Are Unattractive Workers More Likely To Be Bullied, Given Menial Tasks? Study Suggests Possible Correlation

By iScienceTimes Staff on June 20, 2013 5:06 PM EDT

office workers
"Unattractive" workers are more likely to be bullied in the workplace and passed over for promotions, according to a new study. (Photo: Flickr: victor1558)

Unattractive workers are more likely to be bullied at the office, according to a new study by a Michigan State University business scholar.

"Frankly, it's an ugly finding," said Brent Scott, lead investigator of the study. "Although we like to think we're professional and mature in the workplace, it can be just like high school in many ways."

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He added, "Our findings revealed that both personality and appearance matter."

While numerous studies have shown that attractive students are more popular in school, this is thought to be the first study to look at how unattractive workers may be at a disadvantage. In school studies, research has found that attractive students perform better than those considered to be unattractive, possibly because they get more attention and have better self-esteem.

Scott's team surveyed 114 workers at a large hospital located in the southern U.S. The researchers asked workers there how often their coworkers engaged in "cruel behavior" at their expense. This included acting rudely, saying hurtful things and making fun of them.

The researchers then asked four strangers to look at photos to judge how attractive each of the 114 workers were. Scott's team also had spouses, partners or friends of the workers fill out a questionnaire to find out the friendliness and agreeability of the workers.

According to the results of the study, unattractive workers were treated more harshly than employees considered to be attractive. This was true even when other factors were considered, such as age and gender.

The study found that unattractive workers were given jobs others didn't want to do, and were passed over for promotions.

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

The study was published in the journal Human Performance.

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