Thursday, April 17, 2008

I'm Too Sexy for this Work!

I saw this on Seth Godin's blog:

You can't hire that guy because he's not as good looking as George (Clooney). And you can't believe that speaker because he doesn't present as well as George. And that guy? He's short. Short? Well, shorter than George. And you can't trust him to make good decisions because his skin is much darker than George's.

You can't date her because she's not as good looking as Jennifer (whichever Jennifer you want to set as the standard). And her? Well, she stutters, and Jennifer doesn't. And Jennifer herself, of course, is not nearly as smart as George.

Jennifer and George may be extraordinarily good looking movie stars, but you don't get to work with them. By buying into a standard of expectation for what's normal (or great or very good or trustworthy) we shortchange ourselves every single day. (Read the rest)

Seth's right. Back in my HR days, I remember reps clearly making decisions on which resume to put on the top of the pile based in such (illegal) banalities as "He's cute" or "Her name sounds nice." That, by the way, is when my hair really started turning prematurely white. Seeking to draft an AA/EEO program to help "deal with this," I went to work gathering research on looks and expectations, the positive and negative Pygmalion Effects, and such.

Here's where I found myself scratching my noggin: Studies showed that CEO's were between 45 and 55, were traditionally good looking, worked out regularly, were heterosexually married to a pretty wife. More than their education or past experience, the researchers found that their presumed attractiveness was more of a constant. Their ability to succeed was, in part, predicated on the expectation that pretty people did well. Around that same time, where was a rash of CEO flameouts where they fell to earth like comets. Their good looks bought them all kinds of space, but didn't change gravity then they became less than lighter-than-air.

Remember the horribly ubiquitous Right Said Fred song, "I'm Too Sexy?" a novelty hit that was so successful, that they re-released it in 2007 (could Mac Daddy, Macarena II be far behind?). That, it seems, is quite a bit of what can be seen at networking events, as people, oddly, preen and stut their looks rather than their, wares.