Bullying in all forms seems to be rampant today. But when we think of it, we expect to see it in the playground, or in middle school where adolescents strive to fit in among sometimes-cruel classmates.

Bullying in the workplace also is a problem, however.

Recent research reveals that individuals who are victimized at work are deemed unattractive by their colleagues. Workplace bullying can include threatening subordinates, yelling or other forms of emotional abuse, or repeatedly withholding critical information necessary for one’s job performance.

This is not simply being critical of someone’s work, or lackluster performance. Colleagues in the workplace may be just as cruel as classmates.

The study by Timothy Judge of the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business and Brent Scott of Michigan State University, published in Human Performance, examined the role of counterproductive behavior in the workplace and its effect on employees.

One hundred fourteen workers at a health care facility were surveyed, and asked about how often their coworkers were mistreated on the job in a variety of cruel ways. The workers’ attractiveness was judged by digital photos by others who did not know them.

It was discovered that the level of one’s physical attractiveness plays as much of a role as one’s personality in how a person is treated in the workplace. In other words, personality factors such as extroversion or conscientiousness, two admirable qualities in the workplace, can essentially be judged on the same level as one’s physical appearance.

Psychologists call this the halo effect. Usually attractive people are more self-confident, or at least project a level of self-confidence which enables others to view them in a more positive light, and as having greater self-esteem. These vicious cycles perpetuate false beliefs that attractive people are more intelligent, moral, and better paid, regardless of their skill sets.

Some research even shows that the mere viewing of attractive people makes us more motivated, and puts us in a better disposition.

Most hiring mangers these days in a variety of fields are reluctant to concede that they are biased when it comes to applicants’ looks. In fact, most hiring managers will not even consider a candidate on LinkedIn who does not have a photo. Unfortunately, this has become a huge problem with no easy fix, given our society’s increasing overuse and reliance on digital/visual platforms.

The study is the first to link attractiveness to cruelty in the workplace. Judge says “awareness is surely one important step.” If individuals are willing to openly recognize their biases, the influence of such forces can be eradicated not just in the workplace, but in every personal aspect of one’s life.