The Challenges And Coping Strategies Of Employee With Visible Body Modification In Workplace

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Question :

University : UCSI University
SP213 Psychlological Research Method


Write a Literature review for the topic 'challenges and coping strategies for people with visible body modification in workplace'.

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Answer :


The objective of this paper is to find out the adversities that arise in the mindset of employers when the job applicant has any kind of visible body modifications (VBM), both tattoos and piercings. A person with visible body modifications may face significant problems and harassments in the working place and may face negative consequences, based on past researches done by others, it can be safely said that job applicants who have tattoos are less likely to be hired than applicants with no visible body art are. Moreover, female applicants who have tattoos are even less likely to get a job than their male counterparts are. This study tries to show that people with tattoos or piercings or any other visible body modifications are still faced with negativity and employers are more inclined to hire people with no body modifications. This study mostly aims for a literature review on the research question and tries to shed some more light on the general opinion about hiring people with body modifications.


As the proportion of new young workforce who have tattoos or piercings or both on their bodies, or any other body modification for that matter, increases, the employers are faced with the dilemma of whether or not to hire these people who are otherwise perfectly capable of executing their work. If the piercing poses a threat or health hazard, or if the tattoo is inappropriate for the working place, then in that case the strict guidelines rare understandable. However, an individual must be given the free will as to if the person wants to conceal his/her body modification. Except a few sectors, most work places have strict rules regarding body modifications. 

Body modification

For the greater part of the last century, tattoos and body modifications were seen, as something alienating in the society and it was the general idea that people who was deemed ‘outcasts by most sported tattoos. Tattoos were normally associated with gang members and outlaw groups and “freaks” (Martin, & Dula, 2010). Even though tattoos and other body modifications have become more acceptable and mainstream in recent times, especially over the last two decades, and even though even people do body modifications today from traditionally respected fields of work, apathy and general aversion towards body art still exists. People with any visible body modifications is often thought to be individuals with poor judgmental skills and are thought to have low self esteem and are even perceived to be dangerous and/or sexually immoral (Adams, 2009). Women with visible body modifications are normally looked at more negatively than the men who have the same.

 Challenges of body modification in workplace

General adversity still exists even when tattoos are visible on college professors and members from the most elite section of the society. Body art is viewed as a form of declaring self-control over one’s own body or out of pure aversion to mainstream norms about how one should look (Koch, Roberts, Armstrong & Owen, 2010). It is often associated with being a rebel in the society and invoking a sense of repulsion in others. People who follow religious cults or fraternities also often do tattoos. Still, most employees think that visible body modifications conjure negative thoughts and causes hindrance at workplace (Swami et al. 2012). Even if an employee with body modifications is more skilled than an employee who has no visible tattoos or piercings, that employee is often discriminated against, simply because that person looks somewhat different from what the society decided he/she needs to look like. Female employees with visible modifications on their bodies have to face even more problems in service sector (Roberts, 2012).  

Coping strategies of visible body modification in workplace

According to Dr. Brian Elzweig, discrimination based on tattoos or piercings is illegal, but the equation changes completely if the individual claims the body modification to be a part of them as a member of a specific group of religious sect (Tiggeman & Hopkins, 2011).

Over the years, celebrities and public figures have helped body modifications to become more acceptable and not be viewed just as a rebellious act. A company’s sole focus should be on the product it sells. Unless that product is the image of the company’s employees, then it should never become a problem what the employee does with her/his body. Body modifications are nothing but scars the employee opts for having on the body (Laumann & Derick, 2006). The claims of body modifications being a “distraction” are invalid when the company is trying to sell the product and not the employee’s image. Despite being told repeatedly to follow our instincts and following our dreams, we are expected to go by societal norms and the images are imposed upon us. This double standard actually hurts an individual when he/she is trying to be more expressive from an individual’s own point of view and personal preferences. Body modification is simply a way of expression, how an individual sees him or herself to be (Miller, Nicols & Eure, 2009). This needs to be acknowledged very soon, or else it may permanently damage an individual on an emotional level. But the good thing is that most companies these days are trying to become more lenient about body modifications and are changing guidelines and accepting job applications purely based on merit and not by the tattoos or the piercings that can be seen on the applicants. 

 Findings of previous studies

Almost all the previous studies have shown that people view their colleagues, who have facial tattoos and/or piercings, to be less acceptable when it comes to direct communication with customers. Even with widespread popularity, body art is frowned upon and viewed as something that should be avoided. All the studies have pointed out how general mindset of the employers harm people with body modifications, but very few have dwelled upon how the collective perspective can be changed to make it easier for people with body modifications to get jobs in their desired sectors. It is generally seen that an applicant is mostly likely to be not hired if he/she has any visible body modifications because it is thought that those people are rebellious in nature and may not at all comply with the company’s policies.  This is something that is absolutely based on assumptions and has been proven wrong more times than proven right. Problem lies in the fact that people perceive things as how they want to and ignore the true interpretations and what the body modifications imply (Stirn, Oddo, Peregrinova, Philipp & Hinz, 2011).

Literature gap

If an employee has a visible birthmark, that would not be required to be covered up, but visible body modifications are restricted to prevent tainting of the company’s image to the customers. In the past studies, teenagers with body modifications were often thought to be delinquents from poor socio-economic backgrounds, while more recent works and researches point out those students with body modifications can be more academically successful (Wohlrab, Stahl & Kappeler, 2007). The previous studies reflect on the problems that are posed by body modifications when it comes to being hired at the corporate sector. However, until very recently, the employers did not make any major changes to solve these problems. There is a huge discrepancy between the study findings and the actions taken to resolve this problem, which hampers the careers of so many people around the world.  


The study has found that the companies hold a bias against body modifications and have preferences to hire female employees without anybody modifications over both males and females who do have body modifications. Even though the proverb goes “never judge a book by its cover”, almost every person with visible body modification is instantly generalized and categorized as soon as eyes are set upon them. The aversion of companies to hire people with body modification in turn leads to cumulative rejection of body modification by the society. The companies need to change their rules and guidelines on hiring people with body modifications based on careful and in depth analysis of their capability to work and not just basing on how they choose to look. Employees need to be hired based on their skills and knowledge of their field of work and not how they look or how they prefer to see themselves.