Here in Ottawa, there’s a lot of talk these days about tattoos in the workplace. The Ottawa Convention Centre has locked out three employees who refuse to cover up their full sleeve tats (you can read about it here: http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/convention-centre-workers-say-they-were-locked-out-for-showing-tattoos). I’ve had a few people ask me my opinion on the issue, and I think my response has surprised many of them.
I have a lot of tattoos. My right arm has an eagle’s head and wing that stretches from my shoulder to my wrist. My left arm is covered in warriors from different eras. Over my heart is a tattoo that represents my daughters. I plan on getting more ink in the future (BTW, if you live in Ottawa and want great work done, you need to see Monty Holladay - https://www.facebook.com/montyholladaytattoo).
I find my support leaning towards the Convention Centre in this situation. I quickly admit that I don’t know all the facts and can only go by what I’ve read in the paper, but it would seem like the Convention Centre had a clear policy regarding tattoos being covered and the employees in question agreed to that policy when taking the job. On that basis alone, I would have to side with the Convention Centre.
Having said that, I do think society’s view of tattoos has changed. These days, everyone and anyone seems to have a tattoo – or want a tattoo. There’s really nothing rebellious about them. Tattoos are (rightfully) seen as body art. Permanent. Body. Art. Very few people would view someone as less professional because they have a tattoo. At least not tattoos on someone’s arm, leg, or back. I’m not sure the average person is quite ready to embrace facial tattoos at the board table.
Still, the Convention Centre, like any business, has the right to decide if they want their employees to cover up. It bothers me when people argue that they have a right to show off their tattoos and that they are being discriminated against because of their ink. I cry “bullshit!” to that argument. I made the choice to get inked. I did it knowing that not everyone in society would embrace my tats. If someone makes a judgment about me based on my tats, I can’t cry “Unfair!!“. I accept it. Their loss.
To be honest, most of the time I forget all about my ink. In the same way most people don’t suddenly look down at their hand and think, “Wow, that’s right! I have fingers!!” I rarely notice my ink. It’s simply a part of me. These days, I usually only think about my ink when I’m about to meet a potential new client. If I’m meeting a business owner for the first time, I’ll usually wear a long sleeve shirt. Not because I’m ashamed of my ink, but because I want to limit any barriers that might keep me from the opportunity to work with that business owner. If they become a client, I have no issue with showing up at a meeting with my ink showing. Once I’ve started working with a client, my tattoos are a non-issue. All they care about is whether I can help them further their business. And, I’m damn good at that. If you’re a business owner, check out my post over at Breakthrough Coach on workplace policies and how they relate to tattoos.
What do you think? What’s your “line”? Are tattoos okay in the workplace? What about neck and face tattoos? What about piercings?