Being Middle Management Sucks For Monkeys, Too

via Geek O System monkey-in-the-middle

The corporate ladder has a lot of rungs, but there are three basic places you can be on it: at the top, where you’re making the rules, at the bottom where you’ve got nothing to lose, and everywhere else. Studies have shown that folks in that vast middle management hierarchy are generally the most stressed out people at a place of employment, and a recent study by the University of Manchester suggests thatphenomenon might not be confined to humans working thankless white collar jobs. Monkeys in the middle of the social hierarchy — those who aren’t leaders, but aren’t losers either — seem to suffer more stress from the effects of unpleasant behavior while also getting less benefit from stress relievers like grooming,

The University of Manchester team spent more than 600 hours closely monitoring the daily lives of individual Barbary macaques living in England’s Trentham Monkey Forest. Researchers took notes on all of the social behavior that they engaged in during the course of a day, whether it was positive, like being groomed by a subordinate, or negative, like being screamed at by a superior. By following individual apes, rather than populations, researchers hoped to gain new insight into how stress affects primates on a personal level, and it looks like they may have succeeded.

Their findings, published online this week in the journal General and Comparative Endocrinology, showed that after a bad day at the office — which for a macaque can include being screamed at by co-workers and slapped by supervisors, so there but for the grace of God go I — Macaques expressed higher levels of stress hormones in samples of their feces. Good days, though, weren’t followed by a corresponding drop in levels of stress hormones, suggesting that the monkeys in the middle were more prone to be stressed out than not. That makes sense, though, considering that like Assistants to the Regional Manager around the world, middle management macaques have to worry about both keeping their superiors happy and making sure that no one below them usurps their position in the social order. Dr. Susanne Shultz put it this way:

“What we found was that monkeys in the middle of the hierarchy are involved with conflict from those below them as well as from above, whereas those in the bottom of the hierarchy distance themselves from conflict. The middle ranking macaques are more likely to challenge, and be challenged by, those higher on the social ladder.”

While it’s not super flattering to compare middle managers all over the planet to monkeys, hey, everyone like to know that they’re not alone, right? Lots of people have the same problems, and it turns out that some of them aren’t even people.

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  • BuzzCoastin

    the big difference is
    that monkeys are monkeys and haven’t the ability to change
    they are locked into a monkey paradigm by Nature
    humans on the other hand
    are supposed to be different

    • echar

      Humans are different! Some have figured out they can get real paid if they trick others into acting like monkies.

      • BuzzCoastin

        it’s the money that makes the monkeys dance
        which monkey is which is random chance
        both are trapped in money’s honey
        if it wasn’t so sad it’d be funny

        • echar

          I am envisioning a cocktail on a stool next to you and an acoustic guitar in your hands.

    • The Well Dressed Man

      hierarchy and politics are structures we share with our closest relatives. i suppose we can look at bonobos and chimps and decide which one we’d prefer to be.

      • BuzzCoastin

        money is the differentiation
        it’s a technology that monkeys have not developed
        but when money is introduced into monkey societies
        the exact same things happen
        that happen with money & humans

        and when you inter-compare monkey financial data with human
        there is no distinguishable difference

        google: Lori Santos, Capuchin monkeys
        there’s also a chapter about it in “Freakonomics”

        • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

          Money is the objectification of trust. And once it becomes “real” rather than “imaginary” (see: subtle) it can be easily corrupted.

          • BuzzCoastin

            what I’m pointing out is
            an effect of money on human behavior
            how it’s perceived has no real impact on the effect
            in fact, the effect is usually imperceptible
            to those effected
            no Wall Street Bankster thinks h/she’s a Bankster
            they have no clue

  • Liam_McGonagle

    I guess the logical choice, then, would be to get out of the monkey biz.

    “F*ck ‘em all! I quit! I’m turning in my opposable big toes, tail and lice-ridden pelt and goin’ home!”

    • echar

      The thing is, those in the monkey business have contempt for those who’ve liberated themselves from.

      • Anarchy Pony

        The appropriate comeback for when somebody yells at you to get a job is: Why? So I can hate my life like you?

        • echar

          This is sad but true.

          • Anarchy Pony

            Unless you are lucky enough to find a job doing something you enjoy or that is actually benevolent.

          • echar

            Very true, or being the boss!

          • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

            You’re thinking too much, join the rest, why do you have to like being benevolent? Some people love torturing innocents.

          • echar

            Yeah, AP is not paid to think!

          • Anarchy Pony

            The thinking for nothing and the philosophizing for free.

        • The Well Dressed Man

          how often are people telling you to get a job, AP? usually only happens to: a) people living with their parents, or b) people hassling other people for money in public.

          • Anarchy Pony

            It hasn’t happened lately.

          • Anarchy Pony

            And if I was in that dire of straits that I had to panhandle I’d probably resort to illicit activities instead.

    • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

      Man an opposable big toe would be awesome.

  • InfvoCuernos

    “The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see his tail.”

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