Like it or not, you are being judged by how you look, how you dress, and how you carry yourself—and, if you’re lucky, how you do your job.
I had lunch yesterday with an old friend. I’ve known him for over 30 years. In fact, he introduced me to my wife. Unfortunately, we don’t see each other very often and hadn’t sat down across the table from each other for several years.
Let me preface what I’m about to say with, “I’m comfortable with my jeans and sneakers.”
Dave is a corporate attorney. He entered the restaurant immaculately dressed, although he wasn’t wearing a tie. I was dressed as I usually am (I did wear what I thought was a nice button-up shirt—it was even tucked in). Dave hasn’t changed much since we knew each other in our early twenties, while I am decidedly more rotund, sporting gray hair and a nearly white beard. He could pass for 10 years younger than me, although he’s actually a couple of years my senior (it must be all the time he wastes at the gym).
As we left the restaurant together I made an off-handed comment about how I appreciated that he got “all dressed up” to have lunch with me. He didn’t miss a beat, “I guess I just take our friendship more seriously than you do.”
Like it or not, every day we are judged by such things. Earlier this month I read something published by Aaron Gouveia that lists seven ways your looks affect your pay. Falling short in more than one of these categories, I hope all is not lost for the frumpy, 50-something, gray-hairs who wear jeans and red sneakers to lunch meetings with old friends.
- Tall people get paid more money: A 2004 study by Timothy Judge at the University of Florida found that for every inch of height, a tall worker can expect to earn an extra $789 per year. That means two equally skilled coworkers would have a pay differential of nearly $5,000 per year, simply because of a 6-inch height differential, according to the study.
- Fat people get paid less: Obese workers (those who have a Body Mass Index of more than 30) are paid less than normal-weight coworkers at a rate of $8,666 a year for obese women, and $4,772 a year for obese men, according to a George Washington University study that cited data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth in 2004. And other studies indicate obese women are even more likely to be discriminated against when it comes to pay, hiring and raises.
- Blondes get paid more: A 2010 study from the Queensland University of Technology studied 13,000 Caucasian women and found blondes earn greater than seven percent more than female employees with any other hair color. The study said the pay bump is equivalent to the boost an employee would generally see from one entire year of additional education.
- Workers who workout get paid more: According to a study in the Journal of Labor Research, workers who exercise regularly earn nine percent more on average than employees who don’t work out. The study from Cleveland State University claims people who exercise three or more times a week earn an average of $80 a week more than their slothful coworkers.
- Women who wear makeup make more: Not only do people judge beauty based on how much makeup a woman is wearing, make-up adorned women also rank higher in competence and trustworthiness, according to a study funded by Procter & Gamble, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston University, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. A study in the American Economic Review said women who wear make-up can earn more than 30 percent more in pay than non makeup wearing workers.
- Handsome people are paid handsomely: A Yale University study from Daniel Hamermesh finds employers pay a beauty premium to attractive employees. The beautiful workers earn an average of roughly five percent more, while unattractive employees can miss out on up to almost nine percent, according to the study.
- If you’re too pretty, it’s a pity: Generally speaking, attractive people make out when it comes to salary and hiring. But what about the exceedingly attractive among us? If you’re an attractive man, don’t sweat it because you always enjoy an advantage, according to a 2010 study that appeared in the Journal of Social Psychology. However, women rated as very attractive face discrimination when applying to “masculine” jobs.
Speaking with another colleague who recently purchased a new home, he shared with me some comments made by his contractor who was complaining about one of his “long-hair” subcontractors who was running late on the house across the street. He used the term “long-hair” as if to say, “Of course these guys are late, they are all long-hair slackers. You know about those guys who have long hair.”
I enjoy riding motorcycles and some of the nicest folks I have ever met have been people I probably wouldn’t have otherwise associated with if it weren’t for our common interest in motorcycles. People make decisions about us based on our appearance every day. What’s more, we’re doing the same thing.
This morning I read something Tom Keene posted on Linkedin about table manners, “Always interview someone over food. You can tell so much about the person that is not evident in the office.”
Although he attributes the sentiment to either President Nixon or President Ford, he continues, “I have personally seen too many qualified and unfortunate people that will never get ahead because, for whatever reason, they never learned the basics of fork, fork, knife, spoon, spoon,” he says.
I remember visiting my Aunt Else as a very young boy (maybe even five or six) and being reprimanded at the table several times for misusing said table by resting my elbows upon it. Additionally, she was neither a fan of chewing gum nor of my chewing it.
There is an apocryphal story about how Henry Ford liked to interview over lunch as well. He supposedly would never hire anyone who seasoned their food prior to tasting it—he felt they would make rash decisions if they “assumed” the food needed additional salt or pepper without a taste (much like my wife assumes a nice steak needs some Heinz 57 to cover up the taste of the nice steak).
As uncomfortable as it may be, we are under the microscope every day. Our employees, our colleagues, and our customers judge us by how we look, how we dress, our table manners, our grooming, and sometimes even how we do our job.
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