Barnyard democracy in the workplace

  • Brotheridge C
  • Keup L
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Purpose - This paper aims to illustrate the interesting parallels that exist between the social behavior of farm animals and work-teams as a means of offering a novel point of view from which to understand teams. Design/methodology/approach - The empirical literature on the social behavior of farm animals is used as a starting-point to identify the key factors that generate instability in social relationships and, as a result, demonstrate the existence of a dominance hierarchy. These factors are then analyzed in the context of the equivalent workplace literature in the areas of teamwork, bullying, and democracy. Findings - There may be more of a connection between democracy in a barn and in a workplace than most people think. Both farm animals and humans have a tendency to form fairly stable social structures characterized by a dominance hierarchy in which there is: an established pecking order, differential access to resources; hazing of new members; penalties for non-conformance; and a lack of personal space. Practical implications - These factors contribute to instability in social relationships in the workplace and serve as potential explanations for the extent of aggression and incivility seen in today's organizations. Team leaders should pay attention to the markers of a dominance hierarchy and attempt to involve employees in democratic, participative work processes. Originality/value - Team leaders will find this paper an unusual but effective way of considering how their teams are functioning. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]

Author-supplied keywords

  • Democracy
  • Group work
  • Social behaviour

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  • Céleste M. Brotheridge

  • Linda Keup

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