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The Issues With Tattoos In The Modern Society

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Think that tattoos won't affect your future? Well, think again. According to “History of Tattoos,” 36% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 have at least one tattoo. Before getting inked, I suggest you read this paper. Tattoos have been around for thousands of years; although, over the past few decades, they have become more prevalent. Studies mainly reveal a negative impact on hiring. This research paper explores how tattoos affect employment opportunities and how this stigma has changed over the years. Should the standards of professional appearance change? I argue that visible tattoos negatively affect employment chances but not always. It varies and depends on the nature of the company; in different fields there are different rules.

In Kyler Alvord's article 'Tattoos In The Workplace: Deal Or No Deal?', she writes about how in the past tattoos were a professional suicide but thats not the case anymore. Visible Tattoos don’t portray how skillful the human being is, therefore managers should not “judge a book by its cover.” As in Alvord’s article, she mentions Michael Danes, a former Seattle-based business executive with tattoos, “As someone who has managed numerous amounts of people in blue collar positions and a white collar corporate position, I believe that these things are surface level and do not account for what this person may have in skills” (Alvord, 2019). Although not everybody has the same unprejudiced perception as Danes. Why do some employers still judge candidates based on physical appearance? Two likely reasons: they might be displaying prejudice or employee’s appearance might hurt the company’s image to consumers. Despite that in life you are always told to express yourself and to live authentically; once it comes to hiring or in the workplace, it’s all, “Please cover your tattoos, delete your social media accounts, use this photo on your LinkedIn and for heaven’s sake remove your piercings”(Alvord, 2019). The United States a free country that encourages its people to express themselves freely but this prejudice is still seen within hiring processes.

The issue of visible tattoos being restricted in the workplace is not going to go away. According to Williams, Thomas & Christensen, authors of “You Need to Cover Your Tattoos! : reconsidering Standards of Professional Appearance in Social Work.” They analyze professional appearance standards in the workplace and also mention an increase of tattoos in the United States. Overall, research shows a higher prevalence rate and diverse motivations regarding tattoos. Williams, Thomas & Christensen believe that it is important for employees to be sensitive to the perceptions of others who may not like tattoos. Employees have to treat all customers equally, shouldn't all customers treat all employees the same as well? Yes, it is their job on the line but people who work face-to-face jobs i’m assuming do not refuse to sell to the customer because of their appearance. I can agree with Williams, Thomas & Christensen, that it is important to have professional appearance in the workplace, although now, tattoos do not affect professionality, it creates diversity in the workplace.

Where is this issue currently seen the most? According to Alvord, the issue is mainly visible within companies whose employees jobs are involved working with consumers on a face-to-face basis every day. These types of companies are family-friendly, so they need to be sensitive and portray this image and provide service to the customer's expectations. But does having tattoos interfere with the service being provided? No. Why have people stigmatised tattoos as being non-sensitive or not “family friendly.” When it comes to creating workplace tattoo policies, companies have to prioritize their values. They would rather eliminate all risks of possibly offending a conservative consumer. The same question pops up: why does this stigma appear again? It is not clear to many that tattoos and piercings could be offensive nowadays. It’s a form of art, just like graffiti; instead of it being an act of vandalism, people currently see that graffiti is what diversifies and embraces a city’s beauty. How do peoples’ perception of graffiti change but not of tattoos? However, companies should avoid contradicting core values concerning human diversity, cultural competence, and empowerment.

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The first problem it raises is discrimination. Williams, Thomas, and Christensen state, “Perhaps not surprising, new research shows that such stigma and prejudice lead to workplace discriminatory effects, specifically related to potential employment and workplace policies, practices, and promotions.” Behind tattoos lies a lot of stigma and prejudice that lead to discrimination either from the hiring manager, co-workers, and customers. All three outcomes are not good especially with the hiring manager because that could cost your job. On the other hand, if the job involves working with customers on a face-to-face basis, the conserviative consumers might possibly affect your sales. Lastly, co-workers could treat each other differently according to your physical appearance, but at the end of the day they have to treat you for who you are. All of these components of discrimination contradict core values regarding human diversity. Also, it creates a problem for the employes themselves since they are confused about what actions to take to avoid discrimination.

According to Lisa Guerin, a lawyer who wrote the article “Can I Be Fired Because of My Tattoos?” regarding Employer Dress Code & Grooming Policies, the appearance policy requiring employees to cover tattoos is legal unless it violates laws prohibiting discrimination. Even if it does not discriminate, it arises other problems such as forcing employees to decide between appearance or values. Some people’s tattoos could define who they are; therefore, people would have to contradict their morals and values by hiding their method of expression. Tattoos do not always have to be derived from negative concepts, they could solely come from positive ideas such as a reminder to keep moving forward in life. Would you ask a person to have their meaningful tattoos covered? It is important that as societal norms shift and new knowledge develops, attitudes and policies among social workers should keep up with such changes.

People should not have to hide their identity; hiding is not the solution. Companies that have a “no visible tattoo” policy should stop enforcing this rule because it is discriminating. Although tattoos in the workplace are currently not as big an issue as they were in the past, employee diversity is important for building a better tomorrow. Alvord argues that “Businesses across the country, from AMC Theaters to Ross to Denny’s to Office Depot, enforce ‘no visible tattoo’ policies. On the other end of the spectrum, we have the tattoo-friendly companies, including big players like Google, UPS and Target.” The question we ask here is why does Google, one of the most prominent companies in the world, not have a no tattoo policy? Removing the policy will fix the problem since the policy will no longer be a motive for hiring managers; but, nonetheless, it all depends on the hiring managers’ perception of visible tattoos. This is a problem that is harder to attack because nobody is fully capable of changing the manager’s perception.

But if we are not able to fix the problem on the hirerer’s end, there's always the other end, the hiree’s end. Despite the fact that predictions reveal that as the new generation takes on the world, tattoos will gradually become normal in the workplace. However, people today should be well aware that having a visible tattoo might impact their chances of getting hired. Future employees might not have to hide their tattoos; but since life has been set the way it is, people should encourage the youth to not get visible tattoos because they could possibly have a negative impact on employment opportunities. Tattoos are permanent and come with a price: they are costly and painful to remove. Not getting visible tattoos could increase employment chances and prevent discriminition. If precautions were taken, employees would find themselves in a win-win situation.

After examining the outcomes, visible tattoos do affect employment chances but not as much as the past. It varies and depends on the nature of the company; in different fields there are different rules. I can conclude that it’s not the company’s prestige that matters, rather their target audience and the level of interaction they have with that audience. Research the companies you want to work for and be careful not to ink anything that could be seen as offensive.

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The Issues With Tattoos In The Modern Society. (2022, February 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 6, 2023, from
“The Issues With Tattoos In The Modern Society.” Edubirdie, 18 Feb. 2022,
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The Issues With Tattoos In The Modern Society [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 18 [cited 2023 Dec 6]. Available from:
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