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Date:10/3/2008

The way male managers power dress, posture and exercise power is due to humans' evolutionary biology, according to research from the University of New South Wales (UNSW).

Prehistoric behaviours, such as male domination, protecting what is perceived as their "turf" and ostracising those who do not agree with the group is more commonplace in everyday work situations than many of us want to accept, according to the research which was carried out in hospitals.

"This tribal culture is similar to what we would have seen in hunter gather bands on the savannah in southern Africa," says the author of the paper, Professor Jeffrey Braithwaite, from UNSW's Institute for Health Innovation.

"While this research focuses specifically on health care settings, the results can be extrapolated to other workplaces," says Professor Braithwaite.

"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," he says. "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," says Professor Braithwaite. "It's predictable that a group will 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."

Professor Braithwaite's research is based on hundreds of interviews and observations of health workers over a 15-year period. He used an evolutionary psychology approach incorporating archaeology and anthropology of the earliest known humans to compare with modern behaviours.

It is hoped the research can be used to develop strategies to encourage clinical professionals to work together more effectively.

"We need to stop being simplistic and realise that changing behaviours and encouraging te
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Contact: Susi Hamilton
susi.hamilton@unsw.edu.au
61-242-293-4024
University of New South Wales
Source:Eurekalert

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