Body Art in the Office

Dear DW,
I’m hiring a midlevel manager, and my top candidate is a woman with tattoos on one arm. I’m worried how this may come across to customers and higher-level executives. Am I justified in not hiring her, even if she is otherwise perfect for the job?
Unsure in Tattoo Land

Dear Tattoo Land,
While the degree to which body art is acceptable at work depends on the office environment, today’s companies are becoming more accepting of visible tattoos.

Steve Langerud, a workplace culture consultant and executive coach in Iowa, says tattoos were a big concern in offices more than 10 years ago, but with so many young workers who already have ink and are starting their careers (a Pew Research Center report found that 40 percent of adults who are between 18 and 29 have tattoos), policies have since relaxed.

“I do, though, see concern for tattoos in the workplace that are on a person’s face, or any tattoo that includes vulgar language or drug references,” Langerud notes.

Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Texas, says employers shouldn’t rule out a prospective employee based on his or her tattoo, “as they would be limiting their options of immensely talented and creative applicants.”

Bottom line: A candidate’s skill set and ability to meld with your company culture is more important than any piece of body art. As Langerud suggests, if it really bothers you, just ask her to cover it up while at work.

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