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Unattractive Workers More Likely to be Bullied

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.

Unattractive Workers More Likely to be Bullied

Emily Waters

Emily Waters earned her Master's degree in industrial psychology with an emphasis in human relations. She possesses keen insight into the field of applied psychology, organizational development, motivation, and stress, the latter of which is ubiquitous in the workplace environment and in one’s personal life. One of her academic passions is the understanding of human nature and illness as it pertains to the mind and body. Prior to obtaining her degree, she worked in both the corporate and nonprofit sectors. Presently, she teaches a variety of psychology courses both in public and private universities.

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APA Reference
Waters, E. (2018). Unattractive Workers More Likely to be Bullied. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 28 Jul 2013)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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