How middle managers are like (stressed-out) monkeys

I have to work late again. The big project's due tomorrow. Credit: Image credit: Flickr/GRIPSO_BANANA_PRUNE

Research shows monkeys in middle of troop hierarchy have most stress hormones

Middle managers aren't always treated with respect, as most middle managers can attest. They often are overworked, understaffed and under-appreciated, demeaned and abused by top executives, vilified by resentful, uncooperative underlings. In fact, it's fair to say middle managers sometimes are so stressed that they feel like monkeys. And for good reason. New research from two universities in England suggest that monkeys in the middle hierarchy of their troops suffer more stress than those in the top and bottom ranks. Through monitoring and recording the behavior of monkeys, and then measuring stress hormones in their feces, Katie Edwards from Liverpool's Institute of Integrative Biology discovered that a monkey's stress was higher following "agonistic" behaviors such as threats, chases and slaps, and submissive behavior like displacing, screaming, grimacing and hind-quarter presentation. Having determined social rank among the monkeys they studied, Edwards and fellow researchers concluded that those in the middle order had the highest levels of stress hormones. Middle managers might say, "We could have told you that!" But we'll let Dr. Susanne Shultz, a Royal Society University Research Fellow at The University of Manchester who oversaw the study, have the final word:

"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."

Sound familiar, middle managers? The research findings have been published in the journal General and Comparative Endocrinology, where the mid-level editors no doubt are highly stressed. Now read this:

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