Does The Tattoo Stigma In Corporate America Still Exist?
For a long time, employees in America had to choose between their ink and their incorporation, and there was what I call a tattoo stigma. Managers might have held mental models of employees, especially professionals who had tattoos as being less capable than other employees and less apt to be able to solve problems. There was a time when I worked in corporate finance and financial planning for larger insurance firms and the stigma certainly existed, it was as if my investment advice was somehow less useful due to my tattoos but the reality of it was that people associated tattooing or being tattooed as almost a mark of non-conformation to expected practices and guidelines and as a set of principles held by the person with tattoos. I happened to be lucky enough to have clients that did not care as much as other bankers so long as their portfolio went up but among an older generation of people and managers, this was simply not the case. Make no mistake, age has nothing had nothing to do with it, it was environmental concerns such as whether something was socially appropriate at the time and what types of people historically received or made tattoos.
I believe that position is changing and more professionals are getting ink while still staying in the Inc., the stigma is lifting albeit slow but much faster than for many piercings. If you have seen me in person, you know as well as I do that one day you might meet me and I will have on a pair of doc martens, blue jeans and a white tee shirt fully sleeved with a septum ring for all to see, and the next day I might have on a three piece suit with the sleeves covered, my hair tightly groomed and my piercing flipped up. It really depends on where I am going. In no way am I suggesting that all employers are universal to the idea of their employees being fully sleeved as being acceptable but I am saying that a lot of firms are changing.
The Proof Is In The Pudding, How Is The Stigma Lifting?
I recently did a poll on a popular business networking website, linkedin and got really mixed results but better than I expected. About half the professionals said they would never get a tattoo nor did they have any and the other half said they did have them and were quite proud. People were less reticent to talk about the pricing of their ink but I believe that is because it is personal and hard to put a price on. I first realized this phenomenon when I walked by a military officer who had recently returned from combat and was fully sleeved. Now it is common that the Navy, Army and Airforce have allowed some tattoos but when I wanted to take an officer position fresh out of college it was not an option because too much skin was covered. It made sense though, after all, it could amount to having a literal target on your skin to some enemy combatants and that could spell the end of your military career with a carefully placed shot. However, I think that the nature of businesses, even the military, is changing in a big way to be more flexible to new ideas and not impose a restriction unless it is needed. Just look at a few recent leaderboard sections one of my favorite business magazines, Fast Company . Unlike Forbes or Fortune the magazine chronicles start ups and companies paving the way instead of beating a retreat from harsh market conditions. These kinds of companies are more agile and less prone to bulk and girth failure than others. They are lean and mean and have creative directors fully sleeved. So yes I think the stigma is lifting and part of the reason why is organizations like Fast Company that show the new start up and what it takes, a lot of time it is creativity.
So Executives Search For The Future Creative Potential Among The Tattooed?
It doesn’t seem that they actively look for tattooed employees, maybe it is part of the creativity that they bring to the table that allows for this phenomenon to happen or maybe it has to do with the virtual organization of companies that is paving the way. I have been complimented in interviews with Fortune 500 companies about my sleeves before and even asked questions. I run a few virtually distributed companies and work as a tattoo artist too, so a lot of my clients don’t see me and the ones that have don’t really care. Granted, a few weights tow in my favor, I am good at what I do in SEO and tattoos don’t have much to do with it and I understand every stakeholder has a different opinion about the matter and can adapt to those opinions without really taking it personally. I would not walk into a Catholic Church and say Hail Odin nor would I expect every person from every walk of life to understand my interest in tattoos or tattooing. I believe the stigma is lifting but the street has been paved on an understanding that it needs to go both ways.
Advice For Employees & Aspiring Managers
I won’t go as far as saying that tattoos are completely acceptable to everyone in the workplace but I think that fresh college grads and job seekers have a better chance of fitting their shirtsleeves for work to their regular sleeves at a company these days than maybe in the last 50 years. A lot of it is coming out of a movement I am part of, bringing art into tattoos and forgetting about the technical process long enough to explore something new. You are seeing a lot of tattoo artists with creative backgrounds these days and you are seeing a lot of creative executives and even finance folks especially people in silicon valley sleeved out head to toe. Maybe it says we are agile, maybe it means that the stigma is lifted, and maybe it is an excuse for me to get more ink. Whatever the reason, I like it and I hope the trend continues. Back to my principles, I have a company meeting to go to and have to make sure my tattoos look their best.
Dr. Nick Prieve