Here is why work is like high school, and it should make you sad

Researchers explore impact of attractiveness on how workers are treated

Credit: Image credit: Flickr/Beth Scupham

We all know how it's supposed to work: Once we become adults, we leave behind the pettiness of our youth, no longer judging others based on superficial traits such as looks. That's how it's supposed to work. But if you've long suspected that shallow high school behavior follows us into adulthood and the workplace, I am sad to report that new research confirms your suspicions. In "Beauty, Personality, and Affect as Antecedents of Counterproductive Work Behavior Receipt," a paper published in the journal Human Performance, two university professors study negative behavior in the workplace and its impact on employees. The research by Timothy Judge, professor of management at the University of Notre Dame, and Brent Scott from Michigan State University, shows that physical attractiveness plays as much of a role as personality in how a worker is treated by colleagues. "The researchers surveyed 114 workers at a health care facility, asking them how often their co-workers treated them cruelly, including saying hurtful things, acting rudely and making fun of them," according to a Notre Dame statement. "Through digital photos, the workers' 'attractiveness' was then judged by others who didn't know them." Professor Judge sums up the lamentable conclusion: "We find that unattractive individuals are more likely the subject of rude, uncivil and even cruel treatment by their coworkers. And, not only do we, as a society, perceive attractive and unattractive coworkers differently, we act on those perceptions in ways that are hurtful." And how are they hurtful? From the published paper:

"Research has shown that employees on the receiving end of CWB (counterproductive work behavior) suffer a number of adverse reactions, including negative emotions, job dissatisfaction, somatic complaints, emotional and physical withdrawal, and turnover intentions."

By the way, it's not just less-attractive people who are targets of negative behavior in the workplace. According to the published paper, "Our findings revealed that when it comes to being a target of CWB, both personality and appearance matter. Specifically...disagreeable employees were more likely to receive CWB." Now read this:

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