Go Ahead, Get That Tattoo. Your Boss Shouldn’t Mind.

The Society for Human Resources Management recommends policy language that says the company allows reasonable self expression through appearance unless it is "regarded as offensive or harassing toward co-workers or others with whom (the company) conducts business."

Outside of those exceptions, however, Marsen advises against requiring employees to cover their tattoos because "it sends a bad message to employees that they are being judged for how they look."

Marsen has undergone a conversion of sorts on the tattoo topic. Raised in a "traditional 1960s household" with little exposure to tattoos, he associated tattoos with being "scary" and "other," until he did business with heavily inked artists and "realized it was stupid on my part to have those notions."

Marsen, 57, got his first tattoo at 50 as a "mid-life acting out" and now has 14, including one of his employer's logo. He enjoys showing them off in professional settings, as it helps him be relatable to younger people, and telling the stories behind the art helps break the ice.

Flanagan, the tattooed teacher at Northside College Prep, said her tattoos make her approachable to the kids who don't fit in.

"I'm a weirdo magnet and I wouldn't have it any other way," said Flanagan, who coaches the school's poetry slam and sponsors the gay-straight student alliance.

Many of her tattoos have literary references, including the letters "Read More" across her knuckles. Inside each forearm she has tributes to each of her sons, while other tattoos reflect travel or people she's lost. For fun, there's a bowl of ramen on the back of her arm.

But Flanagan is not flippant about the potential workplace implications of being heavily tattooed.

Even at Northside, which she fondly calls "a bastion of weirdness," Flanagan worried that tattooing her hands would be a "job stopper," and thought about it for a year before getting her knuckles done. She once scolded a student teacher for flaunting his tattoos, telling him he never knows when a disapproving administrator might walk in.

"I feel like I earned it," she said of her comfort displaying her own tattoo bonanza, and that's not the case with people starting out in their careers.

If she could go back to those first interviews, she said, she would probably still conceal her tattoos under clothes. But, she said, "I would skip the floral skirts."

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