Unattractive people more likely to be bullied at work, study shows

July 17, 2013, University of Notre Dame

It's common knowledge that high school can be a cruel environment where attractive students are considered "popular," and unattractive kids often get bullied. And, while that type of petty behavior is expected to vanish with adulthood, new research proves it does not.

Colleagues can be just as immature as .

The study by Timothy Judge, professor of management at the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business, and Brent Scott from Michigan State University, is the first to link attractiveness to cruelty in the workplace.

In "Beauty, Personality, and Affect as Antecedents of Counterproductive Work Behavior Receipt," recently published in Human Performance, the researchers examine counterproductive work behavior and its effect on employees. They show that physical attractiveness plays as much of a role as personality in how a person is treated in the workplace. The researchers surveyed 114 workers at a health care facility, asking them how often their co-workers treated them cruelly, including saying hurtful things, acting rudely and making fun of them. Through digital photos, the workers' "attractiveness" was then judged by others who didn't know them.

"Our research is novel because it focuses on how treat attractive and unattractive colleagues," says Judge, who specializes in management psychology, gender, leadership personality and career and life success. "We find that unattractive individuals are more likely the subject of rude, uncivil and even cruel treatment by their coworkers. And, not only do we, as a society, perceive attractive and unattractive coworkers differently, we act on those perceptions in ways that are hurtful."

Considerable research has been done in psychology, management and economics demonstrating that "beauty is good" for labor market outcomes, such as earnings, performance ratings and . Attractive people are more self-confident and have higher self-esteem and they are perceived as more intelligent and moral. Research even indicates that seeing attractive individuals puts us in a better mood.

"Given that is not a bona-fide occupational qualification for most jobs, our new findings are problematic for society," Judge says. "Worse, research reliably shows that we're more influenced by attractiveness than we are willing to admit."

It's a problem with no easy solution, especially given the increasingly visual nature of communication, according to Judge, who has written and been interviewed extensively about his gender, ambition and work stress research, among other studies.

"Awareness is surely one important step," Judge says. If we recognize our biases and are more open and honest about their pervasiveness, we'll be in much better shape to combat the influence."

Explore further: Calling Miss Congeniality—do attractive people have attractive traits and values?

Related Stories

Calling Miss Congeniality—do attractive people have attractive traits and values?

October 15, 2012
We've all been warned not to "judge a book by its cover," but inevitably we do it anyway. It's difficult to resist the temptation of assuming that a person's outward appearance reflects something meaningful about his or her ...

Study shows attractiveness of people not dependent on facial expression

March 12, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Researchers from the U.K.'s University of Portsmouth have conducted a study with the aim of attempting to discern if the attractiveness of a person's face is impacted by facial expression. In their paper ...

Recommended for you

Intensive behavior therapy no better than conventional support in treating teenagers with antisocial behavior

January 19, 2018
Research led by UCL has found that intensive and costly multisystemic therapy is no better than conventional therapy in treating teenagers with moderate to severe antisocial behaviour.

Babies' babbling betters brains, language

January 18, 2018
Babies are adept at getting what they need - including an education. New research shows that babies organize mothers' verbal responses, which promotes more effective language instruction, and infant babbling is the key.

College branding makes beer more salient to underage students

January 18, 2018
In recent years, major beer companies have tried to capitalize on the salience of students' university affiliations, unveiling marketing campaigns and products—such as "fan cans," store displays, and billboard ads—that ...

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

tadchem
not rated yet Jul 18, 2013
For some reason workplace bullies seem reluctant to pick on coworkers who sport an NRA patch or who "used to work at the Post Office."

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.