While your grandmother may still raise an eyebrow, college students rarely take a second glance when seeing tattoos around campus. The trend is increasingly popular for our generation, but that doesn’t mean everyone is so accepting. As with all generational fads, the line of appropriate versus inappropriate becomes blurry, especially in the workplace. While our peers may not think twice, older employers and potential mentors often have a more traditional outlook. CL interviewed some working professionals and co-eds to gauge public opinion on visible tattoos in the office. The consensus? It depends on your field, the office culture and personal preference. Read on for details.
Research Assistant Anne Rackow wears with pride her frequently visible tattoo honoring her grandmother and often receives compliments on her artwork from colleagues and strangers alike. “I think whether or not a visible tattoo in the workplace is appropriate or problematic depends greatly on what the tattoo is, the quality of the art and the nature of its visibility. As long as a tattoo is tasteful and aesthetically pleasing I don’t think it is problematic for a working professional,” she reports.
Many of our own writers agree.
Michelle Deehan, West Virginia University senior, believes tattoos show character. “Someone with a few tattoos can probably put a lot of dedication into a belief or idea, which is a good work quality,” she says.
Junior Rachel Crocetti feels tattoos are expression of a person’s personality and creativity. “In my opinion, small, tasteful tattoos could peak out in a creative field. After all, it should be about your work and not about your appearance! But I do understand the part of society that is keeping conservative about the tattoo situation,” this editor from Hofstra University reveals.
Amanie McGee holds a similar opinion. “I wish that visible tattoos weren’t so frowned upon. I don’t see anything wrong with small tattoos in the office–ones that aren’t distracting or suggest negative characteristics or traits. Unfortunately, I believe that employers will only accept large visible tattoos if their target market for their business accepts them,” the Central Michigan University junior notes.
Ladies looking to break into the corporate world in the next few years need to face the reality that a visible tattoo may hold their career back.
Human Resources Director Andrea Robinson shares her insight. “My entire career has been in Corporate America until a little over two years ago, and I can tell you that the corporate view of this subject is definitely less than classy. I currently work for the YMCA, which is a nonprofit organization well known with locations both domestically and internationally, and although we want our staff members to be creative, as well as expressive, there is a level of professionalism that we uphold at work.”
Binghamton University graduate Alexa Lippman thinks tattoos can give off an unprofessional vibe. “One small one is okay but a lot can be too much. I think people should do their best to cover them up in the office,” she says.
Social media intern Monifa Brooks, while a lover of tattoos herself, has to agree with Alexa. “I wouldn’t want to see someone that has a sleeve tattoo at work or tattoos all on their neck,” she discloses. “In the workplace I’d say just cover it up or get it in a spot that can’t be seen by work clothes. You don’t want to be judged because you have a tattoo,” this Ithaca College junior thinks.
Our interviewees may have different personal preferences, but one thing everyone can agree upon is placement is key. Get your tattoo in a place that can easily be covered up by clothing, such as the torso. This writer chose the upper back as her preferred location; most tops and work dresses hide the artwork, but it can be shown off with a different clothing style when appropriate.
Rutgers University senior Raquel Santos says, “It depends on what and where it is. I think tattoos are okay to get if they’re meaningful and placed somewhere that isn’t seen at all times.”
DIY writer Kelsey Roadruck concurs, as the Indiana University sophomore says, “Tattoos can be as classy as the co-ed it’s decorating; however, placement is key. My least favorite spot for tattoos is the wrist. A handshake is an important exchange in many situations and a tattoo might take away from your professionalism.”
This isn’t to say a tattoo is an automatic detriment to business success. Heather Weaver, CACFP Administrator for a multi-million dollar for-profit childcare company, has five tattoos herself. “Tattoos are artistic expressions of many things, like our values and opinions. People wear them like some would wear a t-shirt of their favorite band, or a funny movie quote. But, would you wear that band t-shirt to work at a Big 4 accounting firm? The same thought process could be said for tattoos. Personal expressions are for exactly what the name implies—personal,” she believes.
Perhaps our Editor-In-Chief Shelly Marie Redmond says it best: “Follow the ‘Coco’ approach – remove a piece of jewelry – well, don’t remove a tattoo, but be tasteful in your location when thinking of future employment.”
Times are changing and there will likely be a day in the not-so-distant future when tattoos are much more accepted in society. Nonetheless, the workplace is still quite conservative on tattoos. Shelly reminds us to “think of the career field and folks you will be working with on contracts and deals. While I wish it could rain kitty cats and puppy dogs, the reality is first impressions do matter in contracts and work.”
Not a fan of seeing the tattoos in the workplace? Share with us! Think your classy tattoo shouldn’t be a source of discrimination? We want to hear from you as well!