It’s tough in the middle: Managers ‘under the most stress in the workplace’ because they face conflict from above AND below
Middle managers are under more stress in the work place than both their bosses and their charges, a study has today revealed.
A study by the universities of Manchester and Liverpool observing monkeys has found that those in the middle hierarchy suffer the most social stress.
Researchers say it is because the middle groups, both socially and in the workplace, are faced with conflict both from those above and below them.
Middle managers are under more stress in the work place than both their bosses and their charges, a study has today revealed
The hit TV series The Office mocked the erratic, stressed behaviour of middle manager David Brent, but it struck a chord with office workers across the country.
Katie Edwards, from Liverpool’s Institute of Integrative Biology, spent nearly 600 hours watching female Barbary macaques at Trentham Monkey Forest in Staffordshire.
Her research involved monitoring a single female over one day, recording all incidences of social behaviour.
These included agonistic behaviour like threats, chases and slaps, submissive behaviour like displacing, screaming, grimacing and hind-quarter presentation and affiliative behaviour such as teeth chatter, embracing and grooming.
The following day faecal samples from the same female were collected and analysed for levels of stress hormones at Chester Zoo’s wildlife endocrinology laboratory.
Ms Edwards said: ‘Not unsurprisingly we recorded the highest level of stress hormones on the days following agonistic behaviour.
‘However, we didn’t find a link between lower stress hormone levels and affiliative behaviour such as grooming.’
‘Unlike previous studies that follow a group over a period of time and look at average behaviours and hormone levels, this study allowed us to link the observed behaviour of specific monkeys with their individual hormone samples from the period when they were displaying that behaviour.’
7 NEW SOCIAL CLASSES: ARE YOU A NEW AFFLUENT WORKER OR ELITE?
A new study has suggested British people no longer fit into three social classes, with only one in seven in the ‘traditional working class’.
There is also an ‘elite’ – just 6 per cent of people – who have savings of more than £140,000, many social contacts and education at top universities, the BBC’s Great British Class Survey revealed.
More than 160,000 people took part in the poll – the largest ever of its kind in the UK, the BBC said.
Researchers found the established model of an upper class, middle class and working class has ‘fragmented’ and there are now seven classes ranging from the ‘elite’ to the ‘precariat’.
Representing 15 per cent of the population, the ‘precariat’ earn just £8,000 after tax, have average savings of £800, with fewer than one in 30 gaining a university education.
Edwards said the results could be applied to human behaviour.
She said: ‘It’s possible to apply these findings to other social species too, including human hierarchies.
‘People working in middle management might have higher levels of stress hormones compared to their boss at the top or the workers they manage.
‘These ambitious mid-ranking people may want to access the higher-ranking lifestyle which could mean facing more challenges, while also having to maintain their authority over lower-ranking workers.’
Another key aspect of the research was noting where the observed monkey ranked in the social hierarchy of the group.
The researchers found that monkeys from the middle order had the highest recorded levels of stress hormones.
Co-study author Dr Susanne Shultz, a Royal Society University Research Fellow in the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Manchester, said: ‘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.
‘The middle ranking macaques are more likely to challenge, and be challenged by, those higher on the social ladder.
The research findings have been published in the journal General and Comparative Endocrinology.