Tattoos in the Workplace

Tattoos in the Workplace

Are first impressions everything? Should anyone's physical appearance dictate which jobs they are eligible for? Do physical characteristics influence what type of friends someone will have or how much money they will make? The answer to all these questions is yes. They say perception is everything. Potential employers judge people based on physical appearance, as do peers, potential mates, and clients. Tattoos are a big issue concerning how people judge appearance. While they can be offensive to coworkers and customers, tattoos should not be judged in the workplace because they are a way of expressing yourself.

The meaning of tattoos came from the Polynesianword tatau. “It later wasloanedinto English, the pronunciation being changed to conform to English phonology as "tattoo".Sailors on the voyage later introduced both the word and reintroduced the concept of tattooing to Europe.” (“Tattoos,” 2009) No one actually knows when tattoos began. “In 1991, after one of the warmest summers in recent history, in the Alps between Austria and Italy (in the Otzal region), two hikers came across a body that was beginning to emerge from the melting glacial ice. But this was no ordinary victim of a hiking accident. Instead, the 35 year old man that had emerged would turn out to be the oldest mummy ever recovered.” (“Tattoo History,” n.d.) The mummy found was known as Oetzi, an Iceman dated back to 5300 B.C. The big question has always been why Oetzi choose to tattoo his body. Some say it was for medicinal purposes. Oetzi's had 57 tattoos located around his joints.

“The tattooing craze spread to upper classes all over Europe in the nineteenth century.” (Global Oneness). Some feel tattoos were made for acupuncture relieving pain from his joints. Other ideas range from social status and ritual markings to tribal marks or simple preference. “Tattooing has been practiced worldwide. TheAinu, the indigenous people of Japan, traditionally wore facial tattoos. Today one can findBerbersofTamazgha(North Africa), Maoriof New Zealand, andAtayalof Taiwan with facial tattoos. Tattooing was widespread amongPolynesianpeoples and among certain tribal groups in theTaiwan, Philippines,Borneo,Mentawai Islands, Africa, North America, South America,Mesoamerica, Europe, Japan,Cambodia, New Zealand andMicronesia. Despite some taboos surrounding tattooing, the art continues to be popular in many parts of the world.” (“Tattoos,” 2009) [Taking their sartorial lead from the British Court, where King Edward VII followed King George V's lead in getting tattooed; King Frederik IX of Denmark, the King of Romania, Kaiser Wilhelm II, King Alexandar of Yugoslavia and even Czar Nicholas of Russia, all sported tattoos, many of them elaborate and ornate renditions of the Royal Coat of Arms or the Royal Family Crest. King Alfonso of modern Spain also has a tattoo.] (Global Oneness).

In present-day society, tattoos are becoming more common. [In the USA many prisoners and criminal gangs use distinctive tattoos to indicate facts about their criminal behavior, prison sentences, and organizational affiliation.] (Global Oneness). Body Art is a form of communication that is as old as the human race itself. Cultures around the world have used tattoos for religious, social and spiritual reasons playing a significant role in setting a culture's morals and behavior patterns. However, many people used to associate the Bible, which states “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD." (Leviticus 19:27-29, Bible). Some religious beliefs are slightly different. For example, the fundamentalist Christians believe that one should not have tattoos because they are a "pagan practice.” Catholics however, believe marking yourself withtattoos is a personal choice open for personal interpretation. In theJewish faith, marking one's body with tattoos has been thought to be such a desecration of the body that often times a tattooed individual could be denied burial in a Jewish cemetery. People tend to judge others by what the Bible has instructed us to believe.

Tattoos are a way of expressing yourself individually. They are seen on entertainers, athletes and public figures. Author Jack London writes, "Show me a man with a tattoo and I'll show you a man with an interesting past." Peggy Burke, dean of education and graduate studies, said tattoos can have a devastating effect on job opportunities in the education field. She also states, "Schools are extremely conservative institutions, and most parents consider teachers to be role models for their children," she wrote in an e-mail."Anything the school administrator views as a distraction in the classroom is very likely a negative factor." With this I would have to disagree with her opinion. Yes, teachers are viewed as role models but so are military members, athletes, and entertainers. Some of which are viewed more as role models than teachers. As we move past our school years, we tend to look at role models in different views. Most forget their teachers and look for others as a role model. More than half the military members, athletes, and entertainers have tattoos. So the question is why people view them differently concerning tattoos? If teachers are considered role models, why should they be judged on their appearances when they tend to have the same look as military members, athletes, and entertainers.

Coworkers and customers see tattoos in different ways when dealing with business. Tattoos are much more acceptable in the gym than in the office. As a personal trainer, I have come across more clients who like to see my ink than are offended. When my clients see my ink, they also see my physique. Clients often seek out a trainer who is physically gifted and rugged in appearance. It tells the client what type of personality the trainer has and how hard they plan on pushing to reach their goals. I've had over two hundred clients and all have loved my tattoos. However, I can see how this can affect the business world. When dealing with stocks and bonds or selling real estate, tattoos might draw people away. Potential clients may be intimidated and lack confidence in your abilities as a professional. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology published in June 2006, about half of people in their 20s have either a tattoo or a body piercing other than traditional earrings. That figure, which is higher than the national average, is growing, said Anne Laumann, the study's co-author and a dermatologist atNorthwestern University. Some employers are updating their dress codes while others are adding new rules to cover up tattoos. The problem that can arise is that the old stereotypes are being challenged and leading to lawsuits. Employers are saying that in 10 years it may change, but suit-and-tie businesses may not. These types of employers are drawn more to the conservative type of dress codes.

Qualifications should speak for themselves. In this day in age people are becoming more used to the ideas rather than relying on the past. When someone looks at you, they are not just looking at appearances anymore. They look at you as a person. It's about what's inside that matter the most. Almost everyone has something to bring to the table. That's why companies should look past appearances and look at the work done. [Usually, it's a simple matter of discussion and compromise. Most piercings are on the face, according to the recent study, but they can be removed. Only about 15% of people with tattoos have them on their face, neck or hands, the study showed, so the rest can be covered by clothing.] (Fox News,2006).

Working with people with tattoos is no different from working with someone without tattoos. It doesn't make them more unqualified. Looks are the first criteria we have to assess a person.Much is based on fear and what we may believe is dangerous. We tend to feel comfortable around people who look like us. Some believe looks are what make someone as a person. They believe that possessing tattoos makes someone a mean or dangerous person. If that's so, these famous people must have been viewed differently. Thomas Edison, Queen Victoria, Lady Churchill (Mrs. Winston Churchill) and JFK Jr. who all had some form of tattoos. The most important reason tattoos should not affect the workplace is because people should not be judged on their appearance but on their quality of work. Companies around the world are now starting to do the right things and developing a more relaxed dress code for people with tattoos. This will help in getting more qualified people in the company without judging people on appearances but on their qualifications. All around businesses will get smarter and open up more jobs for people in need.

In conclusion, although tattoos can be offensive not only to coworkers but customers as well, tattoos should not affect the workplace for two main reasons. First, tattoos are a way of expressing yourself individually and should not be thought of as degrading one's self. But most importantly, people should not be judged on their appearance but on their quality of work. If people continue to judge one another then we will get nowhere as a society.

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