Why do companies like UPS, Disney allow employees to display tattoos?

The research isn’t definitive, but recent surveys show that more than half of Americans under 40 have a tattoo, and that has implications for the job market.

Hinterhaus Productions | Stone | Getty Images

The growing struggle to attract and retain workers has led employers to adjust long-standing workplace and hiring policies, from hybrid and remote work to eliminating college degree requirements. A less comprehensive policy is also changing: the visible display of tattoos on employees.

Companies including Disney, UPS and Virgin Atlantic have relaxed their dress and style codes to allow employees to display their tattoos in the workplace. Many of the moves have occurred over the past two years as the tight pre-Covid labor market has turned into even more intense competition during the pandemic.

It’s been a long time Home Depot CFO Carol Tome appointed CEO UPS In June 2020, many of its early efforts to shake up the package delivery giant centered around improving the job satisfaction of the company’s more than 534,000 employees globally. Some of these initiatives focused on the company’s clothing and style restrictions.

“We didn’t allow facial hair; we didn’t allow natural hair. So if you’re African-American and you wanted an afro, a twist or a braid, it wasn’t allowed. Our tattoo policy was more restrictive than the U.S. Army,” Tome told CNBC last year. he said yes.

UPS Vice President Christopher Bartlett, known for its plain brown uniforms and driver dress code, acknowledged that changes were needed to “create a more modern workplace for our employees, allowing them to bring their authentic selves to work.” president of the people and culture.

First, UPS looked at its hair and beard policies, which previously prohibited men from having hair that extends below their collar or beard. The revised policy, implemented in November 2020, now allows beards and mustaches “worn in a business style”, as well as several “natural hairstyles”. However, the policy states that employees are expected to maintain a neat and clean appearance “appropriate to their work and workplace” and that hair or beard length cannot be a safety concern.

Changing perceptions of tattoos in the workplace

Bartlett said that after the policy was well received, UPS began looking at changes to the tattoo policy. Previously, the company prohibited employees from displaying any visible tattoos—employees with tattoos had to cover them with long sleeves or pants or skin-colored covers.

After a series of cultural surveys, discussions with employees and other research, UPS settled on a new policy announced in April 2021 that allows employees to display their tattoos as long as the policy does not contain offensive words or images. Employees are also not allowed to have tattoos on their hands, heads, necks and faces.

“Tattoos are important to people, and while there was a time when people got tattoos on a whim, more often now a tattoo is truly important to someone; it’s part of who they are,” Bartlett said. “We wanted people to feel like they could bring themselves to work, not just in their current job, but how they think about their entire career.”

Disney‘s parks division underwent a similar change in April 2021, updating its dress and style code to allow employees to display their tattoos, which it said was part of a broader effort to make its employees and guests more welcome at its theme parks.

The policy change “provides greater flexibility regarding forms of personal expression regarding hairstyles, jewelry, nail styles and costume choices, including gender, and permits tattoos that appear appropriate,” Josh D’Amaro, president of Disney parks, experiences and products, Disney wrote in a blog post on his website.

“We’re updating them not only to keep them relevant in today’s workplace, but also to allow our staff members to better express their culture and individuality at work,” D’Amaro wrote.

According to the Disney cast member handbook, visible tattoos no larger than an outstretched arm are allowed, with the exception of any on the face, head or neck. For larger tattoos on the arm or leg, employees may wear matching fabric tattoo sleeves. Any tattoos that depict nudity, offensive or inappropriate language, or violate any company policy are also not permitted.

Disney did not respond to a request for comment.

British airline Virgin Atlantic, owned by Richard Branson, lifted a ban on visible tattoos for uniformed staff in May. “Many people use tattoos to express their unique identity, and our customer-facing and uniformed colleagues should not be left out if they choose to do so,” Estelle Hollingsworth, Virgin Atlantic’s chief people officer, said in an emailed statement.

The U.S. Army followed suit, introducing an updated directive in June that further expanded tattoo allowances to include tattoos on the hands and back of the neck. The military previously eased restrictions in 2015 limiting the number of tattoos soldiers and soldiers can have on their arms and legs.

Maj. Gen. Doug Stitt, director of military personnel management, told the Army’s news service: “We always consider the policy of keeping the Army an open option for as many people as possible who want to serve.” “This directive makes sense for serving Soldiers now and allows more talented individuals to serve now.”

According to the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command, 41% of 18-34 year olds have at least one or more tattoos.

Customers are more accepting of employees with tattoos

Enrica Ruggs, an associate professor in the Department of Management and Leadership at the University of Houston’s CT Bauer College of Business, says there’s long been a negative stigma against tattoos that reflects biker culture and the sense that people tend to be rebellious. tattooed. This has carried over into a corporate culture where hiring managers stereotype applicants with visible tattoos, or where employers worry that hiring someone with tattoos will turn off clients.

However, Ruggs said, recent research has shown that most tattoos now reflect a sense of belonging — such as commemorative images, nods to their culture or profession, or a tattoo that matches a loved one.

Ruggs conducted an experiment that measured customer reactions to employees wearing temporary tattoos. Although some customers still hold negative stereotypes about tattoos, sales of employees with tattoos were as high as those without tattoos. Negative stereotypes also did not have a negative impact on customers’ perception of the organization. Ruggs’ research found that, in fact, tattooed workers in white-collar or creative jobs were seen by customers as better and more competent than non-tattooed workers.

“Part of the argument is that it’s always going to hurt the organization and it could change the buying behavior of the consumer,” Ruggs said. “But if the cornerstone of your business is service, that doesn’t change, but allowing and relaxing some of these policies can help employee morale and expand who you can hire, which can help improve employee performance. If employees are happy and they’re satisfied with their employees, they can be very productive.”

While there are no exact statistics on tattoos, a January Rasmussen Reports survey found that nearly half of Americans under 40 have tattoos. According to the survey, 33% of Americans of all ages have tattoos.

The New York City Council currently has a bill aimed at preventing discrimination against people with tattoos, including in the workplace. The bill would add tattoos to categories already barred from discrimination in the city’s administrative code, such as race and sexual orientation. While it would still allow employers to cover tattoos for employees, it would require them to prove that not displaying the tattoo is a “bona fide professional quality.”

After UPS changed its policy, Bartlett said, he noticed several employees posting UPS-themed tattoos on the company’s internal message board.

“After a 25-year driving career here, when someone puts a UPS logo on them, it’s important and it shows that the company is important to them,” he said. “It’s not a P&L game here, but it’s about coming in and bringing your authentic self to work.”

Join us on October 25 – 26, 2022 for the CNBC Business Summit – Dislocation, Negotiation and Decision: The World of Business Now. Visit CNBC Events to register.

Source link