• Friday, May 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

What has size got to do with it?

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Found this Corporate Aunty Aunt letter on one of my favourite websites (cbswatch. com). It made an interesting read, hence I thought to share: Does size really matter? Do fat people really have less chance of being employed? Most people I know define as male or female size 18 and above. Will be interesting to hear your views!

Dear Evil HR Lady,

Being an office worker all of my life, sitting in a desk setting has not been real good for the figure, but has never prevented me from working longer hours and giving 200 percent compared to some of my thin, lazy co-workers. What do I weigh? I am hovering at 190 lbs and have been there since high school. My dress is very business-like and professional and I leave no skin uncovered from my neck down!

So here we go again.

Upon receiving a call from a local oceanfront resort asking me for an interview, I was elated.

After starting the interview, I realised my waistline was the one in the hot seat. Being overweight was not allowed in the position I was seeking. What position did I apply for? Front Desk Customer Service Associate, a position I have held at another resort for many years. The kicker? This resort caters to the granola all natural crowd and is an all-organic and wellness-inspired company. The new manager is striving to provide healthy eating choices in the restaurant, a completely edible garden on site, yoga classes and cooking classes to guests.

Now if I was a paying customer I would be welcome with open arms, ‘Come on in, fatty, let’s get you in shape,’ but being the first impression of the resort was an absolute NO GO.

I showed excitement and eagerness at the interview. How exciting that I may actually land a job that actually would be a great place spiritually and physically to work. Sounded like a dream, but I was passed over for a 95 lb anorexic-looking girl of 20 years of age.

Not quite sure, but I think I was double discriminated against. Oregon is poor for fat folks in that regard. Heavy and over 30 – forget it – it’s all legal here!

REPLY:

I have no doubt your weight played a role in the decision not to hire you – although perhaps not in the way you would expect. I doubt your age did – 30 is pretty young. But, I’d like you to go back and read what you wrote: “This resort caters to the granola all-natural crowd and is an all-organic and wellness-inspired company. The new manager is striving to provide healthy eating choices in the restaurant, a completely edible garden on site, yoga classes and cooking classes to guests.”

I do not think companies should discriminate against people based on their weight, when their weight doesn’t matter. (Although, to be clear, I do not and would not support any legal protection for anyone based on weight.) But, a company that is trying to sell healthy lifestyles should absolutely consider what their salespeople look like. And the front desk job at a resort? This is the face of the company. What people think of the front desk person is more important for the company’s future success than what they think of the hotel manager, who they will most likely never meet.

Is it OK to discriminate against obese people? Am I too fat to be hired? Is this age discrimination?

Yes, they’d welcome you with open arms as a customer because they are trying to sell something – the idea that if you just take their yoga classes, eat their acai berries, and drink their green smoothies you’ll look young and thin and beautiful. Because, let’s face it, when people talk about “getting healthy”, what they really mean is “getting skinny”. And if the person trying to tell you how it will be to your advantage to take whole spa package doesn’t look like what the customer wants to look like in the future? Less chance of a sale, or at least that’s the perception of the hiring manager.

Until our idea of the ideal body shape changes, people are going to wish they looked thinner than they do. And it’s possible that our ideas of body shape will change – they have in the past.

But, there’s another thing I want you to think about: Your attitude. You are a better worker than your “lazy, thin co-workers”. They gave the job to a “95 lb anorexic-looking girl”. Those are not nice attitudes and you are just as guilty for judging someone for their size as you think they are for judging you.

Some people can eat like a horse and never gain an ounce. Others of us gain 5 pounds just by looking at a plate of brownies. It is unfair. But, life is not now fair, and never will it be fair. And I’m fine with that, because in order for things to be fair, they have to be at the lowest common denominator and, well, I’m a fan of excellence. But, your co-workers aren’t lazy because they are thin any more than you are not lazy because you’re fat, and the woman who got the job is most likely not anorexic. And if she is, that’s a serious health problem and we should have compassion on her plight.

Because, while I think it’s possible that they didn’t hire you because of your body shape, I think it’s equally possible that they didn’t hire you because your own perception of yourself and others, due to your weight, is causing the problem. You felt like your waistline was the one being interviewed. Is that a realistic statement or are you self-conscious about your weight?

If you are self-conscious about your weight, do something about it. If you’re happy with your weight, project that. Be confident. Stop expecting that people will judge you for what you look like. Expect people to judge you on your competence and capabilities. People generally rise to the expectations we have of them, and how they react to our body sizes is not an exception to this. Either way, it’s your choice. Make the choice and own the consequences.

 

Nkiru Olumide-Ojo