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Tattoos in the workplace: Why body art should color the professional world

By Ariana Queenan
SPECIAL TO THE HOFSTRA CHRONICLE

According to The Harris Poll conducted in 2012, one in five U.S. adults has at least one tattoo. That means that for every 100 people a company hires, about 20 of those employees are inked.

Career intelligence website Vault.com conducted a similar survey on employee tattoos and body piercings back in 2007. Of those surveyed, 47 percent said that they do not conceal their tattoos at work, and more than half were prohibited from working with visible body art.

Seven years later, there has not been much improvement. As we become more accepting of tattoos from a social perspective, some employers still have difficulty comprehending tattoos’ place in the workspace.

Starbucks, for example, is among the companies struggling with the concept of tattoos in the workplace. The coffeehouse chain is just now considering lifting its ban on employees’ visible body art. This is long over due.

The duty of a coffee shop is to act as a comfortable, productive forum while allowing patrons to enjoy some type of stimulating snack. It seems backwards that a facility made to embrace creativity and relaxation stifles those same faculties by making its employees hide their visible body art for the sake of the coffee shop’s image.

When I go to Starbucks, I am not the least bit concerned or distracted by a barista’s visible tattoos. I would almost expect a coffee artist to have visible expressions of creativity inked into their skin.

Employers have every right to outline a dress code in order to preserve the professional image of the company. But as more and more Americans sport tattoos, these employers should be aware that to not hire or to place oppressive restrictions on people with tattoos is to discriminate against a large community in the workforce.

As of now, no studies have been conducted to prove any correlation between body art and job performance. Since there is no data proving that tattoos have the ability to influence productivity in the workplace, employees’ ability to carry out various work-related tasks cannot and should not be judged based on the presence of tattoos. Tattoos are simply an artistic expression that some people choose to broadcast on their skin as opposed to some other means, such as dance or poetry.

Americans spend approximately 1.65 billion dollars a year on tattoos alone. Tattooing has become an extremely lucrative business in the United States, with the current generation serving as some of the most frequent patrons. Thirty-six percent of American adults, aged 18-25, have at least one tattoo.

In other words, tattoos are not going anywhere. As this generation begins and continues its job search, employers are going to be forced to get comfortable with the fact that the majority of their applicants will have visible tattoos.

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