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  • Writer's pictureRKPROST

Tattoos in the Workplace

Raymond William’s description of residual, dominant, and emergent discourses made me think about how this concept applies to the way people with tattoos are thought of in the workplace. While some people argue tattoos negatively impact one’s chances of landing a job, others say in our dynamic culture, tattoos do not factor into an employer’s hiring decision. Residual, dominant, and emergent discourses exist in the workplace surrounding those with tattoos.

The residual discourse surrounding people with tattoos are negative. Some employers may stereotype these potential employees as belonging to counterculture. This may influence their hiring decision because they may perceive this person as rebellious, irresponsible, or associated with gangs and violence. Although some employers still hold onto this perception, the majority share more “contemporary ideas and beliefs” about tattooed employees.

Depending on the industry and profession, the majority of businesses say it is acceptable to have tattoos, but they must be covered up. This is the dominant discourse because body artwork falls under dress code policies, which many companies have set in place. Some believe tattoos hinder one’s professionalism and may scare away customers due to residual discourse associated with tattoos. By enforcing body artwork to be covered up, the company promotes an ideal image of their workers. Despite the dominant discourse, more companies are gradually accepting visible tattoos in the workplace.

Employees are not required to cover up their tattoos at work, which is the emergent discourse. American society praises individualism, therefore, more members perceive tattoos as a form of self-expression and a work of art. Many company cultures pride themselves on being diverse, inclusive, and a welcoming environment. This benefits those with tattoos because they stand out as a unique individual working within the company, yet they collaborate with others as well. While residual and dominant discourse is present, this new frame of mind surrounding tattoos in the workplace may become the dominant discourse due to society’s ever-changing nature.

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