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I have tattoos covering the upper portion of one arm. I of course keep these covered during work and would not consider letting them show in an event where I was representing the company to the public. I am curious, however, if it is appropriate for my tattoos to show in after work events that are purely social in nature. For instance, next month the firm will be taking the employees out to a baseball game. Being that it will be the middle of July and I live in the southeast, I would prefer to not have to wear a long sleeve shirt to keep my tattoos hidden. I have just begun at my job (I am actually an intern) and haven't learned what the culture is regarding tattoos. What is the most commonly accepted etiquette when it comes to tattoos and work sponsored events?

  • 4
    This is going to vary wildly by region/culture. I don't think anybody would blink in most major cities. – Erik Reppen Jun 16 '13 at 7:32
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    This is not a duplicate of the linked question, I'm really not sure why people think so. There is a distinct difference between interview etiquette and after-hours events such as a baseball game. – enderland Jun 16 '13 at 17:00
  • Tattoos are so mainstream these days. Within a generation, the employee who doesn't display a Celtic Japanese Koi pond weave on rolling up a sleeve will be the one considered weird! That said, ask your colleagues or your employer. – Grimm The Opiner May 22 '17 at 14:50
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Tattoos get reacted to on an individual level not a group one, although a common group consensus can be derived, by the majority of individuals.

As an example, I work in the City of London, for a very old school financial institution. I made it clear at my interview that I have tattoo's but do not expose them in the workplace as it may cause offence to others. The consequence is that, I can never roll my sleeves up or undo my collar, I have a three quarter Japanese Style Suit and Sleeves (from knees to throat and full arms). People at work have noticed my tattooed wrists when I'm doing whiteboard presentations and my shirt cuffs ride up. We never mention it.

I would suggest that you err on the side of caution and assume everyone will be offended and keep covered. The tattoo etiquette is currently very confused as more and more people in mainstream society are revealing body mods that hither too would never have been shown. Act as though it is normal, treat others with respect and consider their feelings in regard to this.

7

A generally sound idea is - "don't be the first".

As several here say - the reaction is individual by individual, although it does play into the overall corporate ecology. In other words - if the person that is put off by the tattoo is someone without a lot of impact, no big deal... but it's just as likely that some senior executive is going to react badly, and that's a bigger deal.

For almost anything unusual, my tip is - don't be the first. Let someone else take the first step on this. For the super-cautious, keep an eye out for tattoos, wait for any fall out and if there's none, show your tattoos at the NEXT corporate event. For the less cautious, keep an eye out at this coming event, and if you see others display tattoos, feel free to follow along.

This is particularly true where you are new to working this job, new to the company, and thus potentially more dispensible than other employees might be. In general for unusual body/fashion choices, my rule of thumb is:

  • I break the norms more often when I am more certain that I am awesome and indispensible.
  • Be sure that whatever you show, it's PG - tattoos of nude people, or violence, or anything particularly negative or gory are a higher level of risk than something relatively benign.
  • Know the culture first - there's no one right answer, so have a sense of the culture. A nice test balloon might be to raise the concept of tattoos in a lunch conversation, and get a test of the reaction.
  • In the US - the coasts are more liberal of unconventional dress, and urban culture tends to be more liberal than country/suburban culture. Tattoos are particularly funny, as certain cultures react very differently - not just ethnicities - there are quite a few tattoos in the military, for example.

The absolute safe bet is not to sport them. As with many things - you can't retract knowledge, so if you are really worried, find yourself a light, long sleeved shirt. There's some great loose cotton shirts out there.

5

I don't think "most commonly accepted etiquette when it comes to tattoos and work sponsored events" exists, and even if it did, would be pretty irrelevant. You don't live with some "average" or idealized company but a very concrete one.

Therefore you shall figure out the local rules. If you have an ombudsman position in the company I suggest to consult there first. If not, I'd suggest starting with colleagues who you trust, then possibly the boss or some HR folks.

(In general I would not think it be a problem of any kind, but the fact you feel for asking here raises suspicion.)

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What is the most commonly accepted etiquette when it comes to tattoos and work sponsored events?

In my many years working, I haven't found a "most commonly".

The culture regarding tattoos is very contextual, and likely varies depending on your company and the the individuals you work for and with. Where I work today, it would be frowned on. Where I worked about 10 years ago, it wouldn't have been surprising at all. Different people, different company cultures, different contexts.

While many people and many companies wouldn't think anything of a tattoo, others wouldn't be as tolerant.

Until you learn the specifics of your situation, err on the side of caution and keep it hidden. If you see no tattoos at all during this event, that's a strong sign. If you see may others in similar roles as yours with tattoos, that too is a sign. If you see the CEO with a tattoo - Bingo!

Good luck!

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