Weight and Gender in Service Jobs: The Importance of Warmth in Predicting Customer Satisfaction

Abstract

The average weight of employees in the United States workforce is increasing. Importantly, relatively heavier employees are often subject to stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination based solely on their weight. These biases may be further influenced by factors such as employee gender and the specific nature of the job. Thus, we employ the stereotype content model (SCM) to examine the multiplicative effects of weight and gender and argue that perceptions of employee warmth are more salient than perceptions of employee competence in customer service contexts. In support of our hypotheses, we found that weight and gender interacted to influence warmth, such that heavy women were perceived to be higher in warmth relative to less heavy women (with no effect for men). Furthermore, perceptions of warmth predicted service satisfaction, whereas perceptions of competence did not. Finally, perceptions of warmth (but not competence) explained the relations between weight and gender and service satisfaction for female (but not male) customer service agents. We end with a discussion of the theoretical implications related to the SCM along with practical implications for service industry organizations and employees.

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