Body art as branded labour

Would you employ someone with a visible tattoo?

If you’re wanting to target a younger, trendier demographic – it might be worth considering.

Associate Professor Andrew Timming, of the University of Western Australia, recently visited Griffith University’s Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing.

His research centres around physical appearance and its relationship to success – or otherwise – in the workplace.

Associate Professor Andrew Timming of the University of WA.

Assoc Prof Timming’s most recent work looked at visible body art, traditionally considered an impediment to employability.

“People with tattoos are often at the receiving end of unfounded prejudices,” he said.

“I wanted to research the positive effects of body art in the labour market because no one should be stereotyped.”

He acknowledged that times are changing but said tattoos are often still perceived, especially by older generations,as indicators of criminality, deviance, untrustworthiness and mental ill health.

To complete his research, he surveyed almost 200 respondents with management experience and asked them to rate photographs of tattooed and tattooed job applicants for two hypothetical organisations – a fine dining restaurant and a nightclub.

The results showed that tattoos were more acceptable in the latter circumstance.

In depth interviews were then undertaken with managers, tattooed employees and potential customers of two real-world organisations.

“Whether or not a tattoo can serve as an asset in the labour market depends on the culture of the organisation and, crucially, on the main demographic of clientele,” explained Assos Prof Timming.

“Where a younger generation consumes a produce or service, tattoos can potentially improve a job applicant’s chances of employment, provided that the body art is consistent with the brand personality of the company.

“Rebellious and edgy companies are especially likely to view ink as aesthetically desirable.”

Assoc Prof Timming said that in most Western societies there was a growing acceptance of body art across the board.

“In fact, my guess is that,in 20 yearstime, tattoos will no longer be remarkable in the workplace, provided that they are not explicitly offensive.”