top of page

Tattoo Taboos and Professionalism in the Workplace

Commentary: Times are changing- so should attitudes towards tattoos.

By Amy Guethlein

Anyone who has tattoos has likely heard this phrase as a consequence from their parents: "Now, no one is going to hire you!"

A common misconception among older generations seems to be that tattoos are career mistakes. And while this may have been true as recently as the last decade, it’s an outdated narrative evolving as tattoos have become more mainstream. In fact, studies show that not only do tattoos do not affect an individual being hired, "tattooed individuals are also just as likely, and in some instances even more likely, to gain employment."

Our generation has been encouraged to find ourselves during our college years, and for some of us, that includes dying our hair and getting tattoos. However, it’s also the time where we’re told we need to get a job. Here lies a bit of a dilemma: do we express ourselves as who we are or, do we present ourselves based on our future career?

There is still a stigma against tattoos, with lingering biases even as tattoos increase in popularity. According to a study done in 2019, 44% of Americans have at least one tattoo. With young people joining the workforce, norms are starting to change, and stigmas are being redefined.

It was a common perspective that tattoos were seen as rebellious, irresponsible, and deviant. This belief stands in stark contrast to modern attitudes, where many people see tattoos as a form of creativity and self-expression. However, a significant number of people maintain more conservative attitudes today.

Tattoos should not contribute to hiring decisions in today’s modern work environment. The number of people with tattoos is increasing, and embracing self-expression will encourage an accepting atmosphere for both the employees and the customers. Besides, if companies are restricted to only hiring people without tattoos, it could deprive them of more appropriate candidates.

According to a survey conducted by Accountemps, one out of three hiring managers did not find any issues with visible tattoos, and even more acceptable than visible political endorsements. Over half of the managers who participated said the workplace has become more relaxed due to looser societal standards, and the other half claims the wave of new young professionals aided in the shift.

Even the Walt Disney Company has updated its policies on cast members having visible tattoos. In April of 2021,