September 12, 2005
Americans believe that height confers advantages in the workplaceby Jack Ludwig
GALLUP NEWS SERVICE
Does it really matter if someone is noticeably shorter or taller than someone else? Shorter people may be more likely to need help in reaching the highest shelves, and to feel submerged in a crowd, while taller folks may be more prone to bumping their heads and may feel decidedly more cramped in standard-sized airline seats. But what about things that really matter? What about feelings of self-confidence in social situations, or being respected — or promoted — at work?
The recently completed Gallup/Pfizer Survey of Opinions on the Social Impact of Stature measured perceptions of a random sample of Americans regarding the relative fortunes of adults who are noticeably shorter or taller than their peers. Although the survey did not directly assess whether taller or shorter people actually experience different outcomes, Gallup found ample evidence that Americans believe that one’s stature has a decided effect on a variety of important dimensions.
This Gallup poll raises some interesting questions about how perceptions can influence our society.
It’s interesting to know that more than 3/4 of the population believes that “noticeably taller” people are more likely to get promoted at work. However, what would be more interesting is knowing just how people feel about this. Do they think such a state of affairs represents a just society which claims to be a meritocracy?
The Bottom Line
The data reviewed above are, after all, only opinions about whether shorter or taller people reap advantages or disadvantages from their stature, not proof that these dynamics exist in the workplace. But they do suggest that stature might belong among characteristics such as gender, age, and race that — irrespective of their relevance — can have a bearing on outcomes in the workplace and beyond. They reveal a remarkable degree of consensus among Americans that a pattern of thinking and behavior that could be given the name “heightism” exists. Beliefs cannot be taken as proof, but beliefs as broadly shared as the ones that are the focus of this survey beg to be taken seriously.
Click on the above link for the full article with additional data and graphs.