OPINION: Normalize tattoos in the workplace

Tattoos should be seen as form self-expression, rather than a tell of one’s personality especially in the workplace.



Professional in the workplace, and ridden in self-expression


As an avid lover of tattoos, I feel they are a visual form of individualism. Although tattoos are more accepted among the younger population, I feel a workplace environment should embrace the same acceptance. 

Although the popularity of tattoos is seeming to grow more recently, tattoos have been in the mainstream for many years.

“People have been getting tattoos for at least the last 5,000 years,” said Andrew Gillreath-Brown, WSU anthropology doctoral candidate.

He mentioned Otzi the Iceman, a mummified body of an individual who had 61 tattoos. Researchers believed tattoos were meant to relieve pain, placed on areas where arthritis (the swelling and tenderness of joints) was setting in, Gillreath-Brown said. 

“There are a lot of different reasons why people got tattoos, [one of them being] for status,” he said. “It was also used for marking major life transitions, such as transitioning into the adult world. It can also be used to mark group identity.” 

Gillreath-Brown said there is not a definite number of recorded cultures that practice tattooing, though many do. He believes tattoos are more than an image inked on a body in many cultures. 

“Even in ancient times, they had deep, symbolic meaning,” he said. 

In a work setting, it can be more difficult for people to display their ink. Gillreath-Brown said that the older generations tend to look down on younger generations for having tattoos, making it difficult to get a job.

“They associate you with a bad crowd, just because you have a tattoo,” he said.

Gillreath-Brown believes jumping to conclusions is unfair to potential applicants.

“I think, for the most part, getting to know people who have tattoos, a lot of those assumptions that you might be making about them go out the window,” he said. “It would make the work environment much more healthy.” 

Molly Baylor, former WSU student, told me about her experience with her tattoos in the workplace.

“I work at an insurance company for seniors, and I notice sometimes when they come in, they see that I’m young and have tattoos,” Baylor said. “They have a look of uncertainty on their face and then ask to talk to someone else.” 

Baylor said her tattoos are very significant to her.

“They are important to me because they express who I am, all of my tattoos, they have meaning behind them and they all have a story behind them,” she said. 

In regard to tattoos in the workplace, Baylor believes it does not determine your job performance.

“Tattoos don’t necessarily define who you are. As long as you are doing your job and doing it professionally, your tattoos should not have an effect on that,” she said. 

In her experience, Baylor said people getting tattoos is becoming more frequent and should be normalized. She said people make the assumption that you’re a bad person when you have tattoos, even when that isn’t the case.

“It’s starting to become more normal, it seems like in our generation, we are a lot more open-minded and accepting of it,” she said.

As a new wave of people are getting tattoos, that taboo feeling behind them is becoming more obsolete. With this, acceptance and normalization of tattooed individuals should become more commonplace, especially in the workplace.

So what are you waiting for? Go get a tattoo!