Do you remember that Pantene commercial in the 1980’s when the girl in the shower said, “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.” Don’t worry, when you are in the job market, employers in most cases will love you when you are beautiful. Advertisers know that sex sells stuff. Sex appeal helps those in the job market as well. Bottom line, beautiful people go to the front of the employment line.
Have you ever been seated in the lobby of a doctor’s office and watched as the pharmaceutical sales representatives wait for their appointment? I have noticed I would not qualify for their job. First, most are beautiful women. You know, the kind of women who could wear a feedsack and still look terrific. Secondly, the pill selling men could pose for GQ Magazine. Does this give you a comfort feeling? Could it be our trusted doctors and their staff prescribe the latest medicine based on the good looks of the pharmaceutical company’s sales staff? “Oh, I think that blonde rep. is so hot. If I prescribe tons of Zoloft maybe she will go out with me.”
Overweight People Must Work Harder
I remember a comedian telling his audience, “Fat people have to work harder.” Overweight comedians might be funny but in the office it’s not so comical. You remember elementary school? Children are brutally honest and will routinely make fun of overweight kids. Bullying might be a better term for this. Those same bully kids who called fellow students “fatso” grew up and now work in the corner office.
If you are overweight and/or beauty challenged, working relationships might get a little rough for you in the workplace. You might have to produce more than your beautiful and thin coworkers to obtain the respect they garner.
At this point I suspect those who feel overweight or not-so-beautiful understand this article. I am saying things people know but just don’t verbalize in writing. If you are a workplace beauty, on the other hand, you may not be convinced you have an upper-hand in the career game. Some good-looking women may feel they are discriminated against because they are too good looking. I suppose that could happen too. According to CNN.com, a recent study has shown attractive people earn five percent more than their average-looking counterparts. Let’s move on.
Before you come unglued and think I am totally insensitive and have lost my mind, let me tell you my story. Keep in mind I am a workplace consultant and this is my line of work; organizational behavior. Neither do I consider myself outwardly good-looking or thin. In other words, I am not meddling.
One time a businessman told me I needed to lose weight. Was he concerned about my health? No, he was concerned about his image. He simply was trying to gain a political advantage over me. Besides, at the time I did not even consider myself to be overweight. And secondly, my weight was none of his business!
Several years later a CEO mentioned to me I had gained some weight and I needed to lose it. At the time I was dealing with some personal issues and had actually gained some weight, however, that kind of advice should never be given by an employer. A spouse can give this kind of feedback. Even if it is your spouse, tread very carefully. Guys, did you hear me?
Business leaders, I do not recommend telling an employee, “Hey, do you know we have an on-site workout facility? I suggest you use it and lose some weight.” This creates an unfriendly, if not hostile, work environment. Overweight people rarely take advice from ridiculously thin people who constantly eat Ho Hos and drink real Pepsi like the world is coming to an end.
Beauty, Weight and Disability Challenges
Beauty, weight and disabilities are all areas where employers should tread carefully. Keep in mind I am talking ethics, not laws. It is perfectly legal to discriminate against ugly and overweight people in the U.S. However, it is not ethical.
Who gets invited to the company’s annual report photo shoot? Beautiful employees.
Who receives an invitation to the employee benefits video filming? Beautiful employees.
Who receives second and third notices about the weight watchers program? Overweight employees.
Are weight management programs realistically for the health of the employee or under the radar company image compliance programs? You guessed it. Workplace health programs are typically aimed at thinning up overweight people and improving the company’s outward image.
Serious About Healthy Workplaces?
Maintaining a healthy weight is a good, individual goal. However, if companies were truly concerned about the health of their employees, they should fire their workplace bullies who cause, anxiety, fear, clinical depression, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and a host of other costly medical and business expenses. I suspect workplace bullies cost as much if not more in turnover, time off, business interruption expenses and cause nervous people to overeat than overweight people cost the company’s medical and time-off plan.
Legal to Discriminate
Did you know it is perfectly legal to discriminate based on good looks in most U.S. jurisdictions? There are companies who seem to be unusually focused on the outward appearance of the employee. These employers are not simply concerned with an applicant’s wardrobe, social and job skills, they are enamored by beauty, attractiveness and good looks, both male and female.
Eye Candy as Requisite Skill
I once met an executive who demanded the company’s receptionist be hired as eye candy for the other executives. Was this an illegal demand? No, it was not illegal but certainly an unethical hiring practice if one is not basing hiring decisions on skills and capabilities. In America, it is perfectly legal to hire only beautiful people and drop kick ugly and overweight applicants, assuming the beauties have the requisite skills.
Outward Appearance vs. Inward Character
Sunday School teaches you a great deal about life when you are young. When I was a young boy I remember being taught an Old Testament scripture. It comforts me to know that according to the Bible’s teachings, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” In the game of life, people may look at our outward appearance but God looks at our inner character.
I suspect the Great Workplaces across America have also tapped into the character of employees rather than their outward appearance. Great character comes in all shapes and sizes. As an employer, I would much rather recruit those with high moral character, a servant’s heart, a strong work ethic and the desire to treat all people with trust and respect. It’s what is inside that really matters.
Why Open this Can of Worms?
With the rising unemployment rate there will be increased competition as more workers apply for fewer jobs. It is likely many unemployed workers will be unprepared for the new wave of vanity that will sweep across American workplaces. You have heard, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I submit to you, beauty and jobs are in the eye of the employer.
This is why you should choose your employer carefully. I suggest you start with the Fortune 100 Best Companies To Work For List. They are not perfect but are likely better than those not on the list.
Watch for another upcoming article on this topic on The People Group Blog, assuming there is not a contract killing placed on me by a good-looking assassin.