I'm curious to hear what you all think about tattoos in the professional workplace; whether they should be shown or hidden and if their presence can affect the long term career of the wearer. With many workplaces adopting a more casual dress code, short sleeves are now common in the office and tattoos that were formerly hidden away by long sleeve dress shirts are now exposed by polo shirts with the company logo. Do you raise an eyebrow when you find that one of your coworkers (peer or DR) has tattoos and do you wish they were covered when on company business or do you find them a conversation piece or even that no one cares and it's a non- issue?

Has the attitude regarding tattoos in a professional workplace changed in the last 25 years? Have they become more acceptable than in years past? Are they veiwed as poor judgement? Does this differ between genders?


SuzanneB's picture

I work in the corporate headquarters of a Fortune 200 company.  Our company policy is that, when possible, tattoos must be covered. People do this by wearing long sleeves, using bandages or make-up.

For me, I don't mind tattoos (though I don't have any myself) but I do find that I think they look less than professional - especially those that are in very visible places (neck, hands) and would advise younger folks entering the work force to be cautious with where they choose to put them.

When I see tattoos that are small, inconspicious and not in-your-face it doesn't phase me but I still wouldn't recommend it in a conservative company.  And yes, we are a business casual workplace, so there are plenty of short sleeves around.

The one time I have been VERY turned off by a persons tattoos was a candidate who came in wearing a button down shirt with the sleeves rolled up so that her extensive collection of arm & hand tattoos were visible and she wore every piercing she had on her face (there were multiple).  It wouldn't have cost her the job if she were qualified (she wasn't). What bothered me was that at the end she asked about the policy on tattoos/piercings and then proceeded to inform me that she made sure to make as much of her "body art" visible for the interview so we would know what we were getting.  Um,... okay.  It was just awkward. In my opinion, it showed a lack of awareness for professional behavior - which is to say, there's a time and a place for any outfit. And a job interview is not the time or place for such a display.

All that said, I'm sure there are other workplaces that are less conservative were tattoos and other body modifications are perfectly the norm.

timrutter's picture

"What bothered me was that at the end she asked about the policy on tattoos/piercings and then proceeded to inform me that she made sure to make as much of her "body art" visible for the interview so we would know what we were getting"

Oh bless them, the candidates that believe they're interviewing you!


Nil Desperandum Experto Crede

duplicate_account_MarkAus's picture

Yes, I believe tats have become more common with a new generation coming up.  I also believe that these things are cyclical - the generation behind them will likely not have as many, because who wants to be like your parents!    I'm the camp that isn't bothered by tats, but they're not for me.

Having said that, I think companies have a perfect right to demand they be covered.  Every company has a dress code - either informally or formally - and there's no discrimination in enforcing a universal dress code.   You don't even need to mention the tattoo issue to have a dress code that simply says "long sleeve shirts required".

Certainly for customer facing employees, a grooming and appearance policy restricting visible tattoos is more than reasonable.   You're not paid to express yourself, and you can reasonably be expected to put the company's needs first while at work.    We already modify our verbal communication style at work, I see your appearance is part of your interpersonal communication skills.

Do tattoos still hinder your advancement at work?  I don't know.  But I also don't know any CEOs who have tattoos like Mike Tyson.





Manderthal's picture

 Thank you for your contributions to this thread.

I admit to being a bit old fashioned on the subject. A hazard of working in a conservative (engineering) industry for the last 25+ years I guess. While I certainly can understand covering them during an interview (suits still have long sleeves right?) my curiosity was more to do with existing tattoos (assumed) gotten before the employee was in the industry, perhaps military or college and now forever decorating their forearms. I'm speculating on the timeline - its irrelevant.

So since I am admittedly old fashioned and conservative I ask here how visible tattoos are generally perceived in the current workplace, while out on business trips, lunches, golf outings etc.

This stems from a conversation I had where I left feeling a bit out of touch with current trends and I want to verify just what is normal and accepted now. We will not change unless we're made aware that it's time to change.