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Implications of Employees as Social Animals to the Organization

Home Free essays Analysis Implications of Employees as Social Animals to the Organization


Social animals normally organize themselves into societies in order to achieve a common objective. They exhibit some characteristics that can be likened to employees’ ones in an organization, justifying the relationship between sociology and organizational behavior. A substantial amount of literature has investigated the portrayal of social aspects of an organization, leading to the development of a field referred to as organizational sociology. Organizational sociology is a branch of sociology that focuses on organization. The field of organizational sociology is aimed at comprehending social structures in an organization. It gives much attention to the internal structure of an organization, including managerial hierarchy. Business organizations comprise many employees, who are organized into departments that have specific tasks, and are coordinated in order to achieve a common objective. The social structure exhibited by rational animals seems to be present in organization. In this regard, this paper attempts to discuss the view that employees are social animals. Concerning the organization, the statement that employees are social animals implies that they can cooperate, collaborate, and can practice division of labor. Consequently, the paper focuses on how employees exhibit cooperation, coordination, and division of labor, and compares them to social animals in general.

Social Animals

Social animals refer to animals interacting with one another, frequently with representatives of their own species/conspecifics, to the extent of creating a society (Bernardi, González & Requena 2007). Several animals are social to the point that offspring and mothers bond, and males and females interact to mate. With regard to organizational studies, the term social animals are often applied when there is a degree of social organization that goes beyond the way typical animals interact (Clutton-Brock 2009). It often concerns permanent groups of employees and departments, and relationship between them. Social animals have four different levels of sociality, which can be likened to organizational sociality: eusociality, presociality, subsociality, and parasociality (Bernardi, González & Requena 2007). Eusociality is the highest degree of social organization among animals. Some animals in this category, just like an organization exhibit extreme form of sociality that involves very organized employees, with distinct responsibilities aimed at the achievement of shared goals. Presocial animals exhibit cooperative care, communal living, and primitive division of labor; attributes that can be likened to employees. According to Coyle-Shapiro & Shore (2007), subsociality takes place when parents interact with the young members of the species. Various levels of animals’ sociality display certain traits of social organization.

Employee Organizational Cooperation

Different theorists have defined cooperation. Glaser-Segura & Anghel (2002) argued that cooperation represents the union of more than one entity, resulting in a more complicated combination that has greater likelihood of surviving the forces of environment than as separate entities. Hodgson & Knudsen (2010) stretched Darwin’s theory of natural selection to integrate cooperation with social systems. According to Hodgson & Knudsen (2010), cooperative social organization results in higher prosperity that is not found in solely competitive social organization. In one political-historical evaluation, Martin (2000) found out the difference between the social dominator model and social partnership. In the social dominator model, Martin (2000) pointed out that exchanges are made through competitive and hierarchical relationships, whereas in social partnership model, exchanges are made via cooperative relationships. On the other hand, the proponents of socio-biology regard cooperation as characteristic of genetic survival. Socio-biological paradigms consider that cooperation had undergone evolution with human beings. The approaches to inter-organizational cooperative differ as they are placed in both ahistorical and historical backgrounds, at both micro- and macro-social backgrounds, and considered as learned and genetic behaviors.

Organizational trust is the core of organizational cooperation among employees (Jeanson et al. 2008). According to Jeanson et al. (2008), trust is the underlying factor for employee cooperation and it exists at different theoretical levels. Trust refers to the positive anticipation of results when employees and groups interact with each other under risky business conditions (Glaser-Segura & Anghel 2002). The comprehension of the influence of trust on employee cooperation necessitates the comprehension of social trust. Jeanson et al. (2008) described social trust as the accumulation of trust at macro-social level. Despite having liquid price, social trust allows value-added activities, and it has been understood historically as the underlying factor of social order among employees, as well as communities. According to Coyle-Shapiro & Shore (2007), social trust enables the achievement of objectives that are not possible in its absence. More often, social trust is developed when human relationships are allied to accelerate organizational performance.

Employees’ organizational cooperation relies on organizational trust (Coyle-Shapiro & Shore 2007). For instance, for an organization’s department to engage in close cooperation with other departments, there must be commitment beyond traditional contractual terms, and commitment to achieve organizational objectives. According to Jeanson et al. (2008), the terms of agreement required for the close cooperation cannot be listed in their entirety in the contract, and the desired cooperation should be based on the high level of trustworthiness. Organizational trust is comprised of commitment to honesty and refraining from opportunistic behaviors (Bernardi, González & Requena 2007).

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Cooperation among Animals

Cooperation is present not only in human societies, but also among other animals, such as bees, which are regarded as social.

Nevertheless, cooperation seems to occur between conspecifics (Coyle-Shapiro & Shore 2007). Because the conspecifics have a common genetic composition, improving each other’s survival chances means that the genetic characteristics will be passed on to the future generations. Hodgson & Knudsen (2010) asserted that animal cooperation is more sophisticated as insinuated by this.

The kin selection is a kind of cooperation exhibited by social animals. Martin (2000) defined the kin selection as animals assisting in the rearing of relatives’ offspring in order to improve their own fitness. Investigations conducted on social animals, such as red wolves, have supported the contention that cooperating animals obtain both immediate and long-term gains, which similar to the situation in organizations (Coyle-Shapiro & Shore 2007).

Organizational Employee Coordination

Cooperation results in dependencies, which might lead to several problems (Jeanson et al. 2008). In order to eliminate the problems arising from cooperation, employees have to coordinate their activities for the common achievement of organizational goals. Clutton-Brock (2009) defined coordination as the management of dependencies between employee organizations. Further, Coyle-Shapiro & Shore (2007) defined it as the process occurring when various connected actors pursue the same goals. From these definitions, it is evident that coordination is the answer to the problems of interdependence of the employees’ activities.

Hodgson & Knudsen (2010) described coordination from the organizational practice of specialization that leads to goal decomposition, and the need to incorporate the activities and goals of various units.

Whereas every definition varies slightly from the others, it is possible for one to synthesize a shared construct based on their similarities. There are two shared aspects expressed by most definitions. The first one is that problems emerge due to the organizational decomposition and specialization of activities (Glaser-Segura & Anghel 2002). The second one is that these problems emerge because the organizational activities are interdependent, or require correct integration in order to attain organizational goal. The problems arising from organizational coordination have received attention from game-theorists such as Glaser-Segura & Anghel (2002) and Champoux (2010). Given the interest in coordination problems of both game theorists and organizational researchers, it is unsurprising that the value of combining the two areas has not been realized. For instance, the analogies of the organization using a game is situation in which there are various possible best actions, though each action is best only if all other departments participate in it as well (Bernardi, González & Requena 2007). Examples of such scenarios include the implementation of certain technologies, which might be beneficial if all employees cooperate using it. To illustrate it the Game Theory describes two employees that must coordinate their work to achieve a certain organizational objective by using a specific technology.

Coordination is only achieved, in one instance, when all the employees use the technology for the common achievement of the organizational goals (Bernardi, González & Requena 2007).


Employee 1 uses the technology
Employee 2 does not use technology
(coordination is not achieved therefore organizational objectives are not attained)

Employee 1does not use the technology
Employee 2 uses the technology
(coordination is not achieved therefore organizational objectives are not attained)

Employee 1 does not use the technology
Employee 2 does not use the technology
(coordination is not achieved therefore organizational objectives are not attained)

Employee 1 uses technology
Employee 2 uses the technology
(coordination is achieved, therefore organizational objectives are attained)


Coordinated Behavior among Social Animals

The collective animal’s behavior defines the coordination of social animal species and the emergent properties of these species. Studies in this area have focused on the costs, benefits and group memberships, the information transfer across group, decision-making process, group synchronization and locomotion (Bernardi, González & Requena 2007). Bernardi, González & Requena (2007) argued that the collective principle of social animal’s behavior has a bearing on organizational behavior. Examples of coordinated animal’s behavior include shoaling and schooling of fish, flocking birds, marching locusts, and nest building ants.

Coordinated behavior of animals has been proven to improve social interaction an protection from predators, to enhance foraging and to increase locomotion efficiency in the group (Bernardi, González & Requena 2007). For instance, social animals, such as birds have to coordinate their efforts in order to build a new nest; and a herd of elephants must decide when and where to migrate. Bernardi, González & Requena (2007) assumed that strong and experienced leaders exerted more influence than other group members in order to coordinate the efforts. This can be likened to a business organization, in which the management plays the role of coordination aimed at the common achievement of the organizational goals (Negro, Koçak & Hsu 2010).

Division of Labor in Organizations

Division of labor can be argued from two crucial viewpoints: economic and social (Jeanson et al. 2008). From an economic perspective, Adam Smith’s theory on division of labor, explained in the Wealth of Nations can be applied to organizational behavior (Jeanson et al. 2008). Adam Smith postulated that growth is deeply rooted in division of labor. The concept of division of labor majorly relates to the employees’ specialization , which involves breaking down of large portions of tasks into several smaller components (Bernardi, González & Requena 2007). In organizations practicing division of labor, every employee is an expert in his or her distinguished domain of production. Therefore, division of labor is considered to improve organizational efficiency. The idea that employees do not have to switch their responsibilities during the production process saves both money and time (Bernardi, González & Requena 2007). Of course, this is what precisely enabled business organizations to be successful during the 19th century. Departmentalization made it necessary for employees to focus their attention on a small segment of production process.

Surprisingly, certain authors, such as Jeanson et al. (2008) and Bernardi, González & Requena (2007), recognized that possible problems related to specialization and division of labor are similar to problems related to cooperation and coordination. Hodgson & Knudsen (2010) argued that forcing employees to perform repetitive and ordinary tasks would result in dissatisfied and ignorant workforce. Therefore, Bernardi, González & Requena (2007) advanced the revolutionary belief that governments have an obligation to offer education to workers. This emerged from the anticipation that education could address the repetitive impacts of work life.

Generally, division of labor implies assigning every employee to the task that best suits him or her, and in modern organizations, it is realized through departmentalization of organization; employees performing similar tasks are classified under one umbrella department, which coordinates with other department for the achievement of organizational goals (Coyle-Shapiro & Shore 2007).

However, according to Weber (2008), division of labor can only occur if there is coordination and cooperation among employees.

From a social perspective, Marxism theory argued that the increasing specialization might result in employees developing poorer skills and lack of motivation to work, which might hamper the achievement of organizational objectives (Bernardi, González & Requena 2007). Hodgson & Knudsen (2010) described this as alienation. With recurrent and specialized tasks, employees ultimately become exhausted both spiritually and physically. As the task becomes specialized, employees need less training for every specific job, and the workforce becomes less skilled. According to Coyle-Shapiro & Shore (2007), social division of labor can be detrimental because of three main reasons. Firstly, it increases dependency on a product, or an employee with special skills. For instance, if an organization loses a skilled employee, the entire organization collapses.

Division of Labor in Social Animals

Division of labor is crucial to the organization of certain social animals, such as bees. It is considered to be one of the main factors behind the ecological success of some social animals. Hodgson & Knudsen (2010) argued that two features define division of labor among social animals: performing of different activities simultaneously, and groups of specialized members of the species. This is the case with employees in modern organization. For instance, a queen bee has the responsibility of laying eggs in the colony; it is “specialized” in laying eggs (Bernardi, González & Requena 2007).

Plasticity is the key feature in the division of labor among social animals. The species react to the change of external and internal conditions by adjusting the ratios of individual workers engaged in several tasks (Hodgson & Knudsen 2010). The behavioral flexibility of workers significantly contributes to the reproductive success of the species by enabling them to continue growing, developing, and eventually producing a new generation of reproductive members regardless of the changing conditions. According to Bernardi, González & Requena (2007), the sensitivity to changes in the structured worker system is significant to social organization. The regulation of division of labor among social animals relates to key problems in socio-biology of social animals.


This paper has focused on various aspects of employees as social animals. Highly social animals, just like employees, exhibit cooperation, coordination, and division of labor.

Concerning the organization, the statement that employees are social animals implies that they can cooperate, coordinate, and can practice division of labor. The findings of the research on social animals have supported the contention that cooperating animals obtain both immediate and long-term gains, which is similar to the situation in an organization. Whereas coordination among employees is the answer to the problems of interdependence of the employees’ activities, it has been proven to improve social interaction and protection from predators, to enhance foraging and increase locomotion efficiency in the group. The two features defining division of labor among highly social animals inclusive of employees include performing of different activities simultaneously and groups of specialized members of the species.

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