The social animal within organizations

Abraham P Buunk and Pieternel Dijkstra

in Applied Evolutionary Psychology

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199586073
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731358 | DOI:
The social animal within organizations

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As organizations are large groups, and consist of many subgroups, evolutionary theorizing would seem very relevant to understand behaviour in organizations. Applying evolutionary thinking to organizations may help understand why people in organizations behave the way they do, even if these behaviours seem counterproductive or irrational. We first discuss how the human brain seems to have evolved particularly to deal with living in large groups. We suggest that comparing oneself with others seems a basic human characteristic that may have various positive and negative consequences for individuals, as well as for organizations. Next, we focus on intrasexual competition, and discuss how this may lead not only to investing in one’s career, but also to gossip, bullying and conspicuous consumption. Finally, we discuss the role of altruistic behaviour within organizations, and link this also to intrasexual competition. An evolutionary perspective does not provide unequivocal recommendations for organizational practice, but it may help understand why some persistent problems in organizations continue to occur.

Keywords: organizational behaviour; evolutionary social psychology; burnout; employees; stress

Chapter.  9836 words. 

Subjects: Psychology

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