There used to be a negative stigma associated with tattoos, but that stigma is literally thousands of years old. Times change, people change, and tastes evolve.
The past few decades have seen some radical transformations in how we view our identities and how our personal lives relate to our professional lives. This includes things like tattoos and how they are viewed in the workplace.
Ink up and clock in — times are changing.
The Historical Taboo of the Tattoo
Tattoos were once used to mark criminals or identify members of violent gangs. They originated as a symbol that said something about a person that most people would consider bad. Not everyone got that message.
Many people just thought tattoos looked cool, including sailors who traveled the world. They collected little bits of art everywhere they went.
When they returned home, people in their home countries associated tattoos with the lifestyle of a sailor. That also didn’t help to bolster the reputation of tattoos.
Over time, the stigma became diluted. Eventually, most people with tattoos get them simply because they like them. Tattoo is now recognized nearly exclusively as an art form and not as a way to “brand” someone that society may deem to be less-than.
How Has Workplace Policy Handled Tattoos in the Past?
When people were still clutching their pearls at the sight of tattoos, most workplaces had a strict “no visible tattoos” policy. They were still associated with ne'er do wells, criminals, and rock stars during the atomic age of America.
Even many famous artists (including Dolly Parton, who has countless tattoos) chose to cover up their ink in public to avoid the stigma.
How Does Workplace Policy Handle Tattoos Now?
Workplace dynamics are changing. More and more executive roles are becoming occupied by millennials, and the millennial generation has always maintained a mostly favorable opinion of tattoos.
They’re just not that big of a deal anymore. About one-third of people have at least one tattoo, and nearly a quarter of people have at least two. The stigma has mostly worn off.
Workplace policy generally tends to favor taste. If something about your tattoo might upset people, they’re more likely to require you to keep it covered. If your tattoos are generally pleasing to the eye or otherwise inoffensive, workplaces aren’t likely to make a big fuss.
Tattoos are so common that it’s usually easy to accurately guess a workplace’s tattoo policy simply by walking through the door. If you see a couple of people with visible tattoos working there, that’s all you need to know about how the higher-ups regard body art.
If you have tattoos you aren’t proud of, we’re not here to judge you. A workplace might not feel comfortable with an employee who has a visible tattoo of a hate group they no longer believe in.
If that’s you, there are plenty of resources to help. You may have a local artist who can help you turn a new page.
Can You Have a Tattoo and Be a Professional?
As long as your tattoo isn’t “offensive” (graphic, vulgar, gory, or profane) and isn’t in an extremely conspicuous place (like on your face), most employers don’t care a whole lot. They really don’t care if your tattoo is in a place where they’ll never see it, like a part of your body that’s covered by your work shirt.
CEOs, founders of multi-million dollar companies, and even elected leaders of first-world countries have large tattoos. No one would argue that they haven’t reached professional status.
Still, It Doesn’t Hurt To Ask
If you’re applying for a job and have visible tattoos, check around online for information about the company’s tattoo policy. If your tattoos can easily be covered by the things you’ll wear to work every day, there’s no need to mention your tattoos during your job interview.
They’ll never see the lion on your shoulder or the shooting star on your foot, so there’s no reason to tell them. If you have tattoos that may be visible in your normal workwear and aren’t sure what your potential new workplace will think, ask upfront.
Tell them straight up if you’re willing to cover your tattoos. If you aren’t willing to cover them, it might not be the best workplace for you.
Are You Contemplating Getting a New Tattoo?
If you’ve been working at the same place for a long time, you probably have an idea of your workplace’s tattoo policy without having to ask. You’d likely be allowed the same freedom if your coworkers have visible tattoos. Ask around at work if you need some more info.
Caring for Your New Tattoo at Work
If your job involves washing your hands a lot or submerging them in water (a healthcare or hospitality job), getting a tattoo on your hands, wrists, or lower forearms is probably not a good idea.
You need to be able to keep them dry to help them heal. Consider how your job's demands may affect how your tattoo will heal, and think carefully about size and placement.
Your tattoo will need a lot of special care and attention for the first few days. It'll be a little easier if you have a couple of days off after you get your tattoo. If you’re still on the schedule, plan accordingly. You’ll need to be mindful of your tattoo’s needs during the workday.
Snag up our tattoo aftercare kit and bring it to work with you. You might need it during your lunch break or before you make the long drive home. Keep some CBD tattoo balm at work to protect your skin for at least a few weeks, even after your tattoo is mostly healed.
If You’re Good at Your Job, You Can Look How You Want to Look
Tattoos aren’t as much of a concern for employers as they used to be. Many employers use lenient tattoo policies as a selling point for their workplace.
Work-life balance is recognized as more important than ever, and your tattoos are a part of your life. If you can keep your ink tasteful, you’ll likely never have an issue finding a job with tattoos.