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A Picture is Worth One Thousand Words: Body Art in the Workplace


Despite the large number of adults with tattoos or other forms of body art, stereotypes of individuals who have body modification, most inaccurate, abound. Tattooed and pierced persons are viewed as irresponsible, unprofessional, and less qualified than their un-modified peers. While body modifications are not protected under federal laws—or laws in other countries—prejudice and discrimination based on body art can have significant repercussions for individuals and their organizations. Using qualitative data culled from message board postings, this paper discusses the stereotypes surrounding body art and investigates the possible sources of these beliefs. It describes the impact of these stereotypes on tattooed, pierced, and otherwise modified individuals, exploring the relationship between body art, identity, and authenticity. It wrestles with the impact prejudice and stigma have on modified employees and potential employees, considering self-esteem, performance, and other employee outcomes. Finally, it discusses what employees with body art and organizations can do to promote a positive, compassionate work environment. The paper concludes with a discussion of managerial implications and suggestions for future research.

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  1. The writing, style, and grammar of the posts has been unaltered to let participant’s voices speak for themselves and to retain the spontaneous and emotional quality of online discussions.


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Correspondence to Aimee Dars Ellis.

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Ellis, A.D. A Picture is Worth One Thousand Words: Body Art in the Workplace. Employ Respons Rights J 27, 101–113 (2015).

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