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Researchers at University of Notre Dame in Indiana and Michigan State University surveyed 114 healthcare workers to see how often their coworkers bullied them. Other participants at the same facility then examined digital photos of the workers to determine which, in their opinion, were most attractive.
The coworkers who were rated least attractive were also the coworkers who reported being bullied the most, where bullying was defined as teasing, making hurtful statements, or being rude.
"We're more influenced by attractiveness than we are willing to admit," study author Dr. Timothy Judge told the Wall Street Journal. "We act on those perceptions in ways that are hurtful."
Regardless of what inspires bullies to behave the way they do, you have options if you're a victim.
1. Ignore them.
The first advice students hear in these situations still holds: The less fuel you dump on the fire, the better. If possible, ignoring the bullies' behavior is a good way to make it unrewarding for them to continue.
2. Write it down.
Even if you choose to ignore bullying, keep track of each and every incident as it occurs. It'll come in handy if you need to go to HR down the line, and in the meantime, it will at least remind you that your complaints are legitimate.
3. Confront them.
Before you talk to the boss or look into getting a new job, try talking to the problem person one on one.
"Tell him that you feel uncomfortable with his actions and that it's affecting you, then firmly and politely ask him to stop," advises Emily Co at SavvySugar. "He may not even realize that he's hurting anyone or that his behavior is really unprofessional. He may also realize that you're not the type of person to be cowed by his actions and that he needs to stop his behavior or it might mean trouble for him."
4. Go to HR.
If nothing else works, take the situation to your manager or to HR. By this time, you'll have carefully documented the behavior, and will be prepared to find a constructive solution for all involved.
Just be aware that as soon as you bring the problem to someone else's attention, you're ceding a certain amount of control over the situation. Come to the table with thoughts on how to resolve the issue in a way that will make your workday easier going forward.
5. Remove yourself from the situation.
"Hope for the best resolution but be prepared to explore other options so you have less contact with the bully," writes Susan Heathfield at About.com's Human Resources site. "You may even need to find a new job."
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