An open letter to employers
Some businesses with anti-body modification hiring practices and dresscodes allow their employees to petition for exceptions, and others allow regional managers to overrule these codes as they see fit. I’ve written the following open letter in order to help people tackle these issues, and also to try and help businesses understand how hiring “the modified” can actually be a good thing for their business rather than something bad (or neutral). If you’d like a printable version of this letter (or one that’s easy to copy and paste into a word processor), click here. I hope this helps someone.
September 10, 2003
To whom it may concern,
There’s been a lot of attention paid lately to people with piercings and tattoos. You may even be getting pressure not to hire (or even to fire) these people from a small percentage of your customers or even higher management, or to enact dress codes that ban these artforms. Both as an expert in these fields and as a successful business owner, I’d like to briefly tell you why this may not be a good decision purely from an objective business point of view.
Employees generate income for a business both by the work that they do, and by the interaction they have with your customers — and yes, this does of course include their appearance. In order to achieve this, it boils down to having employees that feel good about working for you, and make others feel good about doing business with you.
An employee that is permitted to express themselves tends to be a happier employee, and more importantly, an employee that values their job — and as such, works harder. You may been made nervous by reports in the media that suggest a link between drug use, crime, and other problems with piercing and tattoos. These studies are somewhat misleading. While it is true that you find a higher incidence of piercings and tattoos in people with these problems, the same is not true in reverse. That is, a person who’s killed on a highway is almost certainly in a car, but being in a car does not mean you’re about to be killed on a highway.
In fact, much larger studies, both by my own organization and by researchers such as Dr. Armando Favazza, have shown that people with piercings and tattoos are often much happier than they were without. This is because it allows them to “be who they want to be”, to oversimplify the matter. Either way, there is certainly nothing to suggest that an employee with piercings or tattoos is going to be anything but a model employee, especially if they are allowed to be themselves.
Now, you may be agreeing that allowing employees to express themselves in this way will result in happier, more productive, and more loyal employees, but arguing that the point is moot since it could scare off your customers. Going purely by statistics, that’s simply not true — “tattoos” has been a top-five search on the Internet for so long that many ranking services have de-listed it. Something like 70% of young Americans have tattoos or body piercings, with that number climbing daily, and tattoos are a common sight on television and in the media. They’re simply not a stigma any more — they have become “normal”.
Assuming that the employee is well-mannered, polite, and sociable, presenting themselves well to your customers, their “body modifications” may actually act as free promotion for your business. After all, how many times have you heard little old ladies say to each other, “oh, that tattooed girl that served me my coffee was so nice!” It’s advertising — a good employee with a tattoo, versus a good employee without, will make a longer lasting and likely more positive impression on your customers, thus increasing your business and sales.
By all means fire people if they are rude to your customers, lazy, or otherwise poor employees. But please consider that a productive and positive employee with a little bit of pizzazz may well be exactly what you need to increase your next quarter’s profits.