South-Western - Management  
The Tattooed Executive
Topic Internal Environment and Culture/td>
Key Words Corporate culture, tattoos
News Story

Tattoos are finding acceptance in the workplace, and not just in factories. Ford Motor Company allows employees from the most senior executives on down to have tattoos and piercings, except those that could endanger in factory settings. Even U.S. postal carriers are allowed to display tattoos.

Some companies, however, are more restrictive, and these tend to be in service-oriented industries. Wal-Mart forbids all facial piercings and asks employees to cover offensive tattoos. McDonalds employees are not allowed to have tattoos showing, and Subway Restaurants limits piercing to one per ear.

The open policy of some companies does not mean that there is sweeping corporate change. Many companies leave it up to their managers to set rules for their direct reports.

Tattoos have seen a huge rise in popularity. One in ten Americans now have tattoos. A 2001 survey on tattoos in the workplace found that most are in places that can be covered, such as the back, arms and legs. One expert noted that tattoos and piercings may help an employee maintain his dignity and independence without doing damage to the corporate office environment or client relationships. Some people feel the employee's unusual appearance even helps business by getting the client's attention.


What effect does changing policy to allow tattoos and piercings have on corporate culture?


You are interviewing for your first job out of business school. You show up in a business suit, and the interviewer - your potential new boss - is dressed in jeans and has tattoos on his forearms, visible due to his rolled up sleeves. How might you behave differently in this interview than in one in which the interviewer was dressed more conventionally? Why?

Source "The Tattooed Executive," The Wall Street Journal August 28, 2003, p. D1.
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