"I'm fat. I'm very foolish to look at, Linda," says Willy Loman to his wife, trying to explain the failure of his business endeavors in Arthur Miller's classic play "Death of a Salesman."

In the 1985 film adaptation, the line was changed from "fat" to "short" to accommodate the trim figure of Dustin Hoffman, who played Willy Loman.

As it turns out, both "fat" and "short" reflect real-life biases in the workplace. New research shows that height and weight can affect your earning potential and overall quality of life.

A new study published by the British Journal of Medicine suggests that heavier, shorter people have a lesser socioeconomic status and make less money on average, reported Money.

The study examined over 120,000 people in the U.K. and found that height was the most decisive factor for men, and weight for women.

Men who were only 2.5 inches taller than their shorter peers made $4,200 more per year. For women, just 15 extra pounds meant $1,600 less in annual income. Money reported that heavier women were also less likely to own cars or homes or be employed.

But it's not enough to say that men profit up to $1,680 an inch — some inches are worth more than others, reports The Atlantic.

A 2015 study in the Journal of Human Capital showed that the 2 inches that take a man from 5-foot-4 to 5-foot-6 are the most valuable. Earnings peak at about 6 feet tall and then plateau into gigantism.

While overweight people make less money and are less likely to be hired, some research suggests they can burden a company with greater costs.

According to Forbes, obese workers cost private U.S. companies an additional $45 billion per year. The bulk of these costs come in the form of medical expenses, workers' compensation claims and work loss.

Keep in mind, however, that these additional costs are only measured for employees who are considered obese. For many women, 15 pounds is not enough to move them into obesity, but it can still have a drastic effect on their earning potential.

Similar to the gender gap problem, while the discrimination is obvious, the solutions are not. Affirmative action may risk ignoring skilled candidates just because they are tall or thin, and the effectiveness of diversity training is often not measured.

But solutions aren't completely untenable. In a recent essay published by the Wall Street Journal, Harvard public policy professor Iris Bohnet offered what she calls "real fixes" for gender bias in the workplace. Her solutions can be applied equally to weight and height biases.

Bohnet first recommended using big data in human-resources management or "people analytics" to identify what biases may exist in a company. Using software tools in combination with employee data can help employers find solutions.

For example, Bohnet mentioned that Google used to have a resignation rate that was 50 percent higher for women. Data analytics, however, linked the problem to new mothers leaving. After expanding their parental leave program, Google was able to eliminate this problem.

Bohnet wrote that understanding data can help companies make truly objective decisions about hiring employees: "No company runs its finances based just on intuition, and the same should hold for personnel decisions."

This strategy can also be applied to employee rewards and promotion. Bohnet noted that often performance reviews involve guesswork about what potential an employee has rather than what he or she has accomplished. Bohnet said this can allow unfair biases to creep in, giving an advantage to men — or indeed, tall and thin people.

By conducting performance reviews purely on quantifiable accomplishments, employers can limit all kinds of biases.

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Bohnet asked readers to consider the innovation that some symphony orchestras have started to use in auditions: a curtain veiling the performers from the judges. She said efforts to curtail bias in the workplace should follow a similar pattern.

"It may not free our minds from prejudice," wrote Bohnet, "but it can make our biases less influential and help us to make our major institutions more inclusive and productive."


twitter: @zamturner

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