On a number of occasions I have said, and written, that an employer can refuse to hire someone because of their appearance. As I recently discovered while being interviewed for an upcoming article, technically, I’m wrong but also, technically, I’m right. Years ago I was in Barnes and Noble heading toward the Customer Service desk. As I approached I realized there was a commotion going on. There was a young woman, probably 18 or 19, screaming at the store manager because he refused to give her a job application. “You’re discriminating against me!” she yelled. Clearly, the manager was not having any luck getting her to listen or leave so I decided to help. “I’m an executive recruiter and career counselor,” I told them. They both stopped and looked at me. “And you are absolutely right, he is discriminating against you.” I paused long enough for the manager to turn white. “And it’s perfectly legal.” “Have you ever been in a bookstore before?” I asked her. “Of course I have!” “Have you ever seen anyone who looks like you working at a bookstore?” “No,” she said, her voice quieting. “And there is a reason why. An owner or a manager has the right to determine his corporate image. You are not it. He’s not discriminating against you because you’re a woman, because you’re young,” she was wearing a cross so I added, “because you’re Christian. He’s discriminating against you because you are covered from finger tips to your neck and I can only guess how far down, with tattoos, and there does not seem to be a place on your face where there is room for another piercing. Think of it this way, have you ever seen anyone with bad teeth working in a dentist’s office? Bad skin working for a dermatologist? An obese person working at a health club? A smoker working for the Cancer Society?” “So where can I get a job?” “Grocery story stacking shelves, maybe working the checkout. I really don’t know. A tattoo parlor. But certainly not a professional office or a place attracting professionals and families. Look at the faces on the children walking by. They don’t know what to make of you.” At this point she was practically on the verge of tears. “Look. You made the decision to do this to yourself. It’s not as though you were burned or injured in a car accident. It was your decision and you have to live with the consequences.” With that she left and the manager came over to me. “I wanted to kill you,” he said with a smile on his face, “but thanks.” That’s the background. Here’s the story with the interview. It’s a piece that should be (it’s not definite so I’m not naming the publication, but if you visit the Media Center page on my website, they’ll be a link when it’s available) coming out next month on discrimination against the obese. My initial reaction was what I told the woman at Barnes and Noble, you can be “discriminating” based on appearance without “discriminating” in the legal sense. The obese are not a protected class, I said. And that was my mistake. The obese and the very tall or short are protected persons. On the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website, there is a page, “Pre-Employment Inquiries and Height & Weight,” which is clearly designed as a “Don’t contact us about this nonsense” warning. “Height and weight requirements tend to disproportionately limit the employment opportunities of some protected groups and unless the employer can demonstrate how the need is related to the job, it may be viewed as illegal under federal law. A number of states and localities have laws specifically prohibiting discrimination on the basis of height and weight unless based on actual job requirements. Therefore, unless job-related, inquires about height and weight should be avoided.” In other words, don’t bother them if you are too short, tall, thin or fat to do the job. So a short person, who can’t lift boxes that are five square feet in size because they are bigger than he is; a tall person who can’t fit in the existing work area because the ceiling is too low, the thin person (I can’t think of one for this so you fill it in!)… or the fat person who isn’t getting an interview to be a flight attendant, should not bother the EEOC. It’s not discrimination! So what’s BFOQ? Bona Fide Occupational Qualification. If it’s related to the person’s ability to do the job, the rejection is not job discrimination. You can discriminate on the basis of age in hiring police officers or fire fighters. Do you really want a 65 year-old running after the mugger or trying to carry you out of a burning building? Even pilots can’t captain commercial aircraft if they are over 60! The beauty of BFOQ is it has to be plain and simple, not some legal spin. Returning to my original thinking, the bookstore manager can reject the tattooed woman because she was scaring the children and, I hasten to add, making the mothers uncomfortable. (Personally, just looking at her – especially the piercings and the one in the tongue – made me nauseous.) So while it might not be for “corporate image” reasons, it was definitely because she would not be able to do the job. You can’t sell books or attract customers if people are uncomfortable looking at you. But I repeat, that was her decision. (And I am not going to get into the issue of whether or not someone who would do that to herself has psychiatric issues and therefore should be protected under, for example, the Americans with Disabilities Act.) My reaction if she had burns, or was a disabled vet, would be entirely different. In that case, I would say hire the person and use it as a learning experience for children and their parents. Image Credit: Shutterstock
We get it. Looking for work can be scary, especially if you’ve been at it for a long time and haven’t gotten any results.
Understanding which fears are getting in the way and how to overcome them will make all the difference. Sometimes you might not be aware of which obstacle is getting in the way of your goals. If you want to overcome these fears once and for all, we invite you to join us!
In this training, you’ll learn how to:
- Utilize strategies for coping with your job search fears
- Be confident in your job search—from writing your resume to networking
- Face your fears and move forward
Join our CEO, J.T. O'Donnell, and Director of Training Development & Coaching, Christina Burgio, for this live event on Wednesday, October 5th at 12 pm ET.
CAN'T ATTEND LIVE? That's okay. You'll have access to the recording and the workbook after the session!
Work is important to a lot of us. And we all have egos. The trick is to balance our own view of work and success so that the ego remains a helpful source of support and not a tyrannical master. One is the road to relative contentment, the other to continued misery. Have you struck the balance?
We particularly need to know we have the balance as close to right (for us and others at work—everywhere!) especially given the likely turmoil and stress employees, colleagues, leadership, and ourselves may feel because of the ongoing uncertainty surrounding us right now.
Why do I even write about ego and why should any of us in business care about it?
To understand the influence of our own ego at work, let's first get a working definition of what ego is. Oxford Languages defines ego as, among other things, ‘the part of the mind that …is responsible for reality testing.’
So, what does reality testing look like on the ground? How do we implement reality testing at work for us?
Our Internal Rule BookBigstock
Through a rule book. Our own internal rule book. An individual set of rules we each carry around inside our heads for how we deal with the world including at work.
Everyone has their own internal rule book. Your job is to make sure that your internal rule book continues to support and serve for the benefit of all including your stakeholders, your colleagues, your team, your company, and yourself at work.
We all have this internal rule book for all parts of our lives. So, our internal rule book pervades our waking moments including at work.
Almost from birth we acquire, adopt, and develop our own set of rules which drive what we expect and therefore what we impose on others and ourselves as a way to decide what is going on—that is we are reality testing.
For instance, simple rules picked up through experience like if you pay a baker for a bread roll you expect them to hand over a bread roll. If they don’t hand over a bread roll then you start reality testing. In this example, where the baker didn’t hand over the bread roll as you expected (rule about exchange) you might immediately reality test the situation by asking ‘Did I hand over the money to the baker’ or ‘Did he hear my order correctly?’
You see how the rule book works—it's reality testing what you expected. You expected a bread roll after handing over the money (a rule about exchange), yet the baker didn’t hand over a bread roll. So, you try to understand what happened given your rule explains there ‘should’ have been an exchange. You could call this sort of rule a ‘standard rule’ as many people follow it. In this scenario, the rule of exchange is a standard rule because it is widely followed and understood.
So, applying the rule book to work, if you delegate to someone and then they don’t meet your expectations...here is where things can get interesting. Remember our internal rule book guides and drives our expectations.
Your rule book is active 24 hours, 7 days a week in your subconscious, whether you’re at work or not, and whether you are always aware or not. The application of our rules often happens on ‘autopilot.’ Remaining mindful of how you apply your rules will increase your likelihood of successful interactions and activities at work and in general.
Because being mindful means you are in that very moment, live, and you are adjusting to the actual, live situation and the interaction or person in that very moment. Rather than applying the rule when it may have first formed for you.
Remember, right now, people may be in a heightened state of stress for other reasons than the immediate interaction with you. So make sure your rule is the best possible fit, in the moment, to that situation and people.
This mindful assessment of the ‘best fit’ of your rule in the moment will lead to better, healthier, more successful interactions and outcomes the more you can do it.
Remember: a negative emotion you may feel during the day at work, with others or during an activity you are doing—e.g., reading a work email, for instance (anger, frustration, annoyance)—is a pretty good indicator that someone or something has tripped over one of your rules.
This is then a split-second opportunity for you to grab hold of how you are feeling, and then recognize that it’s actually because of a rule you have in play. You then have the immediate opportunity to do something potentially different to how you would ‘normally’ react.
This can lead to a different (and possibly) better outcome for you and the person or situation than might otherwise have been the case.
Let’s continue with the example mentioned of delegating work to someone. You have more choices in this latter example scenario of delegating work to someone which is of course more complex than a simple transaction of buying a bread roll—obvious right?
What may be less obvious is that you and the person you delegated to don’t just have standard rules (i.e., widely followed and understood what is expected). We all have non-standard or individual internal rules as well. In other words, everyone has a standard set of rules that are widely followed and understood by others and non-standard rules where expectations between people might vary.
It’s also worth thinking about how you apply your rule book in say, difficult work situations like distressed projects and teams (see "6-Point Checklist For Taking Over A ‘Distressed’ Project Or Team" for more on this).
Let’s say in our delegation example you explained to your colleague that she keeps you in the communication loop on the progress of work you delegated to her. Let’s say she doesn’t copy you in on an update email and you find out from a colleague instead how the work is progressing.
This is the second time you have found out indirectly rather than directly from the person you delegated to. Do you apply a rule that says this colleague cannot be trusted or is slack or absent-minded? Or could it be that your rule instead interprets your colleague’s behaviour as they are purposely leaving you out of the loop.
What if her behaviour of leaving you off the update email is actually because she is continuously overworked and doing her very best and slips up sometimes because of how busy she is?
Take your pick of how you respond in this scenario.
Your response is driven by your internal rule about what you expect—in this scenario, what you expected when you delegate work to someone. So, when your expectation wasn’t met, your internal rule book kicks in (to reality test) and then reacts by judging the situation (and the person).
Remember that our rule book is built over time and evolves through observation, our own experiences, as well as our beliefs—a topic for another (many!) blog series.
How much you check, question, and validate your own internal rules that you use and apply to a given situation, such as the example above, will potentially influence your attitude and behaviour towards this person as well as similar scenarios in the future.
Tips To Make Sure Your Rulebook Is A Healthy, Balanced One:Bigstock
Ask yourself, ‘Do my rules...
- Serve me in regards to my work?’
- Serve my stakeholders including my team, direct reports, sponsor, and colleagues?’
- Place onerous hurdles that serve little purpose except to continually reassure me?’
- Need to be removed in some areas?’
- Hinder or support fast progress at work?’
- Need streamlining, changing, revision, updating, editing, or deleting?’
I’ve barely mentioned ego throughout this blog yet that’s where we started. We could spend a lot more than my 1200-word limit allows. So instead, I focused on a practical example of what is driven by our ego—the internal rule book.
At its most basic, our internal rule book is there to protect us and reassure us that we are in control as we deal with and decide what is going on around us at work (and beyond).
It’s important you place as much effort as you can muster into making sure, especially in today’s uncertain work environment, that the application of your rule book (i.e., in situations with stakeholders like colleagues, employees, or leadership) remains as balanced and unemotional as possible, no matter what is going on for you and your stress levels. Not an easy ask I realize—but I know you can do it!
The tips I provided aim to help you recognise and understand your own internal rule book, the one you apply at work especially, and help you ensure it remains supportive rather than one that drives unhelpful behaviours that can make things worse for you and those around you.
Remember the ultimate aim of our internal rules is to help not hinder.
Would love to hear about your internal rule books and how they serve you or how you review your rules regularly to make sure they continue to support you.
In today's job market, your resume is the most important document you have to get your job application in the hands of the hiring manager. If you can't get your resume past the ATS, it doesn't matter how much experience or how good your cover letter is. That's why you need to be strategic and intentional about the words you include in your resume.
The Importance Of Powerful Resume Words
When a hiring manager is seeing the same old resume time and time again (which includes the cliché words and phrases such as "highly dedicated individual" or "great team player") you are guaranteeing that your resume will be tossed. Not only is it probably not optimized with the right keywords, but by taking up space with subjective statements, you're missing out on the chance to quantify your experience, skills, and accomplishments on your resume.
Poorly chosen words and clichéd phrases can destroy the interest of the reader. Powerful words, when chosen correctly, can have the opposite effect of motivating and inspiring the reader.
Here are the most powerful resume words you should use to stand out from the competition and increase your chances of getting hired...
Top 100 Powerful Resume Words
The next time you're writing your resume, be sure to include some of the powerful words above. Your job search depends on it!
Need more help with your job search?
We'd love it if you signed up for Work It Daily's Event Subscription! Get your career questions answered in our next live event!
This article was originally published at an earlier date.