I think that there’s a lot more truth to this cliche office joke than we usually consider when we laugh uncomfortably at it.
Humans, like other animals, organize into packs or heard hierarchies, and hierarchies are about dominance and submission.
So when we have to be organized according to an office organizational chart or cliques in school, there’s a complex interplay of biological and social factors that is underneath the basic social heirarchy of a given environment.
When we have to spend time, energy, emotions in these artificially formed environments – like a workplace – where dominance is not arrived at through natural processes, but artificial selection of hiring practises – conflict is inevitable.
Especially when the artificial hierarchy is at odds with the natural group dynamics that factor into dominance and submission roles. Something that the human resources concept of “best fit” isn’t capable of dealing with.
Our brains and bodies are ideal for a hunter/gatherer existence – and our biological responses to stimuli, especially threats, danger, intimidation and dominance/submission are no different than what our ancestors experienced.
But, the artificial social structures do not allow for such primal responses – no matter how effectively those responses would assist in smoothing out interpersonal conflict.
After all, what person would continue to make snide remarks, be obstructionist or offensive, if they knew that they risked a single open handed smack in the face? Or…
I have to wonder, how many headaches and other stress symptoms are because we are overriding our natural responses to the point where we’ve convinced ourselves that our bodies no longer respond naturally, that there’s something wrong with our glandular response to what is really, unnatural stimuli.
Because it’s not natural to allow dominance when it’s not been earned, it’s not natural to respond respectfully despite how we are treated. It’s not natural to be submissive to people who lack the personal dominance that’s needed for the position that they occupy.
This is the problem of managers who have power because of their position, and not because they have the position because they have the personal dominance to have earned the top spot on the organizational chart.
Managers who demand, but not command, respect, are more likely to abuse their power because they don’t have any personal power, haven’t learned and understood the meaning of power – which is more than getting your way because you said so – but real leadership of earning trust and respect, of respecting and honouring those they manage.
Of understanding that power limits the personal freedom and that power must be exercised in a balanced and fair way across the group – lest it continue to slip away, lost in a mass of interpersonal conflict, mutual antagonism and, if unchecked, unresolved, a disfunctional workplace.
It’s no wonder that people are so frustrated, angry, raging even, when our society has so many artificial environments where we are subjected to unreasonable stressors as if they are normal and acceptable and having to suppress our natural responses for fear of social or criminal sanction – and these sanctions provide an arena for some people to act out their frustrations in passive or not so passive non-physical aggressive means – gossip, snide comments, innuendos, even outright cruelty – as long as it’s never physical.
It’s become so bad that there’s hundreds of workplace and schoolyard fatal violence incidents every year – and this is a terrible thing to allow to become a norm – because it only validates fatal violence as a reasonable response – such as suicide bombers.
I don’t know if there’s a way to improve self control across society, but it seems like there’s less and less stopping bad behaviours that inspire worse behaviours.
Perhaps glandular responses should be a legal and legitimate defense, because it certainly would seem the lesser of social evils to be legally allowed to open handed strike someone once or even – given that posturing and fighting is the norm to establish dominance – physically fight each other as long as there’s no objects used; than to allow stressors to build to a response that is violent and out of proportion to the events that incited it.
Certainly, if it’s true that 1 in 25 managers might be psychopaths:
The survey suggests psychopaths are actually poor managerial performers but are adept at climbing the corporate ladder because they can cover up their weaknesses by subtly charming superiors and subordinates. This makes it almost impossible to distinguish between a genuinely talented team leader and a psychopath, Babiak said.
Then the people who make it on charm rather than skill and ability or other factors that play a role in leadership/dominance; make the workplace even more difficult to manage for people who have typical emotional and glandular responses to stimuli.
Psychopaths, who are characterized by being completely amoral and concerned only with their own power and selfish pleasures, may be overrepresented in the business environment because it plays to their strengths. Where greed is considered good and profitmaking is the most important value, psychopaths can thrive.
Most people in the world are in a hard scrabble for existence and the idea of life having meaning is not within their meager means. For there to be meaning, there are conditions that have to be met – basic survival needs must be secure, free time not spent in securing basic survival or making ends meet, and the ability to access a larger world than mere existence allows.
We are each dots and connecting the dots forms a interrelated whole, something larger than the sum of the parts that we have the time and ability to contribute to.
The interconnected dots at the first level is one’s family, be it nuclear or extended, and the family dots then connect to the village, the neighborhood, the community at large. With the community dots becoming cities, regions, nations, until the whole world is one blue-green dot of 8 or 9 depending how you like your planets defined around a yellow dot, which in turn becomes one dot from far enough away in a sea of dots in the milky way and beyond.
But each of us is the central dot of our particular universes, the one dot that connects to all other dots.
And we determine the quality and quantity of connections to other central dots in other universes, and resolve if our ideas about the universe dominates or accommodates the other dot’s ideas or is in turn dominated or accommodated, but either way, each contributes someone unique to the other and the collision, impact, glancing blow, passers in the night, leaves a trace on the other.
We are contradictory in that we have a strong inclination to conform but we also seek novel experiences – without novelty, we stagnate, but without some degree of conformity – of harmony – we also wither and die. The ability to balance is the ability to live well and authentically – with meaning and purpose.
To not fix what isn’t broken, and to change what isn’t working as well as it could be. To make it interesting, we all have different ideas of what broken means and what working well does; thus, life is conflict.
People who are conservative by nature – I am referring to tradition, convention, conformity, moderate, reactionary – prefer the tried and true, time tested and non-adaptive to novel experience, new ideas or information, preferring the familiar, the status quo, often even when there are clear benefits to change.
I don’t think conservative and a particular political view or religion are necessarily the same thing, given the plethora of religions and political ideas, I think that it’s just when a particular religion or political idea has been around a long time without change, it’s because it’s drawn a stagnant group of supporters who are drawn to them by default of having outlasted other religious or political ideas.
At one time, all religious and political ideas were new and revolutionary, and only become conservative, status quo, reactionary as they continue to exist – keeping a base of supporters and attracting younger but like minded supporters who continue with tradition.
While revolutionary people who seek novelty and change, sometimes for a purpose or ideal, sometimes for its own sake, either become reactionary and conservative if they remain with the original novel idea or they continue with revolutionary thinking and move to newer and more novel ideas – building tradition upon tradition, rather than solidifying into conformity.
We have the capacity for both within ourselves, and our comfort level, our needs security, will impact through our day – never mind over our lives – how much novelty tolerance we have.
After all, most of the world tends to conservative conformity, we all want to belong – and it is difficult to understand when people are different from the social norms – often with violent responses from the mainstream – but the fact of there being people who are not whatever is normal for a given time period, culture, community – is not cause to demonize, belittle, discriminate or even kill – but people who stand apart from the norm are the best means by which to better understand norms.
As art mirrors life, so do revolutionaries serve as a mirror to reactionaries.
It’s only when we really know what our values are, that we can make meaning and distinctions, because our individual values are what determine meaning and purpose.
Conflict is life
Conflict is the process in which that we either accept or force changes to life circumstances – in this way, all conflict is an internal battle
Being bullied is only a problem if you object to being bullied – it isn’t a conflict for the bully as their standard is that bullying is okay – they are not in conflict internally – and not with you until you assert that they may not bully you.
Conflict is making your standards firm – I will not permit you to treat me this way – enforces a standard of conduct on other people Their response is whether they will accept your standard (kinder treatment of you) or maintain their standard (crappier treatment of you).
Conflict occurs when one person’s standards do not match another person’s – and the impact of the conflict is measured in how far apart the standards are. Closer together means resolution is possible without too much negative impact on the parties – however, the farther apart the standards are – the more likely an either/or or even, neither – the outcome will be.
Is meaning inherent?
Meaning of a thing appears more to do with an assessment of it’s impact or outcome than any meaning inherent in the thing alone or of it’s own sake.
A meaningful gesture is a symbolic recognition of mutual understanding, so the gesture in and of itself is merely a pointer to meaning, rather than a mechanism of creating meaning. Worse, a misunderstood or improperly executed or decoded gesture can erode meaning and instead cause confusion and detract from any meaningful engagement or interaction.
Any object is meaningful only when it’s purpose and utility – or decoration/adornment – is understood, rather than arising from the fact of its physical being. An ancient pottery has utility as a storage container and can convey cultural meaning dependent on the ability to understand the symbols and adornment – or lack thereof – on the pottery.
Meaning is understood when it is coded and decoded in a manner that is mutually understood by two or more parties, so meaning appears to not be inherent, but rather implied and inferred. If one cannot directly address or deduce meaning, is there any meaning at all? Is everything merely an interpretation, dependent on expectations, experience, wishful thinking and interpretation?
In which case, meaning is intentional and manipulated into being, with forethought and thus is imposed or read into and then interpreted – a meaning fulfillment. Is understanding meaning then merely confirmation bias?
Harmonious when there are few or no stakes involved in agreeing to meaning and disharmonies when two or more parties have a stake or interest in a particular meaning; and conflict when the parties interest in meaning are at odds with each other.
Conflict then becomes the prioritizing mechanism by which meaning is determined or understood in hierarchy.
Conflict then is the interaction with another person and determining the balance between their meaning and your own – thus all meaning is symbolic and undetermined until conflict is resolved and determines the relative meaning of the individual meanings.
Thus, life has no inherent meaning other than being the conflict by which meaning is measured and determined.