Tattooed Workplace Culture

By | December 27, 2013

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What a wild and wonderful world that exists today. Technology in just a few short years has changed the way we work, live, and socialize. A decade ago tattoos and body piercings were thought to be social statements made only by bikers, gangs, and people serving in the military. These days all kinds of people are sporting body art in all kinds of places on their body.

Demographics of Tattoo Wearers

Men, women, professionals, entry-level jobs, you name it and someone in that category probably has one or more tattoos. According to research reported by, the following ages groups have at least one tattoo:

  • 36% of persons aged 18 to 29
  • 24% of persons 30 to 40 years old
  • 15% of persons 41 to 51 years old

The Plain Dealer reported in January 2011 in their Tat Chat section on a Cleveland area female ordained minister who has five tattoos. While tattoos or body art has gained more social acceptance, many employers still have dress codes requiring the tats to be covered.

No Tattoos Please

The issue of displaying tattoos in the workplace seems to be divided. reported that there are many industries that continue to require tattoo wearers to cover up the tats if they are above the shirt or dress collar or on the wrist. Industries such as banks or law firms may not be as flexible as clothing stores or some hospitals.

Four-star hotels generally don’t allow their concierges to have large tattoos visible. But, hotels may be OK with the kitchen staff showing their tattoos.

Welcoming Diversity

Workplaces have long been welcoming a more diverse group of people working together. Five different generations, people from all over the world, and larger percentages of women can be found in all types of companies and organizations. Why would tattoos be considered too taboo or too diverse to be welcomed?

There are also reports that the tattoo issue gets even more complicated when human resource professionals see them on men versus women. reports that reactions to men wearing tattoos are most often less severe than when they see a tattoo on a woman applicant.

Tattoos Make a Statement

Some tattoos are true works of art while others are just lewd statements. If a person is willing to ink their skin for life with a particular statement or picture, it does say something about that person’s personality.

Someone who gets a tattoo that says ‘Roses are the worst’ will probably never get a job as a florist. Putting a tattoo of a childhood dog across one’s back certainly makes a statement about the person’s ability to let go.

Tattoos are making an entirely different statement in the workplace. Should employees be allowed to show their tats in the office, or not? If yes, what does that say about the workplace? If no, what does that say about the workplace? It seems as if everything carries a message these days.


  •, “How many people have tattoos?” April 9, 2011
  • The Plain Dealer, “The Tattoos That Bind,” January, 31, 2011
  •, “Tattoos in the Workplace: What’s an Employer to Do?” Barrie Gross

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