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Stigma hurts: exploring employer and employee perceptions of tattoos and body piercings in Nigeria

Toyin Ajibade Adisa (Royal Docks School of Business and Law, University of East London, London, UK)
Olatunji David Adekoya (Royal Docks School of Business and Law, University of East London, London, UK)
Kareem Folohunso Sani (Royal Docks School of Business and Law, University of East London, London, UK)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 15 March 2021

Issue publication date: 4 May 2021

453

Abstract

Purpose

This study draws on social stigma and prejudice to examine the perceptions and beliefs of managers and employees regarding visible tattoos and body piercings, as well as the impact they have on potential employment and human resource management in the global South, using Nigeria as the research context.

Design/methodology/approach

The study uses a qualitative research approach, drawing on data from 43 semi-structured interviews with employees and managers in Nigeria.

Findings

Contrary to the popular opinion that tattoos and body piercings are becoming more accepted and mainstream in society, this study finds that some Nigerian employers and employees may stigmatise and discriminate against people with visible tattoos and body piercings. The findings of this study suggest that beliefs about tattoos are predicated on ideologies as well as religious and sociocultural values, which then influence corporate values.

Research limitations/implications

The extent to which the findings of this research can be generalised is constrained by the limited sample and scope of the research.

Practical implications

Religious and sociocultural preconceptions about people with visible tattoos and body piercings have negative implications for the recruitment and employment of such people and could prevent organisations from hiring and keeping talented employees. This implies that talented employees might experience prejudice at job interviews, preventing them from gaining employment. Furthermore, stigmatising and discriminating against people with visible tattoos and body piercings may lead to the termination of employment of talented employees, which could negatively affect organisational productivity and growth.

Originality/value

This study provides an insight into the employment relations regarding tattoos and body piercing in Nigeria. The study highlights the need for mild beliefs and positive perceptions about people with visible tattoos and unconventional body piercings. There should be a general tolerance of the individual preference for body art and physical appearance, and this tolerance should be incorporated in organisational policies, which are enactments of corporate culture.

Keywords

Citation

Adisa, T.A., Adekoya, O.D. and Sani, K.F. (2021), "Stigma hurts: exploring employer and employee perceptions of tattoos and body piercings in Nigeria", Career Development International, Vol. 26 No. 2, pp. 217-237. https://doi.org/10.1108/CDI-09-2020-0239

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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