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Breaking News! Fat Workers are NOT Lazy or Crazy

good employees come in all shapes and sizesWhat a shocker... This recent study from Michigan State University proves that fat employees are NOT "lazier, more emotionally unstable, and harder to get along with" than their normal-weight peers. Really!

I'm sure those of us who fall into the 65-ish percent of the U.S. population characterized as "overweight or obese" are relieved to learn that we're not all lousy employees, despite these "widely held stereotypes."

I just can't help wondering why they needed a flippin' study to figure out that you can't attribute a single set of characteristics to an entire group of people, just because they share a physical attribute.

What's next, a study to tell us not all blondes are dumb?

Mark Roehling, a lawyer and associate professor of human resource management at MSU, and two colleagues conducted the study with 3,500 adult subjects. They found (hold onto your hats…) no empirical evidence to support the stereotypes about, ahem, people of size.

Here's how they put it:

"…overweight and obese adults were not found to be significantly less conscientious, less agreeable, less extraverted or less emotionally stable…" [emphasis mine]

As much as I question the need for the study, I should applaud the researchers' conclusion that employers should be proactive in preventing negative stereotypes from influencing their hiring, promoting, and firing decisions.

It's just that it's taking all of my strength to not finish that statement with, "Ya think?!"

In fairness, the researchers do present some excellent, practical steps employers can take to prevent weight bias from affecting employment decisions, including:

  • Enacting a policy that specifically disallows weight as a hiring consideration unless it relates directly to the job;
  • Using validated measures of personality traits (as opposed to assumptions) if those traits are related to the job; and
  • Adding discussions of weight-related stereotypes to diversity training programs.

With the exception of the state of Michigan (and pending legislation in Massachusetts), U.S. workers are not protected from discrimination based on weight or size. But what difference does it make? You can't legislate common sense or fairness.

Does anyone really believe there's no more discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or age – all of which are protected by law?

The truth is, good employers far outnumber the bad. And good employers know that great employees (being a subset of the human race) come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colors, backgrounds, belief systems, lifestyles, personalities, ages, and abilities.

So do your best with what you've got, and stick with the basics of job hunting. Show employers how your skills, talents, and qualifications will add value to their team, and you'll soon be in fat city.

Have you faced discrimination as a job seeker (weight-based or otherwise)? Do you believe recruiters and hiring managers profile job candidates based on stereotypes? Please share your thoughts or experiences on this important topic.

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