboo. Although it's 2015, experts still can't agree on whether tattoos are an asset or a disadvantage for working professionals.

Liz Sewell of Belina Consulting believes first impressions are important. She says employers are more accepting of tattoos at work than they used to be, but she cautions job seekers to avoid getting tattoos on their necks, faces or other highly visible areas of the body. This is especially important for prospective employees in law, medicine and other conservative fields.

Sally Pearman of the Centre for Strategy and Communication says job seekers should err on the side of caution when deciding whether to show off their tattoos during interviews. Because hundreds of applicants are competing for the same jobs, having a large tattoo visible during an interview can hurt your chances of receiving an offer.

Fortunately for job candidates, most employers don't make hiring decisions based on the presence of tattoos. Recruiters and hiring managers are worried about whether a candidate has the skills and personality to succeed in a particular role. If an employer finds a candidate that satisfies every requirement listed in the job description, it would be foolish to reject that candidate simply because he or she has a tattoo.

If you participate in the hiring process in your workplace, don't immediately reject any applicants because they want to show their tattoos at work. Instead, see if you can come to an agreement with the most talented people in your candidate pool. Some of them might be willing to cover up their tattoos with clothing or accessories if it gives them an opportunity to work for your company. If you can't come to an agreement about a visible tattoo, consider whether it really makes a difference if one of your employees has a tattoo showing.

If you need employees to cover up their tattoos at work, give them several options for doing so. Allow men and women to wear elbow-length sleeves as long as their upper-arm tattoos are covered. For women with tattoos on their legs, wearing pantyhose or covering the tattoos with liquid concealer is a good way to hide body art without having to wear pants on a regular basis.

Love them or hate them, employee tattoos aren't going away any time soon. If you think your clients would be offended by seeing tattoos, create a dress code that gives employees several options for covering their body art. If your industry is a little more flexible, it probably won't hurt your company to allow employees to show off their tattoos at work.

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