Beautiful People Get Away with Murder at Work


{Image: China Smack}

My cousin just sent me this article. It’s about the old bias that everyone knows exists at work, but that’s never officially acknowledged. Better looking people who are less qualified can get away with lot of nonsense at the office. There’s a whole load of double standards. Well that’s the way I will put it. I was sickened to my stomach as I saw attractive, but totally bitchy women manipulate their way around the workplace. They knew they had their bosses wrapped around their little fingers. Even my mum told me stories like this from back in the 60’s. Men are also fed up with this, as clearly female underlings can manipulate their bosses much better than male underlings who are sidelined.

I don’t have a problem with the pretty ones who are nice to everyone and don’t quite realize how pretty they are. Or the ones whose inner beauty radiates. Well I digress…. The article at Newsweek bluntly states that better looking people earn more money at the office and they even have statistics. Do you see this happening where you are too?

“Handsome men earn, on average, 5 percent more than their less-attractive counterparts,” says the magazine, while attractive women make 4 percent more. And over the course of a good-looking man’s career, he will earn roughly $250,000 more than a comparable, yet unattractive, employee.

In Singapore I would say it’s spot on discrimination. Age is also a big factor. I can blatantly admit that when my friends and I were much younger (barely 22), we could get away with murder just because we were cute. Yup they actually told us that we were cute. I know of workplaces where the manager boasts that he only hires young good looking girls. No boss cares about older workers. I just see them drooling over the young ones now and it’s kinda gross and mighty sad when you’re not in that category anymore. Once I shortlisted an excellent, well qualified candidate with a wonderful attitude, but my boss took one look at her and left the room have asking her just one lame question. Her face was covered with acne and he didn’t hide his repulsion. It was just so mean. Another time I witnessed, resumes of male candidates being thrown into the garbage.

The interesting bit about the article is that there are suggestions on ways to reduce the discrimination, which I think is great if implemented in Singapore. But I guess in Singapore we have a long way to go and most office workers or job hunters who face discriminatory ads will know what I mean:

Hooters can’t fire waitresses for being too heavy, as the company allegedly did in Michigan this year, and Abercrombie & Fitch won’t be able to fire staff, as they reportedly have, for acne, weight gain, or “unacceptable quantities of ethnicity.”

This is something else I have always felt. More value is placed on looks than education or skill and it’s just sad. No one said looks have to be natural, so no wonder the cosmetics and plastic surgery businesses are booming:

Managers also put more emphasis on looks than education. When asked to rank factors that come into play when evaluating a candidate, appearance came in third, below experience (No. 1) and confidence (No. 2) but was more signifcant than where an applicant went to college (which came in at No. 4).

“This is the new reality of the job market,” one New York recruiter told Newsweek. “It’s better to be average and good-looking than brilliant and unattractive.”

Maybe we should count ourselves lucky. In Chengdu China, beauty comes before brains. Female job applicants were made to catwalk as part of the job applications. Some of these women had masters degrees. The picture posted at the top is of the shocking job interview process.

The workplace is no more about what is fair or good decent values, but about what sells. And that just sucks.

About bookjunkie

Blogging about my daily life in Singapore helps with my mid life crisis.
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26 Responses to Beautiful People Get Away with Murder at Work

  1. The Queen says:

    It’s sad to see that the human being can be sometimes so mean and irrational.
    I think that what we should do is educate the future generations so maybe when they’re the bosses they’ll be a little more decent and understand that to be beautiful is not more important than to be smart.

    • bookjunkie says:

      I think basic decency is slowly eroding from the workforce and it’s all about numbers and $ and speed. Thanks so much for dropping by and sharing your views. It is so true that this awareness should be taught early.

  2. Jessica S says:

    I actually have a very odd viewpoint of this problem. Having grown up taking for granted that I must have looked nice, I got every job and raise I ever requested. Then, after getting on medication that I had an adverse response to, I gained quite a bit of weight VERY quickly. The boss knew what going on, so nothing changed. Then, when I decided to find a better job, it soon became apparent that I was being treated differently. Even at stores, I noticed the difference. Guys weren’t looking at me, and constantly asking if I needed help with anything. I never noticed the behavior was different from how they treated others, until suddenly (in a two month period), all that attention was gone. I still haven’t adjusted to the difference. Needless to say, I always thought the job discrimintation was just a self-satisfying excuse people told themselves until I changed in appearance. Having been on both sides, I can definitely attest to the truth of it.

    • bookjunkie says:

      When I was younger I was enjoying the benefits and knew it was happening, but never really questioned the wrongness of it all. One of my colleagues actually kindly told us younger kids to enjoy it while we could ….she said ” once you’re 26 it’s downhill all the way”. That was bleak, but kinda true.

      Thanks for sharing your experience here. It’s illuminating since you have been on both sides and are able to empathize.

  3. LL says:

    I grew up with my mother nagging me about this (“pay attention to your looks! people care about first impressions”) so I totally agree about beautiful people getting better treatment (kind of like how law partners are always ridiculously good-looking). But this also reminds me of that weird story that came out about a citibank worker who was fired for being too pretty: http://news.aol.ca/2010/06/04/banker-fired-for-being-too-sexy/ I don’t even know what the real story could be. Maybe someone was jealous she got such a high paying job so easily?

    Thanks for your post. Even on a subconscious level, I am sure everyone has a bit of shallowness or insecurity regarding looks. I remember reading an article about how friend cliques have their own different “minimum level” of looks required. I myself have a bit of nervousness talking to anyone who is beautiful (especially handsome men).

    • bookjunkie says:

      I have to confess to being shallow or superficial at times too…but I need to check myself. I find that the nicest people are usually the best looking to me.

      • LL says:

        That is true with me, too (and probably most of the normal people)! Once I get to know someone, my perception of their looks always changes. A few girls I thought were pretty became “only pretty because of makeup” because their personalities annoyed me. While others I began to notice all of their nice qualities the more often I saw them because I liked spending time with them.

        It is weird because I heard that for girls, the more time they spend with someone, the more they will like or get used to them. Whereas guys usually get sick of the girl after awhile. Sorry for my babbling, but these different perceptions have always interested me.

      • bookjunkie says:

        Oh yes…I find guys looks at it differently too. For me people who were not so attractive became highly attractive when their goodness shone through. A bit like that movie with Gwyneth Paltrow and Jack Black…I forget the name…oh yes…Shallow Hal!! And people whom I found gorgeous at first sight became ugly once they showed their mean side. The worst they treated other people I didn’t see them the same way anymore…it was just a natural brain process. Fascinates me too!!!

  4. thinkpinktoo says:

    I have to admit that looks do play a part when I hire people too. I feel guilty but at the same time I justify that with the nature of my business I need people that look healthy and somewhat attractive to sell stuff. Pharmaceutical company sales reps always seem to be young and beautiful because its beleived that they can sell more then someone who is average looking?

    • bookjunkie says:

      I think I tend to hire based on personality and amiability. I have a theory that we hire people who are most like ourselves..which is why I love doormats and docile people…especially if they are reporting to me cos I find it impossible to manage more aggressive people or delegate…heheheh 🙂 I guess if it’s cosmetic products it does make a difference but then again people who want to buy the products might feel intimidated by girls who are too beautiful. Which is why I avoid the gym because everyone there is super fit and toned….but I digress as usual 😉

      • LL says:

        I am docile! I wish you would interview me! 😉

        And I agree with you about cosmetics/pharms needing healthy looking people. I am also intimidated by them if they are too good looking. I tend to search for a girl my age, at the very least.

        My excuse for avoiding the gym is that there are other-people-sweat everywhere (gross! how often do they clean??). But being intimidated by good-looking people also plays a huge part. haha.

      • bookjunkie says:

        I am grossed out my the sweat too now that you mention it. And kinda put off my male bodybuilders who are too puffed up and obviously vain as they keep glancing at themselves in the mirror. Good looking people are rather intimidating especially if they know they are good looking and put off that vibe.

  5. RE: the comment above about the pharmaceutical reps. Definitely true. Being a nurse I can tell you it’s true. In fact one of the docs I worked for would only see female blonde reps!

    • bookjunkie says:

      yeah that’s for sure….I have seen my share of attractive pharmacy reps, stewardesses, and hotel marketing reps…actually most marketing reps. Soooo shallow huh those docs?

  6. thinkpinktoo says:

    There is a flipside to being / looking young too in certain jobs…. I’ve lost count the number of times someone has said me… “No you can’t be a pharmacist you are too young” 😛

    • bookjunkie says:

      oh yes! I recall when I applied for my first job I was called a little chickadee to my face….and was asked how he was supposed to give the job to someone so young and laughed out loud at me…called me just a baby (was 21)…it was very hard to get the first job because how do you get experience when they want you to come experienced for an entry level position. I was offered the job later, but was so pissed (super childish which confirms that I was a chickadee) that I rejected it. now when I think of it…so so monumentally dumb!!! It was in the publishing industry!! the interviewer seemed a bit like a dirty old man though.

      but being young or looking like you’re in your early 20’s is very advantageous….men somehow become like mush around sweet young things. It’s not fair but oh so true. I think lady bosses don’t react the same way to young men? or do they?…..

      • thinkpinktoo says:

        You can get away with more looking young with male bosses or collegues… like I never have to carry anything heavy and often get my lunch bought for me… The disadvantage is not being taken seriously despite your experience because you look young and are female…. I think that is why female bosses tend to become bitches it sometimes is the only way to get noticed or treated seriously in male dorminated industries???

        The only time I’ve heard of really nice female bosses is in all female firms… the whole dynamics of gender and work place relationships is pretty interesting… might look into it more for one of my MBA projects..

      • bookjunkie says:

        I think if everyone’s female than there would be less inequity and bitching. Women may actually rally around each other. Interesting case study. I never thought about it that way.

  7. thinkpinktoo says:

    I just want to say to them… “you know that NOT ALL pharmacists are middle aged men”

  8. browniwanderer says:

    are there any workplace discrimination policies in Sg ?

    • bookjunkie says:

      Not quite and that’s why it’s pretty much unchecked in my opinion at least. There are policies but they are not really enforced. I get frustrated by the language requirements in most jobs.

      • LL says:

        what kind of policies do they have? And what language requirements are there? I know in Philippines the schools teach english and some jobs require it as well, which I found weird since all the people spoke tagalog

      • bookjunkie says:

        Most of the jobs in the papers require you to speak and write English and Mandarin, including quite a high percentage of communication and writing jobs. This would exclude about 20% of the population.

  9. Buble says:

    I work in PR. I need to be attractive. People are more attracted to attractive people, so I need looks to do my job. Employers know this and will only hire relatively attractive people. I am finding, at the moment, that my new male boss has warmed to me (not without my having to prove myself first, and this is the truth), but I could not work with my former female boss who bullied and abused me for months, along with the other women who either complied or contributed to the bullying, no matter how hard I worked or what I produced. In fact they made it impossible for me to be effective. It isn’t all rosy being attractive, trust me. So I guess it all just balances out. I strongly suggest people keep their weight down. This is doable and will help everyone get ahead.

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