Women In Business

You’ve got this: Dealing with staff’s tattoos and piercings

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Dr Froswa’ Booker-Drew answers your questions, putting her years of experience and practice into the goal of solving those knotty problems that beset us, and assuring us: ‘you’ve got this’. If you’d like Froswa’ to look at your particular problem, email it to [email protected].

Question: One of my staff who is in a customer-facing situation has started getting more piercings and tattoos. When she took the job, she had multiple ear holes and a stud on the side of her nose, which I judged was okay. Now it’s been joined by one in her eyebrow, one beneath her bottom lip and a stud in her tongue, plus tattoos on her wrists and around her neck (I presume there are more under her blouse). We don’t actually have a dress policy, so I have no grounds to stand on but she is starting to look a little scary to some of our customers, who are largely elderly people. Nadia.

Nadia,

When my mom turned 50, she wanted a tattoo to celebrate this monumental achievement.  For all of the things my mother had endured, this was really a special moment.  My mother challenged me to do the same thing.  I really wasn’t considering a tattoo.  I was 27 and I couldn’t allow her dare to go unchallenged. Terrified and expecting the worst, I headed to the tattoo shop and got one of my favorite symbols, an anc. Initially, it didn’t hurt but the filling in of the color made me want to punch the tattoo artist.  Thank God, I didn’t.  Jail time wasn’t on my bucket list, either.

Whereas my mom wanted hers visible to the world, I decided to have mine on my back, hidden from view unless I wanted otherwise.  Fast forward, 20+ years, it’s been interesting as a mother now with an 18- year old daughter who, like her amazing grandmother, loves the fact that she has a canvass to display images of what’s important to her.  Her first tattoo was the same as mine, as a tribute to me.  The second one is truly a work of art — koi fish in the form of ying and yang.  I wasn’t too keen on it but I knew that I had allowed the first one and so the door was opened for others.  There was already a track record in place and she’s not finished…she has a list of others she’d like as tattoos.  I’ve asked her to just be mindful of the location of future tattoos because of the implications for career moves.

You are in a similar situation, my friend.  When you hired this young woman, the door was already open to accepting her and all that she brought.  I understand your hesitation and how it can be perceived by those who encounter her.  As much as we’d like to believe that times have changed, perception is reality and people make decisions about who we are based on our looks.  I don’t think that’s right but it happens every day, people make judgements based on appearances.  I’m sure there are some that would say move her to a role where she is doing back office work and not interfacing with your clients.  Yet, if she’s a talented employee, the goal is to help her excel and groom her for greater.

Without a policy in place to address this issue, you are in a tough situation.  If she’s doing her job and doing it well, you don’t have grounds to stand on for reprimands or termination especially when she visibly had tattoos and piercings when she started the job.

I think the best thing you can do is have a conversation as a mentor to discuss her future and what she’d like to do.  It might be in that conversation you can address your concerns for how others might perceive her appearance and the impact that it might have on opportunities but ultimately, it’s her body.

I would suggest in the future that policy is developed to address this issue.  Chalk this one up as experience, Nadia.  I’m hoping your clients will see that there is so much more to her than what she looks like but realistically, you are a business trying to make profit.  If it is impacting revenue, then that’s all together another conversation.  Hopefully, this can work out for everyone involved…best wishes.  You. Got. This. Tattoos, Piercings and anything else that comes your way!

About Dr. Froswa Booker-Drew

Dr. Froswa' Booker-Drew is a Partnership Broker. Relational Leadership Junkie. Connector. Author/Speaker/Trainer. Co-Founder, HERitage Giving Circle. She been quoted and profiled in Forbes, Ozy, Bustle, Huffington Post and other media outlets around the world. In addition, she has been asked to speak on a variety of topics such as social capital and networking, leadership, diversity, and community development to national and international audiences. This included serving as a workshop presenter at the United Nations in 2013 on the Access to Power. One of the most impactful life events for her was being a part of the documentary, Friendly Captivity, a film that followed a cast of 7 women from Dallas to India. Honors for her work include: Semi-finalist for the SMU TEDx in 2012, 2012 Outstanding African American Alumni Award from the University of Texas at Arlington, 2009 Woman of the Year Award by Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and Diversity Ambassador for the American Red Cross. Graduating with a PhD from Antioch University in Leadership and Change, she also attended the Jean Baker Miller Institute at Wellesley for training in Relational Cultural Theory and completed facilitator training on Immunity to Change. She has also completed training through UNICEF on Equity Based Evaluations, and is the author of 2 workbooks for women, Ready for a Revolution: 30 Days to Jolt Your Life and Rules of Engagement: Making Connections Last as well as a writer for several publications around the globe.

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