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Younger workers are rapidly changing acceptance of tattoos in the workforce

Fayetteville tattoo artist Jon Dump works on putting a Star Wars tattoo on Lee Shelton’s leg on Thursday, April 22, 2021, at the Best Ink of Fayetteville in Fayetteville, N.C. (Andrew Craft/The Fayetteville Observer via AP)

A recent analysis published by LinkedIn found that Millennial and Gen Z workers will make up nearly 65% of the workforce in 2025. They're bringing with them a more relaxed attitude about what's acceptable, especially when it comes to tattoos..

Leslie Woodruff, from Asheville North Carolina, is a member of Generation X. Woodruff entered the workforce in the 80s, a time when people made crazy assumptions about people with ink.

"That people who had tattoos are degenerates, or they didn't have a good work ethic," she says.

Based on current trends, that old-school thinking is fading fast in the workforce as the definition of "professional" evolves.

"I do not have any tattoos," Woodruff says. "[But] I do wear casual attire to work sometimes. I even wear my running gear at work."

Roughly 40% of millennials have tattoos. The LinkedIn study found Gen Z is least likely to believe in the “traditionally professional” look in the office. And less than 40% of workers in that group think you need to maintain a “conservative” appearance, including keeping tattoos covered.

Career strategist Julie Bauke admits that attitudes are changing, but she still preaches caution to her clients.

People have bias of all kinds, conscious and unconscious. And so I tell everyone, regardless of generation, be aware of your surroundings," said Bauke. "There are always differences between a butterfly on your ankle and an obscenity across your forehead or on your neck"

The bottom line: Over 50% of working Americans of all generations say that what is considered professional has changed since the start of the pandemic.

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