A new study in the Journal of Organizational Behavior has gotten a lot of ink lately.
Entitled “Do Employee Tattoos Leave a Mark on Customer Reactions to Products and Organizations?”, its first author is Enrica Ruggs, Ph.D., associate professor at the CT Bauer College of Business. from the University of Houston.
“We found that visible tattoos on employees do not negatively harm customer attitudes or purchasing behavior in some white-collar jobs,” Ruggs said. “Although customers had positive and negative stereotypes about tattooed employees, these stereotypes did not negatively influence their attitudes and behaviors toward tattooed employees. In fact, customers who stereotyped tattooed employees as artistic and creative were more likely to positively evaluate the tattooed employee and their organization.”
If you’re someone with a lot of tattoos and/or lots of piercings, or if you have a penchant for fashion and extreme hair (want to dye it hot pink?), here’s what you need to know.
The views are changing
You no longer need to cover your tattoos.
“There was a time when tattoos were much more stigmatized as a negative status symbol than what we see today,” Ruggs said. “Today, we see many more people in all types of jobs and industries, particularly in white collar jobs, who have tattoos that may be visible at some point at work. When combined with the rise of tattoos in general, I think people are more accepting of tattoos in work settings.”
The data agrees
According to LinkedIn research, 50% of working Americans say there are parts of their personal life and/or personality that they have stopped trying to hide or minimize at work since the pandemic began, and 16% of this group says this specifically about their tattoos
The professional networking platform also found that 63% of working Americans believe that, since the pandemic, managers and colleagues are more accepting of different ways of dressing, hairstyles, piercings, etc.
Ruggs cautioned that there is still a negative employer bias about maverick appearances, and it’s worth noting that nearly half of American workers surveyed reported that a manager or colleague said they were behaving in a way that was “unprofessional.” . Of this group, 13% say it was based on hair, skin, or tattoos, so we still have a long way to go.
Even so, it seems that general acceptance is increasing.
In late 2021, Jessica Hanzie Leonard of Cleveland was taking professional photos for a new position and asked her manager if it was okay for her to take a photo without her jacket showing off her arm tattoos for personal use on LinkedIn, but he emphasized that he would keep his jacket. in portraits for her company website. “Let’s roll with the tattoos on both! Loud and proud!” Her managing partner said.
“I had gotten used to wearing long sleeves in the summer heat, pulling my jacket sleeves up at every meeting, putting my hair around my ear so no one would see the little tattoo behind my ear, avoiding getting tattoos on the leg or ankle for fear of never being able to wear a skirt in a commercial setting again,” Leonard wrote of the experience. “So sometimes you meet those leaders who not only allow you to present yourself every day just the way you are, but also expect it. Those leaders who have recognized that whether I am in the jacket or not, I am the same person, the same business professional. . . a female leader who will surely be taken seriously.”
Don’t worry about job interviews
Ruggs’ recommendation for people with tattoos or many piercings is similar to the advice she would say to most people, “Highlight your knowledge, skills, abilities, and experiences that demonstrate that you are the right person for the job. These are the factors that should matter to employers,” she said.
However, it is a good idea to do some background research to get an idea of the organization’s culture. “If you’re getting signs that people don’t accept you because of your appearance, this may indicate broader issues that you want to avoid,” he added.
Carlota Zimmerman, a 14-year-old running coach based in the East Village, said that above all else, you should be confident in your appearance.
“What’s crucial about ‘extreme fashion’ is the confidence to pull it off,” he said. “If you’re going into an interview with purple hair and tattoos of Scrabble pieces on your shoulder, your clothes need to be on trend too. Own your look! Prove that you not only have a shaved side hairstyle with pink ombre bangs, but that underneath that great hair is a great mind, ambition, people skills and commitment to the company.”
Zimmerman, who has a Juris Doctorate, recalls a time when he was on a career guidance panel at the New York State Bar Association.
“I had short hair and blue bangs at the time,” he said. “No one person commented on my appearance and I actually left with a handful of clients. The more you own your looks, the more people in your office will say, ‘Yeah, Alissa did a great job on the Peterman account,’ not, ‘Who? Oh, the one with the purple hair? ”
Some companies have stricter policies.
You won’t be welcomed with open arms everywhere, whether it’s at a white shoe law firm or at Disney World.
If you’re eyeing a company with a tattoo policy, Zimmerman says you’ll have to block their social media or “grow your hair, hide your tattoos, and remove your piercings.”
If you do this, think for a second, Zimmerman explained. “Aren’t you removing some very special parts of yourself? Your tattoos, your hair color, and your piercings probably represent something special to you. This might be the time for you to really think about how your career goals and identity fit together. . . or not.”