Heightism: Another Form Of Workplace Bullying

Heightism: another form of bullying
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    When deciding what path to follow for your career, have you ever considered that your height and (in some cases) weight could influence whether or not an organization chooses to hire you? There are rare instances in which this very thing occurs in organizations. 

    Heightism is often used to describe this form of discrimination. Prejudice against a person based on his or her height is known as heightism. This can be applied to individuals whose height falls outside the normal range of the general population.

    In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an adult male’s acceptable height is 5’9″, while an adult female’s height is approximately 5’3″. There is a range of three inches between these averages. Translation? Depending on the age of the individual, an adult male may be as short as 5’6″ or as tall as 6’0″. In adult women, a vertically challenged height of 5’0″ or a height of 5’6″ is acceptable. Although these are averages, they must be viewed in the context of a number of factors. 

    An individual’s height is often determined by his or her genetic makeup. Ethnicity, however, plays a greater role than DNA in determining a person’s characteristics. As a result, not every individual, whether male or female, will fall within the average range of height. When this occurs, they may sometimes be targeted when seeking a career adjustment.

    Is it Discrimination?

    A typical response to such prejudice is, “Is this discrimination illegal?”, which is then followed by, “What can I do about it?” In the U.S., the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) has federal guidelines and laws that permit organizations to discriminate against their employees (or future employees) based on sex, race, religion, and ethnicity. However, there are no guidelines regarding height or weight. Despite the fact that this is not considered to be a “cut and dry” issue, there are aspects of this that enable an organization to remain compliant with the law.

    Height, regardless of whether it is too little or too much, is not considered a disability. As a result, it is not covered by other equality laws, such as the American Disability Act (ADA).

    When being introduced to someone or conducting an in-person interview with them, it is without a doubt one of their most recognizable characteristics. You observe their physical appearance, including their facial features, clothing, weight, and height, as well as any dissimilarities they might have as a person. As a result, employers tend to look down on short individuals or up on tall ones as an unconscious bias. What does this mean? Does it mean that people who are excessively tall consumed more milk as children than those who are short? There is a good chance that this is not the case. As a result, physical appearance tends to be observed before any conscious awareness of a person’s cognitive, social, or professional skills, which are far more important to the success of a job than their height. A potential new employee’s height may cause focus to be shifted away from his or her skills in favor of the uncanny ability to not fall within the average range. Employers may be biased based on physical appearance, which can leave a sour taste in the employee’s mouth.

    Whether many organizations acknowledge or ignore this issue, it is still very much a problem. This problem leads employers to have heightism toward individuals upon first glance. It is important to note, however, that being tall is not necessarily a bad thing. Approximately 59% of organizations and recruiters were unable to acknowledge heightism when asked about it. However, when asked to select between two well-qualified candidates, they found it difficult to make a decision. One individual was considered excessively short compared to the average and another was excessively tall compared to the average. About seven out of ten recruiters or organizations stated that they would prefer to hire a taller candidate over a shorter one. According to them, taller candidates appear smarter due to their height. Is this to imply that shorter candidates are incapable of holding an intelligent conversation? It does not, but that is the preconceived notion. 

    The average height of CEOs tends to be higher than average. In general, CEOs are at least six feet tall. According to statistics, if you wish to become a CEO, you should wear heels if you are a woman, height enhancing soles if you are a man, or prepare for limb lengthening surgery. As a result of the current heightism in the workplace, this reconstructive surgery is on the rise, although it is not common. People should not feel compelled to undergo this surgery in order to increase their height, as well as their career prospects. While surgical treatment is not the solution to this problem, some career-minded individuals who feel inferior due to their ability to be average or above-average in height are considering this option.

    Advantages and Challenges

    The situation cannot be summed up in a few words. In addition to having difficulty reaching items on the top shelf of the kitchen pantry, vertically challenged individuals also experience similar challenges at work. Forbes reports that on average, individuals who are considered vertically gifted earn 1% more per centimeter than those who are challenged in the department. Therefore, it is beneficial to stand tall. Gender, weight, and even age are considered in this calculation.

    Tall people are commonly perceived as being the biggest and strongest individuals, while short individuals are generally regarded as being the smallest and least intelligent. Over time, our perception of this has changed. As careers become more remote and office-based, the focus shifts from whether or not it is advantageous to hire someone who is excessively tall. As more organizations are turning to Zoom interviews, in which the interviewer and the interviewee remain seated throughout the interview, remote-based jobs have helped organizations eliminate this notion completely. In other words, it is not possible to determine a potential newcomer’s height without asking them prior to the interview. A Zoom-based interview can be implemented in jobs requiring you to be in the office five days a week or more. This will eliminate the predetermined bias caused by our current interview process. The result is a level playing field for everyone, regardless of their physical size, whether they are tall or short.


    Organizations can consider doing pre-requisites for weight and height requirements when posting jobs to eliminate heightism from the workplace. All applicants are aware that it is a prerequisite of the job in order to be considered for the position. This is perfectly legal and allows your organization to avoid discrimination, whether consciously or unconsciously. Specifying the height requirements implies that the candidate must undergo a physical before being hired. In addition to ensuring that the individual is not being judged on the basis of a physical characteristic, this will also ensure that your new employee is in good physical health, thereby reducing the risk of the organization taking excessive sick leaves while promoting the overall good of the organization.


    Regardless of how you look at it, heightism is a serious problem in the workplace. The extent to which you are aware of it is another matter entirely. It can be considered another form of bullying that is perpetrated by the leaders and employees of an organization. To combat this issue, your company must first become aware of it. This blog serves this purpose. The awareness is now out there, but how will your organization address it? As this issue will not go away or correct itself, it is imperative that action be taken as soon as possible.

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