Yesterday, Business Week reported that bullying, a behavior we’d like to think ceased in high school, does carry over into adult life. A new study suggests that people considered unattractive by peers are often targets of workplace ridicule.
The study, conducted by Brent A. Scott of Michigan State University and Timothy A. Judge of the University of Notre Dame, involved over 100 professionals in the health-care industry. First, test subjects were rated based on physical attractiveness by peers otherwise unaware of the study.
Without the results disclosed to test subjects, they were asked to what degree “their co-workers treated them in an uncivil manner at work.” All subjects rated as unattractive had experienced some sort of abuse at the hands of coworkers.
“It is not merely the characteristics of the [bully] that drive bullying behavior at work—as has mostly been the assumption in past research,” Judge said. “The characteristics of the targets of bullying are important as well. We found that both the inner (personality) and outer (physical attractiveness) influence the degree to which others behave in a negative way toward us at work.”
Judge said the purpose of the study was to raise awareness. “We know from substantial research that physical attraction influences hiring decisions, earnings, career success, and now how our colleagues treat us at work,” he said. “Very few of us would admit that we take attractiveness into consideration in how we treat our co-workers—yet our study suggests that we do.”