In part one of our two-part series, we interviewed three of our employees and learned about their views on the acceptance of their tattoos in the adidas Group workplace. To kick off part two of our series, I wanted to find out from a seasoned adidas Group veteran if there was similar sentiment. This led me to Janette, Global Operations Technical Manager, and over seven years at the adidas Group. I asked Janette if she thought she might not get the job because of her tattoos. Janette: “This definitely crossed my mind, but I decided to get my sleeve after already being with the adidas Group for seven years and didn’t feel my tattoos would be a factor in my future endeavors at the adidas Group.” It was quite the opposite of what I would expect. Janette felt even more comfortable with her visible ink as she continued to grow within our organization.
What your tattoo says about you…
I figured for Janette to get ink at this stage in her career it must be very meaningful to her. So I asked her, “What is your most meaningful tattoo and why?”
Janette: “All of my tattoos are incredibly meaningful and I have a deep personal connection with the art and process; therefore, it’s difficult to choose just one when you love all of them for very different reasons. But if I must only choose one it would be the inner workings of the clock with the single red gear as a reminder to always make time for the most important things in life. For example: love, passion, gratitude. Seemingly no-brainer reminders but, in the chaos of our daily lives, oddly enough these simple things can too easily get pushed aside or forgotten.” It’s quite incredible when you stop and take the time to ask people what their ink means for them. You quickly understand how personal and meaningful it can be, and why the acceptance of this in the workplace is important for people who want to express themselves in this way.
High level of acceptance even from customers
Next, one of my colleagues recommended I talk to Chris, one of our Key Account Managers. I believe her exact words were that I need to interview Chris because he has some wicked ink on his shoulder. And wicked it certainly is. I caught Chris en route on a business trip from Portland, Oregon to Toronto and he was kind enough to answer my questions from the airport. He is a true Globetrotter and an employee who wears Originality on his sleeve, literally. Given Chris is a Key Account Manager and interacts with customers, I was curious how his ink played into customer meetings. Chris: “I cover them up whenever I am meeting a customer for the first time. Some customers are older and may have different views towards tattoos than I do. Once I get to know the account I make the conscious decision to show them or not. I have never received a negative comment with regard to my tattoo. Most people who see it want to see all of it and discuss the meanings and inspirations behind it.”
Nice! Even in a customer-facing role there is such a level of freedom of expression and acceptance of this art form. The more interviews I did, the more I was realizing the word tattoo doesn’t really do this art form full justice. I also asked Chris what career advice he would give to others considering this form of art. Chris: “Tattoos are forever, so make sure you get something that you will like forever. Most importantly, make sure you get it in a place that, if the situation called for it, you can cover it up. Neck, face and hands are not the best for any corporate world, even ours.” When I asked Chris about the level of openness to tattoos in our culture, he said: “Our company is young, fast and driven by current events and attitudes. It speaks volumes that we dress and act the same as our consumer.”
Tattoos increasingly become a norm in urban areas
I guess that’s true. Not only are tattoos becoming more accepted in the workplace but in some cases they may be helping employees and customers connect. Certainly in urban environments tattoos seem to be becoming more of a norm. I asked Melissa, one of the Customer Relations Representatives for our Global Sales team, how accepting the environment is towards her ink. Melissa said it’s not only accepted but even more so because of the city she lives in. Melissa: “Our culture is definitely influenced by the city we are in. Portland is a very colorful city. I love that anything goes in Portland, and you find many people with tattoos in all types of businesses. Here at the adidas Village it’s an amazing place to see the works of different artists from throughout the city.”
It makes sense that we are surrounded by art that represents the places and cultures we live in, even if that art is in the form of tattoos. The beauty of this though is that we talked to people from offices in cities around the world. I went on to ask Melissa about the meaning of her ink. Melissa: “I have a tattoo of a Jack (the jack and ball game we played as kids) on my right arm. It’s in honor of my not so standard poodle Jack. The other one that is very meaningful would be my back piece dedicated to my older brother Matt. My tattoos are all tributes to some of the most important people in my life: my brother, my partner, and my dogs.” It almost starts to seem crazy not to be accepting of tattoos when you hear the stories behind them. No matter where I turned, the stories all seemed similar. I talked to employees on the East Coast, West Coast, in Canada, Germany, etc. Everywhere I turned, people shared ink stories, the acceptance of it and great insights for those thinking about getting ink. The adidas Group is made up of several iconic brands, including adidas, Reebok, TaylorMade, Rockport, and the list goes on. So to really understand how open the adidas Group is I wanted to be sure to talk to people from multiple brands within the Group. So I reached out to our Reebok World Headquarters in Canton, Massachusetts.
How tattoos are creating a sense of community
I interviewed Mike, a Reebok Designer, and asked if he hesitated before he got his first visible tattoo. Mike: ”It wasn’t long after I got my first tattoo that I knew I wanted more. There was an initial hesitation to get a tattoo that would be easily visible in the workplace, but I think the excitement of working with the artist on my ideas and seeing the final drawing pushed me over the edge. I can clearly remember thinking, wow, that is intense, after seeing the results. I also remember wondering what my Mom might think about the tattoos. Sorry, Mom!” I do hope Mike’s mom is reading. I think she would be proud. Mike is now working for one of the most iconic fitness brands in the world, inspiring others with his designs and wearing his ink proudly.
I asked Mike about his work environment specifically and if he ever felt pressure to cover his tattoos. Mike: “The work culture and employees at the adidas Group are extremely positive towards tattoos. I’ve never felt uncomfortable or different for being heavily tattooed. Over the years I’ve made many friends at work because of an affinity for body art.” Not only is the culture accepting but people are connecting with one another in some cases because of the art. I hadn’t realized that tattoos in a way can even create a sense of community.
I reached out to a few more employees who were working on important projects or traveling. They didn’t have the time to do the interviews but loved the idea of the story and wanted to share some pics of their ink. The art itself can speak louder than words. So I’ll leave you with a few more images of some of the beautiful and inspiring artwork displayed by adidas Group employees. The first is Ilanit, a Designer at our Global HQ in Germany. I have to say that her ink looks great with those adidas slides. I don’t know what it is about the 3-Stripes and tattoos but they seem to complement each other.
Kim, a Graphic Designer, originally from Luxembourg and now with adidas since 2008, was also kind enough to share his work of art. Kim started getting tattoos in 2001 and said he has never felt a need to cover up his tattoos. He is comfortable just being who he is. Kim also said that there is more to come. It was incredible to listen to all of the stories from our employees about their ink and their experience with having it visible in the workplace.
The impact tattoos (don’t) have on the selection process
Selfishly speaking, I work as part of our Global Talent Acquisition organization. And our number one task is finding people who are the absolute best for the role and our culture. Knowing that we have a culture that accepts people for what they bring to the job without judging them on where they are from, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, or the artwork they have on their body gives us the opportunity to truly hire the best. You often find that some of the same people that are judged by others are the most incredible employees. And I can say for sure, after interviewing these incredible people, and knowing what they bring every single day to the organization, we are better because they are here. With that I’ll leave you with some more images of the tattoos from the employees I interviewed and let the ink speak for itself. Leave us comments and share your point of view on tattoos in the workplace. #orginality #tribalmembership #adidasgroupjobs #inside3stripes