Influence on Career Success

A recent study conducted at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI, shows that, obesity can and does have a denigrating effect in the workplace. Researchers have studied the effects of weight–based bias in the workplace for more than 30 years, and doctoral candidate Cort Rudolph has completed a meta–analysis of many of the findings. “People who are overweight are viewed more negatively in the workplace than those who are of average weight, which is not surprising based on what we know about weight-based stereotypes,” he said.

Some of the basic stereotypes associated with being overweight include laziness, sloppiness, untidiness and lack of self–discipline and control. Overweight people are also regularly labeled as having increased health problems, which is an issue often considered cumbersome by organizations. But there is some good news for overweight employees. The bias effect tends to decrease as people’s tenure with an organization increases, Rudolph said.

In his study he found that stereotypes are most prominent in the initial selection process. Body weight seems to be less of a factor at the performance evaluation stage, and stereotypes have a minimum influence when it comes to promotions. He also found that weight–based bias seems to be stronger as the amount of interaction with others, like customers, increases. For example, the effects of negative stereotypes appear more significant for face–to–face sales positions.

“From a societal perspective, there is a lot of evidence that suggests that Americans are getting heavier,” Rudolph said. Considering this growth, stigmas associated with body weight can become more and more of an issue, he added. Dr. Boris Baltes, a psychology professor at Wayne State and Rudolph’s adviser, agrees that employees who are obese or very much overweight are victims of stereotypes.

MEDICA.de; Source: Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology