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Tattoos In The Workplace: Are They Still an Issue?

As society evolves, culture changes, and views shift, so do the stigmas surrounding tattoos. Will your body art hurt your chances at employment? Will a hiring manager judge you based on your ink? While some firms have strict dress codes, it's not uncommon for many companies to have tattoo policies that outline and set standards in the workplace. The human resources department often explains this in a job interview which can speak to a company culture. Throughout this process, a respondent may find if the firm is flexible, accepts casual attire, and what the staffing is like. 

It’s not uncommon to hear, or have the perception, that having visible tattoos is not acceptable in the workplace and may hinder job opportunities. However, is this true? Are most companies tattoo-friendly now? What do your colleagues really think about your tattoos? Are employers becoming more flexible? We will explore tattoos in the workplace while taking a close look at one of our Mad Rabbit customers' experiences: Doctor Shubhra Roy, in the medical field, as a physician with an entire sleeve of tattoos. 

Tattoos in the workplace have often been frowned upon in certain professional arenas. This can be seen in the traditional corporate environment, healthcare space / medical professionals, and law. But why is this the case? And are things changing for the better? While employment laws helps to eliminate workplace discrimination based on appearance, many new jobs outline hiring decisions based on candidates criteria and skillset, not their tattoos. 

For those with an appreciation for the art of tattooing, coworkers with tattoos is a plus! Firms with tattooed employees are quite common and contribute to an expressive work environment. The detail, endurance, and stamina it takes to acquire a tattoo can be admired and creates a close bond amongst colleagues. Having tattoos, and being part of a group of individuals that admire and respect the art is often a point of commonality.

The general attitude around tattoos in the workplace may in fact be shifting. Many millennials are very accepting of tattoos in the workplace, as they often reflect a form of self-expression. This does not apply to only tattoos in the workplace and also encompasses a variety of hair colors and body piercings as equally acceptable. Of course, not all workplaces accept visible tattoos as professional or acceptable, however, recent polling may suggest that around 30% of firms now have little to no issue with visible tattoos in the workplace. This coincides with colored hair and piercings. While such progress is admirable, there are still many stigmas surrounding tattooed individuals. While a first impression is made over only a few seconds, some industries believe their employees with tattoos will be less respected or even judged for their ink. Tattoos may signify to some a mark of rebellion, danger, or association with crime. Depending on the location of the tattoo, increased judgement may arise. Moreover, certain industries have been slow to adapt, such as corporate jobs or those in the medical profession. 

We wanted to hear from you, our customer, about your experience with tattoos in the workplace. Dr. Shubhra Roy, general practitioner in the United Kingdom, shared his personal experience with tattoos in the workplace. Dr. Roy was born and raised in East London, with his parents originally from Bangladesh. His parents worked very hard and that work ethic stuck with him. Although he was never obliged to pursue a certain profession or career path, the example set forth by his parents made him all the more eager to pursue medicine and put his education to work. He wanted to prove and show to his parents that their hard work paid off. This determination and grit lead him to pursue a career in the medical profession. 

As one can imagine, the medical profession is quite grueling. With years of course work, medical school, and subsequently residency, it’s no small task to obtain a medical degree. So what does it mean to be a professional in the workplace? And what does this perception mean in terms of a lived reality? Dr. Roy is not your average doctor. He has an entire sleeve of tattoos on one arm, and a half sleeve on the other arm. His first tattoo was acquired at 19 years of age. 

“I was on a trip to India and decided spontaneously I wanted to get something small on my forearm and subsequently got a traditional freehand of an ancient Sanskrit prayer. This remains one of my favourites due to its deep spiritual significance, but also that added beauty of a unique crafted freehand.”

Dr. Roy’s love for tattoos started relatively early in life, and as he career progressed, he graduated from medical school in 2013. The challenge to conquer and overcome the process of becoming a healthcare professional intrigued Roy. From an early age he looked towards this challenge as a unique opportunity that would be fulfilling with the prospect of contributing to the wellbeing of others. When asked to reflect on the stigma surrounding tattoos in the workplace, and specifically in the medical profession, Dr. Roy could easily relate. 

“The stigma I think relates in part to what is considered professional in the workplace. Many, including myself have grown up with the stereotyped view of the external presentation of a doctor. In fact, a typical, often media propelled image of a family doctor would be the old greying middle class male with a suit and dusty office! Throughout my training as a doctor, I have had a fair share of rebukes from senior clinicians who felt it is unprofessional to have tattoos on display and it supposedly dilutes the pristine doctor image.”

As society gradually shifts and embraces the art of tattooing, Dr. Ray can easily relate to such appreciation for the art. 

“Thankfully as an independent practitioner working in a small progressive practice, I am yet to experience any negative feedback.”

Although progress is being made, the stigma still remains current. There are few doctors that openly show their tattoos in the workplace, and even fewer that have entire tattooed limbs. 

“I have been reliably informed by friends, patients and colleagues that they are yet to see another doctor like me who has tattoo sleeves and piercings! I am happy to be a small example of demonstrating and breaking any misconceptions that equates professionalism and the ability to perform at work to be in any way influenced by a personal choice of having tattoos, especially when on display. I have known the reverse to be true, as a lot of my patients can relate to me and are disarmed straightway knowing I am just a “normal” person who wants to help them.”

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