The Effect of Physical Attractiveness on Job Success

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Abstract:

Although both intelligence and competence are vital to success, a person’s physical appearance can help or hinder their ability to succeed. This paper divides physical appearance into height, weight, and facial attractiveness, which are examined based on their differing effects in men and women and how society’s perception of each factor shapes their effect on success. This paper then goes on to explain how appearance can actually have a deeper, more profound impact on the personality of a person, which may predispose them for success. When including the effects of education, higher self-confidence and better skills afford more success in a business environment where emphasis is placed on how well an individual can communicate, connect, and persuade.

Introduction:
Can physical appearance affect a person’s ability to succeed in the business world? Growing up, the idea that hard work and perseverance will ultimately lead to success is instilled in the minds of children and repeated all throughout their education and careers. But is this really a golden ticket to an impressive job title and high-paying salary? Some factors suggest otherwise. Height, weight, and facial attractiveness have been seen to impact the success that one may achieve in the job market. This is not to say however, that physical appearance trumps intelligence and job-competence. Rather, when looking at all working individuals, a correlation emerges among the top earning and highest achieving. Both the degree to which these traits align with society’s perceptions of power and competence and the underlying effects that attractiveness can have on an individual can predispose one for career success. Height

An individual’s salary and success level are contingent upon their height and furthermore, their income can actually be penalized if the person has only attained the nation’s average height. In examining society’s perception of success, taller people appear to command a presence in the room. Therefore, tallness lends itself to the general perception of power and dominance, which is favored in effective business practices. This has been illustrated in CEOs who were found to be overall taller than the average man (Gladwell, 2005). To illustrate, in Malcolm Gladwell’s best-selling book Blink, he found that: “on average CEOs were just a shade under six feet. Given that the average American male is 5'9" that means that CEOs, as a group, have about three inches on the rest of their sex. But this statistic actually understates matters. In the U.S. population, about 14.5% of all men are six feet or over. Among CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, that number is 58%. Even more strikingly, in the general American population, 3.9% of adult men are 6'2" or taller. Among my CEO sample, 30% were 6'2" or taller (Gladwell, 2005).” This height advantage translates not only into a more prestigious job title, but also an impressive salary to match. A person who is 6 feet tall is likely to earn $166,000 more than someone who is 5 feet 5 inches tall over a 30-year career, with each additional inch translating into $789 more per year (Dittmann 2004). Height is both objective and measurable, and in seeking to explain reasons behind its impact on success, society’s image of success itself must be examined. Take for example, the CEO of a Fortune 500 company- they are expected to be intelligent, competent, and have a presence that commands authority. Adding extra inches to their stature allows them to tower over others, giving them a dominating appearance. As a figurehead of a company, these are qualities that society values and sets as markers for success in a competitive business environment. Additionally, women may be penalized if they come across as too verbally aggressive in the workplace but the subliminal perception of power that height can portray can help a woman assert her dominance while on the job...
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