Much tattoo about nothing? Changing perceptions of body ink

New research from The University of Western Australia and University of Miami has shown that discriminating against workers with tattoos puts hiring managers and recruiters at a competitive disadvantage…

Researchers collected data from more than 2000 people across all 50 states in the U.S., with roughly half of the respondents coming from urban areas with a population over 1 million, to try to find out if the perception that tattoos negatively affect a person’s employability was true. 

Previous research found that hiring managers widely perceived tattooed people as less employable than people without tattoos. UWA’s Business School Professor of Human Resource Management, Andrew R. Timming, said the results proved that, contrary to previous findings, having tattoos did not appear to be a disadvantage in the workplace. 

‘This study flies in the face of common perceptions that tattoos, particularly visible ones, lead to a negative judgement being made about how an employee is perceived. What’s also interesting is that the study found that people with tattoos are not only on an even footing in finding employment in the workplace, but in some cases having a tattoo actually worked in their favour.’ Timming said. 

The lead author of the study, Michael French, Professor of Health Economics in the Miami Business School’s Department of Health Sector Management and Policy, says recruiters who continue to discriminate against applicants with body ink may be settling for less-qualified candidates. 

‘The long-held stigmas associated with having tattoos, and particularly visible ones, may be eroding, especially among younger individuals who view body art as a natural and common form of personal expression. Given the increasing prevalence of tattoos in society – around 40 percent for young adults – hiring managers and supervisors who discriminate against tattooed workers will likely find themselves at a competitive disadvantage for the most qualified employees.’ French said. 

It looks like tattoos in the workplace are here to stay and may even give candidates an advantage in competitive markets. What are your thoughts on this?  Tell us in the comments section…

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