This morning in Jane Pratt’s XO Jane newsletter, Jane Pratt wrote about Jane Pratt’s 50th birthday celebration. In Jane Pratt’s account, all of Jane Pratt’s employees were super-excited to spend their lunch hour eating with their boss, Jane Pratt, at an organic raw-food restaurant that Jane Pratt picked out for herself. It definitely sounds like something they all freely volunteered to do, rather than feeling pressured to do. And now Jane has an even better idea: Wouldn’t it be awesome if everyone on her “team” got a tattoo celebrating their loyalty to their employer???
The plan is already in motion, as it turns out. Olivia, a 24-year-old editorial assistant, has an “xo” tattoo on the inside of her pinky finger. (That’s her in the photo above.) Julie, the site’s assistant beauty and style editor, has a similar “xo” tattoo. They got their tattoos together this summer, and then Julie wrote about it. Then last week Jane Pratt posted a photo of Olivia showing off her “xo” tattoo, and joked about how she’s starting a cult.
And now we arrive at today’s XO Jane newsletter. After giving us the hot inside scoop on her birthday lunch, Jane Pratt writes:
Speaking of adding a new member to my Cult, I think the team might all get xo tattoos. Where should Disciple Emily get hers? She has rejected the usual inner-finger position required of apostates of lesser stature. I think she should get her forehead or big toe.
Ha. Ha. Ha? I kind of don’t think she’s 100% joking.
I’m sure all these tattoo plans bubbled up in a seemingly organic way. The “xo” tattoos are cute, and obviously the boss is crazy about them, and XO Jane seems like a workplace where there’s a lot rewards (attention, assignments, 1 am texts from your boss) for being peppy and chummy and and quirky and Part Of The Team. Staff members are mostly young, and seem like cool-girl types who worship at the altar of the alpha cool girl, Jane Pratt.
So it’s easy to image that a third staff member might have clamored to get on the tattoo wagon, and then a fourth, and then a fifth, and then the “whole team,” in Jane Pratt’s words, are maybe going to get tattoos of their employer’s brand name On their bodies. Forever and ever.
But imagine being a somewhat quiet team member in the corner who maybe never thought of getting a tattoo. But then imagine your last project didn’t go so well, and you’re eager to get back in your boss’s good graces. Everyone’s getting one, and you don’t want to be the square, and anyway, they’re tiny and pretty cute, you guess? And before you know it, you’re inked.
To be clear, I don’t have a problem with two coworkers impulsively getting mini-logos inked on their hands. I also don’t have a problem with the guy who got the Mitt Romney campaign logo inked on his face. “I am not an idiot,” he said after the election. “Getting the tattoo was a decision that I made, and I am cool with.” That idiot actually has a pretty good point! Tattoos are the ultimate to-each-his-own situation. Personally, I am glad I don’t have a New York Sun tramp stamp, even though that was a great newspaper I loved working for. But that’s just me. People who brand their own heads with their own shoe company’s logo, whatever, life is short and all we can do is try to be happy.
What “we” should not do, however, is cheerfully pressure — yes, pressure — our “whole team” to get tattoos together. We should not write bubbly public love letters to the women we employ who got tattoos that worship us. We should not offer emotional or professional rewards for permanent body modification. We should not foster a work environment where doing great work isn’t enough to win the boss’s favor, or where being the type of person to impulsively get a company-approved tattoo somehow becomes part of the definition of doing great work.
To be fair, it can be hard to remember the fact that you’re the boss if you’ve deluded yourself into thinking that your employees think of you as just one of the gals. If you have trouble with this, I can think of one awesomely permanent reminder.