Hot blonde businesswoman

Career advice: How do I handle a boss who hires women for their looks?

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Dear Colleen:

I work in the high pressure sales end of a data marketing office in Mississauga. Things are pretty good and commissions are high, but I can’t help but notice that one of the managers seems to be hiring less on sales ability and more on-how can I say this?- looks. Basically, if you are under thirty-five, gym toned and have a great cleavage you are in. Some of these new hires barely have the ability to manage a client, not to mention dial a phone. One of them actually complained that the constant dialing was damaging her manicure and he took a private meeting in his office to hear her out. I’m not sure if this is because he is recently divorced, but my boss appears to be hiring fitness models and not sales reps. If this continues I’m not sure if our business will last the year. How do I confront my boss about his new, ahem, hiring practices?

- Plain Jane

Dear Jane:

My first question is this: are these in-house positions, or are you on the road? If they are in-house then it would appear that your boss is hiring eye candy for his own purposes and not for the good of the company. If, however, you call on clients face to face, the reality is that sometimes sex sells, and he might know what he’s doing. That being said, if the new hires don’t have sales ability then you have every reason to be concerned.

It sounds like you are doing a bit of assuming as to the capabilities of these women. Before you confront your boss about his hiring practices, befriend the new hires. Get to know them. Find out what makes them tick. Do they like the company, the job? Where did they come from before this position. What is their background? Do your research.

One way to win people over is to ask their opinion about something. Ask the new hires some problem solving questions and see how they fare.

How much time have you given them to prove themselves or fail? Give it some time and give them the benefit of the doubt for at least a couple of months. Then decide whether you were correct in assuming they are all incompetent.

If so, you are in a sticky situation. It really isn’t your position to be questioning the manager’s hiring decisions. At the same time, if success is determined by all the sales agents’ results and the results deteriorate because of these hirings, then it is your business.

If sales start to wane, take your case to the HR manager or your boss’s boss. I don’t usually like to suggest that anyone go over their boss’s head, but in this case you don’t really have any other recourse. If you have to go this route, voice your concerns in an unemotional manner. Present your research, the results of the conversations you had with the new hires and the declining sales. Mention that you are trying to nip a problem in the bud. Be sure you can back up everything you present.

Hopefully they will then do something about it. At the end of the day, the bottom line is everything to the decision makers in a company. Or it should be.

Best of luck
-Colleen

Related: What do I do about a sabotaging co-worker?

Corporate trainer and career specialist Colleen Clarke answers your pressing career questions.
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  • http://about.me/davidalangay David Gay

    It’s a sad but true fact that there is a bias against workers based on attractiveness, as defined by society. With the popularity of entertainment and reality shows and social media dominating the Internet, it’s no surprise that this type of discrimination is becoming a factor in management decision making. Women are especially affected by this bias, denying them the opportunity to rise in the corporate ranks as reward for their hard work and sacrifice of their personal lives.

    In one of my episodes of “David Needs A Job” on my YouTube Channel, I came across a company that offers services to polish your employment image, one of which is appearance modification. I argued in that video that how you look in terms of attractiveness as defined by society has no direct bearing on the ability to do your job, or to be a potential hire for the job. What only matters is the qualifications on your resum and your references (particularly from your immediate supervisor).

    It’s called “Episode 14: The Eye Of The Beholder” in case you want to watch it.