It's your body and you have the right to decorate it anyway you like, but your expression of individuality could cost you in the workplace – in job interviews and in your interactions with peers and clients. Don't deny yourself the body art, but have it placed so that it won't show when you dress for work. Show it off after hours, not when you're trying to climb the ladder.
Attitudes towards tattoos are evolving, but negative stereotypes remain. Some people associate tattoos with lower socio-economic classes, or even dangerous groups, such as gangs and prison inmates. If you have exposed tattoos, you run the risk of people making assumptions about your character before they get to know you. That's hard enough if you're in an office environment, but it can be a career-killer if you work with the public in a sales job or in service industries.
You may not like it, but your employer has the legal right to specify a dress code, which may include body art. Some employers allow tattoos, but specify that they must be conservative or non-offensive – terminology that is exceedingly subjective. What you think is conservative, your boss, or a client, may view as offensive or inappropriate. And, you won't know it until after there is a problem.
What Statistics Say
Yes, tattoos are increasing in popularity. Thirty-six percent of Gen Nexters, who are 18 to 25, and 40 percent of Gen Xers, 26 to 40, have a tattoo somewhere on their bodies, according to a 2012 study by the Pew Research Center. But, 70 percent of Millennials -- people born between 1977 and 1994 -- who have one or more tattoos said that their body art normally is not visible, also according to the Pew Research Center. Translation: Even those who favor tattoos realize the ink can be disadvantageous in interpersonal and professional relations.
Interviews: Put Your Best Foot Forward
When you're on the job market –- now or when you're looking for your next job -– cover up your tattoos. A 2006 survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 46 percent of employers regarded tattoos as slightly negative and 29 percent said that tattoos had a strong negative influence during job interviews. Don't let your tat cost you your next job.
- Bacon/Wilson Employment Law Bits: Tattoos in the Workplace
- AskApril.com: Can Body Art Hurt Your Chances of Promotion?
- Pew Research Center: Thirty-six Percent – Tattooed Gen Nexters
- Pew Research Center: Seventy-two Percent – Tattoo Taboo
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Blue Hair, Body Piercings – Do Employers Care?
A retired federal senior executive currently working as a management consultant and communications expert, Mary Bauer has written and edited for senior U.S. government audiences, including the White House, since 1984. She holds a Master of Arts in French from George Mason University and a Bachelor of Arts in English, French and international relations from Aquinas College.