Posted: 21 March, 2018

Making Headway in the Workplace


Guest blog by Putney Alumna, Occupational Psychologist, Kate Godfree

Alumna Kate Godfree (class of 2007) found a love for Psychology whilst in the Sixth Form at Putney High School. After studying the subject at Durham University and completing two masters’ degrees, she is now embarking on a career in the pioneering area of Occupational Psychology.

Kate is now working as a Research Consultant and half way through a PhD at Kingston University. She is currently conducting research into obesity discrimination at work.

I was first introduced to psychology by the then deputy head, Mrs Buckle. My school year group were the first to be taught Psychology in the Sixth Form at Putney and I can credit Mrs Buckle with introducing me to a subject that I found I absolutely loved. She was a fantastic teacher – passionate about her subject and very encouraging – I remember the lessons as very engaging. The positive impact she’s had on my life has been huge. She gave me so much encouragement, had so much belief in me and ultimately started me on my Psychology career.

I work within an area of psychology called Occupational Psychology, where psychology is applied specifically to work; for example, to improve organisational performance, employee engagement, or wellbeing. Specifically, I work within the area of health and wellbeing at work. The business case for managing wellbeing in the workplace is very strong. Would you believe that 12.5 million days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016/17?  It is estimated that the cost to the UK taxpayer of an unhealthy workforce is over £60 billion a year.

My PhD centres on the study of obesity discrimination at work. Some people have said that discrimination may be viewed as a way of encouraging obese individuals to lose weight, and there is a lot of emphasis in society, particularly in the media, on the fact that the management of obesity is within an individual’s control. This may help fuel the idea that obese individuals are lazy and unmotivated and could also explain the social acceptance of obesity discrimination.

But I think it’s important to examine the many complex factors involved in obesity.  Research has shown that there are numerous negative psychological and physiological outcomes of weight stigma, including greater susceptibility to depression. There is also a relationship between weight stigma and obesity, diabetes, anxiety and body image dissatisfaction.

Within the workplace context, my recent review has shown that discrimination towards obese people occurs in numerous forms: from being rated more negatively, to being less likely to be recommended for hire, receiving harsher discipline, lower training expectations and even being less likely to be selected for a supervisory position. I am currently conducting interviews with a range of employees from a variety of sectors and with a range of BMIs. Drawing together evidence from both my systematic review and interviews I will then be designing and piloting an organisational intervention to address obesity discrimination at work.  If anyone is interested in participating in my research, please get in touch.

Putney taught me that it’s good to challenge yourself and not always to do things that you find easy. If there’s something that you are passionate about and you’d like to explore it, reach out to others (including Putney alumnae!) and see if there’s a way you can gain some experience. It may take a while to get into that field, but once you’re in it, it’ll be worth it!

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