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Being handsome can hurt your career: Study

LONDON — Women have long complained that those blessed with good looks are more likely to be promoted than their less attractive colleagues.

Being handsome can hurt your career: Study

PEOPLE magazine's sexiest man alive for 2015 David Beckham. TODAY file photo

LONDON — Women have long complained that those blessed with good looks are more likely to be promoted than their less attractive colleagues.

However, a study has found that the opposite may be true of men.

Being handsome can actually impede a man’s professional progress, experts found, as male colleagues tend to be reluctant to promote those deemed more good-looking than themselves.

Researchers from University College London (UCL)’s School of Management found that those with the looks of George Clooney or Mad Men’s Don Draper were considered competent but, as a result, are perceived as a threat in the workplace. They are more likely to be rejected for competitive roles requiring individual talent such as sales or investment banking, but picked for jobs in which team performance is rewarded, to enable the decision-maker to further their own career.

The study by academics from the London Business School and the University of Maryland concluded the same did not apply to women, as being pretty is not associated with competence among female stereotypes.

Dr Sun Young Lee, an assistant professor of organisational behaviour at UCL and the lead researcher, said: “Organisations want to hire competent candidates, but individuals have their own agenda. When employing someone, they do not want the newcomer to do better than them and show them up.”

The findings were based on four experiments involving 870 volunteers. Participants were presented with various scenarios in which they had to employ someone for a specific job, but had more than one candidate.

The CVs were created to portray candidates with almost identical skill sets and qualifications, but the photographs that accompanied them were different.

Dr Lee said: “Managers are affected by stereotypes and make hiring decisions to serve their own self-interests, so organisations may not get the most competent candidates.

“With more companies involving employees in recruitment processes, this important point needs attention.

“Awareness that hiring is affected by potential work relationships and stereotyping tendencies can help organisations improve their selection processes.”

The findings will likely strike a chord with actor Rob Lowe, who last year complained about how tough it had been to further his career because of his good looks.

“There’s this unbelievable bias and prejudice against ‘good-looking people’, that they can’t be in pain or they can’t have rough lives or be deep or interesting,” he told The New York Times.

“They can’t be any of the things that you long to play as an actor. I’m getting to play those parts now and loving it.

“When I was a teen idol, I was so damn pretty I wouldn’t have taken myself seriously.”

Dr Lee said her findings suggested that more organisations should appoint external recruitment companies to avoid adverse personalised decision-making.

The study is published in the journal Organisational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes.

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