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Baldness can be Beneficial in the Workplace

Career News March 12, 2013

Men with thinning hair should not choose the comb-over. Research conducted by Dr. Albert Mannes who is a professor at University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business revealed that there is evidence on men who embrace baldness by shaving their heads, and it makes them seem more masculine, confident, and dominant compared to those that lost their hair the natural way.

When Mannes was in his mid-30s, he had shaved his head and found that people reacted differently towards him; the experience inspired him to conduct the research. He noticed people were standoffish and deferential on a few occasions. Since baldness is usually associated with lack of social standing, Mr. Mannes was a bit curious about this behavior, so he decided to research the question.

In three studies, participants in Mannes’ research were asked about their assessment on photos of different men with diverse hairstyles ranging from hirsuteness to baldness. Participants rated the men on attributes including strength, leadership, masculinity, attractiveness, height, confidence, dominance, and to what extent they have violated social norms.

The research indicated that men with shaved heads were typically thought of as more masculine, confident, and dominant. During one of the studies, Mannes discovered that men with shaved heads were seen, on average, an inch taller and thirteen percent stronger than men with hair. If you are questioning the results, Mannes’ research suggested that in a world, which looks down on baldness, a man who chooses to shave his head could be sending a message that he is confident in his overall competence and abilities.

Men are not the only ones who benefits from not adhering to societal standards regarding appearance. Silvia Bellezza who is a doctoral student at Harvard University conducted a research about women at high end fashion stores; her research showed that women who wore fur coats or dresses that shop at the store do not spend nearly as much as those who wore gym clothes while shopping.

It is hard to see what type of implications these findings have in the workplace. According to Mannes, his research does not provide any evidence about behavioral consequences of these perceptions. Do people who are perceived as more valuable or dominant get ahead? Do business contacts and employers react positively to such people?

Mannes points out, prior research conducted had suggested that people who negotiate with those they perceive as more dominant are likely more conciliatory; men who shaved their heads tend to enjoy more success in negotiations. Hence, if you are starting to lose your hair, according to Mannes, you may be better off by shaving it all off.

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