Monday 18 December 2017

Ask Brian: I was denied a promotion at work because I'm overweight - what should I do?

Ask Brian: I was denied a promotion at work because I'm overweight - what should I do?
Ask Brian: I was denied a promotion at work because I'm overweight - what should I do?
Brian O'Reilly

Brian O'Reilly

Our no-nonsense agony uncle gets straight to the point of your most pressing issues.

Dear Brian,

I was recently overlooked for a promotion and I can’t help but feel it’s because of my weight.

I have been overweight for most of my adult life (I'd be classed as morbidly obese) but always very respected in my field and in my workplace, or so I thought.

I was recently up for a promotion, but they wound up giving it to a colleague who is undoubtedly talented, but I was the rightful next in line for the role.

The only reason I can think why I didn’t get it is because of my weight. I have been in the company for nearly 10 years and my weight has been brought up before – at a Christmas party a few years ago, a male colleague made a ‘joke’ at my expense while I was eating some of the finger food and some of the management team were laughing with him.

I never made a formal complaint but it has always been in the back of my mind.

Now I don’t know if I should complain or if it’s time to move on - I feel I'm being discriminated against for being overweight and they wouldn't get away with doing it to someone for their race, sexuality or gender.

What should I do?


Brian replies

Dear Anon,

Firstly I can't offer you medical advice on your weight or legal advice on your work issue, just my opinion on your situation.

I can understand your upset at the joke being made about your weight at the Christmas party -  however I'm not sure it necessarily correlates that your weight has cost you a promotion.

You say up until this incident you felt respected at work, and I wouldn't let one distasteful comment make you feel otherwise.

However your weight issue is in no way comparable to someone being denied a promotion on the basis of their race or sexual orientation.

Unless your weight is a result of a medical issue - and please excuse me if it is - it is ultimately something under your control and something you can change. A person can't change their race or sexual orientation, and I think trying to compare your situation to theirs is ridiculous, and insulting to those who have actually been discriminated against.

Yes, you can feel unfairly treated because of your weight, but no, it is not comparable to someone being mistreated for something they have no control over. 

Also, you describe your position as being 'rightfully next in line' - in most companies jobs aren't awarded based on who's been there the longest, but to who can do the job best.

By that logic anyone working in a company for 40 years should be the CEO, but it doesn't work like that.

You obviously feel now - and have done since the Christmas party  - that people in your workplace people might hold your weight against you.

I think the best way for you to proceed to ask your manager for a meeting to discuss the situation and particularly why you missed out on the promotion.

You could be building the situation up in your head, when there could be very valid reasons why your colleague got the position and you did not.

Try and speak to your manager about this and maybe you will accept his/her reasons for not offering you the gig.

If you don't buy what your boss is selling, it might be time to move on to somewhere you're more valued. And if you really feel that aggrieved, consult your solicitor to see if there is any legal recourse open to you.

Sometimes it can be hard to accept that someone is just better suited to a role than you and you might be laying blame on your weight.

It's not a shortcoming to miss out on the job, you could have had 9/10 things they were looking for, and were just beaten by someone who had 10/10.

Do you have a problem you'd like some advice on? Email  with the subject 'Ask Brian' to submit in confidence.

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