Tattoos – Ink At Work
Are Tattoos ever OK at work?
I was HR Director at a large organization when I suddenly completely got caught by a curb ball thrown by one of my main stakeholders. “What is our HR policy on tattoos?” I had to take a two second pause before responding with a gigantic wobble. The truth was that we had none, nor did I want to suggest that we should introduce one. So I covered it with our dress code policy (one of those old ones that we in Human Resources only dust off when a person really wears clothes that are inexcusable and may damage the company image), but it did make me pause. Are employers nowadays really that more relaxed about (visible) tattoos? Or should you worry when you apply for a job or get invited for a summer boat trip with important clients where you may reveal your, slightly inappropriate, politically incorrect or innately sexual tattoo on a private (yet visible in your summer outfit) part of your body?
I read somewhere that 1 in 5 adults in the UK have a tattoo and it would be fair to say that having a tattoo is more accepted now that it used to be (it definitely will not automatically be linked to prison time or serving in the army). It is accepted as a personal statement, a fashionable body decoration or a good way to commemorate a special event in a persons life.
Your tattoo may be communicating your view on life, how you want to live it and what is of importance to you. But here lies the danger as well. When you share something that personal in the work environment it may easily be misunderstood (your visual representation of your “carpe diem in life” may be read completely different by that senior manager you try to impress). And while you go through the changes of the years, are you still sure about what you are trying to say? Have your feelings, experiences and consequential statements changed, while your tattoo is still the same?
Your professional image is your key commodity. It will open doors and it will slam some shut with a bang. Nothing wrong with the latter necessarily and why would you have to change who you are for just a job? Just be sure that it is for reasons that you (still) believe in and is worth making a statement for. If so, then by all means, wear your tattoo with as much pride as I will wear my new shiny watch. If not, invest in that long sleeve t-shirt and keep your private messages away from your manager, clients and colleagues.
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