Friday, 15 January 2010

"I'm not recruiting him! He's a fat bastard!"

I am sad to say that this is a true story.

The editor of this esteemed publication once assisted at an assessment centre for first line supervisors in a public sector organisation. Admittedly it was one in which a degree of physical fitness was required, but other factors were equally important. Of the candidates assessed on the day, one individual clearly emerged as the one who most closely fulfilled the full range of assessment criteria (including verbal and numerical reasoning, team work, critical thinking, problem solving and leadership potential). The recruiting manager was visibly uncomfortable with this particular candidate being selected for the supervisory role. “So,” questioned your faithful editor, “Why do you not want to progress with appointing this high-performing candidate to the vacant position?” His response? “Because he’s a fat bastard!”

This incident may have taken place a number of years ago but, according to a study undertaken by Slimming World (not often quoted in HR Case Studies, one has to admit!) and YouGov, 'Fattism' is alive and kicking in the workplace.

The responses from those who considered themselves to be overweight are inevitably subjective (“They would say that, wouldn’t they!”, I hear some cry) but the research indicates that when overweight people do get a job, they are twice as likely to earn a low salary, four times more likely to suffer bullying about their weight, and six times more likely to feel their appearance has caused them to be overlooked for promotion.

More worrying though is the fact that of the 227 bosses surveyed, one in four male managers said they would turn down a potential candidate based purely on their weight, and one in 10 admitted they have already done so.

  • Is this a serious problem, or do we have enough other more important prejudices to overcome in the workplace?


  1. This is the one of those ‘conditions’ that crosses all boundaries and shows no prejudice. You can be overweight and female/old/young/disabled/ethnic minority/gay/Methodist/City supporter/jazz fan*….. (*please delete as appropriate).

    Is it a serious problem? You bet ya! Get people to be tolerant of each other then you’ve killed so many birds that the RSPB will be jumping up and down.


  2. I agree that this is a problem in certain workplaces. I also see that anyone who is overly thin can get similar treatment. It's amazing that if you are not considered average weight by society's status, it's ok for people to comment about it. I'm on the thin side and I can't tell you how many times people at work talk about my weight. I wouldn't dream of doing it to them though. UGH!