Application of Evolutionary Psychology in the Organization
Nicholson’s (1998) “How Hardwired is Human Behavior?” published in Harvard Business Review explains the stance of evolutionary psychologists with respect to the organization. The author applies the theory of evolutionary psychology to organizational behavior by advising managers to deal with their subordinates keeping in mind the Stone Age mentality that all human beings have essentially incorporated. In view of the fact that humans are threatened by change because change may threaten their means of survival, Nicholson advises managers to realize that organizational change may only be accepted wholeheartedly by the organization when employees are dissatisfied with the current state of affairs. Through this realization alone, managers may start to work on employing new methods of introducing organizational change – methods that would prove to be less threatening to the survival instinct of the employees (Nicholson).
Also according to the theory of evolutionary psychology, all information must pass through the screen of emotions before it is processed by reason. Hence, organizational managers must ensure that negative messages are properly filtered before they reach employees, who are most likely to react with negative emotions to negative messages. The theory further states that people often feel more confident than they should be, given the facts. Reality checks are, therefore, necessary. An overconfident organization would do better by analyzing market reports, just as employees can improve their performance through performance appraisals presented them in a positive way, even when this feedback from the organization contains negative information (Nicholson).
Employees love to gossip, also according to Nicholson’s understanding of evolutionary psychology. Organizations must not try to eradicate rumors, according to the author. Rather, it is best for organizations to listen to gossip in order to ensure that rumors are healthy rather than nasty. Moreover, human beings have always tried to beat others in all kinds of competitions. Men are especially disposed to compete in order to increase their level of perceived superiority in the organization. Nicholson advises managers to encourage their subordinates to desist from one-upmanship so as to allow all employees to have the opportunity to feel good about their work (Nicholson).
Evolutionary psychologists further maintain that people feel most comfortable in small groups, especially those that consist of fewer than 150 members. Finally, evolutionary psychologists believe that there are people who desire to become leaders as opposed to those who would never wish to lead others. By understanding the difference between the genetic characteristics of those who wish to be leaders as opposed to those who do not – organizations can save themselves from the trouble of making leaders out of those who do not wish to become leaders and would therefore perform rather poorly as leaders (Nicholson).
The theory of evolutionary psychology is, no doubt, quite interesting. Human instincts, such as the basic survival instinct, may not have changed over hundreds of thousands of years. Furthermore, evolutionary psychologists maintain that there is a limit to changes in brain circuitry that human beings may work around (Nicholson). All the same, the human instinct refuses to submit to the idea of limitations. After all, nobody can deny the power of knowledge and education to change human mentality and behavior. Evolutionary psychologists seem to have underestimated the power of knowledge and education. Hence, the theory of evolutionary psychology should be considered incomplete, albeit very useful for managers to understand.
Nicholson, N. (1998). How Hardwired is Human Behavior? Harvard Business Review.
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