OPINION: Think before you ink: tattoos in the work place

Checking out at a local grocery store I notice the cashier has a pink lily tattoo on her forearm. I stare and admire the art. The delicate veins of dark pink running through the petals. The vibrant green which appears to ombre out of the pistil of the flower. She quickly notices and misinterprets my admiration. In defense mode she explains company policy on tattoo’s. I smile, lift my sleeve and show her one of mine.

In a bank a few weeks later, my teller has an elaborate Chinese scene tattooed in black and white. Underneath his button-up shirt I can barely see the tail peeking out on his wrist. He strikes up a conversation about tattoo’s because mine are on full display. His nonchalance struck me weary. Can I trust this person with my money?

What’s the difference between the cashier and bank teller? The cashier was professional. The banker was on auto-pilot. The question is not if tattoo’s are professional. The question is are you?

When tattooing first became popular in the United States in the 1950s tattoo artists followed the unwritten law of never inking the hands, face or neck. It was known and implied that these areas, due to high visibility, would be problematic in a professional setting.

Today it is no-holds-barred in the industry and every part of the body is fair game. Take “Lizard Man” for instance. He is an extreme case of body modification with green scales tattooed, covering his entire body. I don’t know where he works but his boss either loves it or he is his own boss.

The stigma of tattoos not being accepted in the workplace is being conquered every day. Popularity has lead to mild acceptance in corporate settings. Hollywood has even let tattoo’s go uncovered in some movies, where prior they would be hidden with make-up.

I obeyed the T-shirt rule when I chose to get tattooed. In fact, with all my clothes on nobody knows about my secret art. I digress, I rarely wear clothes that don’t show my tattoo’s, that is my artistic expression, UNLESS I am going into a professional setting.

According to CareerBuilder.com “A 2011 study shows that 31% of surveyed employers ranked “having a visible tattoo” as the top personal attribute that would dissuade them from promoting an employee. So although companies across many fields are increasingly focused on diversity and inclusion, tattoo flaunting is still probably best reserved for post-work hours.”

As a journalist sometimes I interview the homeless and sometimes I’m sitting with the President of Saddleback College. In either instance I want the control of how people are going to judge me. I don’t want to be written off because of my art. Will people really trust me to represent them via journalism if they see a bunch of tattoo’s? I don’t know, but I won’t chance it.