It's no secret the attractive kids in high school are more likely to be popular and their less appealing counterparts face a harder time being bullied. One would think that with age and maturity, this behavior would dissipate, and by the time people are in a work environment, people would be respected for their abilities and not their looks. Unfortunately, superficial prejudices lead to bullying in the workplace just as they did in the high school gym.

A unique study published recently in Human Performance examining counterproductive work behavior (CWB) determined that physical attractiveness played as much of a role as personality in how a person was treated in the workplace.

"Although we like to think we're professional and mature in the workplace, it can be just like high school in many ways," said lead investigator Brent Scott, associate professor of management at Michigan State University. Scott, along with his colleague Timothy Judge from the University of Notre Dame, analyzed the responses of 114 workers from a health care facility in the southeastern part of the United States.

Participants were asked if they had experienced any cruel behavior from co-workers such as being made fun of, having hurtful things said about them or being treated in a rude manner. Spouses and people close to the workers were given questionnaires to gauge how agreeable or friendly they were. A second group of study participants were shown digital photos of the first group and were asked to rate their attractiveness.

The results showed that a person's looks were just as instrumental if not more so than personality in determining how a co-worker was likely to be treated.

"Frankly, it's an ugly finding," Brent added. "Our findings revealed that both personality and appearance matter." The research team hoped their findings would help employers identify at-risk employers so that appropriate counseling and social support can be provided.

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute's data, 35 percent of the U.S. workforce reported being bullied in 2012, totaling around 53.5 million Americans. Visit WBI's website for a comprehensive three-step method for dealing with workplace bullying.

Source: Scott, B, Judge, T. Beauty, Personality, and Affect as Antecedents of Counterproductive Work Behavior Receipt. Human Performance. 2013.