Washington: A new study has revealed that overweight men are just as likely as overweight women to experience interpersonal discrimination when applying for a job.
In the study, non-overweight men went out into the field and applied for jobs at retail stores in the southern U.S. Then researchers had the same men apply for jobs at different stores wearing overweight prosthetics.
The researchers also wanted to investigate if overweight men would be subjected to discrimination as customers, so the same men posed as customers and visited other retail stores. In both situations, the ‘actors’ were given scripts to closely follow.
Enrica Ruggs at the Rice University said that they wanted to see if there were differences in treatment they received when they were not heavy versus heavy.
Researchers found that when the men applied for jobs or were shopping as customers in their overweight prosthetics, they experienced more types of subtle discrimination, or what the researchers call ‘interpersonal discrimination’ and they did not experience ‘formal’ discrimination or illegal types of discrimination.
Ruggs said that employees they interacted with would try to end the interaction early, there was less affirmative behavior like less nodding or smiling; there was more avoidance types of behavior like frowning and trying to get out of the interaction.
In the second study, researchers found the same types of subtle discrimination was taking place, this time with the customer being the discriminator.
Researchers created marketing videos of five products that were generally neutral in terms of having wide appeal for a wide target market, items like luggage and coffee mugs.
They found that participants who viewed the heavy employees’ videos reported more negative stereotypical thoughts about the employee. Specifically, they thought overweight representatives were less professional, their appearance was less neat and clean and they were more careless.
Ruggs said that these findings were another reminder that there was still more work to be done in terms of creating equitable workplaces for all employees, potential employees and consumers.
She concluded that this was something organisations could take an active role in, and said that companies could do better job training on customer relations as part of the employees’ new-hire process.
The study is published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. (ANI)