Inking the work industry

Photo Credit: Alfred Zhang

Recent reports show that an estimated one in five Americans, as well as Brits, have tattoos. Although these numbers have increased from previous years, the attitude towards tattooed people seems to have remained the same. According to a Harris poll, one quarter of American, non-tattooed respondents believe people with tattoos are “less intelligent” or “less healthy.” Likewise, almost 50 per cent of interviewees said inked people are “more rebellious.” Such thinking reinforces the idea that inked people are not suitable for most occupations.

Since the beginning of the human race, tribes throughout the world have marked their bodies to display power and accomplishments. When these practices began in the Western world, people were tattooed for similar reasons. Gang members, ex-convicts, and sailors wanted to show off their experiences by undergoing the painful process of marking their skin.

While history is filled with tattooed gents and ladies who weren’t the best apples, how many people do you know with tattoos? My guess is quite a few. Maybe you haven’t noticed the over-the-counter lady’s butterfly tattoo on her ankle, but that’s a tattoo, just like the ones Rick Genest, a.k.a. ‘Zombie Boy,’ has.

What some people fail to understand is that tattoos are no longer a radical body modification. The only difference between a tattoo you can and can’t see is its location and the motives behind it. While some might argue that a tattoo placed in a visible location could imply something bad, at least two formal studies suggest that tattooed people have virtually no difference in personality from non-tattooed people, other than a slightly increased need for harmless self-expression.

Therefore, the notion that inked people aren’t normal people trying to live their lives like you and me is not only false, but detrimental to those who made legal decisions to become more unique, to pay homage to someone, or just to stand out from the crowd.

Certainly, in recent years the focus on self-expression has become a recurring theme in generation Y’s agenda, and thus modern companies attempt to adapt their environment to fit their worker’s needs. The best example of a body art-friendly company is Google, which doesn’t hold a policy on tattoos in the workplace.

Although businesses are bound to become more ‘worker friendly,’ as it’s a well-known fact that a happy employee is more productive, minimum wage workers are excluded from the discussion on tattoo-friendly work environments.

The range of jobs for tattooed and unskilled workers is thus incredibly small, since a majority of minimum wage jobs require customer service. Employers often avoid hiring inked people for fear of negative repercussions from their clients, who maintain prejudiced views on tattoos.

While it’s true that one has to bear with the consequences of his or her actions, to ink your skin is far from illegal and shouldn’t be punishable by society. With the increased immersion of inked people in everyday jobs, customers will see beyond these stereotypes, and hopefully lessening the stigma of body art.