Do Tattoos Have a Positive or Negative Effect at the Workplace?

Tattoos are common among younger professionals. But is that a good thing?
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Not long ago, when body art was less common among younger professionals, tattoos at work was a no-no. But tattoos have become so common today that employers are forced to re-think whether a tattoo is really a legitimate reason to turn away a qualified candidate. Today, fewer employers consider tattoos when evaluating candidates, though many still ask employees to keep their body art covered.

More Acceptance

Jane Schildroth, director of corporate and community relations at the University of Iowa Pomerantz Career Center, visits companies and human resources departments around the country to keep a finger on the pulse of corporate America. Recently, she told "USA Today" that few employers mention anything about tattoos when considering new candidates. And with 45 million American adults sporting at least one tattoo (according to the FDA), acceptance for tattoos among employees is at an all-time high -- particularly at younger and more creative-oriented companies.

Covering Up

While employers seem less likely to worry about tattoos during the interview, many employees are still being asked to cover them up. reports that employees who frequently meet with customers, such as sales staff, are more likely to be forced to cover up than those who stay in the office at their desks. The watchword is discretion -- smaller non-offensive tattoos are viewed less harshly by employers, particularly if they can easily be hidden.

Tattoo Removal in the Job Hunt

Even with the growing acceptance of tattoos at work, more people who have them removed are citing "employment reasons" as their motivation. Fox Business News reports that as many as 40 percent of those seeking to have tattoos removed are doing it to make themselves more marketable to employers -- particularly those who have tattoos in more conspicuous, hard-to-cover areas such as the neck, hands, ankles, or upper chest.

The Verdict

Tattoos, often seen as integral to personal identity among those who wear them, might not affect one's ability to perform a job, but in some companies and industries, tattoos remain a potential liability. Among younger creative industries, tattoos can have the positive effect of allowing employees to feel accepted for who they are. But tattoos are still eyed suspiciously in more conservative industries, such as finance. Do tattoos have a positive or negative effect on the workplace? The answer is: It largely depends on where you work.

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