Taylor Tobin
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In many ways, tattoos are the ultimate accessory. They’re deeply personal, aesthetically pleasing...and pretty damn permanent (unless you’re willing to commit to a tedious removal process). But if you’re working in a buttoned-up field, tattoos located in blatant locations can prove problematic. So if you’re determined to get your dream tattoo on your wrist or clavicle or forehead, should you first run the plan by your boss for the all-clear? Fairygodboss consulted a group of professional women about this issue, and they offered the following pointers for white-collar employees yearning for visible ink.

Your body, your choice.

First of all, we need to point out an obvious fact: it’s 2018, and you’re an adult. Asking for tattoo “permission” from your employer isn’t strictly necessary. Success strategist Carlota Zimmerman put it like this: 

I’m not sure a boss ever needs to know about a tattoo. Unless you have an unusually close relationship with said boss—let’s say that you’re a breast cancer survivor, and your female boss is one as well, and you’re going to get a tattoo to acknowledge your circumstances—otherwise, just remember: your boss is not your parent. Their approval is nice, of course, but not mandatory.”

While your tattoo isn’t ultimately your boss’s call, it still makes sense to review your industry’s norms and company policies.

For certain industries like finance, government, and medicine, tattoos can feel out-of-step with the culture, especially if they’re very blatant and easy to spot. While communications executive Macy Harrell of The Posh Connect doesn’t think you need to ask your boss for permission before getting tatted, clarifying company policy on the matter is a courteous and - in some cases - wisely-preemptive gesture. “I would certainly take the time to review my company's policy on tattoos before making my decision. But in the event that it doesn't violate any policies, I would do whatever the hell I want with MY body,” Harrell told Fairygodboss. 

As far as industry norms go, folks working in casual environments like media or tech probably won’t experience blowback for a visible tattoo. But if your business tends toward three-piece suits and understated accessories, you’ll want to take that into consideration when designing your tattoo and selecting its placement on your body.

From a legal standpoint, employers can forbid visible tattoos, so be mindful of that when contemplating pushback.

Say you’ve thought about your industry norms and decided to check in with your boss about tattoos, only to have her veto the idea entirely. As archaic as this position seems, the law doesn’t define the forbidding of tattoos as a discriminatory policy. Legal writer Joyce Chou of LegalTemplates talked us through it:

Company dress codes may require employees to cover visible tattoos, which is completely legal. Only if dress code policies are enforced in a discriminatory way—for instance, an employer who only requires that women cover their tattoos—are they a cause for concern and legal action.

Asking for permission from your boss to get a tattoo sounds so traditional, not to mention degrading. Unfortunately, depending on the prominence of your tattoo, it’s wise to get your boss’s thoughts before moving forward with the decision. For example, consider a large tattoo on your forehead versus a small one on your wrist—both are visible, but one is far more prominent than the other. Additionally, a new tattoo may not be an immediate issue, but it’s possible that your company’s dress code policy may change and require covering it in the future. Talking to your boss may shed some light on this.”

If you have any questions about your workplace’s tattoo friendliness, talking to your boss about your plan should clear them up, making it a professionally-smart move.