A new research study finds people who are considered unattractive are more likely to be depreciated and intimidated in the workplace.
Brent Scott, Ph.D., an associate professor of management at Michigan State University, said his findings were disturbing.
“Although we like to think we’re professional and mature in the workplace, it can be just like high school in many ways,” he said.
While plenty of research has found that attractive students tend to be more popular in school, the study is the first to link attractiveness to cruelty in the workplace.
The results appear in the research journal Human Performance.
The researchers surveyed 114 workers at a health care facility in the southeastern United States.
The workers were asked how often their co-workers engaged in cruel behavior toward them (which included saying hurtful things, acting rudely and making fun of them).
People who didn’t know the study participants judged their attractiveness from digital photos.
The unattractive workers were treated much more harshly than attractive employees even when other key factors were taken into account, including age, gender and how long they had worked at the health care facility.
Investigators also used questionnaires completed by their spouses, partners or good friends to determine the friendliness of the workers. The study found that disagreeable workers, like unattractive employees, were treated more harshly than their co-workers.
The researchers also collected information on how agreeable or friendly the workers were. “Our findings revealed that both personality and appearance matter,” Scott said.
Researchers believe their findings will help supervisors learn potential targets of hurtful behavior and help mangers intervene to protect them from becoming victims, or to provide counseling and social support if prevention attempts fail.
Source: Michigan State University