UCL School of Management is delighted to welcome Marko Pitesa, SMU, to host a seminar discussing ‘Workplace micro-foundations of the attractiveness advantage’.
I will present two ongoing projects explaining how “the attractiveness advantage” is generated through patterns of workplace helping and networking. Research has found that attractive workers are more likely to be hired, earn more money, and are promoted more frequently, and this “attractiveness advantage” is comparable in size to the gender and race gaps. The dominant view of attractiveness advantage assumes a bias among decision makers who allocate better outcomes to more attractive workers, and in so doing disadvantage other, equally qualified workers. In the first project, we conducted a large multi-source field study among members of 100 work teams and their supervisors, finding that attractive employees’ coworkers themselves add to the attractiveness advantage by disproportionally allocating help to attractive workers and increasing their human capital. The effect seems to be driven by the positive attributions of attractive individuals (rather than sexual signaling or inequality perpetuation motives). We further find that the positive attributions of attractive individuals are at least partly true: Attractive employees were not just helped more but were also more helpful. In the second project, we propose a supply-side explanation for the attractiveness advantage: Attractive workers network more for the self as well as for others, resulting in positive impressions and contributing to the attractiveness advantage. A preliminary study among 600 MBA students found support for this idea. I discuss implications for organizational and public policy efforts to ensure equality of opportunity and merit-based allocation rewards irrespective of worker physical attractiveness.