Being that I chose to get my degree in English and pursue a career in writing, I inevitably signed myself up for several more years of retail hell in my post-graduate life. While working in the retail industry does pay my rent, coping with the constant rules and restrictions is still trying on the nerves of this free spirit. Even worse than the series of monotonous actions such as folding sweaters, bagging produce, and ringing up dairy is (dun, dun, dun) the dress code.
I completely understand the need for employees to look professional in the workplace, regardless of which industry. So, for 8 hours a day, I replace off-the-shoulder tops and retro dresses for collared shirts and straight-leg pants. While these wardrobe restrictions cause the artist within me to die a little bit each day, I can deal with it. I do, however, have a much harder time dealing with the limitations placed on tattoos and piercings. While I’m not on the extreme end of the spectrum, I have enough tattoos and piercings to attract annoying and unwanted scrutiny of my “superiors.”
I have 13 piercings and 3 tattoos, but what draws the most attention at work is my nose piercing, gauged ears, and wrist tattoo. My nose ring is a small diamond (OK, it’s CZ…) stud. Harmless. My ears are ½’” plugs. Hardly noticeable. The tattoo on my wrist says “Ohana.” That’s family in Hawaiian; cut a girl some slack!
I am a college graduate with a solid work background, but for some reason, employers believe that the mere exposure of my piercings or tattoos eradicates any of that. What I can’t seem to comprehend is what makes a person less competent when they pierce their nose or get a tattoo on their arm. In some extreme cases, I understand. If a potential job candidate shows up for an interview with a naked woman sprawled out on his forearm or a Swastika stamped on his forehead, I would personally come in and give him the red flag. That’s just dumb, regardless of how you display it.
While this is an extremely frustrating issue in the workplace, I believe that only time will change the stigma. Nothing can really change until the current generation of young, underpaid, but aspiring employees and entrepreneurs become the ones making the executive decisions. With the passing of each generation, people seem to become more and more open to self-expression and less consumed by conservative and modest presentation. Hopefully in the coming years employers can look past holes in the face and ink on the skin and see the actual potential and work-related credibility of an employee.
What are your thoughts on tattoos and piercings in the workplace and should employers have the right to set certain limitations?