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Are Tattoos too Taboo for the Workplace?

A tattoo is a personal, creative expression that is literally part of you. You wouldn’t show some of your body parts at work, should you show your body art? Take our poll and tell us what you think.

Some topics just scream controversy. Tattoos in the workplace appear to be one of them. Love them? Hate them? Have one (or more)? There are plenty of “yes” answers to each one of these questions. 

While researching for this article I heard time and time again that having a tattoo, more specifically having one or more that you cannot easily cover up, depends on what you do or what you intend to do for a living.

"Industries that prize individual expression/creativity…are likely much more accepting of body art vs. 'suit and tie' industries," said Samuella Becker, CEO & Founder of Tigress PR, NYC.

Many companies have policies regarding personal appearance. Tattoos would certainly fall under this category. Neil Persaud, Director of Human Resources for Arkadin - Asia Pacific, told me, "Although it does not indicate someone’s level of performance it does create some level of distraction. Some customers, internal and external people might find them offensive." Similarly, David Worthley, President of PC Tech Solutions in Yorktown said that if you've got any tattoos, you should be prepared to cover them up for an interview.      

John Finn, owner of Park Slope Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Brooklyn got his first tattoo when he was 16. More than 25 years later, he now sports 10. He said he has never had a problem in the workplace because he always completely covers his ink.

"My tattoos are for me, not for attention or for shock value," he said.    

My husband and I recently had the pleasure of hosting my 26-year-old daughter’s birthday party. That’s right 26 and there were cupcakes! Of the dozen or so party-goers gathered, half have tattoos. One of the non-inked, Cassie Barr of Yorktown, who is currently completing a Master's in social work, expressed concern about visible tattoos if an individual is working with children. She said she feels that some kids may be scared. Further, if they are impressionable teenagers they may think it is cool and get a tattoo without giving the consequences much thought. 

On the other side of the debate is Nicole DeMaria also of Yorktown. She works as a hair stylist extraordinaire at the Hair Wharf in Katonah. She has Tinkerbelle flying on her shoulder and a mermaid on her forearm as tattoos. She said she feels that a person should not be judged by a tattoo. 

"Having body art does not make someone unable to do their job," DeMaria said. While this may be true, she admits that there are some clients who take her to task for her tattoos. They ask questions such as, "What are you going to do on your wedding say?" Her response: "My tattoos will be visible; they are part of who I am."

I guess you’re wondering if I have any ink; yup I do, that’s my high heeled, tattooed foot in the picture. I can easily cover it up and do so when I feel the occasion warrants it. I’ll save the story behind it for a future article. I want to make sure you keep reading my column.

Lisa Stamatelos October 16, 2011 at 03:04 PM
Nummy - Great idea! It would really make recruiting so much easier.
Lisa Stamatelos October 21, 2011 at 04:15 PM
Tattooed Barbie! http://specials.msn.com/A-List/Lifestyle/Controversy-sparked-by-tattooed-Barbie.aspx?cp-documentid=31075775
TTowner October 21, 2011 at 04:41 PM
The first comment above says "but kids do stupid things". I wasn't a kid when I got my first tattoo, I was 27. And then I got my 2nd tattoo at 29. Both pieces are memorial tattoos for loved ones that I have lost. One is a sunflower for my aunt who passed away in March 2009 from cancer. Sunflowers were her favorite. The other is a fireman's helmet for my uncle who was killed in the line of duty last year. I felt it was the best way to express my love for them. Both pieces are on my ankle so they are visible at work during the summer months. Please note that I do work in a corporate office and not one person ever said to me that it was inappropriate and should be covered up. If Helen Mirren regrets getting a tattoo, then that's weight on her shoulders. But I will never regret paying tribute to my aunt and uncle with permanent body art. But according to the above, I guess I was "stupid" to get them and should have expressed myself differently.
ASleepyBoy October 21, 2011 at 05:48 PM
TTowner, couldn't agree with you more in so far as my tattoos also have very personal and, in my opinion, eternal significance. The comment "but kids do stupid things" should really be changed to "but people do stupid things" as I have seen a ton of tattoos on friends and strangers alike which have absolutely no significance or no longer have any significance. That being said, as long as they like them, who are we to judge? A
Lisa Stamatelos October 21, 2011 at 08:56 PM
TT - Mine has significance as well. As I mentioned at the end of my article I will share the story in a future column. Lisa

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