Baboons and workplace productivity

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Yes I said baboons and they tell us a bunch about workplace productivity. This includes everything from organizational hierarchy, workplace engagement, stress and finding your cause.

In a research study conducted featured on National Geographic Stress: The Portrait of a Killer, during a period of about 10 years, African baboons were observed to determine how stress impacts these animals. There were three critical findings.

The first is that hierarchy matters. In baboon world, the alpha or the highest ranking baboon had the lowest amount of stress. This was actually compared to a study of a workplace in England during a 40 year period.

This longitudinal study found that employees that were higher ranking displayed the lowest level of stress.  Employees that had to report to a manager had higher levels of stress. In fact, the study found that their overall health was worse. The employee that was lower ranking had to take more sick time vs. the higher ranking employee.

The second finding of the baboon tribe was startling.   This particular tribe of baboons was infected with disease through eating bad meat. Over half the tribe died. The ones that did not die had one major characteristic: they stayed together. Those that went off on their own to navigate the plague, died.

The third finding of the study found that once they went back to a different living area after the trauma, they began to disregard the hierarchy and served each other by showing evidence of grooming, they were less hostile among each other and had a greater desire to share food.

This study of stress factors found that there are three areas we as workers can do to reduce stress.

The first is to find a cause or make sure your team is connected to a cause. Just like the baboons it is critical to serve, have a purpose and have community.

The second is to stay in community or on a team to reduce stress and share the load.  Just like the baboons, people need to affiliate and feel part of their work tribe and to stay productive.

The third area was the need for employees to have independence, a cause and a purpose. The more included the employee, the less stress and the greater the engagement.  The study analyzed one employee with a bad manager and with an empowering manager; his results and job satisfaction improved dramatically with the empowering manager.

We are different from baboons yet it seems themes like hierarchy, service, purpose, strong leadership and community are critical for both species at work and in the desert.