April 3, 2001 9:52 AM   Subscribe did a survey regarding tatoos and piercings in the workplace. Half of the managers responding to's survey on body modification in the workplace said they were less likely to hire someone with visible tattoos or body piercings.
posted by radio_mookie (13 comments total)
You know what? This says, means, and proves nothing. It's just a bunch of meaningless blather. The HR managers and execs who hire us get the say, and if they're set in their ways, that's it. The idea of a "professional look" pisses me off sometimes, but that's the way it is, and no Internet survey is going to change it. I used to work in a call center for a propane supply company - I never saw customers, or even anyone besides my fellow service reps. But I had to wear a tie every day, and couldn't wear my earrings, because the president said that was "professional attire".

I've always hated this meaningless gap in the world of the employed, and I always will. Here's a quote from one of the "employers":

Tattoos may affect what clients perceive a company as, so I think it's better to conceal them from clients while at work, for the company's sake. But I think it's cool for programmers, designers, or administrators to sport their tats around the office, as long as it doesn't affect sales or performance.

Oh, right. The artsy guys, it's expected of them, so it's okay. But that mailboy down the hall, or that accountant in that cubicle, or that secretary who only answers phones all day, no way, they don't get to express themselves at all. Shove them into the corporate box right now!
posted by starvingartist at 10:24 AM on April 3, 2001

Okay, I may get bashed for this, but here goes.
If I hire someone to work with the general public, then I am hiring someone to represent my company. And the general public sometimes gets a bit frightened by a guy with a spear through his nose and a swastika on his neck. And I am so sorry, but I am not here to provide a place for someone to display their statement to the world, no matter how "wonderful and beautiful" it may be to them. If they have a problem with it, they can go start their own company and hire all the pierced-cheek tattooed-eyeball "artists" they want.
Call me old fashioned, I don't know....I have no problem with tattoos or piercings, in general. I have a few myself. But at work, when 90 percent of the people coming through the door are over 50, I don't see a place for it. Cover it up, or get a job somewhere else.
posted by bradth27 at 10:37 AM on April 3, 2001

So the policy is no spears through the nose or swastika tatoos then? Or are your clients scared of butterflies too?
posted by rodii at 10:46 AM on April 3, 2001

The people that come in a business, I am sorry to say, are not the wonderful accepting folks we all want them to be. And when you live in a small town, your image can make or break you.
In a perfect world, we could all walk around nude, proudly displaying our tattoos and piercings to the world, and no one would care, because we all love each other and everyone is rich and skinny.
In this world, alas, tis not so.
Butterflies are fine. in most cases.
posted by bradth27 at 10:57 AM on April 3, 2001

I'm gonna go out right now and get a tattoo across my neck in old english letters: UNEMPLOYABLE
posted by sinphonic at 11:00 AM on April 3, 2001

Dress codes are curious things, for sure. My Bride works at a bank and when she was managaing a branch she had to tell one of her very attractive and sexy tellers that her dress, though interesting, was a bit on the unprofessional side--it sure was. Nice though. But a bank is a bank and they want to project a conservative image to let customers knows they are cautious, conservative, and thus reliable.
The opposite: my brohter-in-law is creative director at an ad agency. It is almost mandatory that people in the "creative" end of the biz dress as wild,offbeat, crazy folks to let the others know they are "creative," artists and thus distinct from the business people at the agency.
the moral? go figure. most of our conventions are just that. Conventions.
posted by Postroad at 11:02 AM on April 3, 2001

> ...less likely to hire someone with visible tattoos or
> body piercings.

Lucky me, all I've got is a green Mohawk. I'm in!

> The artsy guys, it's expected of them, so it's okay. But
> that mailboy down the hall, or that accountant in that
> cubicle, or that secretary who only answers phones all
> day, no way, they don't get to express themselves at all.
> Shove them into the corporate box right now!

The point, I think, is that they're being paid to be predictable, because the hiring managers want to know what they're getting. You artsy dudes, you can wear that charcoal three-piece and white button-down on your own time. While you're on the company clock we expect you to look like a freak...
posted by jfuller at 11:15 AM on April 3, 2001

Lets keep things in perspective here. A tattoo does not make you a weird person. Ditto that for piercing. It is where you put them that sometimes raise eyebrows.

That being said let's also bring up the fact that many people go on first impressions. So, the guy with the spear through his nose faces a big challenge to win over peoples opinions that have already been tainted by their first impressions. That can be hard, and given the predisposition of some people it may prove impossible.
posted by a3matrix at 11:43 AM on April 3, 2001

The day I quit my well-paid but soul sucking sales job in a large corporation was the day I got my eyebrow done. I thought it looked cool, and I knew it would keep me out of the corporate world I had been in, and help push me in a more creative direction in hirers' eyes. Dress for the job you want, as they say... The barbell is gone (fell out) but it served its purpose well.
posted by mimi at 11:51 AM on April 3, 2001

Unless I missed it somewhere in the forest of links, this survey contains very little practical information. What industries are represented? What departments? What geographic locations? These factors have a great deal to do with attitudes about unconventional appearances - a survey so general is useless for making concrete career decisions.

At my last job, the president was a little disappointed at not having enough weird-looking employees to show off to visiting investors. He had this fantasy of what a Silicon Valley software startup looked like and wanted his company to have the same feel. I suspect a pierced nose would have been an advantage with him.

posted by Mars Saxman at 1:19 PM on April 3, 2001

This is true, I can see the point. But then again, if I drop my kid off at day care, the last thing I want to see is some mohawk wearing pierced cheek girl with fresh brandings on her shoulders and a tattoo on her forehead that states "Keep on Truckin and Fu#@in.". I don't know, but something just bothers me with that scenario......
posted by bradth27 at 1:31 PM on April 3, 2001

Its simply a pragmatic decision of a hiring manager based on her/his perception of the prevailing attitudes amongst a company's clientelle and existing employees.

Commercially, 'professional' dress simply makes sense. Its a probabilities game. 'Unconventional' appearance may be perfectly OK with some clients or other employees, but there's generally no way of knowing until you meet them. So companies, quite sensibly, expect employees to play safe with their clients.

If someone doesn't like the convention where they are, they should do a different job, where there's more room to present themselves how they want or live with it. So there.
posted by normy at 1:50 PM on April 3, 2001

Heh. At my last job interview, the recruiter specifically advised me to remove all my earrings and my lip ring. The rationale was that the previous candidate they'd put forward for the job had had earrings, and was rejected on the grounds that they were 'unprofessional'. So I remove all my facial jewellery. At the time, I had 8mm holes in my earlobes (I've stretched them more since). Removing this jewellery meant that although I didn't have earrings in, I did have very visible holes in my ears. Still, they wanted me to do it... ;)
I got the job. The previous candidate was 'unprofessional' not because of his earrings, but because he came across as a flake. And even though my manager's explicit position on tattoos/piercings is that they're mutilation (her phrase), she didn't give a stuff how I looked. I wasn't hired for my looks, I was hired for my abilities.
That said, I do agree that looking 'professional' can be important. That's one reason why I haven't had my forearms tattooed yet. While my current workplace doesn't care how I look, future employers might not be so forgiving.4
posted by jackelder at 3:34 AM on April 4, 2001

« Older Adobe redesigns...   |   Post Office May End Saturday Delivery... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments