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Bring Your Whole Self to Work

Odds are you don’t spend much of your time diving into the decades of research attributed to the study of management. The very idea of management dates back hundreds of years—to the early 1800’s when the world (and America specifically) was growing at a rapid pace. Imagine the challenges of running the Burlington Railroad in the late 1800’s and trying to communicate to steel workers all across America…via telegraph.

The concept that employees were social creatures didn’t enter management theory until the 1930’s. A series of research studies called the Hawthorne Experiments, lead by Elton Mayo, discovered that employee productivity changed based on the lights being brighter or darker—but no one knew why. Mayo concluded that lighting had nothing to do with it, but instead the group’s productivity increased because they felt special and were closely connected socially. The study concluded that employees have social needs as well as physical needs, and managers need a mix of managerial skills that include human relations skills.

It seems simple and so obvious in today’s world, but was pioneering research back then. These days work is just…well…different. We talk about being overwhelmed and inundated by emails, being micromanaged by crazy bosses, being surrounded by co-workers that just don’t care, and being confused by company strategy or direction. We want to do work that matters, working for companies that do more than just turn a profit.

That’s why we’re finally lightening up a little around #TodaysChilis. We’re talking more about what really matters—what matters to our own people and to those looking for great jobs, or even better careers. We’re celebrating the unique differences that make us special, and we’re acknowledging that we all bring a mix of both “work” and “personal” with us wherever we go. And the idea didn’t come from leadership—it came from right within our four walls. It came from people like Tyler, who challenged us to think differently about our stance on tattoos in the workplace. For years we asked ChiliHeads to cover them up, until great people like Tyler had us look in the mirror.

I know that tattoos have all kinds of meaning and get different perceptions, however my tattoos tell the story of my life and they are something that I am either glad I’ve overcome, glad I experienced, or someone I never want to forget. With as many tattoos as I have I am still extremely picky by what I see also. Thoughtless or offensive tattoos affect me in the same way that it would affect someone who has none. I have taken the time to carefully decide what I have put on my body, and I am proud to share them with the world. For the longest time I didn’t want to talk about my little brother passing away, and because of that I never coped with it. I got my tattoo for him because I knew that I would get asked questions about it and asked why I got it, and that would open the door for conversation surrounding the worst event I’ve experienced in my life. By doing so I was able to deal with the emotion and come to the realization that my little brother will be gone forever, and that instead of hanging onto that I need to continue to push forward and live the life he set out to live but was never able to achieve.

This is just one of the many stories my tattoos tell, but overall they are ME. And I am proud to be who I am now having gone through the experiences my tattoos outline. I wouldn’t be who I am without these experiences, these are what made me. And while it might seem silly to some, they are extremely important to me. And in a way they tie me to this brand as well. My brother passed away as a ChiliHead and this brand and the Brinker Family Fund stepped in to relieve my parents of the financial burden they had while burying their son. This is the single most powerful force connecting me to this brand and its success.

I just wanted to try and help others with understanding that to me these tattoos are not just tattoos. They outline who I am, who I have become, and ultimately who I will be in the future. They are EXTREMELY important to me, and I don’t regret any of them. We are still individuals who come together for this brand, for the people, and the experiences we create for team members and guests, just like anyone else who doesn’t have any. There is nothing I want more than the success of my restaurant and this brand. And if I can do so while pursuing equality for tattoos in the workplace then that’s even better. In the end I’m very grateful for everything you’ve done for me. What you have done for me has truly shown me that passion that Chilis is all about. You have made me feel special for being who I am, and what I’ve done for the brand by being that person.  

Tyler’s story inspired us all…including our President, Kelli Valade:

I hope by now you know the story. The story of an idea to be different—to create something special and unique. The year was 1975. In the early days, those few and proud ChiliHeads called themselves the Hamburger Hippies and they were known for taking work seriously and taking themselves far less than serious. It was a very different time—an era marked by war, civil unrest, womens rights, gay rights and an explosion of new music, art and inspiration. People pushed back against mainstream social norms. And out of those crazy times and unrest, a bar and grill popped up called Chili’s.

Along the way, the idea took off and the company grew. The rebelliousness of the 70’s gave way to new generations that wanted more calm in their world. Our Guests evolved too, and sure—maybe we got a little more risk averse and cautious. We mirrored what we saw in the world. Being edgy and pushing the envelope didn’t always sync up with being one of the worlds most recognized brands. For many, tattoos were taboo. Too much. Too edgy. And maybe just a little too off-putting. At some point we asked you to cover up, and for years many of you wore long sleeve shirts to avoid the possibility of frustrated or dissatisfied Guests.

Times have changed. I get it. For many a tattoo is a constant reminder of a crazy weekend in Vegas. For others, a tattoo on a finger replaces the tradition of a wedding band. Some mark a milestone, others honor someone lost, many define who we are at certain points in our life. But, regardless the purpose, the stigma of tattoos has begun to fade away as we see them filtered through a lens of many decades.

I have heard from so many of you asking for understanding, including the amazing story of Tyler who allowed us to share his story with you. I want nothing but the best life for him and for every one of you. And, I want this company to stand for values that are relevant and meaningful in this crazy world we live in. So today I’m happy to share that we’re changing. We’re evolving and learning and growing. Beginning today, we’re removing the restriction on visible tattoos. However, we ask that you understand professionalism and excellence is still top of mind–our Guests beliefs still matter.

It’s so important to remember that what we ask of you is what we ask of everyone including myself, to truly connect with Guests and team alike. Your personality and character will draw people in—not your tattoos. Your image is a by-product of so much more than the clothes you wear or the ink on your body–it’s a function of who you are when no one is looking. Be real, be genuine, be connected.

It takes courage to become who you really are. You inspired us to dream bigger. You inspired us to be brave. Now, we go forward with the belief that we are not defined by the color of our skin, the person we love, or the ink on our arm. Be yourself. We’ll be right here beside you.