1 in 3 have problems with their tattoo at work

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Tattoos and the workplace remains a controversial issue. Even though more and more of us are getting inked, tattoos are still an issue in some work environments. I previously wrote an article on the effects of tattooing (Dutch). How men and women with tattoos are judged differently, if you can be fired because of your tattoo (Dutch), and also covered the five professions(English) where tattoos are least appreciated.

1 in 3 have problems with their tattoo at work
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But how many people in The Netherlands actually have a tattoo? And does age, location of the tattoo, and level of seniority with an organization affect how it is perceived? This and more was the topic of a research


1 in 3 have problems with their tattoo at work

In September, the international research agency OnePoll surveyed about 1000 Dutch people. 35% of those surveyed reported having a tattoo. 50% of people between 18 and 35 years of age said they have one or more tattoos on their bodies.


Function and Tattoos

The results showed that people in higher management positions are more likely to have a tattoo than those in junior positions. 22% of people in senior positions reported having a tattoo. Of these, 25% have received negative remarks. But 61% of this group feels that having a tattoo makes a positive impression on others. 

Of the people surveyed who work in junior positions, 15% have a tattoo. But only 13% of this group feel that it makes a positive impression.


Negative Consequences

It is not only the level of seniority within the organization but also the age of the person that influences how others feel about your tattoo.  For example, 45% of young people aged between 18 and 24 have had negative experiences because of their tattoo. This is a pretty high percentage when compared with the 45 to 55 age group, of which only 17% reported experiencing negative reactions.

In the over 55 age group, only 3.5% experienced negativity because of their tattoo. The negative experiences range from having to hide the tattoo (12%), choosing to hide it because they are made to feel uncomfortable in certain situations (8%), to missing out on a job promotion because of it (7%).


Different Locations

In addition to job function and age, the location also plays a role in how the tattoo is perceived.  That is if it is visible at all because only 35% of respondents leave their tattoos uncovered at work.

  • Feet: A subtle tattoo is an issue for only 4% of people in the workplace. If it is not so subtle and easily noticeable, this rises to 10%.

  • Legs: A modest tattoo is an issue for only 5%, but if it is quite striking, 11% reported having issues with it.

  • Hands: An obvious tattoo on the hand is viewed as being inappropriate by 27% of people. This number drops to 11% when it is more subtle.

  • Arms: 17% of people have an issue with a large tattoo and, only 7% find a discrete tattoo a problem

  • Chest: A large tattoo on the chest is a problem for 11% of people, with only 7% finding a small tattoo problematic.

  • Neck, Face, and Head: This area is unacceptable for many. A large tattoo here is not done according to 41% of the respondents, while 20% find a small tattoo ok. 



I found the numbers very interesting to read, and overall not surprising. It strikes me as being obvious that a large tattoo on your neck, head, or arms is not totally socially acceptable. These body parts are too visible, much more than, for example, your legs or feet. 

The fact that younger people are quicker to receive negative reactions to their tattoos is also not surprising. It is easier to confront a younger person than someone older. The longer someone works, the more authority and experience they build up. In addition to this, it is also easier to forbid a  younger person doing something in the context of ‘a learning process’.  

When I look at the numbers, I feel it only a matter of time before tattoos in the workplace gain acceptance. Acceptance of tattoos grows with each generation as younger generations move into management. This is, in my opinion, is a good thing. Tattoos are like windows to your soul, they are a way of expressing yourself even more so than the clothes you wear. And this is a great way to get to know and connect with those around you.




  1. Covid pandemic, this affects all. Tattoo shops, artists. Social distancing drives most countries to implement. Many shops are closed due to this.

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