Tattoos And The Workplace

Published on 3 May 2016 . 4 min read

She walked into the meeting sporting a bunch of stars on her hand. At first I wondered whether she had simply drawn something on her skin out of boredom. Much later did I realize that the stars were permanently inked on her skin!

Tattoos are not an uncommon trend. In the past, tattoos (were usually) made to identify people of particular tribes. In the urban culture though, tattoos are (usually) purely created for sake of fashion.

Young people, middle aged people and somehow some older people too seem to sport some or the other permanent design on their bodies these days.

But when it comes to the workplace, does the presence of a tattoo make or break your overall image?

Says a senior copywriter at RK Swamy (one of the oldest advertising agencies in the country); it really depends on the kind of industry you belong to. It is widely accepted as a trend in the creative line, showbiz, fashion industry, etc. But maybe, it won’t be such a good idea to a sport a tattoo (that can be seen) if you work as a lawyer in court!

This sentiment is echoed by a young female architect in Mumbai. “In my profession, business is serious and a tattoo can give the impression that you are not!”.

Pooja Dalal, a business executive with a leading hotel chain says that in a profession where presentation is taken as top priority, tattoos and piercings are often not allowed. “Many colleagues do have some sort of design inked on their skin – but as long as it’s not seen, its fine,” she says.

Certain professions are pretty strict when it comes to tattoos. In the Indian army; officers and men are told not to have tattoos. However, a lot of them do, they just hide it from their superiors!

A young college student who is soon going to start her first job says that she wouldn’t mind showing her tattoo off. It’s part of who I am. If the company I work for doesn’t like it, it doesn’t matter – they should assess me by the work I do, not anything else.

But I’m not sure I would agree with her here. Would you?

A colleague told me to imagine this:

Say you are interviewing people; say a candidate walks in with multiple ear piercings and a tattoo. And behind her / him is a formally dressed candidate. Who would you be inclined to pick?

I thought about it for a minute and realized – it is indeed important to first assess the candidates profile before choosing them on the basis of appearance. Why? Should either one be hired (say it’s the one with tattoos); we can always tell them to follow a certain dress code at the workplace; whereby the tattoos are hidden, if required.

What would make more sense?
Well, we all need to draw the line between professional and personal commitments. If you belong to an industry that doesn’t allow tattoos and piercings, hide them if you have them! There is no point being a rebel and showing them off.

Is it right for companies to set rules though?
When it comes to body art, I would say no. What would you say? An employee is meant to work in the office for a number of hours per day. What he or she does outside of work or what he or she chooses to sport on his or her skin shouldn’t be the concern of the employer. So in this regard, I would say that it doesn’t make sense to set rules when it comes to employees choosing to have tattoos and piercings.

Rules can be set regards a particular dress code, yes. But it wouldn’t be fair to tell people “they can’t have them!”

What would you say about tattoos and the workplace?

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Paroma Sen
Paroma Sen is a professional content and creative writer.

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