Tattoos in Workplace: Students and administrators discuss changing attitudes

Former Records and Data Management Technician, Victoria Carper, types away on her keyboard at her desk in the Cheyenne Department of Environmental Quality office.

Laramie County Community College faculty and students weighed in on the appropriateness of tattoos in the work and college settings.

The topic of tattoos in the work environment has begun to spark conversation between employers and employees, as well as between college faculty and students. This conversation has the potential to enact change considering most students plan to seek employment after graduation from college.

Former LCCC Lead Career Education Specialist, Crystal Smith, has more than 10 years of experience working in career services. She said she has seen a subtle shift in the attitude on tattoos in the professional world.  

“Initially, when I started, it [tattoos] wasn’t talked about as readily,” Smith said, “It was kind of like, ‘when in doubt,’ always no, especially visible tattoos.”  

Since then, Smith said she has noticed that students have started to be told that they should know their audience, employer and career field.  

“What I’ve found is that it is more and more accepting,” Smith said.

In a Wingspan survey of 83 participants made up of LCCC faculty and staff, 61.4 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, “tattoos are fine in a professional workplace.” In this survey, a wide array of short answer responses were collected that give insight into what some members of the LCCC community think about tattoos in the work environment.  

One anonymous response read, “tattoos tell the person’s story, if they want to let others read it then so be it.”  

Another anonymous response read, “I believe that not being able to cover up a tattoo in the workplace makes you seem unprofessional and untrustworthy. More like you can’t control impulses to do something long lasting to your body.”  

Brooke Darden, an LCCC Mass Media graduate, said she comes from a background of conservative ideas in the realm of tattoos.  

“My grandparents even told me as a little kid, ‘they’re bad, criminals have tattoos,’” Darden said.  

Darden then went on to explain that as she got older and tattoos became more modernized, she became more open-minded.  

“I think people are going to realize that it’s going to be hard to find somebody without tattoos. I think policies are going to change,” Darden said.   

The stigmas that surround tattoos, such as the one that Darden grew up hearing, still has a partial grip on the career outlook of graduates fresh out of college. LCCC Instructor of Communication Holly Manning said she thinks that the stigmas that surround tattoos are ridiculous.  

“I think that historically, tattoos are seen as fairly negative,” Manning said.

Manning said that the misconceptions paired with people who have tattoos include that person being lower class, lazy and a partier.

“We should allow people to express themselves,” Manning said. “I think that saying something is professional or not professional just puts them into a box that perhaps doesn’t make any sense.”

Smith, Darden and Manning have noted that whether or not it is required to cover, tattoos are heavily dependent on the profession.  

Darden also said if someone is employed by the government, they should consider covering up their tattoos. This career track continually pops up when discussing which careers require tattoos to be covered.  

There are many careers that branch out of the government. Former Records and Data Management Technician, Victoria Carper, was in one of these professions.

Carper worked for the state of Wyoming. In this profession, Carper did a lot of filing, database management, answering phones and greeting guests. She interacted with the public daily.  

Carper’s experience in a work environment seemed to be contrary to the stigma.

“I’ve noticed that a lot of people actually don’t have opinions once you get in,” Carper said.  

She also said that the reactions and questions she got from clients didn’t specifically relate to the way she looked, but the money aspect of it.  

“It’s more of a judgement on how much money you spend rather than how you look,” Carper said.

The message that Smith, Darden, Manning and Carper all expressed is that the stigma is changing. They said that policies are changing and employers are willing to converse with their employees about what’s appropriate in the workplace.  

“It’s going to be a slow change, it’s not going to be overnight,” Manning said.  

In the Wingspan survey, 90.4 percent of respondents said yes to the question, “Do you think that employers are beginning to become more lenient with policies regarding tattoos?”



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