Posted: January 28, 2011 in Pushing my buttons!
Tags: , , , , ,

Do you look at someone and judge their worth, talent, intellect, ability to care, or humor based on his/her appearance? Chances are, most of you responding with a “No” – some may have responded with an indignant sounding, “Hell no!” because it is considered wrong, after all, to judge a person’s value based on appearance, right?
Well, I had a most interesting conversation with some pretty high-up-there-in-an-organization people (hereafter referred to as the high-uppers) and while most of them would not want to be judged by the color of their brown skin, or by the wrinkles on their faces, they certainly felt comfortable judging others clothing choices, tattoos and piercings. Look, I’ll be the first to admit that there’s a time and a place for certain clothing – I sure as heck won’t wear stilettos to work and I won’t expose thongs out the top of my jeans on casual Fridays although some do (but that’s a different story for a different day).
I’ll also stand behind my belief that tattoos on the face, neck and hands aren’t appropriate in most corporate or government sectors and are better suited for fulltime artists and entertainers who aren’t judged by some stiff sitting behind a desk. In case you’re about to flame me in my comments section because you think I’ve waffled in my beliefs, let me explain. In the workplace we’re (almost) all still judged by an older generation who believe in “dressing for success” and that casual Fridays equal khakis and a shirt (blech!). While I don’t believe this, this has been the unfortunate norm for most of my workplaces, and I’ve had more than 10 employers.
Honestly, I don’t think a person’s worth decreases with each piercing and/or tattoo. However, the high-uppers disagreed – maybe not in so many words, though. They claimed that tattoos were being added too quickly and easily and they wondered how the person would feel when they’re 80 years old. My response was, “I sure would hate for someone to judge me based on my appearance and what’s on my skin”, and “hell, if someone’s still looking at my ole ass when I’m 80 I’ll be ecstatic!” hoping they’d catch the dropped hint of, you shouldn’t judge anyone based on appearance, especially black folks. Sadly, the hint was not caught. So I’m left feeling that while I spoke my mind about not judging a book by its cover, I failed in my attempt to make the high-uppers understand the way to really evaluate a worker’s performance is by giving the person a chance to prove that he/she is a talented individual.
So what do you think? Maybe I’m biased because while I am at a somewhat respectable level in my career, I do have tattoos. Oh, but none are on my face, neck or hands. After all, I don’t want to be judged and mistaken for a hooligan, lazy dimwit, stupid fool or well, Mike Tyson.

  1. Adam Turnage III says:

    Some people take manufactured principles to the extreme and label some as “sellouts” for simply applying common sense. Giving consideration to the capacity and area in which we operate is simply a sensible means of dictating our behavior. You wouldn’t wear a double breasted Perry Ellis and Ferragamo slipons during a work week on a construction site. Neither would you wear face and neck tatoos in a corporate setting. Image is an effective means of operating in the corporate arena, so you want to maximize your image to maximaze your effectiveness . Grasshopper keep exercising the noodle and don’t stop writing! And don’t let the cute meter fall below 95…peace!

  2. Adam Turnage III says:

    and that picture… guess half a face is better than none… wit yo pretty self…LoL…

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by natasha and natasha, Royale. Royale said: RT @natasharamsey: New blog post – TGIF!! https://natasharamsey.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/judgment/ @CDubWrites @hooliopage @MikeDinc … […]

  4. Terry says:

    Some people feel that once they have reach a certain level they don’t need to listen…especially not to subordinates…they make the rules. Of course you dont judge a book by its cover…but those sentiments aren’t taken to heart until you are judged. That’s when we have the “ah ha” moments.
    So you wasted your breath on people that don’t and won’t listen…you tried. Focus on those that will sit in your audience. Those are the one that will bring change…not the ones with their mind already made up. Keep on writing Tasha!!!

  5. Sensei Adam! How are you, good Sir? Thank you for reading and for the common sense insight. You’re right, there is a time and place for everything and if someone were adventurous enough to wear Perry Ellis and those Ferragamos to a construction site, he’d learn real quick what NOT to do, won’t he? 🙂 I guess it’s also as @MikedInc said to me via twitter, it is a “bit of a circular argument”…I love your phrase, “maximize your image to maximize your effectiveness”. You should add that as your slogan when you get up there and hit us with those fluent French poems! Stay well & Be good to yourself.

  6. Terry – Thanks for the support as always!! Your voice, well text msgs 🙂 always ring in my ears when I’m writing. You’re right, I shouldn’t give up but I should focus on what I can do and those I can get through to, instead of wasting energy on a battle that’s been lost before it started. By no means am I saying the higher-uppers aren’t a nice bunch of folks; I just disagreed with their opinions on this issue. Interesting – I wonder at which point in a career, someone says, “I’m better than most people who come after me or work for me”. I love my manager’s theory – “hire smart people and people smarter than me – it makes my job and life easier and the work gets done”. I’ll take her principle to heart and add, “no matter the tattoos, piercings or choice of clothing.”

  7. MrQ45 says:

    Hmm. I find this topic to be an interesting one. This is something I deal with almost on a daily basis. I tend to fall in with the “higher-uppers” in their way of thinking in regards to workplace attire. I feel that visible tattoos/piercings in a professional/office environment are unacceptable and if I was a hiring manager, I would use it as a reason to pass over a potential candidate. I know this is terrible and I should be more open minded, but one of my character flaws is my old fashioned way of thinking. While this IS a flawed way of thinking, judging books by their covers is something that comes naturally to humans in general. Social Psychology shows that even unconsciously, we group people & make snap decisions based on visual perception.

    • MrQ45 – How have you been?? I’ve been missing you on twitter, but then again, I have been MIA for awhile there too 🙂

      I agree that judging comes naturally to humans…I guess my point is that while it does, we humans have the ability to understand a bias and then change the way we think. Thanks for being open enough to admit that you would consider passing over a potential candidate – some people would, but would never admit it. To me, that’s worse because they’re lying to themselves. Do you think you would you pass over the person because of your office “norms” with regard to appearance, etc. or because of a personal belief that someone who does this to their body isn’t capable of performing at the required level? I’m just curious…as always 🙂

      Oh, and Pam made a great point in that not all of the “Higher-uppers” or people who judge us are older…maybe it’s an older style of thinking…

      Thanks again for reading and your feedback! Like I said on twitter, this is my goal – to have open discussions that stimulate the mind!

      • Mrq45 says:

        In my passing over the person with questionable workplace attire, their ability to perform well in the position isn’t considered. I would see their lack of proper business attire as an indication of their professionalism (or lack thereof). If you can’t be bothered to dress at least “business casual”, then how can I honestly think that you’re able to perform in client meetings?

        I believe I think this way because of an experience I had. I was considering leaving my position for a rival company. The phone interviews were great and I was told that I would be getting the position. I was then asked to briefly meet with my soon-to-be manager as a formality. The meeting was scheduled on short notice & I was due to be at the other job that day. I ended up meeting the manager while wearing street clothes. While the meeting went amazingly well (in my opinion), the job offer was rescinded bue to the manager’s veto. When I asked him why he declined to bring me aboard, he said that it was because of the street clothes. He felt that I wasn’t “professional” and that I wouldn’t become a good worker. The fact that I surpassed him in technical knowledge of the store & its products never came into play. I was dropped because I wore jeans and a t-shirt to an impromptu Sunday morning meeting.

  8. Pamela Reaves says:

    Hi Natasha,
    Let me first start out by saying Happy New Year. Yes, that’s how long its been since we’ve chatted. Give me a call or shoot me an e-mail whenever you have a chance so that I can bring you up to date on whats happening with me and I can hear about what’s going with you besides stirring things up (LOL).

    The debate over tatoos in the workplace is a hot topic on which I’m certain there will be tons of opinions. I would venture to say that we cannot place any of them ( the opinions) in the categories of right or wrong. There is valid point in almost any feedback we hear on either side of the table.

    As I was reading your post, it occurred to me that the statements appear to be generational; some of them racial (not in a negative vein however); and some based on social status. For example, you are of the opinion that older people seem to have a problem with tatoos in the workplace because they are unacceptable based upon our (us old folk) position regarding “dressing for success”. Remember that when we entered the workplace and were evolving, our business attire spoke volumes about us. The manner in which we dressed hinted at how we perceived ourselves and how we would handled our employer’s business; how well we would represent them from a business perspective; how people would respond to us (if and how much we would be respected or taken seriously). If we arrived in the office disheveled, unkept, with flip flops, halters, etc. then because the employer does not know us personally, he or she can only rely on the external to give some insight to what type of person would be working for them. Of course, somebody always go too far and in this regard, someone among the higher uppers reaches the conclusion that certain hair styles, certain ethnic fashions, etc. are unacceptable. Conversely, you also have the extremists who hide behind the argument of freedom of expression, who shows up at the office with a “tramp stamp” across her lower-back, wearing a tee shirt or blouse too short so that colleagues (not her personal friends and family) can see her freedom of expression. I’m guessing there must have been some thought as to how much attention she would get; which means there was some part of the person who has the tramp stamp on her lower back that wanted to cause some disruption (in the form of attention) in the workplace. Then there is the occasional individual who shows up in a tee shirt, wrinkled baggy pants, uncombed hair, etc. — not because they wanted the freedom of expression, but because they may have been too lazy to iron a cotton shirt; didn’t care to put on pants that were more fitting; doesn’t care about clean and combed hair, etc. My point is that both sides have valid points.

    In response to your comment about brown skin and “especially black people”, this can be a pretty sensitive area since many black people of are of the opinion that certain choices such as dress, tatoos, and other forms of self-expression do not belong in the same argument of the prejudices that African Americans suffer because of their ethnicity, which was not a choice. Also, African Americans may be sensitive to anything (i.e. tatoos, style of dressing, etc.) that subjects an individual to the type of scrutiny that affects how one is treated in the workplace, since African Americans have had to endure the type of scrutiny that almost no other group has been called upon to endure. So, because of the African American experience in the workplace, they are sensitive to anything (perceived or real) that may be biased because they have experienced biased by the mere color of their skin, the minute they walk into the door, and all of the stereotypes that are attached to being Black.

    All of us have our biases. Even you are aware of the boundaries. You’ve said that your tatoos are located in inconspicuous locations. You do not want to judged and mistaken for a hooligan, lazy dimit, stupid fool, etc. Okay, lets say that an individual who has a “tramp stamp”, a tatoo on his or her face just happened to be naive. In this case, without knowing the facts, he or she has been labeled as a hooligan, lazy dimit, stupid fool. See. Keeping it honest, I would probably be among the first to label this person as such. You know how disciplined I am about certain things — but that just me. Acknowledging biases is at least a start. Heck people think I’m stuck-up, prissy, unapproachable because I love fashion and is probably accused of going the opposite extreme of Mr. or Ms. Grunge. People have many perceptions about me without knowing the essence of who I am internally.

    Lastly, I fully expect people to still be looking at my “old ass” at 80 and so when they do, I want them to see brown satin and not an image that may be distorted because it disappeared into an occasional wrinkle (LOL). Tatoos were the rage many many years ago — especially among military men. I can an uncle that had a naked lady on his forearm. Girl by the time he became an old man, I can tell you what the woman was looking like. The tatoo had faded and my uncles arm looked like a crumbled up piece of paper with a crumbled up naked woman’s body. Not at all a pretty sight — one I have never forgotten. But I loved Uncle Wes just the same.

    • Happy New Year Pam!!! Thank you for the open, honest comments and feedback on the topic and in response to my comments (as I continue to stir things up LOL) I will be giving you a call soon. I didn’t realize it’s been so long since I’ve seen you – was going through a rough patch of on again/off again illness the last two weeks of Dec so didn’t really do much outside of work and rest up. Hope your holiday season was a good one ☺

      I agree that there are valid points on either side of the argument. Hell, I’m torn in some ways because yes, I sport tattoos (outside of work, of course) as well as suits and business attire at work. You made some wonderful points and are absolutely right – one person tends to spoil it for all in many instances. That’s another thing that bothers me (while we’re on things that irk!) I wish managers would step up and address issues with a single offender instead of making sweeping policies that affect all. An example of this was at one workplace where we had Casual Fridays in which jeans were allowed. However, there was the one fool who strutted in with a slit below a buttock that really should NOT be in the workplace unless we worked at a strip joint or maybe Hooters. So, the jeans policy on Friday was revoked.

      With regard to black people being more sensitive to perceptions and biases, I totally understand and agree that choosing to get a tattoo isn’t the same as being born with a particular skin color. (We will return to this discussion when I start stirring it up on sexual orientation lol) I will say though, that while ethnicity is not a choice, judging or making assumptions about someone’s appearance is a choice. Sure, we all have biases and yes, the first thing we notice are physical aspects but it doesn’t mean that we can’t recognize a bias, choose to discard it and then let the person prove that he/she is (or isn’t, as the case may be…) capable.

      Okay, and I’m really laughing loudly at the image of a wrinkled (what used to be a) woman on your uncle’s arm!! I can only imagine – you’ll have to describe it to me. And yes, I know you’ll be rockin’ that satin skin at 80 yrs old, the same way I’ll be rockin my tattoos that are in places I hope won’t be all wrinkly! My motto? Try to live life to the fullest by doing all the fun and crazy things I want to do (within my sense of reason so bungee cord jumping was ruled out for me this year) so I wouldn’t have to wonder “What if I had…”.

      This weekend I remembered an ex-manager who was in the military had an anchor on his forearm that was visible when he wore short-sleeved shirts yet he made comments about the “younger generation” and that they shouldn’t have tattoos. I wonder if he found that he was stereotyped because of his tattoo or if he thought he was more deserving of such a mark due to his time in the service.

      Oh, and with regard to you loving fashion, yes, you do and it’s awesome! You know you rock those suits, not to mention the hats!! You’re right, I remember some people in our classes weren’t going to go up against you because based on your exterior of what was once described as “steeled classy” and let’s face it – a bunch of “overachievers”. Granted, this all worked in my favor….but I digress…You’re right – then and now, you are being judged on appearance by those well-suited folks in your office as well as Mr and Ms. Grunge.

      So in a nutshell, my goal for this post was a hope that by having this type of discussion, we all realize that some assumptions may be inaccurate, and that not everyone of a particular generation shares the same types of thoughts.

      Thanks for your points – I’m once again reminded of why your book will be a smash hit!!

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