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Unattractive workplace behaviour

We like to think that we are an enlightened society and that we are way beyond judging someone based on their looks. There is plenty of evidence though that our enlightenment may be only skin deep, and at times not even that. Why else would we accept some fairly primitive behaviour from celebrity types who offer little other than an attractive visage? There is plenty of evidence that attractive people have advantages in society in general and the workplace in particular. Attractive people tend to be paid more and have higher status jobs. Now a new study has shown that at the other end of the scale, unattractive people are more likely to be bullied in the workplace too.

To begin their study researchers had a group of people who were not involved in the study judge the attractiveness of a group of workers. Then the researchers asked the people in the photos how often their co-workers behaved cruelly towards them by saying hurtful things, acting rudely, or making fun of them. These behaviours are all traits of bullying.

The results showed that unattractive workers were treated more harshly than attractive workers even when other factors like age, gender, and how long they had been part of the workplace were taken into account.

Additionally, the partners, spouses, and friends of the workers completed questionnaires that were designed establish how agreeable or friendly the workers were. The results showed that disagreeable workers were also treated more harshly than their more pleasant co-workers.

So people who are unattractive on an emotional or a physical level become the objects of harsh and bullying treatment. On the emotional level you could see that an example of karma in action but the fact that less physically appealing also cop the raw end of the pineapple is not so comfortably explicable. Even if we don’t think it consciously, we are disposed to treat less attractive people in a more dismissive possibly because “attraction” is all about evolutionary recognition of signs of “fitness”. Of course you can transcend your evolutionary impulses through training your mind but it does all suggest that the patina of civilisation is disturbingly thin.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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