Negative attitudes about tattoos can sometimes take longer to fade than the tattoos themselves. Although there’s getting to be a lot more acceptance about inked designs in general, there are still some negative views about tattoos, especially by members of older generations. Understanding those beliefs can help you successfully navigate work life without them needling you about your tattoos.
While many people view tattoos as a form of personal expression or body art that has little impact on the bearer’s job performance, this is a relatively new outlook. Although tattoos have been found in many different cultures for thousands of years, in the last century those with tattoos were generally soldiers and circus performers. As the corporate culture evolved in the United States, many employers found the tattoo look too “rough around the edges” for the professional image they were trying to establish, and that thought pattern still exists in many members of the older generation.
Appearance and Success
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Even though your mom taught you that you can’t judge a book by its cover, corporate America puts a lot of emphasis on that book cover when it comes to who to hire. For generations, the business belief “if you look professional you are professional” has prevailed. Since being professional is the best way to win the trust -- and business -- of clients, co-workers, and customers, employees are encouraged to always show a professional appearance by being clean cut, pressed and polished. Since members of the older generation don’t always consider tattoos professional, they may not be open to working or doing business with people sporting tattoos.
In addition to viewing tattoos as being too “rough around the edges” to fit with a professional image, older generations may view those with tattoos as being low class, lazy, having loose morals or dangerous. While the abundance of celebrities getting tattoos have helped them become more common and cool than it was for your parents’ generation, the skeptical opinions of older people are still pervasive. Your company may ask you to hide your tattoos so clients holding these opinions won’t be distracted by them and will continue to be valuable customers.
Know Before You Go
Despite these prevailing beliefs from older generations, there are many companies who believe that having tattoo has no effect on your ability to do your job. Some companies also believe that having a visible tattoo is fine as long as your job doesn’t require you to interface with the public. Bottom line for those with tattoos: Before you sign a work contract with an employer in ink, make sure they’re OK with you being inked.
Jennafer Martin has more than 14 years of experience in writing, editing and brand management for literary, business-to-business and consumer publications. She is a writer for Zoe Soul Spa and "Pets in the City" magazine.