Research

Negotiating? Intimidate Your Boss With Your Big, Fat Face


Negotiating? Intimidate Your Boss With Your Big, Fat Face

Photograph by Gallery Stock

Here’s a research topic you may have overlooked: facial width and its effect on careers. Rest easy, because business school professors at the University of California have been steeped in the intricacies of chubby cheeks for the past four years. It turns out that science has a lot to say about how fat-faced dudes fare in the free market.

In a study that hit the Internet on Wednesday, a team of researchers led by Michael Haselhuhn, a management professor at the University of California, Riverside, found that having a bloated face is worth more than $2,200. When a group of business school students were asked to negotiate for fictional signing bonuses, big-faced candidates earned close to $11,000, while narrower-visaged students earned a (paltry) $8,700.

One reason wide faces win in tete-a-tetes such as these is that they lie. A second paper published in 2011 by the same authors found that business students were more likely to resort to outright deception to close a sale if they had round faces. They also cheated more in dice games, which is something to keep in mind the next time you use dice competitively.

Women apparently miss out on the perks of a wide mug. When men see their own bulky faces in the mirror, they get a rush of power—whereas women do not, according to the study. There’s a biological reason that big faces equal more clout. “Men with wider faces tend to have higher circulating rates of testosterone,” said Mr. Haselhuhn, “Higher levels of testosterone have been linked to feeling powerful.” A sense of self-worth can drive men to be more aggressive in business settings.

In a further study on the subject, the same researchers gleaned that companies did well when led by chief executives with a faces shaped like apples. Return on assets for 55 publicly traded Fortune 500 firms increased with the ratio of facial width to height for chief executive officers—a statistic that, unfortunately, does not figure into annual reports.

Kitroeff is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York, covering business education.

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