How do you feel about being sent a take-away by a delivery boy with his mother’s name inked down his arm? Would you feel differently if it were a waiter in a Michelin star restaurant? I am of the party that argues it shouldn’t matter in the slightest. Not to say I don’t have the embedded social stigmas that most of us do, however I do believe that by opening up the workplace to tattoos then we can remove this stigma entirely from our mindset.
As with everything there are certain exceptions, I would agree that it may be inappropriate for someone in the position of say, an undertaker, to have his arms brandished with Grim Reaper tattoos. As much as that would work perhaps for a dark comedy sketch, the further upsetting of the bereaved is probably best avoided in this situation. However, I would argue that there is no harm in the CEO of a company expressing a passion for her favourite flower through the medium of a tattoo. So clearly it is almost impossible to create any standard legal regulations on tattoos in the workplace as there are notable exceptions. Yet I do still believe companies should make a conscious effort to be more inclusive in their appearance policies.
Tattoos no longer reflect the badass biker or the ex-convict who got inked in prison. Rather they are an expression of art, individuality and creativity, much like fashion. Conversely if we are to look at tattoos as similar to expressionism through fashion, do companies who restrict tattooed employees have a point? Companies often have a uniform policy or dress code which restricts fashion expressionism to give a communal company image. Then surely if employers can restrict clothing then they may restrict tattoo exposure as it doesn’t adhere to their collective company image.
Alternatively, this argument makes it clear that tattoos are the only form of expressionism an employee can achieve, and it may well be in the best interests of companies to allow this one expression. The 90 000 member strong Facebook group, “Tattoo acceptence in the workplace” claims, “Our goal is to take away the stigma attached to people who have tattoos in the workplace.” While I have overlooked the groups’ apparent acceptance of the misspelling of the word “acceptance”, I do agree with their generally ethos. One of the group members claims to feel pressure to cover their ink at work, even though cover-up isn’t part of their company policy. Thus, I would argue that companies should learn from this; anyone who feels comfortable in their own skin through individual expressionism is bound to achieve more in a working environment than one who feels outcast and pressured to cover up.
Naturally I understand that the stigma towards tattoos cannot solely be alleviated by companies. However it can make a big difference. If a client or a customer see’s a tattooed person performing their job perfectly well regardless of their ink, than surely this is healthy as it removes helps to remove their preconceptions. This removal of preconceived judgements on tattoos is surely healthy for society as it may transfer to removal of all appearance-based pre-conceptions such as that of race.
Considering image-based restrictions, one company who has failed to enter the twenty-first century would be namely that of Disney. Shockingly, workers at their parks have been banned from having any form of facial hair since the park opened in the 1950’s. It is only since 2000 that workers have been permitted a trim moustache, while goatees, sideburns and beards still not permitted. This restriction not only suggests that Disney thinks workers would look better sporting Captain Hook style facial hair, rather Captain Jack Sparrow styles, it also fails to comply with the all-tolerating attitude which Disney attempts to promote, Failing to expose the public and particularly children to any kind of alternative image is a failure on Disney’s part as it maintains overly conservative fifties attitudes.
These image restrictions need to be avoided for companies claiming to be part of a modern accepting society and a start can be made through loosening the limitations on tattoo exposure in the workplace. Note how I managed to produce this whole article without a small anchor inked on my ankle weighing down my ability in any way.