Tattoos Considered Taboo by Managers in Customer-Oriented Companies, Study


Tattoos might portray a style statement but it can prove unlucky if an individual is seeking a job, especially in sectors that deal with customers directly. Tattooed people are often viewed as 'thugs' and 'druggies' by managers of customer-oriented companies, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

Researchers found that managers are not keen on hiring such people because of the negative reaction they might receive from their customers. Even though tattoos are becoming super popular among celebrities and wider sections of society they are still considered taboo by most managers.

Dr Andrew Timming, Management expert and lead researcher stated that majority of the recruiters interviewed were not in favour of them.

"Most respondents agreed that visible tattoos are a stigma. Hiring managers realise that, ultimately, it does not matter what they think of tattoos - what really matters, instead, is how customers might perceive employees with visible tattoos," Timming said.

Timming arrived at the conclusion after interviewing 15 managers in the age group 30-60, who were responsible for recruiting staff for organizations including hotels, banks, prisons, booksellers, city councils and universities. He asked them their opinion about candidates with visible tattoos.

A male manager claimed that seeing a tattoo would 'subconsciously stop' him from recruiting a candidate, while another said that 'tattoos are the first thing they [fellow recruiters] talk about when the person has gone out of the door.' On the other hand, a woman manager said that 'they make a person look dirty.'

"Respondents expressed concern that visibly tattooed workers may be perceived by customers to be abhorrent, repugnant, unsavoury and untidy. It was surmised that customers might project a negative service experience based on stereotypes that tattooed people are thugs and druggies," Timming said.

However, managers of non-customer oriented firms were not concerned about their employees having tattoos. Some other private companies didn't object either. In fact, one real estate firm was paying its employees to get a tattoo of the company's logo, reports Realty Today.

"The one qualification to this argument is there are certain industries in which tattoos may be a desirable characteristic in a job interview.  For example, an HR manager at a prison noted that tattoos on guards can be 'something to talk about' and 'an in' that you need to make a connection with the prisoners," Timming said.

He continued saying, "...there was a broad consensus among the respondents that although visible tattoos still hold a degree of taboo, in the not-so-distant future they will inevitably gain greater acceptance in the wider society. Several respondents pointed out that intolerance to tattoos is currently strongest amongst the older generations. That, coupled with the increasing prevalence of tattoos in younger people, points to a future in which body art will become largely normalised and accepted. Tattooed applicants can take comfort in the fact that the stigma associated with body art appears to be on the wane and that, as a corollary, there will likely be an increase in the number of potentially sympathetic tattooed hiring managers."

Provided by University of Michigan
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