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Looks Matter

Podcast with Gordon Patzer, author of "Looks, Why They Matter More Than You Ever Imagined"

 

Nip - Tuck. Unsettling Facts About the Impact of physical attractiveness in the Workplace

Gordon Patzer, Ph.D
Dr. Gordon Patzer

I first learned about Gordon Patzer's new book, "Looks, Why They Matter More Than You Ever Imagined" reading Penelope Trunk's blog - a posting titled "Plastic Surgery is the Next Must Have Career Tool. Maybe." What Dr. Patzer has documented are facts we've all assumed - but didn't really want to believe. Well, guess what? All of those assumptions are true. Short? Overweight? Less than good looking? It'll cost you. From day one.

Dr. Patzer has devoted the last 30 years to investigating this unsettling phenomenon for both women and men, and how it touches every part of our lives. His book reveals not only its impact on romance, but also on family dynamics, performance in school, career, courtroom proceedings, politics and government. Looks is the first book to explore how the power of beauty affects both sexes and how the rise of reality TV shows, cosmetic surgery, and celebrity culture have contributed to our overall obsession with being beautiful.

How LOOKS Determine Career Success

Unsettling Facts About the Impact of PA in the Workplace

Exceptionally good-looking people are more likely to get hired for just about any position when competing against averaging-looking candidates with the same qualifications, scores of scientific studies show. Hiring-the-handsome is a routine practice among even seasoned HR pros who sincerely believe they are able to ignore such superficialities as an applicant's PA. That's because they think the person with high PA is actually better qualified or, if not, will nevertheless turn into a better employee.

Physically attractive men and women tend to have higher-level, higher-paying positions than their unattractive counterparts. How much more do good looks pay? Evidence from studies conducted in the United States, Canada, and China suggests that employees with high PA enjoy earnings of between 7.5 and 15 percent more than their average-looking peers.

Height shapes the way organizations invest in leadership, especially for men. Perceived as more effective, tall men enjoy a commanding edge on performance ratings and promotions over their short peers. Tall men also tend to earn higher incomes. According to one study, every inch over average (which for an adult male American is a bit over 5' 9") means an annual paycheck bonus of some $789. The relationship between height and earning power was especially strong in sales and management, but also found its way into less social occupations such as engineering, accounting, and computer programming.

Beauty often works against women seeking a job associated with masculine qualities like strength, endurance, and calm under pressure. Researchers at Rice University found that while men were the first choice for jobs like driving a tow truck or operating a switchboard, beautiful women never won when the competition was female and less attractive. They also found that when it comes to PA, bias is in the eye of the beholder. While male employers are usually eager to hire a beautiful woman for a job that depends on face-to-face contact with clients, from receptionist to dietician, female employers are usually reluctant. What's more, women with high PA who persist, overcome the perceptions against them, and reach high-level management are more likely to have their success attributed to luck than to ability.

Hiring highly attractive people tends to attract success and boost the bottom line. For example, in a study of 289 Dutch ad agencies, firms boasting better-looking management were consistently more productive and averaged more per year in billing revenue. Researchers calculated that good-looking execs created significantly more income than they cost their companies in higher wages.

Adapted from LOOKS: Why They Matter More Than You Ever Imagined by Gordon L. Patzer, Ph.D. (AMACOM 2008).

Peter Clayton

About Peter Clayton

Peter Clayton, Producer/Host, is an award-winning producer/director of radio, television, documentary, video, interactive and Web-based media who has created breakthrough media for a wide array of Fortune 100 clients.

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