Have you ever wondered why groups become so competitive, or what could possibly cause the atrocities that occur when a central government, tribe, nation, or other group chooses to attack another group, and get rid of them? In the most recent issue of the journal , McPherson and Parks (2011) provide a provocative look at this topic. The findings are not only important for understanding much of the conflict that we see in the world today, but I believe they are also applicable in the business world. First, we will review the findings, and then we can apply them to workplaces today. : Theory, Research and Practice
Multiple contributors to aggressive, and sometimes dangerous, competitiveness are evident such as potential for loss of resources, difference in values, perceived threat to in-group values, perceived in-group superiority/perceived out-group inferiority, and challenge to status. These findings are well documented in other studies, and McPherson and Parks (2011) take it further with results indicating that groups are more inclined to eliminate an individual or other group than individuals are, and will make the decision to do so much faster. No surprise that those with less connection with the other group(s) or individual(s), higher levels of competitiveness, and those scoring higher on Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) are the quickest and most likely to try to dominate what they perceive to be the lesser group(s) or individual(s).
So what does this mean for business? In organizations, especially in large, diverse organizations with a workforce that increasingly is spread around the globe, understanding the way that issues such as this work can assist in reducing inter-group issues. This means being aware of healthy lines and boundaries for competition, but understanding that each group has needs for resources, and making those available as equally as possible. It further means helping groups to understand the interconnectedness between each other, and the collaborative ability available for use when recognized. Organizational and group leaders either can function as warlords, encouraging conflict and negative actions, or can be a peacemaker contributing to the collaboration and understanding of equality between groups.
McPherson, S., & Parks, C.D. (2011). Intergroup and Interindividual Resource Competition Escalating Into Conflict: The Elimination Option. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 15(4), 285-296. doi: 10.1037/a0024938
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