How will you win the war for height?

tall people

We all know that tall people make better employees, are more driven, and have superior leadership skills…that goes without saying, but how much do you base your hiring decisions on height? A little? A lot? On a scale of 1-10 how important is height to you when you are considering a candidate? And more importantly, how are you going to compete for the tallest (most talented) applicants out there?

I have been asking people these questions quite a bit lately and they look at me like I am crazy. They keep telling me height does not matter!

I know that we do not want height to matter. I know that we do not want height to matter because we know that there is no actual correlation with height and superior leadership skills. I know that we care about talent. I know that we have the right intentions.

I also know that intentions do not equal outcomes.

Less than 15% of American men are over six feet tall, yet almost 60% of male corporate CEOs are over six feet tall. Less than 4% of American men are over six feet, two inches tall, yet more than 36% of male corporate CEOs are over six feet, two inches tall (Judge, T.A., Cable, D.M., Journal of Applied Psychology, 2004).

If height does not matter, why does it matter so much?

What happens in the space between our wonderful intentions and the outcomes that clearly do not reflect those wonderful intentions?

Why do so many business leaders, HR practitioners, and talent gurus keep telling me that height (and race, and gender, and fill in the blank) does not matter while so many of our workplace outcomes are significantly skewed by race and by gender…and by height?

Because bias.

We are not putting tall people in charge because we dislike and distrust everyone shorter than six feet tall, but because of the automatic associations we make relative to height. The keyword in that sentence is automatic. Not chosen, not intentional, not logical, deliberate or conscious. Automatic. You flip the light switch, the light comes on, there is no analysis or deliberation.

We are biased beings, not just those less than perfect folks that you have to work with but even you! Even me!

Bias is part of the human condition, you are not biased because you are hateful you are biased because you are human. The question is, what are you going to do about it?

The decisions that you and your organization make about human beings are chock-full of bias right now. While your competitors allow their decisions to be unduly and unintentionally biased by things like height, weight, age, race, gender, etc., you could be removing that bias from your talent decisions.

Seems like a bit of an advantage.

The lovely and talented Mr. Howard Ross, who has taught me much of what I know regarding unconscious bias, has a few ideas for you.

Be good to each other.

  1. This is Why People Hate HR - Laurie Ruettimann

    […] We prefer tall men. […]

  2. Are humans really the most valuable asset?

    […] I ask folks in HR, talent, recruiting, and management all the time how big of an issue height is when they are considering an applicant. They generally stare at me like they are concerned about my mental health. Which is understandable, because — unless there’s an intramural volleyball team or really high shelves in the break room — height does not tell us anything of value about an applicant. Yet height continues to bias hiring decisions. […]

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