Tattoos and the workplace

hirefireNow I do understand that as the generations roll on, standards and expectations in business do not always meet with what would have been deemed acceptable in my younger days, but after my recent meeting with my new business banking relationship manager, something appeared very wrong in the world of banking and possibly elsewhere.

Tattoos are not everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ and it is a sad fact that they can, in extreme cases, give an impression that may quite unfairly, not match with the individual’s actual personality, capability, lifestyle or knowledge.

Self-expression for ‘my generation’ by way of ‘inking’ was once strictly reserved for south sea islanders, bikers, teddy boys, the military and the criminal classes. Today it has found its way into the boardroom. Men and women equally seem to exercise some poor ‘placement judgment’ at the tattoo parlour as the nations low literacy skills present ‘inkers’ difficulties in getting the spelling right as the big new danger.

According to ACAS “About one in five British people are thought to have one, and they’re most popular among 30 to 39-year-olds, with more than a third admitting to being inked and one in ten people in the UK are thought to have a piercing somewhere other than their earlobe”.

They go on to note that according to a recent study this particular practice is “extremely popular among women aged 16 to 24, as almost a half (46 per cent) are alleged to have a non-earlobe piercing.”

Although the ‘blue collar’ world is loosening up, not all ‘white collar’ financial services firms, large and small across the UK are ready for studded and inked employees since it’s only recently that tattooing and piercing have become so very mainstream.

Indeed, most small businesses I have spoken with do not have an ‘inking and body art’ policy in place.

Dress down Friday has not yet been replaced by ‘ink up Monday’, or has it?

I am not sure what image anyone these days is looking for in a bank manager but I would suspect that putting Captain Mainwaring to one side, one would perhaps expect a sense of some form of ready for business etiquette by way of dress, a certain understated sense of business interest, professionalism and enthusiasm.

It may be that todays employers are so ‘hog tied’ by human rights and political correctness that staff who are in customer facing roles can turn up for work as if they were either off to the pub with their mates or have just come from the pub and have not had time to prepare themselves for what pays the salary.

My new banking relationship manager was around early thirties, he was scruffy and had an enormous dark blue ‘Polynesian style’ tattoo extending the length of his arm to below his wrist, what may be elsewhere was best not contemplating.

Putting aside any prejudices, is it so wrong to expect that even in today’s world of more casual business standards, anyone in a financial services customer-facing role representing their employer should at least look the part?

What message is conveyed to a firm’s customer by the sight of a heavily inked, pierced thirty something individual who is there supposedly to represent his corporate employer in dealing with your best business interests?

Tattoos are for life it would seem but are they for business life? Many large employers have policies that do not allow visible tattoos. Depending on the employer’s industry and the type of job, this may make sense.

Does your firm have any ‘inking’ policies in place? Have you experienced any negative customer or staff reaction relating to tattoos either as an employer or as an “inked employee’?

 

www.panaceaadviser.com

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Always look on the bright side….

issue385

“Some things in life are bad


They can really make you mad


Other things just make you swear and curse.


When you’re chewing on life’s gristle


Don’t grumble, give a whistle


And this’ll help things turn out for the best…”

So 2013 has arrived, the RDR has become reality and many advisers of all persuasions could have had this song lyric ringing in their ears.

I am not one to look negatives in isolation, as there is always an element of ‘curates egginess’ in most areas that cause division. I am also aware that with the start of a New Year we should also concentrate on the positives by way of our actions, deeds, thoughts and views.

So while whistling this catchy little tune, buried like bad news in the weekend papers, I noted that Hector had bagged a ‘K’.

With a need to start the year in a positive way very many advisers will see this as a ‘signing-off’ kick in the teeth from somebody who has in their eyes done his very best to fix a system that was not entirely broke, to regulate the wrong people in the wrong way for the wrong reason.

The timing, if it had to happen at all, was terrible, it lacked sensitivity toward the industry and his defence, that it was a reward for the hard work of all the FSA staff, and accepted on their behalf by Hector simply beggars belief.

Normally the recipient seeking support by way of such a justification would still be working for the firm or organization at the time of the award, Hector threw in the towel months ago and even had a new job announced prior to the ‘K’ being announced.

I hope at the very least he had waited to order his business cards at Barclays?

There is something quite rotten in this award and I would dearly like to know who suggested this as being a good idea, who carried it forward and why? The guidelines issued by the government state that “the person must still be actively involved in the area they’re nominated”. Does garden leave count?

It is a reward for failure, the failure of the FSA and as some have suggested a reward for not being given the top job at the BoE that he had supposedly been promised. Hector Sants may be a really nice guy but from my experience really nice guys generally do not reach such dizzy heights by being ‘nice’.

They are often surrounded by ranks of well paid ‘blame takers’, possess an Arsene Wenger-like ability to not have seen something when you know they did (as to have not seen it would suggest stupidity) and a skin so thick and fire resistant that you could make space shuttle tiles out of it.

So, some points to ponder:

  • What has Hector actually done to deserve this?
  • What might he have on someone, what is it and who may that person be?
  • Was this part of a hidden agenda agreement to stay on in 2010 and step down in the summer of 2012?
  • Or was he fired but to avoid unpleasantness, a cunning face saving plan like this was hatched?

I am also very concerned that the head an organisation, now being wound up and replaced as it has been seen as a failure in so many ways, should receive such an honour from a clearly hypocritical government that reacted to the taxpaying screaming mob and sacrificially stripped Fred Goodwin of his knighthood for failures that should have been seen and prevented by the very FSA that Sants headed up?

Nobody at the failed FSA should be seeing reward beyond the inflated salary and pension benefits many are in receipt of.

Sants RDR mission, that he chose to abandon, along with other senior officers from the bridge of the Canary Wharf version of the Cost Concordia before port had been reached, may be a success for some and we certainly hope this will extend to all but he should not be rewarded in such an undeserved way.

Here are some key attributes, currently missing I think, that should apply to regulators that could then lead to a ‘gong’:

They can accept failure (recognising their own mistakes)

They have a bias toward action (responding aggressively but positively to a challenge)

They can and do change their minds sometimes (the need to discard old thinking and reprogramme a vision)

They prepare for things to go wrong (regulators are not necessarily optimists)

They’re comfortable with discomfort (they’re willing to accept inconveniences as long as it leads them closer to the important goal)

They’re willing to wait and listen (overnight success is deceptively untrue)

They have heroes (regulators set and meet higher standards when inspired by others)

They have more than passion (success requires drive too)

They understand the true cost of regulation upon those they regulate (and who pays for it)

Perhaps to restore some integrity in a system that seems to reward public sector mediocre achievements or spectacular failure with equal abandon, a decision to refuse to accept it would be welcomed.

The industry mood is not good, indeed 2 petitions have been set up to try and see some common sense prevail.

One is “Withdraw Hector Sants Nomination for Knighthood & Reform The System”

The other is “Public enquiry and resulting prosecution regarding the gross dereliction of duties by Hector Sants and Senior Management at the FSA since 2005”.

With 2013 being a challenging year for the industry remember:

If life seems jolly rotten


There’s something you’ve forgotten


And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.


When you’re feeling in the dumps


Don’t be silly chumps


Just purse your lips and whistle – that’s the thing”.

After all if he cleans up Barclays as he is being tasked to do, a ‘K’ could be considered as a meritorious achievement?