Tattoos should be more acceptable in the workplace

By Holly Luttrell | Reporter

When entering the workforce, your experience and abilities are key to landing a job and beginning your career. Yet, while your resume is important, the way you present yourself in a professional environment can sometimes make or break you. In many careers, a professional wardrobe is a must. More often than not, this includes hiding any tattoos on your body.

Historically, there has been a social stigma associated with tattoos. They have been associated with grittiness, criminal activity, disregard for personal appearance or a general inability to hold a professional position. This stigma has carried over into the workforce, leading to the strict policies against ink we see today. The next generation of workers, however, has the ability to change this. It is time to break the stigma and become more accepting of tattoos in our evolving workplaces.

According to a 2010 study conducted by the Pew Research Center, approximately 40 percent of citizens over the age of 18 have at least one tattoo. With this many members of society sporting them, the idea that every individual who has a tattoo cannot be a successful professional is misguided.

This freedom, of course, would have to come with limitations. Allowing tattoos in the workplace would open conversations about obscenity and what is appropriate to show in a professional setting. This dialogue over appropriateness has often closed down the issue. Rather than discuss what tattoos would be acceptable or not, it has been deemed easier to ban them outright.

This ban is where a stigma is born. When we insist employees cover all tattoos, we label people with tattoos all with the uninformed, negative connotation that plagues the workforce.

In order to take steps to change this and be more accepting of the personal expressions of employees, tattoos should be held to the same standards as clothing. If you would not wear the image on an article of clothing or say what is written on your tattoo out loud, it should not be displayed at work. Rather than creating a ban on a form of expression that such a large portion of the population uses, we should evaluate them on a case-by-case basis so as not to immediately categorize each tattoo as a negative thing.

Workplace standards have evolved as society has progressed to become more accepting of personal forms of expression. In today’s society, a ban on tattoos feels archaic. It is no longer indicative of the comfortable work spaces we should strive to provide.

When we put a ban on all tattoos, we are perpetuating the negative stigma behind them. A tattoo that is appropriate for the workplace is nothing to be ashamed of, and it should not be treated as such. An employee’s performance is in no way affected by whether or not they have ink on their body. Now it is time our workplace policies changed to demonstrate this.

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