Date of Award

August 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Sarah Riforgiate

Committee Members

Ali Gattoni, Sang-Yeon Kim


organizational identity, policy communication, policy enforcement, tattoos, value dissonance, value theory


Despite growing popularity, tattoos have historically been taboo in workplace environments. Those with unconcealable tattoos, especially white-collar workers and women, suffer from a perceived lack of professionalism (Dean, 2010; Hawkes, Senn, & Thorn, 2004). Tattooed individuals often struggle between individual desires and the impression expected in work environments. Meanwhile organizations strike a balance between communicating the organization’s values and employee expression of personal values. This study qualitatively investigates how values and tattoo policies are communicated in organizations, and whether value dissonance influences those communication process. Using a modified version of the Schwartz Value Survey (2006) and semi-structured interviews, the values of seven human resource professionals and their organizations are measured and compared. Results indicate that organizational policy enforcers communicate values through tattoo policies over time, and with unique communication tactics that evoke both organizational and personal values, modeling (conformity), throwing the book down (security), and hypotheticals (authority). Other tactics used by enforcers who experience value dissonance include identification (benevolence) and changing the policy (self-direction). When HR professional’s values are similar to their employer’s perceived organizational values, they are less likely to experience value dissonance. If tattoo policies are developed, communicated, and enforced consistently with organizational values, they can be important communicative tools for organizations.

Included in

Communication Commons