Project 4: Tattoos and Piercings in the Workplace

An Introduction:

For years tattoos and piercings were seen as recherché, obscure, a rarity in the workplace. Negative stigmas surrounding these forms of visual expression made acquiring a job more difficult, as often this type of visual expression became associated with a less than desirable potential employee. However, times are changing. As these unique forms of body art become more common, clear lines that once defined what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in the workplace have become blurred leaving employers with a predicament. Is the tattooed employee less desirable than the non-tattooed employee? Is it statistically justifiable to make assumptions and decisions based on visual appearance in the form of tattoos and piercings? Where do these negative stigmas surrounding tattoos even come from? Using ThingLink, among other tools, I’ve decided to dive into these topics in the hope of finding clearer answers to these contentious questions. Enjoy.

Let’s begin…

by taking a quick at the photo comparison below. By using the slider, analyze the difference between these two men. There’s something that makes these men stand out against each other (and no, it’s not their luscious hair and good looks).

Can you spot the main difference?

Yep, that’s it. The man on the left has a not-so-subtle neck tattoo where as the man on the right is tattoo-less. Essentially, I’ve refined my research into one main issue; is the man on the left less likely to be hired and/or keep his job? I’ve found that, generally, employers legally cannot reject/accept an applicant based on these forms of outward expression, but those with tattoos and piercings experience heavy negative stigma, and are often persuaded to accept more “blue-collar” jobs. These people are also more conscious of their appearance, and this can often negatively affect work performance. As you follow the two ThingLinks below, be mindful of the morality of the concepts discussed. Is it right that there is this negative stigma? Can it be changed? What can we do? For now, explore the images below. Keep in mind the first ThingLing discusses this issue from an employee (or potential employee) point of view, while the second one is from an employer or executive point of view. This is because this issue is so polarizing, as there is generally a divide between opinion on these two sides. The links mix sources that include third-person analysis and those that include first-hand accounts of this issue and the personal effects these individuals have experienced.

The Tattooed Employee

You’ll notice the main argument of the Employee is one of frustration with a heavy focus on ideals and morality. See how this contrasts with the pragmatic, fact/money based approach of the employer.

The Employer

To Conclude…

The moral argument of the employee clashes so fiercely with the pragmatic approach of the employer that it seems a true resolution to this issue is almost impossible. It reminds me of the debate of gay marriage; one side using morals and sentiments, and one side using religious ideology to support their opinion. The answer, to me, seems to be to adopt a more compassionate stance on tattoos in the workplace. Most importantly, we should strive to take the subjectivity out of this issue. What I mean is, there should be more specificity as to what is ok and what is not ok. Right now, the line is blurred, and this is leading to more disagreements and more issues in the workplace. By making this an objective issue, employees and potential employees would know what to expect when they get out of the tattoo shop when it comes to their careers. As many social scientists have noted, the stigma against tattoos seems to be going with time, but many employees don’t have time. As John Maynard Keynes said, “In the long run we are all dead”. If we as a country are truly going to boast the ideals of freedom and acceptance of all people, this issue of tattoos in the workplace must be evaluated further, as it can have serious repercussions not only for those with body art but for our country as a whole.

Uh Oh…Test Time!

You thought you were done didn’t you? Wrong. Take a look at this question below. Be careful, get it right and you pass, but get it wrong and you fail completely.

Put yourself in the eyes of an employer looking to hire a new employee. These two men walk in. What do you do?

A) Hire the tattooed man, as he will provide some excitement in your boring office space

B) Hire the tattoo-less, well dressed man, as he clearly knows what he’s doing

C) Attempt to put judgement based on physical appearance aside, evaluate these two men as individuals, look over resumés, conduct fair interviews, and ultimately make a decision based on who would be best for the company

Obviously, this is a joke, and while I hope you chose C, this is a serious issue, and the ability to put initial judgements aside is not as easy as this awful attempt at humor might make it seem.

I hope you enjoyed,

Ned Morrissett


Allred, Stephen. “Rejecting the Tattooed Applicant, Disciplining the Tattooed Employee: What Are the Risks?” Labor Law Journal 67.3 (2016): 475–83. Proquest. Web. 1 Nov. 2016

.Bishoff, Sarah. The Tell-tale Tatt: A Critical Discourse Analysis of How Tattoos ImpactImpression Formation during the Hiring Process. Diss. Gonzaga U, 2013. Ann Arbor:Proquest Dissertations, 2013. Print.

Ellis, Aimee Dars. “A Picture Is Worth One Thousand Words: Body Art in the Workplace.” Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal 27.2 (2014): 101–13. Web. 1 Nov. 2016.

Martin, Cayla R. “Why Would You Get That Done? Stigma Experiences of Women With Piercings and Tattoos.” Canadian Journal of Counseling and Psychotherapy 49.2(2015): 139–62. Proquest. Web. 1 Nov. 2016.

Weiland, Barbara. “Tattoos Get Mixed Reaction in the Workplace.” Lansing State Journal A.1(2004): n. pag. Proquest. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.

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