Sunday, 2 September 2012

Alpha Males (The Labour Party)

I've been reading the Independent this week, and it had some interesting things to say about the Labour hierarchy:-
Oliver Wright in The Independent quoted a source who claimed Mr Balls was given to “displays of Alpha-male posturing” and that “Ed is frankly a bit scared of him. He doesn’t know what Balls will do next. He refuses to listen to him on economic policy and believes he has a veto on all policy”.

While Jim Pickard of the FT recalled a report of his from two months ago in which the Ed B camp accused Ed M of “indecision” while the Ed M camp accused Ed B of being “overbearing”.

Having a lifelong interest in psychology, and in particular, its more ethological aspects, I wondered exactly what this would mean in practice. How do Alpha males display their territoriality in the workplace?

1. The den/workspace - Alphas always have a territorial space in which they feel most secure- filled with their small ownwership markers. Intrusions into this protected space are unwelcome and may be met with aggression and destructive behaviours. Similarly, individuals maintain a personal space around them; intrusions will act as an alienation factor and a negation of diplomatic harmony. In the office, this can include the desk - a barrier behind which one feels secure. And perhaps visitors are offered lower seating, which emphasises the height and importance of the person.

2. Status displays - Alphas like to feel important and send out signals which proclaim their superiority. One way in which they can do this is by the size and importance of their entourages, the type of car they choose, the clothes they wear. For example, expensive, highly polished shoes and good watches. An Alpha won't carry around lots of papers - that's for the minions to do. The Alpha will always appear to be hugely busy, being always in demand, and minions will be kept waiting. A dominant babboon will spontaneously charge or threaten subordinates to reaffirm his position - power must be exercised or the leader's influence may be forgotten.

3. Insulting behaviour - what better way to show how unimportant someone is than to insult them. Firstly, showing disinterest, such as not looking at someone when they talk, appearing bored, glazed expression, checking the time. Alphas may show impatience - foot/finger tapping, etc. To up the ante, smirking or sneering cynically may follow, or even mocking laughter, perhaps inadequately concealed. Gestures may accompany this behaviour, the worst of which suggest dirt or filth.

4. Threatening behaviour - Here we're in the realms of ritualised combat displays - showing aggression and expecting the other to back down.The Alpha will try to dominate the situation, leaning forward into personal space, glaring, fists clenched, body tense. Pointing the finger and a tightly compressed mouth may accompany aggression, as does an upthrust chin, or flared nostrils.

So if you want to stay top dog, watch your subordinates' sharp teeth, reward them to remind them of the hand that feeds them, growl a lot and show them who's boss.

Which one reminds you of Ed Miliband?

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