Remember the CareerBuilder Super Bowl ads? One beleaguered guy struggles to do his job amidst a passel of chimpanzees. Although the ads’ human star groused about working with “a bunch of monkeys,” chimps are not in fact monkeys.
Now, though, it seems monkeys can teach us a thing or two about business. Research from the University of Manchester and the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Integrative Biology found that macaques in the middle of the social hierarchy had the highest level of stress hormones. The source of their stress was social conflict.
“What we found was that monkeys in the middle of the hierarchy are involved with conflict from those below them as well as from above, whereas those in the bottom of the hierarchy distance themselves from conflict,” explains the University of Manchester’s Susanne Schultz. “The middle ranking macaques are more likely to challenge, and be challenged by, those higher on the social ladder.”
Lead author Katie Edwards from the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Integrative Biology collected data. Among other things, she observed female Barbary macaques at Staffordshire’s Trentham Monkey Forest for nearly 600 hours. The work sheds light on the social behavior of an endangered primate. Edwards thinks the research could also help explain why human middle managers feel the most stress in the business world.
“People working in middle management might have higher levels of stress hormones compared to their boss at the top or the workers they manage,” says Edwards. “These ambitious mid-ranking people may want to access the higher-ranking lifestyle which could mean facing more challenges, whilst also having to maintain their authority over lower-ranking workers.”
Whether you’re human or a macaque, it seems it’s no fun being the monkey in the middle.