Biased by Appearances


Have you ever wondered why some people get a promotion over someone with equal competence? Do you wonder if the hot blonde down the aisle gets paid more than the fat, ugly girl in the cubicle next door?

Being Beautiful Pays

According to studies cited by the New York Daily News, The Independent, The Telegraph, and about 13,000,000 other websites, people that fit the cultural standard definition of “beautiful” are give preference in hiring, promotions, salary, reviews, and attention from management.

In one study, a group of employers was given a stack of resumes for an open position. Another group was given the same stack of resumes with attached photos. The impact was very clear. In the resume only control group, the more qualified applicants were selected. In the control group with photos, different biases came into play.

Ugly People Have to Work Harder

If you have ugly genes, you are at a natural disadvantage. That is incredibly unfair, but life is not fair. You have to work harder to get the same results as someone that is naturally good looking.

But all hope is not lost. If you emphasize certain qualities, you can stand out of the crowd and improve your standing in the office.

For example, dress every day like you are going to walk into your bosses office and ask for a raise.

Package yourself. Clothes won’t make a difference in how well you do your job, yet they will have a significant effect on how you are perceived on the job. Clothes are a quick read and one of the easiest ways to communicate a message about who you are.

Make Yourself Less Ugly?

In addition to dressing well, you do have options. This will sound harsh, but you can’t fix ugly (without expensive surgery, which is an option). However, you can fix fat. Diet, exercise, and make a concerted effort to look your best every day.

Never head to the office without putting your best foot forward. When you get there, carry yourself in a way that projects success and confidence. Those are both “attractive” traits. An intelligent co-worker once told me that it does not matter how hard you work, it matters what impression your boss has of your work.

The same goes for appearance. Appear successful and create the impression people have of you and your work. Do not become a victim, craft your future.

I am not very tall (about 5’ 7”) and that is a natural disadvantage in the corporate world. Short guys finish last. However, I am content to make my own luck. Confidence is a feature that projects stature, so I always act confidently in meetings and interactions.

Your Experiences?

Have you ever seen discrimination based on appearance in the work place? It is not something easy to prove or enforce, but it is very real. Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Image by Martina Rathgens.