Tattoos in the workplace: the debate continues (still)

Today I saw an interesting article asking whether or not it’s ethical or right to disregard a candidate if they have a tattoo.

And it got me thinking, workplaces have progressed a lot over the last few decades, slowly accepting individuality, and, in some companies, even rewarding it.

For instance, American eatery, Zombie Burger, recently stuck up for their waitress, who was criticised by a customer for not looking ‘normal’ and didn’t leave a tip as a result. The waitress in question had visible piercings and bright pink hair, two things that previously she would have been scorned for. But, in fact, not only are the general public in support of her individuality but the company too (read more here). A sure sign we are getting somewhere with this debate on individuality and self-expression in the workplace, but clearly not far enough.

For many, tattoos are an expression of individuality, to celebrate a person or overcoming a difficult situation. For instance, the semi-colon tattoo people with depression sport, proud of overcoming a difficult point in their life and spurring them to continue their journey. To me, not only is that very creative but it’s deeply personal and emotive and, kind of beautiful.

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Yet rather than being seen as such, tattoos are marked down as a reflection of professional worth and regarded as a sign of bad character. But this doesn’t seem to be based on fact – did you know Winston Churchill’s mother had a tattoo on her hand? And many celebrities nowadays proudly show their tats.

In fact, tattoos have been on the rise in recent years, with 1 in 3 young people now having at least one being ‘inked’ is becoming quite normal. So slowly it seems, whether companies want to or not, they will have to start accepting tattoos in the workplace. With a skills shortage already on the rise we cannot afford to dismiss suitable candidates based on aesthetic values.

Moreover, this whole blog has been based, largely, on my personal opinion, and this is where the point really lies. It is my opinion, just as anyone that disagrees, that’s their opinion. But that is all this argument is, subjective opinions. Because, to date, there seems to be no study to claim otherwise. So, maybe, when it comes to the question “Is it ethical or right to disregard a candidate for having a tattoo” the answer is no, it isn’t. Personal opinions should be left outside of the interview room and candidates should be judged on their skills, not their skin.


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