I Ink, Therefore I am: Redefining Professionalism in the Workplace

For years, the status quo has been that tattoos, piercings and fashion color hair dye are not appropriate in the workplace. However, this logic has been increasingly challenged with time. The debate as to whether or not these characteristics are professional is heating up now more than ever.

In arguing against tattoos, piercings and unnatural hair colors, issues of professionalism and customers’ behavior are prominent factors. The Huffington Post found that employers might not employ an applicant that has tattoos as they believe customers may not find them acceptable. Because of this mindset, those with body modifications find themselves having to cover their tattoos, take out their piercings, change their hair color or struggle to find a job that will hire them as they are. Even after being hired, there is still a risk of being fired for these features and not being protected from it by any laws or legal action.

In fact, organizations, like Supporting Tattoos and Piercings at Work, have sprung up in response to employees being fired because of their personal choices about their appearance.

“Our friend was let go from her job as a manager at a business right after the holidays. She was let go for having tattoos, piercings and plugs. She had been hired with her piercings, tattoos and stretched ears, but over the course of several months on 2 separate occasions, 2 customers had complained. We realized her boss didn’t have any problems with her body modifications, but he was scared that he was losing business as a result. Often a small group of complainers will vocalize their disapproval, while 100’s of content customers never voice approval. So, we decided to get the other 100’s to voice their approval,” their website explains.

Groups like these are imperative to bringing awareness to the rights of people who are looking for work with these features. They strive to encourage companies to change their practices in hiring, assist those who have faced discrimination due to their piercings and work with other charities. Their mission is to create an environment where applicants have a fair chance of being hired without their appearance being a negative factor and employers can truly make decisions based on merit rather than subjective standards.

“We don’t support employers hiring tattooed and pierced staff, we support employers hiring the most qualified candidate for the job,” their mission statement states.

With time and support from these efforts, there may eventually come a time where tattoos, piercings and fashion hair colors are accepted in the workplace as exemplified by younger generations expressing their approval of them. Though there is no policy or clear-cut research on whether these features are fit for the workplace, there is plenty of movement towards finding a common ground.




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