What Should Your Policy Be on Tattoos and Piercings?

When your grandparents first entered the workforce, many companies had bans on tattoos and significant restrictions on piercings. The prohibitions were common and not something hiring professionals had to think much about.

At the time, tattoos were mainly for sailors and bikers, and piercings anywhere but a woman’s earlobes might only come up when casting a pirate movie. But culture has evolved since the days when memaw and papaw scored their first internships.

Now, tattoos and piercings are common in people of all ages and walks of life. In fact, it would be difficult to find a workplace where no one had a visible tattoo, or sported what had once been considered an unusual piercing. Declaring an all-out ban would shut the door on a lot of quality talent.

However, companies have the right to enforce a particular work culture, one expressed in part through dress codes and other restrictions on appearance. How to conceive those rules in the tattoo age?

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you craft your policy:

Don’t Get Personal

You need to remember your personal feelings on tattoos and piercings have no role in the decision making. You can’t let “get off my lawn” thinking take over or turn your company’s hiring policy into an extension of your individual fashion sense.

Market-Focused Solutions

If you can’t rely on your personal judgment, what metric should you use? Well, you run a business, so a key component to your policy should come from simple dollars and cents. Keep the market in mind.

There are two markets at play. You need to make your customers feel comfortable with the employees they interact with. Meanwhile, you want access to the best talent you can get.

Consider Industry Standards

When you set a dress code, keep industry expectations in mind. What does the competition do and what do customers (and potential employees) expect?

Run a Wall Street hedge fund, blouses and pencil skirts or $3,000 suits might represent de rigueur. Run a skateboard design company, knitted caps and shorts might define the uniform.

The same calculus should apply to your tattoo and piercing policy. Neck tattoo on your investment banker? Maybe not. On your skateboard designer? Sure, they’ll fit right in.

Customer-Focused Positions vs. Internal Positions

One market you had in mind centered on customer expectations. Not all positions interact with the public. Those employees that have significant contact with clients might require stricter considerations compared with positions focused on the back office.

Meanwhile, the placement of the tattoo or piercing can matter in these calculations. Images on the arms or legs can be covered up, if you feel that’s necessary for customer-focused work. That becomes more difficult with images inked onto the neck, face or hands.

The Message, Not the Medium

The fact that someone has a tattoo should have no bearing on their prospects as an employee. However, the type of tattoo and the way it is presented might enter into your consideration.

After all, there’s a qualitative difference between having a cute butterfly tattooed on an ankle, and having a confederate flag tattooed on a forehead. So, when writing a policy, don’t declare blanket bans; leave yourself some room to deal with individual situations that might come up.

When making any policy, maximizing the level of talent you can attract should weigh heavily in your deliberations. Without the best employees, it’s impossible to achieve your business goals.

SmartTalent can help you find the talent you need. A leader in the staffing industry, SmartTalent has the reach and experience to bring you the top-flight workers that will bring you to the next level. Contact us today to find out more.

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