I read the story of Mandy Allen's experience at work, where the stuffed shirts at her Big Four firm made her bandage her one visible tattoo and forbade her to get another one ("Tomorrow's News," Oct. 19-Nov. 1, 2009, page 54).
In her place I would tell those stuffed shirts what they could do with their ultimatums, get whatever tattoos I wanted to, and the bosses could jolly well fire me if they wanted and then scramble to find other talent desperate enough to put up with their bull. Talent doesn't grow on trees. Just ask any partner or firm owner. Better to take care of what you've got in hand. It's a two-way street.
I've had the same kind of thing happen to me at a CPA firm where I was a senior staff member. Not over tattoos, but over the fact that I didn't care to dress like a stereotypical CPA, hang out with "acceptable" companions, or carry a briefcase (mine was a duffel bag). And as for one horrible stuffed shirt of a law firm where I was assistant controller, they tried to control everything I said, wore, did and thought.
In both cases, in not so many words I told my bosses, "Screw you," went my own way, and did as I pleased. The law firm was a temporary assignment (thank God), but the CPA firm clawed to hire me back when I left for another job. I'm no genius, nor was I God's gift to the accounting profession, but peers and clients liked and trusted me, so did Internal Revenue Service personnel, and I drew my own conclusions from that.
My employers' dicta and dire predictions were not borne out, so I set them aside in favor of what I observed. Then, when I went out on my own, in a recession which gave rise to the pink slip I received in the fall of 1990, my fledgling business was almost an instant success. Not a coincidence nor an accident. Did anybody care about my tattoos then? Hell no. Surprise, surprise.
I have three, by the way - one on my left forearm and one on each shoulder. I designed all of them. I've had them since my 20s. They are not large, and have very little color in them, most of which is faded anyway. But they are definitely there, and I don't care who sees them, or what anyone else thinks of them. The tattoos aren't a "statement" of any kind, but rather just something I wanted to do for me. So I did. And I firmly believe that the fact that they are not really on my radar screen has everything to do with the fact that if anyone else minds their being there, they hide it well enough to merit an Academy Award for acting prowess. The tattoos aren't a big deal to me, so they aren't a big deal to anyone else.
Several years ago I left the accounting profession, most likely forever, gradually over a period of a little more than two years. I still have my CPA license, but it is inactive. I left a six-figure income and sold a successful international consulting practice to make the change. I was so burned out it wasn't funny. I am now a full-time working electrician and electrical contractor, owner of a nearly three-year-old LLC.
Nobody cares about my tattoos now, either.
Apologies for having made such a speech. But I hope it helps shed some light on a subject that you are absolutely right on - it's hard for folks to stick their necks out. If I have helped even one person shed their inhibited shell, then I am thankful for that.
Little Sparkie Electric LLC
Mount Airy, Md.
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