Monday, December 03, 2007

Tattoo Taboos?

Over the past year, I'm been surprised by the number of questions from workshop attendees on how to deal with employees who have tattoos.

Let's set aside the legal issues for now and just consider management concerns. In your organization, would any of the following bar a person from a public contact job?

  1. A tattooed design, image or word on the face or neck?

  2. A tattooed design or image on the hands?

  3. A tattoo on an arm or leg area that may easily be covered?

  4. A tattoo with a controversial image related to sex, politics, or religion?

  5. A visible tattoo, such as a prison or gang tattoo, that seems menacing?


Eclecticity said...

I'd hire her! D.

Michael Wade said...


I don't think I'll analyze that selection decision.

Eclecticity said...

We're both better off for that!

Anonymous said...

I don't manage (or hire) anyone at the moment - but I used to, so here are my answers to your questions:

1) No bar in general. Facial tattoos can be of cultural or religious importance to certain ethnic groups and I have hired someone with a neck tattoo who was "front-facing" as the lingo went in the organization.

2) No bar in general. Never faced this issue personally but can't imagine it would bother me as a general rule.

3) No bar in general. Have frequently done this (probably more than I know about).

4) Depends - define "controversial". If I had a major issue with the given tattoo I would explain the problem and ask the person how they would deal with it. I would allow the use of cover-up makeup or bandages if the person wanted the job and was an otherwise suitable candidate.

5) Depends - define "menacing". See the answer to question 4.

In the past, I have hired people with all colors and styles of hair, facial piercings and a tongue piercing. My only issue was to keep everything clean and hygienic.

I honestly don't recall ever having a problem with any of the people that I used to supervise who had tattoos or piercings.

Michael Wade said...


I think I agree with all of your points. I've never had a problem with tattooed employees or with people with piercings and tend to use the benchmark of whether any appearance issue affects job performance. [It is a given that the law must be obeyed.]

By "menacing" I meant something along the lines of "Murder" or "Killer" tattooed on the knuckles. [I've seen tattoos like those.] In some cases, covering up will resolve the problem. In others, the person's career chances may be enhanced by removal of the tattoo. The potential impact depends, of course, upon the job and the industry.