Where my inked people at? Holler at me!
I said, holler at me!
Oh. Sorry. I can’t hear you guys hollering at me over all my aunts and uncles going, “You’re going to regret that” and “You’re never gonna get a job with that” and “You know it’s permanent, right?”.
Surely, at some point in time, we’ve all entertained the thought of getting a tattoo. Maybe a super-meaningful quote on our ribcage, maybe a skull on our arm, or maybe even a full-back oriental piece!
Tattoos are—let’s face it—cool!
So, why does my brother feel the need to wear long sleeves when he goes out? Why does my mother wear a jacket when she plays mahjong with my grandma? Why did I feel the need to cover up my arm when I began my stint with Gametize?
It’s because tattoos are—unfortunately—a social stigma.
There’s an entire list of negative stereotypes about tattoos, and it just goes on, and on and on. In my experience, the one that gets thrown in my face most is, “tattooed people can’t get employment!”
Well, I am currently in a nice air-conditioned office, with a 10:30am – 7:30pm job!
Before I began my journey with Gametize, I was asked (by an authoritative figure from school) to cover up my arm tattoo. Jackets and sweaters are comfortable, so, besides the mild irritation at having to cover up something I love so dearly, I obliged with no protests.
As our team was walking under the sun to some place for lunch one day, Shan Shan tugged on my jacket and asked me, “Don’t you feel warm?”
I was sweating buckets and getting increasingly cranky, which meant that I was blunt and honest. “I was told to cover up my tattoo because it’s ‘unprofessional’.”
“Just take it off,” Shan Shan said, tugging on my jacket again.
So I did.
And I’ve not yet been fired. Take that, aunts and uncles!
Of course, I recognise that companies allowing tattoos are few and far between, and that I am lucky that my colleagues do not mind, and that they do not see me in a different light simply because I am tattooed.
However, that isn’t the same for all companies. So my hovering relatives are, to a certain extent, right when they say I may face difficulties securing a job in the future. In fact, surveys have shown that visible tattoos are one of the top physical attributes (31%) that limits career potential.
Do I disagree with that? You bet I do.
Am I thinking this through carefully? I think I am.
Am I also talking about the corporate business world? Most definitely.
Employers, here are some reasons why you shouldn’t hesitate to hire somebody just because of their tattoos:
As far spread as stereotypes are, we know that they’re not true for everyone. If stereotypes were anything to go on, that would mean all Asians are geniuses, all women can’t drive, and guys can’t talk about anything besides football and sex.
Obviously, that isn’t the case, just like how not all tattooed people are gangsters, aggressive, or uneducated.
The most tattoos can tell you about a person is that they thought getting a beautiful (and/or meaningful) design inked into their skin was well worth their time, money, and the pain endured.
But tattoos do not tell you how well a person works with other people, whether or not a person can follow orders, or how focused the person can be… These are the important things you need to know about a person before hiring them, and you won’t discover these things if you turn the person away at the mere sight of ink peeking out from underneath their shirt sleeves.
Got a formal business meeting to attend? A seminar to speak at? An event to promote your company?
Here’s some good news: We human beings have created this thing called long sleeves.
Pull on a sweater, shrug on a blazer…boom! Unless someone’s mastered the art of x-ray vision (tattoos would be the least of our worries then, I believe), the person’s tattoos are now non-existent!
How about facial tattoos, you ask? Or hand tattoos, or neck tattoos? They can’t be covered up with long sleeves.
Previously, they might have posed a challenge, and you’d need a specific kind of red lipstick and liquid foundation to cover it up. But nowadays, there are tattoo concealers that one can pat on in just two minutes.
Besides formal functions, there are other reasons tattoos might have to be covered up: tattoos that are offensive, vulgar, religious, or crude… These kinds of tattoos can cause distress or discomfort to clients and customers and they’ll need to be covered up as well.
Is covering up tattoos troublesome? Well, if taking five seconds to put on a jacket or taking two minutes to put on some make-up is troublesome then yes, it is.
But believe you me, a tattooed person understands this caveat, and this is trouble that we’ll undertake if it means our employment and tattoos can co-exist.
It’s often said that tattoos are a form of expression, and this rings true for many. When tattooed people are asked to cover up their tattoos, they are being told that their expressions are wrong.
Disagreeing is all well and good—we can agree to disagree, after all! The problem here is that people are trying to erase the expression, rather than simply disagree with it.
Imagine if someone were to come up to you and tell you they didn’t like your favourite jacket so you have to take it off. And I never want to see it ever again.
Yeah, it’s not a nice feeling, and unhappy employees are unproductive/unengaged employees! A more casual dress code, at least for when employees are in the company building, could change lots.
It’s not all that surprising when you think about it. Of course employees would be happier with a more casual dress code—it’d mean we’d be comfortable in our clothes, in our skin. What a radical notion.
Statistics show that more people than ever before are getting tattooed these days. Simply put, pretty soon everyone will have tattoos: job applicants, interviewees, supervisors, bosses…
Tattoos are not just a ‘trend’ or a ‘fad’. Human beings have been getting tattoos for thousands of years. Today, people who have jobs held in “high regard” like politicians, scientists, teachers, lawyers, and doctors… They have tattoos, too.
It’s time we trash the negative connotations behind tattoos. There are intelligent, kind, soft-spoken, gentle, diligent tattooed people out there. I could go on listing these positive adjectives, or you can just befriend a tattooed person and experience it firsthand for yourself.
Are there tattooed people who fit in with their stereotypes? Are there rude, pushy, and ignorant tattooed people? Of course there are, just as many rude, pushy and ignorant untattooed people!
Because a person’s personality is not dependent on whether or not they are tattooed.
Yes, screen your job applicants. That’s only necessary, and fair.
But visible tattoos should not be a factor to be taken into consideration during the screening process. Other important details like good work habits and impressive social skills hold far more weight, and you may just find them in a tattooed person.