Friday, January 11, 2008

Office Jungle

Based on the studies of animal behaviour, an article published in the New Scientist Carriers Guide, It's a jungle out there..., has concluded that the office and the jungle are suprisingly similar in certain ways: both are ruled by stringent hierarchies; they are grounded in the need for cooperation; and complicated by the drive to compete. Add in the risk of hostile takeovers, a marketplace of favours and favorites, branzen social opportunism and a long-held tradition of brown-nosing; the office is a brutal battlefield and in order to survive, one should adapt 6 rules from the wild.

Teamwork Pays
Altruistic behaviour can be used as an investment- It's a business strategy. However, there is a dilemma: you do want to be at the top of your corporation, but it has competitors. If you don't get your act together within the company, it's going to go under.

Be nice, and show it!
Being seen to be good at cooperation appears to be just as important as the act itself. So buying a round of drinks for your colleagues might be more important than you think: it shows you are willing to pitch in for the group. Still, you will be judged for your cooperation skills on the job though.

Sucking up can pay
Brown-nosing in the corperate world might seem despicable, but keeping yourself in good grace with the executive set can be useful -they are part of the team too.

Be a good boss
Never knowing when or why your boss is going to explode is a strong incentive to always stay in line. But though this behaviour might bring you supreme power, excessive boorishness carries its own problems. Being a good boss is a careful balancing act of control, leadership and motivation. Keep briefcase throwing to a minimun. Because unlike monkeys, workers can quit.

Kiss and make up
Conflict resolution is more likely to occur in close relationships, between highly cooperative relatives or members of coalitions. It is vital to repair critical working relationships. Studies on primates show reconciliation reduces stress and decresses the chances of subsequent flare-ups.

Play fair
Don't take undue credit for jobs done collectively, or people will likely stop wanting to work with you.

Despite the fact that the 6 rules mentioned in the article are cliche, the idea of learning from the jungle is quite interesting and maybe it's the first/only article that confers scientific basis on these rules. In reality, however, the office rule 101: Boss is always right, should be followed and practiced upon any other rules in most scenarios. An open letter from a boss to his employees published in a very famous business magazine in Taiwan mentioned that the boss isn't always right, and it's the employees' obligation to remind their boss before projects have been implemented and there're no turning back. It's a very straight forward idea yet it takes a CEO from the top 5 businesses in Taiwan to preach to his employees and got published in the business magazine. The truth is not every boss can stand correction and the risk is not something every employee is willing to take. It's a jungle out there, feast or be the feast.

Struggling, Taiwan managed to be one of the little 4 dragons in East Asia. We also created lots of spoiled bosses in the process. A common phenomenon in Taiwan is that most people can't(or won't) take all of his/her given vacation. An unspoken consensus in the office in Taiwan is that only dispensable people can leave their works for over a few weeks and are never short of supply as replacements. The idea has become rooted in the minds of both bosses and employees making vacation requests an art form.


Anonymous said...

I love this article, it is very very interesting.

You are really a good observer.

ya lien

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