Welcome to the Jungle

Sometimes, to understand better human beings behaviors, you’ll just have to observe what is going on in the wildlife and understand the reasons and the consequences of certain behaviors. Even if we developed and influenced the world around us, we can still consider ourselves as part of the animal kingdom.

We know that chimpanzees are very similar to us, and we can say even that some methods of management derive straight from some of the observations of our hairy cousins. Chimpanzees are often hostile to lower-ranking members who might be powerful enough to challenge or disrupt their authority. The solution they found is to divide them, separating the subordinates being the optimal solution to prevent them forming alliances, therefore to create possible difficulties for the man in charge.

Charleen Case and Jon Maner, researchers at Northwestern’s Kellog School, surveyed university students to identify the individuals who like to perform authority on the others. When those specific people feel threatened or insecure considering their position, they act exactly the same way – they prevent the others from bonding, meeting or working together. They try to prevent highly skilled ‘subordinates’ from being together and forming cooperative relationships. When asked to make some seating arrangements, for example, these leaders separated the most capable people from each other. So they blocked the kinds of peer-to-peer interactions that foster group success – even though we all know and the leaders have been instructed that work group results much more effective for the success of a project.

Welcome to the jungle

Don’t ask yourself too much why you might have been isolated on a specific task lately. Don’t ask yourself too much why the project you were handling and successfully leading has been populated with junior people with no big value for the final take-out. Don’t ask yourself why your success with one client depends only on you and you can’t really count on learning from the best cases in the company. And many other situations. We are just chimpanzees.

 

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