Sunday, November 8, 2009

Your face gives you away

According to a recent study, people can accurately gage the personalities of others simply by looking at photographs of them. As WebMD reports:

"Two pictures were taken of the subjects. In one, they posed in a way that researchers told them -- staring at the camera, not smiling, feet should-width apart, hands at sides. In the other, they were photographed in natural, spontaneous poses. Their actual personalities were evaluated based on a questionnaire they filled out themselves, as well as questionnaires completed by people who knew them well."

As it turns out, participants were accurate when they looked at both pictures, though more so in the spontaneous picture. While we are supposed to be surprised by this study, it really shoudn't be surprising. This study is just one of many recent studies showing that the face gives away much about the person behind it.

Does the fact that people can tell so much about a person by their face mean that instead of training sessions on nondiscrimination, training should be held on how to discriminate -not based on race/sex- but on facial characteristics? The implications for anyone hiring or putting together a team are obvious, as they are for anyone interested in profiling customers. A company could use the information garnered from these studies to train their people in how to read faces, and or select employees who are particularly good at the task to perform various functions.

The idea of judging people based on their faces cuts against prevailing notions of equality and nondiscrimination. We are taught that anyone could be anything and that we should not judge them based on a characteristic that is beyond their control. Because making decisions on something largely beyond a person's control cut against that prevailing notion, anyone actively doing so could expect legal challenges. Some states have passed laws that protect against discriminating on the basis of fatness, and others are contemplating nondiscrimination laws for physical attractiveness, and height. Currently many states protect homosexuals from being discriminated against. To the extent that facial profiling falls under lines of masculinity and race, it could certainly be underfire already.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Good smell = Morality?

Investing in a can of air freshener could be a cheap way to get your employees behaving ethically, check out the livescience post on it:

Bad genes for a trucker, pilot, etc

A recent study seems to indicate that there may be a gene behind bad driving. Livescience explains,

"The study involved only 29 individuals, however, 22 without the so-called bad-driving gene and seven with it. The participants drove 15 laps on a simulator that required them to learn the nuances of a track with difficult curves and turns. The researchers measured how well participants stayed on course. The drivers repeated the simulator test four days later.
Participants with this particular gene performed 20 percent worse on the simulation test compared with those without the gene variant. Similar results were found in the follow-up test."

Applications in the workplace would abound if the results of this sample study were replicated and the ability to test for the gene were cheap.

However, employer's ability to use this information is constrained by GINA (Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The best face for the job

As recently noted by Slate Magazine and in turn commented on by Steve Sailer, facial characteristics may provide clues to the personality of the man behind the face. Specifically, the effects that prenatal testosterone exposure has on men include giving them more or less masculine faces, and leaving them with more or less aggressive personalities. The various descriptions for masculine faces include a strong square jaw, a pronounced brow, small eyes, and a wide face. Another indicator is the ratio between a man's index finger and his ring finger - the shorter the index finger is in comparison, the more testosterone exposure. Prenatal testosterone, in addition to shaping a man's face and fingers, shapes his brain.

So what does this mean in an employment context? It means that employers may be able to tell more about potential and current employees by their faces than they thought they could. Certain jobs might favor masculinized brains, in other positions, such brains may be too hot-headed. An employer might look hard at the face of his top performers, and try to duplicate those facial characteristics in otherwise qualified employees. Some sales positions call for aggressiveness and lack of patience, which would be ideal spots for more masculine brains. Other positions call for empathy and require patience, for instance project or collaborative work, for which an over-masculine brain would be illsuited.

But is that legal? Obviously, one problem with such a selection is that these facial markers are going to vary greatly between the sexes, and even between racial groups. A judge would laugh at the suggestion that facial characteristics are bonafide occupational qualifications. Even between candidates of the same sex and gender, such selection could be termed "gender stereotyping", or may run afoul of state laws that can protect homosexuals or those perceived as homosexuals.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mandatory Flu Shots

Various employers, mostly healthcare providers, are now mandating that workers take flu shots.

Would you want to require your employees to take mandatory flu shots?
Of course you would. The flu shot is a safe and effective way of preventing loss to your workforce. Not only are you talking about the loss of productivity of sick and absent workers, you may also be looking at paid sick leave, and increased insurance costs as employees' trips to the doctor add up. Some of those receiving the shot may have low grade fevers, soreness at the injection site, and or achiness. But the cost-benefit analysis makes a vaccinated employee better than a nonvaccinated one.
There may be backlash though, as some workers will balk at the notion of being forced to take the shots. But how many will balk? Are some of those who balk workers you might not want anyway?

Can you even do that? Ask your lawyer. The federal obstacles you are faced with are the ADA, Title VII's religious discrimination aspects, and HIPPA. You may also have state laws to deal with.

Alternatives to mandate
Alternatives to a mandated shot could be giving time off to take the shot, paying for all or part of the shot, or giving some other perk for taking the shot.