Tattoos at Work

According to a recent Harris Poll, approximately three in 10 Americans have a tattoo, and many have more than one. Tattoos are especially prevalent among younger people, with nearly half of millennials reporting being inked. The poll also looked at the evolving attitudes about tattoos, concluding that more Americans are comfortable with visible tattoos on their bankers, doctors, and police officers as well as their kids’ caregiver, primary school teacher, and coach.

While employers are still free to establish policies regarding employees’ appearance, for some industries, the available workforce shrinks if only candidates free from visible tattoos are considered. Consider the following when developing hiring and appearance-management policies and practices:

  • Consumers, both male and female, still show a preference for front-line service staff who are not heavily tattooed, and those reactions are generational. Patrons over the age of 50 are more likely to be turned off by neck, face, or other non-traditional tattoo placement.
  • Generally, highly tattooed individuals are more accepted in non-consumer-facing jobs such as those associated with the arts.
  • The nature of the tattoo matters. A heart shape is more likely to be positively received in the workplace than a bloody skull, and political messages of any type are likely to create controversy.
  • Other appearance factors, such as grooming and attire, are powerful indicators of a job candidate’s or employee’s professionalism.

With the proliferation of tattoos, employers would be wise to keep their minds open and their policies flexible.