Weight Stigma & Personal Responsibility

…workplace health promotion programs highlighting individual responsibility induced employees with obesity to feel individually responsible for their health, but at the same time made them perceive weight as less controllable.

Täuber, Mulder, & Flint

Lots of unsettling findings from this research. Workplace health promotion programs emphasizing individual responsibility for weight control were associated with higher levels of obesity stigma and discrimination. The rationale is that if you’re telling people that they control their own weight, then people are judging others (and themselves) more harshly.

The recommendation to focus on “organizational rather than individual responsibility for health” doesn’t seem warranted by the evidence presented here, however, and the authors don’t acknowledge any potential adverse outcomes of putting responsibility for employee health behaviors on employers. If employers accept responsibility for their employees’ weight, wouldn’t that make them legally liable for it? And, if so, wouldn’t there be a perverse incentive to discriminate even more against the obese and overweight to avoid that liability?

The Impact of Workplace Health Promotion Programs Emphasizing Individual Responsibility on Weight Stigma and Discrimination in Frontiers in Psychology.

About the Author

Ben Butina, Ph.D.
Dr. Butina, who hosts the Department 12 Podcast, is an industrial-organizational psychologist with interests in training, leadership development, talent management, and positive psychology in the workplace.

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