They can be seen on the backs and arms of the rich and famous. They can be seen on criminals, sailors, bikeys and the teenager down the street. They can be seen on the catwalks of exclusive luxury brands, Chanel, Rodarte and Jean Paul Gautier. They may even be on you! But who will you show them to?
What are they? They are tattoos!
Sported by celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Megan Fox and David Beckham and seen strutting down the runway of famous fashion houses, tattoos have heavily hit the mainstream. With tattoos at such a high popularity, even companies have taken advantage of the craze by using people as walking billboards to strengthen and promote their brand.
But, while the fashion houses have opted for temporary tattoos, many people are lining up at the local tattoo parlor to permanently engrave a personal statement onto their skin.
So what does this all mean for the conservative corporate environment. What do you do when your highest quality job candidate has tattoos running all the way up his or her arm? With Gen Y entering the job market and the soon to follow, Gen Z, the chances of coming across a tattoo bearing candidate is abundant. Can employers really afford to ban tattoos and turn away young talent? The answer is no. Interestingly though, tattooing was prohibited in New York City as recently as 1997.
Indeed many workplaces have recognised this tattoo trend and have started to incorporate clear sections within their dress code policies to address this and to protect their corporate image.
As an employer, it is important to recognise and celebrate the diversity of your people and employees, but to also maintain a credible, professional corporate image for the company to clients and to the general public. For the organisation to communicate a consistent message across, employers need to ensure that their employees understand the image and perception that the company wants to project and that this image is reflected in the way that their team presents themselves.
The modern interpretation of tattoos is that they are a means of creative expression and individuality. Some individuals even have tattoos of lost loved ones or of family and hence broaching the topic of a tattoo ban can be a highly sensitive matter. In some cultures, tattoos bear religious significance and are believed to ward off bad luck and evil spirits, hence serving as an amulet of protection. With the myriad of different reasons an individual may have for getting their tattoos, employers should establish clear policies and dress codes to avoid misunderstanding and legal repercussions, as well as to be more open minded and sensitive when dealing with employees on the topic of tattoos.
On the other hand, tattoos have been associated with negative connotations for decades. While tattoos may seem cool, it’s understandable that your boss may not take too well to you flashing the skull and cross-bones on your arm to all the company clients in the next business meeting. So if you would like to get a tattoo, think carefully about what you are getting done and consider the size and placement of your tattoo and the implications it could have on your current and future career. It goes without saying that if you intend to work in a highly conservative corporate environment, you are more than likely going to be required to cover the tattoo if it’s in a visible area of your body. For those who are unaware of the boundaries, don’t have any work done above the collar line and nothing past the wrist.
And perhaps consider that having a tattoo is not like buying a necklace or a shirt. Sure you can always buy a new tattoo but you can’t just take it off and change it like you can a necklace or shirt. It is permanent. And whatever you wear from that point onwards may have to be chosen to align with your tattoo, depending on how large the tattoo is and what it conveys. So to those considering getting a tattoo simply because you think it looks ‘cool’, think long and hard and then think again. If do you get a tattoo, consider something that has meaning and significance to you and consider whether it aligns with your future goals and career.