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Bosses evolved from evolutionary bullies

A good boss will always protect you from office politics even if you work independently, but a new study has revealed that male managers have an evolutionary excuse for bullying non-team players.

world Updated: Oct 07, 2008 01:22 IST

A good boss will always protect you from office politics even if you work independently, but a new study has revealed that male managers have an evolutionary excuse for bullying non-team players.

In fact, researchers in Australia have traced office politics back to the cavemen days and found that the way male managers dress, posture and exercise power is due to humans’ evolutionary biology.

According to the researchers, prehistoric behaviours, such as male domination, protecting what is perceived as their “turf” and ostracising those who don’t agree with the group is more commonplace in everyday work situations.

Lead author Jeffrey Braithwaite said, “This tribal culture is similar to what we would have seen in hunter gather bands on Savannah in Africa. Groups were territorial in the past because it helped them survive.

“If you weren’t in a tight band, you didn’t get to pass on your genes. Such tribalism is not necessary in the same way now, yet we still have those characteristics because they have evolved over two million years.

“It’s a surprise just how hard-wired this behaviour is. It’s predictable that a group’ll ostracise a whistleblower for instance. It’s not good, but it’s understandable in the tribal framework. It explains all sorts of undesirable behaviours, including bullying.”

Braithwaite and colleagues at University of New South Wales have based their findings on an analysis of hundreds of interviews of health workers over a 15-year period — by using evolutionary psychology approach.

“While this research focuses specifically on healthcare settings, the results can be extrapolated to other workplaces,” Braithwaite wrote in the Journal of Health Organisation and Management.