This is a paper I wrote for my writing class last semester. Since this subject pertains to many of my friends, I thought I would share with you! Feel free to comment and share :)
Tattoos in the Workplace
Written by Kathleen Eastland
12 December 2011
Tattoos are accepted in many cultures, they date back to early Egyptian times, mummies have been found with markings to bring them into the afterlife safely. The oldest known tattoos were found on a mummified body found in the Alps in 1991. It was found to be over 5,000 years old. Throughout history, tattoos have been symbols for religion, affiliation, social status and self-expression. According to a survey, 24 percent of Americans ages 18 to 50 have at least one tattoo. A person no longer has to be military, an ex-con, or be part of a circus sideshow to join this ongoing trend. Among the tattooed include college students, kindergarten teachers, graphic designers, baristas, even doctors. Tattoos in the workplace do not affect ones working abilities, they bring diversity to the workplace and bring more creativity to the employees who get to express their individuality. Employers should open their minds to the distinction of many young talented prospective employees.
There are many reasons why people get tattoos, self-expression is definitely the biggest reason. Many people like to express their individuality by wearing eclectic jewelry or clothing, some like to collect their art on their walls, but approximately 45 million Americans choose to display their favorite artwork on their skin. Many ink coinsures use their body as a canvas for great artwork. Some people say that getting a tattoo makes them feel liberated. No one wants to look like someone else, they do it to stand out of the crowd, some do it for cosmetic enhancement or therapeutic reasons. Many use tattoos to mark a specific time in their lives, like an accomplishment, or to remember certain people that they want cherish and honor forever. Many women who have lived through cancer have used tattoos to cover up their mastectomy scar. Tattoos not only bring happiness but sometimes relieve tension due to insecurities.
Tattoos have been the trademark for many different faces throughout the decades. During World War II, mostly military personnel were sporting the colorful ink. Sailors would get tattoos at every port they docked, they used tattoos almost like personal postcards, reminding them of everywhere they went. After the war, in the 50’s, tattoos were associated with motorcycle gangs, punk hoodlums and juvenile delinquents. In 1961, tattoo parlors on Coney Island inNew York Citywere being shut down due to an outbreak of hepatitis. Few tattoo shops had sterilization machines and fewer used them. The newspapers were reporting stories of blood poisoning, hepatitis, and other diseases. In the 70’s, tattoos were liberating, the flower children were sporting hearts, flowers, birds, and peace signs. Throughout the 70’s and 80’s, rock stars such as The Rolling Stones and Motley Crue got tattoos in rebellion to the ‘norm.’ They did it to stand out. In the 90’s tattoos emerged into pop culture. Young men and women were jumping on the bandwagon. Because of the negatives of tattoos being associated with the ‘rebellious’ and diseased, employers look down upon anyone with them. After being around for over 4,000 years, tattooing is now considered a fine art. “Serious artists are joining the ranks of tattooers and their designs are being exhibited in museums and featured in expensive coffee table books; fine-art tattooers are, furthermore, leading an effort to improve the image of tattooing. Fine art tattoos appeal to an affluent, well-educated clientele…” (John Berendt, Esquire Magazine, Aug. 1989, p. 32.)
The first reason tattoos should be acceptable in the workplace is because it does not affect ones physical or mental capabilities. Having ink on ones skin does not affect how they work. It is merely there as decoration. If it makes the employee feel better about themselves then how does it affect their responsibilities at work? The only thing someone’s tattoos could affect is the person’s wallet and that someone else doesn’t like the way it looks. If it isn’t on their body then it shouldn’t affect them. Tattoos have no effect of someone’s learning abilities or on how they are to carry out a task.
Tattoos have not been proven to affect anyone’s mental well-being. Tattoos and other body modifications in the past two decades have become a part of dress code regulations in employee guideline handbooks. They are deemed unprofessional in the workplace. There is no proof anywhere that a tattoo visible or not has effected the mental capacity of an employee. Tattoos cannot affect the quality of customer service received by a patron.
Having a visible tattoo cannot hinder ones physical capabilities. Having a tattoo does not affect what time you wake up or what time you get into work. Tattoos are flush with the skin. They are less dangerous than wearing a piece of jewelry such as a necklace or ring that could possibly get caught in a piece of machinery that could cause serious damage. The Japanese believed that their tattoos brought them protection in the course of their daily occupation. Among many cultures including the Japanese and Iroquois tribes ofNorth America, used tattoos as a symbol of social status.
Not only do tattoos not get in the way of ones working abilities, they bring diversity to the environment. “There is evidence that managing a diverse work force can contribute to increased staff retention and productivity.” (Human Resource at UC Berkeley) Having a diverse workforce can increase the organization’s ability to be accustomed to change, and can increase the responsiveness of the vast array of customers and fellow co-workers. Diversity can expand the creativity of an organization. Diversity refers to the harmony of employees from the distinctive socio-cultural backgrounds within the association. Diversity includes cultural factors such as race, gender, age, color, physical ability, ethnicity and not limited to religion, sexual orientation, values, ethnic culture, education, language, lifestyle, beliefs, physical appearance, or economic status. Having a variety of perspectives, experiences, and attitudes at the table can broaden prospective solutions in the workplace.
One reason why diversity is important in the workplace is because the world is now part of an economy that is in constant competition coming from almost every continent. Because of this, organizations need to be open to change and the creativity that diversity brings. Many companies in today’s global marketplace are outreaching to the individuals with different backgrounds. They are placing value on these individuals that could potentially have valued skills in the workplace that they can contribute to the establishment. Companies that support a variety of lifestyles attract a variety of applicants with possibly a larger amount of contributions. A diversity friendly workplace can boost team spirit and also give employees a sense of investment in the company. If current closed-minded companies opened up to the idea of a more cultural environment, it could increase work performance and customer service.
Neglecting to include diversity in the workplace can have many repercussions. Many of the ‘diverse individuals’ are more likely to leave a job for a more supportive work environment. These individuals who remain in the workplace with the persistent culture clash sometimes show low morale and limited productivity. When the other mainstream employees show ignorance towards the distinguishable, it creates tension and causes on-going conflicts. The inability to recruit the best candidate for a job because of markings on the skin could be a very negative image left on that specific marketplace. An attorney at CDHK Devon Reese says “Given the labor shortage, it’s important to look toward diversity.” The concept of diversity, including others that might not usually be a part of a union, extends to individual attitudes and behaviors.
Another reason why tattoos should be acceptable in the workplace is because when people get to express their individuality, more creativity is brought to the table. Individuality being the particular character, or aggregate of qualities that distinguishes one person from others; such as ones tattoos. Tattoos have evolved into a whole subculture in today’s society. Having this oddity resurface in the workplace, like they were acceptable in the Egyptian times, brings the role of subculture in an agile organization. In the tattoo subculture, creativity is the central value.
Tattoos are one of many ways that individuality can shine through in someone’s personality. Individuality is ones self-expression in which more creativity is proven to be produced. Having different subcultures in an organization can provide a variety of responses in which in unitary culture may limit.
Creativity is very important to have in the workplace. Creativity brings unique resolutions to the marketplace by keeping the employees minds active. Providing a place for creativity to flourish is a way to coordinate with the members of the dominant culture to implement new ideas. The creativity of this dynamic subculture brings innovation to the workplace. Productivity increases dramatically when people of all cultures combine their talents towards one specific goal.
Tattoos are visually stimulating and bring joy to the collectors, but there are many employers who choose to not accept this body modification in the work environment for a few reasons. Businessmen do not see the permanent skin art to be professional, especially the older generation. The new trend of the younger generation expressing their ipseity in such permanent particularity has made many potential employers look down upon them. When selling a product to the public, the employers want to put their best face forward. You only get one chance to make a first impression. So to be safe, employers will use their employees with no visible tattoos to make a deal. Aforementioned above, tattoos are sometimes symbols for the owners’ religious status or affiliation to a group or club. Though a great candidate for the job of doing business with customers, a visible religious symbol of say a pentagram or a former gang affiliation on the hands or face could be very intimidating to prospective clients. It is understandable that employers do not want a salesman interacting with the customers to have a swastika or other lewd symbol visible.
Employers go both ways on whether or not they should allow tattoos in the workplace. Sixty percent of employers believe that body modification is not right at work. Employers would like the prospective clients to focus on their product and not the tattoos on their employees’ skin. Some companies believe that if an employee is not directly working with the public, say working in the headquarters sitting on the phone all day, then it should be alright for them to have visible tattoos. It is said that “Unless one is part of the creative industry, such as entertainment, music or the arts, tattoos trigger negative first impressions and erode confidence in the abilities of the individual.” For individuals in their 20s and 30s see tattoos are merely a fashion accessory, whereas colleagues or bosses 40 and over may think otherwise.
Very successful people in today’s society have tattoos, from lawyers and doctors, to business owners and professionals, many people with tattoos are very generous. Having a tattoo doesn’t automatically mean that one is an anarchist against the government or a criminal on drugs. People with tattoos have good work ethics and contribute to the public in many ways. Many tattoo shops even donate to charities. Black Line Studio of Canada, in the month of November, offer 50 dollar Mustache tattoos and 10% of the cost of the tattoos will go to the Prostate Cancer Canada Research Center. This shop and many others do this for the month of ‘Movember.’ Also many shops during the month of December collect toys for the ‘Toys for Tots’ charity and give discounts for anyone willing to donate for the cause.
In conclusion, tattoos in the workplace do not affect ones working abilities, they bring diversity to the workplace and bring more creativity to the employees who get to express their individuality. Employers should open their minds to the distinction of many young talented prospective employees. Tattoos often commemorate important events, or represent the memory of a loved one. They can represent tradition or independence. Employees should not be scrutinized for their self-expression, because in turn it could benefit the marketplace. With tattooing on the rise, the only way it would someday be acceptable is when the generation of today replaces the generation of yesterday that currently upholds the rules and regulations of the business world. ‘In fact, recruiters say, body art is destined to become commonplace in the boardrooms of the future — and employers had better get used to it if they don’t want to lose out on talented employees.’ (blog.thecreativecoast.org) People can view change as a threat or an opportunity.
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