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Study: unattractive people feel bullied at work

Bullying doesn’t end after elementary school, and is more nuanced in adulthood, but are you being bullied or is your self perception making you accuse others of bullying you?

laughing bullies

laughing bullies

Bullying isn’t limited to the school yard

Bullies. They live in the school yard, steal lunches and tear up homework. Have you ever wondered what happened to your school bully? Apparently, (s)he now has a job in corporate America where (s)he continues to pick on people. In the work place, however, it isn’t the smaller or necessarily the weaker person who gets bullied, according to research published in Psychology Today, it is most commonly unattractive people who feel bullied in the workplace.

My first inclination was to be appalled. I wanted to use research and evaluation to prove this theory wrong – after all, ugliness isn’t an exact measurable variable, so how do we know that it is unattractive people who are bullied the most?

My mind strayed. I thought about my life and about my career. I have loved some jobs, and I have hated some jobs. I have loved some parts of my life, and I have hated some parts of my life. And, the deciding factor in whether or not I could handle normal, everyday stresses such as rude people, criticism, and anxiety had to do with me and how I felt about myself at the time.

Bullying is real, but…

I am not saying that bullying doesn’t happen. Some people are mean. But I can tell you that I have been in the same career field for years where the same problems, stresses, and anxieties emerge repeatedly, and when I was just out of college, a bit shy and lacking self confidence, I felt pushed around, not considered, and like I had something to prove.

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If someone said, “How was your night?” I thought they were implying that I was so tired from having to work twice as hard as they did to accomplish the same tasks that I must go home and cry myself to sleep. If someone said, “I brought you the handbook of procedures,” I was certain I was being accused of not following procedure.

I learned to be a more positive person and I learned, slowly, that not everything that everybody says or does is about me. My attitude toward the workplace changed as my self-confidence changed.

Our bodies tend to mirror on the outside how we feel on the inside. When I am struggling with self-confidence, my clothes are frumpy and draw less attention to me. I talk softly, I hide in my office, and I avoid social situations. This all makes it difficult for someone to be nice to me. I am, in fact, putting off the vibe for people to leave me alone. Don’t invite me. Don’t ask my opinion, I don’t like talking. Don’t come into my office, I like to be alone.

Certainly, childish stuff does exist even in places where adults reign. I’ve heard of people stealing coworkers’ lunches, pulling pranks, or just being plain rude. But I am able to look past what I am initially inclined to take as bullying when I first look at myself and ask, “Is this happening? Or is this my perception of what is happening?”

Most often in my past, I was utilizing classic psychological transference or projection in an effort to make myself feel better by accusing others of treating me poorly. That made me the bully.

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Written By

Kristyl Barron holds a BA in English Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and an MHR in Counseling/Organizational Management from the University of Oklahoma. Barron has been writing professionally since 2008, and projects include a memoir entitled Give Your Brother Back His Barbie and an in progress motivational book called Aspies Among Us.

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