Subjectivity in the Workplace, Where Being Attractive Gets You Further

A study has found that perceptions of attractions, trustworthiness and dominance can impact on whether or not you will receive a pay rise, and that job applicants could use the findings for their advantage, by enhancing their CVs and online profiles to match the role they are seeking.

University of Western Australia’s School of Psychology, and researchers from the University of Glasgow and Abertay University in the UK looked into how much perceptions of attractiveness, trustworthiness and dominance impacted how much people were willing to pay others.

The report, published in The Leadership Quarterly, found that over a 40 year career, the predominance of these features can contribute to a pay advantage of between $11,000 – $26,000.

The experiment included asking 1200 people to rate individual faces for attractiveness, dominance or trustworthiness, with another 1432 people assessing how much they would pay them. Dr Laura Fruhen, from the University of WA highlights that how we perceive “someone’s dominance, trustworthiness or attractiveness is something that we do intuitively and it affects how we act towards others.”

Dr Fruhen also noted that different roles would benefit more from different attributes, for example that senior positions demonstrated a higher requirement for trustworthy, whereas customer service / shop floor position valued attractiveness more.

Previous studies in this space have shown how aspects our appearance had influenced how people treated others, however this is the first study to show a correlation between how facial attractiveness, trustworthiness and dominance contribute to pay awards.

This research is alarming, and is it any wonder that our recruitment practices and processes could be open to the same level of subjectively?

The study suggests that employers could consider evaluating employees without a photo picture to counter decisions made based on physical appearance. But does this go far enough? Or is intuitive decision making important for business?

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