Why Your Weight Could Be Hurting Your Career

Britain’s most senior police officer Bernard Hogan-Howe has recently found himself in the middle of an almighty storm regarding comments he made about the fitness of the police force: police who are too fat, or not fit enough, should simply shape up, or ship out. According to the Guardian, members of the force who do not meet fitness standards will be told there is “no job for them”. But this demand for lean ‘n’ mean professionals isn’t limited to the usual suspects: professions such as the police, fire brigade, armed forces. Here’s why.

Discrimination in the hiring process

A study, conducted by Crossland Employment Solicitors, reported in Real Business, revealed that almost half of hiring managers in the UK won’t recruit obese applicants. It also found that some hiring managers consider anyone who is obese to be lazy, and unable to play a full and active role in the business.

A separate study revealed similar findings: obese job applicants were viewed as lacking self-discipline, having low supervisory potential and having a poor professional appearance in general.

Still another study used videotaped mock interviews featuring professional actors posing as job applicants for computer and sales jobs. Weight was manipulated using various props/prosthesis. The study found that employment bias was much higher for the obese applicants than their average weight counterparts. Furthermore, the study indicated another effect: obese applicants tended to be recruited for ‘behind the scenes’ analyst positions rather than for face-to- face sales positions. 

Numerous work-related stereotypes of obese workers have been reported in many studies. Overwhelmingly, overweight workers are assumed to have no self-discipline, be less reliable, less capable and “emotionally unstable”.  They are also believed to “think slower, have poor attendance records and be ineffective role models”.

Discrimination at work

Several studies have shown the workplace to be an environment where people are vulnerable to discriminatory attitudes and biases against the overweight, pointing to prejudice and inequity.

One example is a study that used written descriptions of fictitious managers. Those managers described as being of average weight were rated more highly than their overweight counterparts and were judged more harshly for equivalent behaviours. In another study, female students were shown employee summaries of a number of fictitious female employees, varying in weight and also in the stereotypes attached to obesity and thinness. Study participants indicated a preference to work with the thin employees over obese ones.

Discrimination in pay and promotion prospects

Obese workers not only face discrimination in the hiring process and at work, but also over pay and promotion prospects. The discrimination takes a number of forms. From lower pay for obese workers compared with ‘normal weight’ employees performing the same job. To fewer obese people being hired into senior positions. Indeed, several studies show that overweight workers have lower promotion prospects than normal weight workers.

See Also: Workplace Stress Makes Us Smoke, Eat and Get Fat

Numerous studies have also shown that obese applicants are vulnerable to negative evaluations because of their weight – do you think this is unfair? Leave your comments in the box below.

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