Tattoos and Piercings: Do They Belong in the Workplace in 2017?


Brianna Noto, Staff Writer

Imagine yourself getting a tattoo that means a lot to you, one that you’ve waited a long time for, or a piercing that you have always thought looked cool. Sounds exciting, right? Now imagine yourself getting a phone call or an email from a company you interviewed for, and they explain that part of the reason that you didn’t get the job is because of your tattoos or small piercing. Imagine the sinking feeling because something that makes you happy, something that you loved about your appearance, cost you a job opportunity. Imagine the anger, the frustration, and sadness over being turned away because of a wrist tattoo that peeked through your sleeve or a tiny nose stud.

In marketing class, I was taught that visible tattoos and piercings will cost you a job if you interview without taking them out or covering them up. Tattoos and piercings are perceived as unprofessional and trashy if you have them in the workplace. For some reason, it’s burned in our brains that you can’t get a job if you get a tattoo or a visible piercing. That is an outdated rule, because tattoos and piercings are becoming more and more acceptable, especially by young people.

I created and disseminated a survey to ten people, 5 were working adults from the ages 30 to 50 and 5 that were ages 16-29. When asked what their opinion was on the body adornments in general, 80% said that they support them and want or have them. The other 20% said that they support them, but don’t want or have any. Either way, 100% said they support them in general. They were also asked whether or not they thought tattoos and piercings were unprofessional. 100% said that they don’t think they are unprofessional. Of course, these responses oppose the earlier statement and show people’s views on tattoos and piercings are improving. So, it makes no sense for them to be looked down upon in the workplace

One of the main reasons tattoos and piercings have a bad reputation is because people associate them with thugs, rebellion, or delinquency. On my survey, I asked why they chose to get their tattoo or piercing. One of the answers was,“My tattoos mean something to me,” and another was “I got them so I could express myself.” Most of the responses were along those lines. People use these body adornments

 to express themselves or engrave something important to them into their skin. Most people get tattoos and piercings simply because they like them. There’s no underlying rebellion, no element of misbehavior, just people decorating their bodies the way they want to.

Another reason that having a tattoo or piercing in the workplace is looked down upon is because they’re said to be distracting to both the co-workers and the person who has them. In my survey, I asked, “If you had ever worked with someone who had visible tattoos or piercings, would you describe them as 

an effective, productive worker?” Only 60% had actually worked with someone that had them, but they all answered yes. As for co-workers, 50% of employees get distracted while surfing the internet at work for 1 to 5 hours during the work day. Tattoos and piercings haven’t been listed as a factor of distraction in studies or polls. No one has wasted an entire day of work just staring at a tattoo sleeve or a nose ring.

The biggest reason that tattoos and piercings aren’t allowed in the workplace, is that companies are afraid of losing customers, and it isn’t the image they want for their company. According to STAPW, an organization that’s trying to stop discrimination against tattoos and piercings, over 40% of adults have tattoos and 60% have piercings. So, if customers hear that a company doesn’t  allow tattoos or piercings, it is likely to lose customers and potential workers.

Based on research,  tattoos and piercings cause no problems in the workplace, as long as they aren’t offensive or inappropriate. It’s the people who make a big deal about them that cause trouble. So workplaces should ease up on these body adornments and let their workers be themselves.