Tattoos in the Workplace

June 11, 2014 — 1 Comment

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: I’ve had a few people ask me my opinion on the issue, and I think my response has surprised many of them. TATTOO 0719 RMB 24585

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 –

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?

ist2_2727787-i-don-t-knowAbout ten years ago, I was standing in front of a room full of bikers during one our the early Bikers Church services. We would have a Q&A time after the “sermon”, and someone said, “There are times when I doubt the existence of God. I feel so guilty that I do. How can you be so confident that God exists?”

I stood there for a moment, contemplating his question. Finally, I answered, “I don’t know. To be honest, there are times when I wonder if God really exists too. I guess that’s why they call it faith.

Some of my leaders were bothered with my response. I had a couple of them come to me afterward and suggest that my answer wasn’t the best approach. That even if I didn’t know, people were expecting me to have a better answer than simply saying, I don’t know. They felt that the Pastor should know how someone can confidently believe that God exists.

However, for the person asking the question, my response lifted a weight of guilt from their shoulders. After all, if the pastor has doubts, then perhaps they shouldn’t be so hard on themselves when they doubted. Maybe doubt wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

This isn’t a post about faith or doubt. It certainly isn’t a post about God’s existence (so please don’t fill the comment section with proof that God is real).

I’m convinced that the most powerful words you can offer someone are I don’t know. Yes, there are some challengers for the three most powerful words. Some would suggest that the three most powerful words are:

  • I love you.
  • I am sorry.
  • You are accepted.
  • I want beer.

All of those can be very powerful when spoken in the right context. Perhaps in a later post, I might even argue why one of those statements is more powerful than I don’t know.

But not today.

1395033982931Today, I am overwhelmed with how many people think they know … everything. We are surrounded by those who hold strong beliefs on a wide range of topics. Whether we’re talking about politics, sexuality, religion, women’s rights, teenage killers in California, kidnapped school girls, Ukraine, or whatever 15 second bite leads tonight’s news. Ask someone what they think, and most will gladly give you their opinion.

Ask them how much they’ve read up on whatever subject they are giving their opinion on, and most will stutter before admitting that they have done limited research on the topic.

I don’t know.

When you think about it, those three words can be so freeing. Suddenly, you don’t need to impress others. You don’t need to worry about getting into an argument. You don’t need to have to sound intellectual. You can simply be … honest.

I’m not suggesting that we should strive for ignorance. But what if, when asked about something we really haven’t taken the time to learn about, we admitted to people that we didn’t have the answer. What if when acknowledging we don’t know, we also commit to finding out. What if we responded, I don’t know. What do you think?

I’m a big fan of learning. I am always reading books, browsing blogs, and trying to learn more. However, far too often, I devote my time to learning more about things I already know a lot about. I want to become more curious about things I don’t know anything about.

I think I’ll do that. I think I’ll pick one subject a month that I have no knowledge in and try to learn about it. I have a feeling I’ll never run out of potential subjects!

What about you? Pick a topic that you know nothing about and commit to learning something about it over the next month. Share the topic in the comments section.

I don’t know where it will lead us.


Looking Over Death Valley

Looking Over Death Valley

I wonder how long it would take for someone to find my dead body.”

The thought came to me while I was sitting on a rock in the middle of Death Valley, California. It was the Fall of 2008 and I was two weeks into a solo motorcycle trip across the U.S. I had already experienced the sun setting over the Grand Canyon and riding through the Mojave Desert (which I did in the middle of the afternoon, something only a stupid Canadian would consider doing). I had enjoyed travelling up the Pacific Coast Highway before spending a few days in San Francisco. Now, I was kicking back in Death Valley, taking in some of the most spectacular views I have ever imagined. I was on my way to Las Vegas for a bike show. But for the next hour, I was completely alone, lost in the vastness of this incredible valley.

It had been twenty minutes since I pulled over to be in the moment. Not one other person had come by during that time. And that’s when the dead body thought crossed my mind. It wasn’t meant to be morbid, it was simply a realization of just how alone I was in that moment. It was just me and Death Valley. I came to a lot of decisions during that trip. I was forced to be honest with myself and the direction of my life. That’s what happens when you sit alone on a rock in the middle of Death Valley. You’re forced to measure yourself against the raw beauty of nature. Death Valley, like the Mojave Desert and the Grand Canyon, refuses to pretend to be anything but what it truly is. And in its realness it is simply glorious.

I didn’t want to leave that place. But, Death Valley isn’t concerned with what I want. As beautiful as it is in the middle of a late September afternoon, Death Valley can be incredibly cruel after the sun sets. The warmth can turn very cold. And that’s not good when you’re riding helmet-less helmet-less on an old Dyna Wide Glide with no windshield.

So, I climbed back on my Harley and left the Valley behind.

I could see Vegas long before I arrived. Or at least, the glow of Vegas. It lit up the sky and became brighter and brighter the closer I got. I pulled into the city amid the noise, the music, the crowds and the lights … so many damn lights. As I walked through the lobby of my hotel, I could hear slot machines calling people to play with they jubilant sounds of fun. Everyone was smiling, drinking, and partying. I was the most important person in the world as I checked in. It was as if the hotel staff had been waiting for me and were so excited that I was finally there.

After unloading my stuff, I took a walk down the main street. At every corner, a flyer was thrust in my direction, inviting me to party all night with a beautiful woman of my choosing. Others invited me to go into their casino with the promise of free food and plenty of drinks. It was all a little overwhelming after Death Valley.

Fremont Street

Fremont Street

People love Vegas because they can be anyone they want to be. The atmosphere is designed to allow you to hide from yourself. That’s why what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. You don’t go to Vegas to face who you are. You go there to get away from who you are.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved my time in Vegas. But it wasn’t for all the noise and phoniness. It was because of the people I met. The Arizona Crew that I spent my time in Vegas with have become life long friends. No, they’re more than friends … they family. I’ll never forget sitting on the curb with Fiery Pink & Jase or drinking Jack and learning to play Craps with Smooth. Vegas gave me permission to put aside all the deep realizations I had come to while sitting alone on a rock in Death Valley. In Vegas, life was good because everyone is good and you should just pretend the bad doesn’t exist. If you are feeling lost or empty, just grab another drink, toast whomever is standing beside you, and roll the dice one more time.

I left Vegas and headed down through New Mexico. The rawness of nature called me back to reality and I’m so glad it did. It took me a lot of years to finally take action on what happened on that trip, but I did finally become true to myself.

Most people would rather stay in Vegas. They want to feel good, be told that there’s nothing wrong, and just hide away in the midst of the sounds and lights. Why look inward when everyone is having so much fun? And yet inner peace … and ultimately true freedom, isn’t found in Vegas. It’s found when we are finally willing to be real. I couldn’t hide in Death Valley. The stillness and solitude screamed out at me to be as real as my surroundings. And, I’m so thankful for it.

Are you in Death Valley or Vegas?

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