Over the last decade or so, body art has gained more acceptance as a form of personal expression—akin to clothing, jewelry, or hairstyle. Workplace attitudes toward body art have slowly shifted.
Certain trades—especially arts and media—value individuality, especially in creative roles. Visible tattoos and body piercings are common and acceptable. However, consulting, law, management, recruitment, and other “traditional” trades are likely to find body art less compliant with the industry norms. Having a tattoo can even be seen as unprofessional and defiant—even intimidating.
You have the right to express yourself as long as you are respecting the company’s norms
For some conservative people, visible art suggests that you may have a problem with authority. One study showed that tattooed people are perceived to be less honest, motivated, and intelligent.
At some workplaces, your insistence on leaving large earrings and nose piercings on or dressing in short sleeves that reveal your tattoos signals to that employer that you don’t care about norms. You may be judged as a willful person insistent on exerting your individuality rather than fit in and belong.
Your appearance and behavior are expected to reflect your workplace’s values and culture, particularly in customers’ presence.
Employers are free to impose dress codes and grooming guidelines. Discrimination law does apply to matters related to age, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, nationality, and religion—but not your sense of fashion.
Idea for Impact: Offensiveness is subjective, and everyone draws their lines differently
Don’t put yourself at a disadvantage. Consider the micro-cultural stereotypes concerning body art.
Seek a happy medium between personal style and dressing for work. Cover up and limit the number of visible piercings.
If you’re starting a new job and aren’t sure how body art will be perceived, consider a pilot. Instead of going “all in,” test the waters by displaying a little body art and see what sort of response you get.
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