Myths and quirks in the workplace

March 5, 2008 8:28:01 AM PST
Tory Johnson, CEO of Women for Hire and Good Morning America's Workplace Editor, busts common workplace myths. 1) Does size matter? Do taller people earn more than short people?

Does size matter? Do taller people earn more than short people? YES

  • An inch in height = $789 more a year in pay
  • Someone who is 6 ft. would make $5,500 more per year than someone who is 5'5"
  • Why? Some say tall people appear smarter, more confident and authoritative
  • Yes! Short people -- as a whole -- are indeed short-changed when it comes to salary and respect in the workplace, according to multiple University studies. Tall people -- which means men who are over the American average of 5' 10" and women over the American average of 5' 6" -- earn considerably more money throughout their careers. An inch in height is said to correspond with $789 more a year in pay. So someone who is 6' would make $5,500 more per year than someone who is 5' 5" -- and this takes into account variables such as education, level of experience and type of work. There's some discrepency about why this is: some researchers say tall people are smarter; others says tall people carry themselves with more confidence and are seen by colleagues, customers, and managers as more authoritative -- all of which equates to more money.

    It's disheartening, especially when you think that only a professional basketball player should be rewarded on the job for height. But before you think you're doomed in your profession, keep in mind there are always exceptions. Former GE CEO Jack Welch (5' 8"), Texas tycoon Ross Perot (5' 7"), actor Tom Cruise (5' 7") -- all shorter than the average American man -- and they're doing just fine. There are countless others like that. Exuding confidence is critical -- and can most definitely compensate for height.

    2) Does color matter? Is red really a power color for women?

    Is red really a power color for women? NO

  • Women who wear red can be perceived as aggressive or negative
  • Power colors: black or navy
  • Can use red as an accent (jewelry, handbag, scarf)
  • Nope, and if red were as powerful as some people make it out to be, men would be wearing it too. There's nothing that suggests when a woman wears red, she's seen as more powerful in a positive way. In fact, it can backfire: She's seen as aggressive in a negative way. The symbol of authority and leadership in the workplace is a man in a power suit -- and he's always wearing navy or black. Red might be used as an accent in the form of a tie, but it's hardly head to toe. The same rule applies to women in positions of power: black or navy is the power color, but it can be accessorized successfully with bright colors in the form of jewelry, handbags, even a scarf. That doesn't mean women can't wear colorful clothing; it just means that colorful clothing won't earn you points as someone who's powerful or authoritative.

    3) Crying: Is there a difference in perception of men versus women when they cry at work?

    Is there a difference in perception of men vs. women when they cry at work? YES

  • When a woman cries, she's seen as an emotional wreck, manipulative
  • When men cry, they're seen as compassionate
  • Yes, total double standard here. When a woman cries at work, she's seen as an emotional wreck...she's considered manipulative -- as if she's got something tricky up her sleeve. When men cry, especially powerful men, they're seen as compassionate. They're praised as having heart. And these images and perceptions are from both men and women -- not just one gender or the other.

    4) Do men and women perceive ambitious women equally?

    There's a negative connotation about ambitious women. It's ok for a woman to want to be successful, but in the 21st century the scarlet letter is still A -- only instead of adulteress, it's ambitious. In fact, many women cringe at the thought of calling themselves ambitious -- as if it connotes someone with an agenda, someone who wants to get ahead at any cost. And if she's too ambitious, something must be wrong in that woman's personal life. But when it comes to men, they're supposed to be ambitious. If he's not ambitious, he's a bump on a log -- a loser, a slacker.


    Notice these biases in your own mind -- whether you think of the tall person as somehow superior because of height or you are critical of driven, successful women -- and force yourself not to think this way. There's no rule book that tells us to believe this way. It's a combination of nature and nurture that we've been conditioned to believe this way. But we can change -- and it starts with one person at a time!

    Women for Hire Career Expo
    Navy Pier
    Lakeview Terrace
    600 E. Grand Ave.
    Thur., 10am to 2pm

    Free Admission
    Resumes and business attire required
    On-site registration