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'An attractive boss is distracting'

S Kalyana Ramanathan  |  London 

Advice: Earn juniors’ respect, so that your looks cease to matter so much

For many movie buffs, the “real” favourite line in the 1992 Oscar-nominated movie, A Few Good Men, is not Jack Nicholson’s words in the final courtroom climax, but the one at the very start, when he makes this nasty and lewd remark at about the latter working for a pretty boss (Demi Moore). Unprintable as it may be, it turns out that Nicholson was right — having an attractive boss of the opposite sex can be a challenge, workwise.

A recent study of nearly 2,000 British executives showed that working for a pretty or handsome boss has more pitfalls than one may expect. This study, commissioned by HireScores.com, Britain’s leading recruitment scoring website, found that nearly half of men (47 per cent ) maintain that an attractive female boss would distract them too much, resulting in lower productivity and higher testosterone levels! And, 53 per cent of women who work for an attractive male boss claim they would be far too intimidated, getting flustered during one-on-ones, blushing when he catches their gaze and controlling their giggling when he’s around.

Despite being a small-sample study, covering 1,886 people, the conclusion is this: for majority of British, the more attractive the boss, the lower the productivity.

Highscores.com offers some advice: for women, avoidance is key, whereas for men, this is a chance to show off their intelligence, dress to impress and woo their boss in meetings.

Grouping people based on sex will not help either. When asked how they would feel working for an attractive boss of the same sex, 86 per cent of men admitted they would feel threatened and 61 per cent of women admit they would feel jealous of their attractive female manager. Only 11 per cent of men and 26 per cent of women say an attractive boss of the same sex would not affect them or their productivity in the slightest.

Commenting on the findings, Lisette Howlett, founder of said, “Regardless of someone’s appearance, within the workplace their job title is the only label they should hold. Clearly, someone’s appearance should be just as irrelevant as their age, gender or race. This survey demonstrates, however, that the extent to which someone feels comfortable with their manager impacts on their ability to do their jobs. All managers — super attractive or not — need to establish effective professional relationships with their people. They need to think about their leadership style and impact and develop this, so that it works across the board — this includes how they dress, how they mix with their teams, how they project their authority.”

“Managers need to deal sensitively with this issue, as with any other issue where something is getting in the way of a productive and effective workplace. It can, however, be more difficult, since the manager themselves is the ‘cause’, so to speak. It also raises the very real issue that managers need to maintain a sensible distance between themselves and their staff. It is fine to sometimes relax and have fun but it must never be forgotten that unless the management/staff relationship is kept professional, there will be problems at some point in the working relationship. If managers earn the respect of their people, then at some point their looks will cease to be so relevant.”

First Published: Thu, August 27 2009. 02:04 IST
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