Visible Ink: a story-telling approach to the impact of body art on employment and identity

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    With each generation, body modification by tattooing is increasingly popular and visible. Traditionally, such adornments have been associated with marginalised social status and occupations, including gang-membership, criminality and deviancy.

    Previous literature investigating body-modification issues in a workplace context has focused on the legal aspects of hiring, and employment decisions potentially made in relation to tattoos or other modification. Additionally, work has examined the experience of prejudice and stigma associated with tattoos in the workplace regarding ratings of ‘acceptability’ by co-workers. Whilst stereotypically, tattoos have been aligned with minority groups, identity and solidarity, there is limited research which considers this in a workplace context, beyond the accepted assumption that tattoos and body piercings encapsulate the concept of stigma and can lead to prejudice in employment decision-making. Past research has focused on employment with significant face-to-face interaction with customers or clients. However, many organisations are embracing a cultural discourse of ‘being yourself’ as part of a management strategy to enhance organisational performance.

    Storytelling is emerging as an accepted qualitative research method. The data gathering method for this research was directed-storytelling, with minimal instruction to the participant, save an invitation to ‘tell your tattoo story’. This gives the participant considerable freedom and can be used to examine social phenomena from the perspective of the author/participant. The method’s strength lies in its ability to uncover the opinions, values and assumptions of the subject. The interpretation of narrative allows the emergence of meaning from rich data, and lends a structure which enables the explanation of disconnected data in an evocative and engaging way, under-utilised in the business-management research arena.

    This research explores the complexities of body art and the relationship with employment from the perspective of individuals; exploring their stories and the relationship between tattoos and ‘employment’ identity in a knowledge-based industrial context where work and identity may be more closely entwined.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2018
    Event23rd Organizational Storytelling Seminar: Storytelling in (and for) liquid times - University of Roehampton, London, United Kingdom
    Duration: 16 Feb 201816 Feb 2018


    Conference23rd Organizational Storytelling Seminar: Storytelling in (and for) liquid times
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


    • storytelling
    • body art
    • employment
    • tattoos


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