Why Looks Matter at Work

Gordon Patzer, author of the book Looks: Why They Matter

Educational degree achievements whatever their abbreviated names certainly contribute to career success, and PA (Physical Attractiveness) certainly can help or hinder that success.

It is clear, like it or not, PA can significantly affect workplace perceptions, treatments and office politics, as well as hiring decisions, promotions and incomes. It can affect areas throughout a person's work-life with its influence exceeding objective and seemingly more pertinent criteria. In fact, PA can certainly overshadow and even eclipse criteria that range from a person's university degrees earned to his or her on-the-job performance goals achieved.

Research studies focusing on PA and particularly its many associated consequences began 40 years ago in the mid-1960s and continue today. The quantity and quality of studies have increased continuously with no end in sight. Disciplines involved in the research span literally A to Z, Anthropology to Zoology, with subfields of psychology providing the most critical mass of research.

The Federal Reserve Bank

Economics as a discipline has not turned a blind eye to the power and monetary values of PA. Nor has the Federal Reserve System. A 2005 issue of "The Regional Economist" made public a study about PA conducted that year by economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Conclusions from their research corroborated a principle finding identified repeatedly by separate researchers: People with higher physical attractiveness receive higher pay.The Federal Reserve's research conclusion provides a sense of assurance and thus comfort about the accuracy of similar findings by dissimilar researchers -- but it does not lessen the discomfort of knowing that reality.

Don't panic. Don't overreact. Diversify your portfolio.

Recommendations concerning a person's PA in today's workplace are not unlike mainstream recommendations concerning a person's finances in today's economy. For example: Don't overstress and let fear or anxiety irrationally overpower your thinking about PA, let alone your finances. Don't hastily jump to abruptly overhaul your financial portfolio, or your physical appearance. Expand your portfolio of respective alternatives, both to enhance probabilities of favorable returns for your financial investments and to improve your PA to increase probabilities of favorable career outcomes.

Don't panic each time when the latest publicly reported PA research findings come to your attention. If you do nothing different immediately, the probability is good that nothing dramatically negative will occur. Of course, on the flip-side, doing nothing carries the same likelihood of nothing positive happening.

Don't overreact in pursuit of abrupt enhancement of your looks. Before taking action, take reasonable time with reasonable thought. Remind yourself that you have achieved your current relatively comfortable lot in life with your current looks. Of course, a person's PA changes with each advancing year along with associated assessments in the workplace.

To achieve the highest likelihood of best overall returns, a good financial portfolio should diversify among many investment components and alternatives. Analogously, to achieve your best overall appearance for your workplace and career goals, you should diversify your alternatives among the many components that contribute to a person's overall PA. Expand your thinking, with realistic perspectives about alternatives to improve or at least maintain your PA. Be mindful that appearance is a multi-dimensional landscape, in which PA is a powerful prevailing dimension with many defining features -- some that represent assets and some liabilities.

Small Differences, Big Consequences

Small differences in a person's PA can translate into big consequences for career success. A complete makeover is neither necessary nor likely appropriate to reap benefits of looking better at work.

Although few people admit, or even realize, that they judge people in the workplace by their looks -- much to the benefit of people with higher PA and much to the detriment of people with lower PA -- people are not defenseless. Because many factors (both physical and non-physical) determine a person's PA most people have actions and alternatives available to them.

People should "not do nothing," just because they can't do everything. Measures taken to increase PA can range from routine to non-routine. Basic hygiene, industry-appropriate clothes, proper nutrition and optimal sleep represent one end of the continuum alternatives to raise PA. The other end of the continuum includes liposuction procedures, pharmaceutical facial filler injections, face-lifts, hair transplants, gastric bypass operations and other cosmetic surgeries. Of course, technology, ethics, religion, societal norms, social pressures, and financial resources, as well as an individual's own judgment and motivation, define pursuits and alterations acceptable for any one person.

Small physical changes with significant consequences can begin with improvements related to grooming, hairstyle, eyewear, cosmetics, fit and style of clothes, physical fitness and dentistry.

At the same time, improvements in interpersonal styles, attitude, personality, self-esteem or self-confidence, and even education achievements can increase a person's physical attractiveness as judged by others and by oneself.

Next: Do Pretty People Make More? >>

Gordon Patzer has conducted formal research about physical attractiveness phenomenon for over 30 years. In 2008, AMACOM Books published his sixth related book titled, "Looks: Why They Matter More Than You Ever Imagined." For additional information, see www.GordonPatzer.com or email Gordon@GordonPatzer.com. Back to the title of this article, the abbreviated names of his educational degree achievements include BA, MS, MBA and Ph.D.

Copyright 2008 Gordon Patzer

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