The common consensus is each generation is becoming increasingly accepting of piercings in the workplace. However, why are many businesses’ body piercing policies not keeping up with the times? Several still view body piercings as “inappropriate”, “unprofessional”, and a “distraction.” A non-profit organization STAPAW (Support Tattoos and Piercings at Work) states statistically 61% of adults in America have had piercings (other than earlobe piercings). Over half of adults in America have had piercings at some point in their life, yet pierced individuals are still susceptible to discrimination of piercings in job interviews and in the workplace.
Piercings and Tattoos in the Corporate World
Wouldn’t it make more sense that an employer would want a strong individual who expresses themselves? One would think so, but it is common to see the opposite opinion. In the article “How to Make a Good Impression” found, a forum that documents the corporate world, it states something differently. “For the interview, it is best to err on the conservative side. You can always put your piercings back in or wear the funky shoes if you later determine that the company culture can handle it. Otherwise, these things may be best left for evenings and weekends.”
We might all agree that the individual’s productivity and value for their employer would be based on their work ethic, experience, skills, and education, NOT the piercings that they have. However, somehow there is a disconnect between “common sense” and 100’s of human resource policies nationwide.
The Harsh Facts
A psychological study conducted by James McElroy, James K. Summers, and Kelly Moore (described by the Association of Psychological Science) researched the impact of piercings on job applicant’s ability to get hired. Some of the results are not surprising but were rather disheartening. The research showed that job applicants with visible facial piercings were rated lower than non-pierced individuals on various characteristics such as trustworthiness, competence, and moral character. The applicants with facial piercings were judged more harshly than the non-pierced applicants. At the end of the Association of Psychological Science’s article, it states: “‘The silver lining to this issue, however, can be quite simple—make sure that if you have facial piercings, take them out before you interview,’ the researchers advise.” Is this really a silver lining though? This study showed the way a large percentage of human resource personnel view individuals with piercings in the workplace. The perception is not great, but here is the actual silver lining: YOU can change this stigma.
The interesting thing about perception is that there are ways that we can maintain or change our perception of people. This is known as confirmation bias. Sometimes people who practice discrimination of piercings in the workplace seek out examples of individuals with piercings displaying bad behavior. They will use these findings to support their hypothesis (or their preconceived thoughts) about pierced individuals. As a result, they set the bar low for applicants with piercings. When the hiring manager has a preconceived lower opinion of individuals with piercings, it is actually easier to go above and beyond their expectations in the interview and on the job site. When their experience does not confirm their presuppositions on what they already believe to be true they mentally create a sub-group of individuals with piercings who are responsible workers.
How this accountant kept his tattoos a secret for years
‘For years, I didn’t tell people, I kept it hidden,’ he said. ‘I think people’s perception of me is that I am a normal, white middle-class retired professional.’ Stephen, who has run as a candidate in local council elections and is a chairman numerous community groups, first had a small tattoo in his fifties.
However, he was concerned he would be judged for it so he kept it secret. ‘I had a very small tattoo and I was terrified it would be seen. I was always worried it would prejudice my career, particularly when I was in business,’ the married father-of-four said.
Nevertheless, when he left the corporate world behind, he chose to completely unleash his love for ink in his retirement. Now he’s covered in body art and keeps searching for brand-new designs so that he can enhance his collection as he trawls museums and galleries for inspiration. ‘I think being interested in art I was drawn towards having some kind of representation of major pieces of art. My eye was always caught by art nouveau and Pre-Raphaelite work, which I think is beautiful,’ he said.
A common argument against allowing piercings in the workplace is that they aren’t professional. However, treating a job professionally and treating people with professionalism is far more important than attire. A cotton blend doesn’t turn in paperwork on time, handle customer service issues, or organize effectively and neither does a piercing. It’s the person who does the job, not the piercing. The most frequent reason companies lose clients is due to poor customer service, not dress code discrepancies. Company growth is always affected by the character and qualifications of the employee. No one doubts the professionalism of Google, Quicken Loans, and Bank of America, but they allow piercings.
Piercing in the Workplace – What do you think?
The bottom line, there are lazy and unqualified workers who have piercings, and there are lazy and unqualified workers who don’t have piercings. If you have piercings don’t assume your employer should accept you. Not all employees with piercings have left a positive impression. Go above and beyond. If you’re an employer don’t assume the person with piercings you are interviewing is incompetent, there are many applicants with piercings who can out-perform their counterparts.
Why do you think of piercings and tattoos in the workplace? Please join the discussion below!