Tattoos, Timecards, and Task Lists

Get past how things look and focus on what you need.

Oh no. Someone had to go and do it. They had to stir the pot. They had go there.

Now I have no choice but to drag it out, dust it off, place it squarely on the ground, climb up and then jump up and down on it. Yes, it IS time for me to get up on my soapbox.

Check out Larissa Faw’s article for Forbes on Tattoos in the Workplace.

Interesting little article about how tattoos, piercings and other fashion preferences are becoming “corporate no-no’s”. I spent many years as a corporate Human Resources professional, so I like to stay informed and hear about what continues to go on ‘working for the man’ in corporate America. It helps me stay on top of relevant trends and know what things are influencing how people work. But I have to say this one just blew me away. Here comes the soap box part, please stand back and keep you’re your hands inside the ride at all times.

Really?? A Piercing Policy? This is what we want to spend our time thinking about, writing policy for, managing and enforcing? This??? A person’s tattoos? I personally do not see how a tattoo is any different than someone’s choice of hairstyle, tie or fashion sense. To me this is very simple, it’s a matter of preference.

soap boxLike religion, a personal relationship or political party is a matter of preference. The difference of course is when I interview you for a job, I can’t necessarily see if you prefer Allah or God or nothing at all for that matter. I can’t see whom you are attracted to or what you do. I can’t see if you are a member of the Tea Party. However, based on how you prefer to display it, I might be able to see artwork that has meaning to you. Of course I could also potentially see if you prefer to be physically fit but being buff is apparently acceptable in the corporate world.

Hmmm. Seems to me that sounds a bit, ummm discriminatory. Isn’t precluding me for a tattoo or a piercing making an assumption on the basis of appearance? Don’t we not do that anymore?

By the way, hiring based on “traditional business appearance” can backfire too. For example, the consultant who arrived to his interview in a suit and tie with a snazzy leather briefcase, conservative middle aged haircut and sturdy handshake only to be hired and spend the majority of his time strolling in the parking lot talking on his cell phone. Glad we invested in him. Or consider the analyst who appeared to be typical working Mom during the interview, but who later shocked a room full of people with graphic stories of the ordeal of natural birth for both of her children. Hooray, now we have something else to worry about in big meetings!

Maybe some questions on self-motivation and judgment might have been in order during those interviews instead of assuming their wardrobe and appearance reflected their work ethic and professionalism. Isn’t the point of an interview to determine if someone has the skills, capability, knowledge and experience to perform a specific set of responsibilities? Maybe this is why I encounter so many organizations that are struggling. When it comes time to interview, they are focused on the wrong thing!

Here is an idea, let’s all get back to the business of seeing to the business at hand. Instead of worrying about how I express myself, see if I hold myself accountable for the quality and quantity of my work. Instead of worrying about what is pierced, worry about what this person knows about the topic you need help with. Rather than spend your time shaking your head at the funky shirt someone chose to wear on interview day, ask some behavioral questions about how he or she gets work done.

We need to make staffing choices based on the qualifications and assets someone can bring to the project. Use those precious interview minutes to find out about those things instead of making snap decisions based on someone’s tattoo.

Have you made assumptions that are proving to be wrong or limiting your potential? Get honest with yourself at

Originally posted on November 11, 2011

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s