Workplace Bullying Affects The Most Unattractive
June 23, 2013

Mean, Ugly Employees More Likely To Be Targets Of Workplace Bullying

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Unattractive people are more likely to be bullied in the workplace than their better-looking counterparts, according to new research appearing in the latest edition of the journal Human Performance.

The study, conducted by business professors at Michigan State University and the University of Notre Dame, polled 114 employees working at a health care facility in the southern US. They were asked how often they were the targets of cruel behavior from their co-workers, such as being made fun of or told hurtful things.

Individuals who were unfamiliar with the study participants then judged how attractive they were based on digital photos, and the researchers found that those deemed unattractive were treated far more harshly than their more attractive co-workers.

Those who were dubbed unattractive were also more likely to be given menial tasks or asked to do jobs others did not want to do, and were less likely to receive promotions, noted Victoria Woollaston of the Daily Mail. Furthermore, the findings held true even when factors such as age, gender, and length of employment at the facility were taken into account, the study authors said.

“Our findings revealed that both personality and appearance matter,” lead investigator Brent Scott, an associate professor of management at the East Lansing, Michigan university, said in a statement. “Frankly, it’s an ugly finding. Although we like to think we’re professional and mature in the workplace, it can be just like high school in many ways.”

According to CBS News reporter Michelle Castillo, officials at the Workplace Bullying Institute believe approximately 35 percent of the US workforce, or more than 53 million Americans, admit they have been bullied while on the job.

The study also discovered that people who were ugly on the inside were more likely to be targeted by workplace bullies as well. The researchers asked the spouses, friends and colleagues of the study participants how pleasant each individual was and how easy he/she was to get along with. Those who were dubbed to be unfriendly were also frequently the target of on-the-job harassment from their co-workers.

“If you're unattractive and mean, watch out ... they were bullied the most,” Scott, who co-wrote the study with Notre Dame business professor Timothy Judge, told MLive’s Melissa Anders. “The flip side of that, if you're mean but attractive, then the attractiveness sort of buffers that relationship a little bit.”

“It's just one of those findings that it might just be important to be aware of,” he added. “Much like research on prejudice or discrimination, sometimes just being aware of your own biases ... can help to reduce them.”