Home > Articles > Business & Management

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

Managing Us versus Managing Them

Mentally dividing others into in-groups and out-groups clearly creates a psychological basis for the arousal of powerful emotions and motives, but scientists still wonder about the origins of human beings' readiness to separate others into categories of Us and Them.

Some say that its beginnings lie in animal evolution, wherein an ability to separate others into categories of Us and Them benefits its owners by seeding both intragroup cooperation and intergroup competition. Others argue that its roots can be found in early childhood experiences, wherein the development of an individual's self-esteem might be influenced by the act of judging the attributes of one's own family group against those of other groups. And a third contingent contends that the origins of the Us versus Them inclination can be found in the feelings of reinforcement that are associated with in-group membership: the sense of safety, security, and prestige that comes with belonging produces a powerful preference for others who are either familiar or similar. Regardless of this important debate's outcome, the immediately relevant point is that work behavior is greatly affected by employees' readiness to cleave their work worlds into in-groups and out-groups. From an organization's perspective, the most critical questions to ask are "Where does this division occur?" and "Why?" If the organization is situated on the in-group side of its workers' mental division, then those employees experience a sense of identification with their employer, clearly revealed by their common reference to the organization in terms of we. However, should such a division place the organization on the far side of the boundary—away from self, on the out-group side—then its employees tend to speak of the organization as they rather than we. When companies are relegated to they, there is no feeling of worker-employer oneness, no merging of personal and organizational goals, and no vicarious experience of organizations' ups and downs. And when it comes to making decisions at work, self-interest—instead of the psychological golden rule of organizations—is the most accurate predictor of employees' behavior.

The good news is that companies can influence the boundary's location. In the abstract, the formula for successfully positioning the organization and its employees on the same side of the psychological dividing line is simple. It is a rule of reciprocity that says you get what you give: The beneficiaries of inclusion are inclined to include in return, whereas the victims of exclusion are inclined to exclude in return.

In recent years, many organizations have become aware of the danger of alienating their workers by making them victims of exclusion and have taken loud and well-publicized steps to prevent it. Such innovations as MBOs, SBUs, TQMs, T-Groups, and Theories X, Y, and Z, as well as catchwords like brainstorming, delegation, process re-engineering, one-minute managing, Kanban, organization development, empowerment, participation, and culture change create the sense that modern companies are hornets' nests of progressive and inclusive activity; but the truth is quite different. Deep and genuine change is still slow to come to organizations, despite the common misconception that such inclusion-inducing management practices are by now widespread.

The data concerning organizations' efforts to earn the allegiance of their workers is not encouraging. Recently, the U.S. Labor Department estimated that only 4 percent of U.S. businesses are involved in inclusion-inducing activities, such as genuinely empowering employees or developing a high-performance workplace.23 Professor Edward Lawler, from the business school of the University of Southern California, reports that in a survey of the companies comprising Fortune magazine's Fortune 1000 that was conducted by the University's Center for Effective Organizations, 68 percent of the firms claimed they used self-managed teams. However, any euphoria aroused by this apparently high percentage must be subdued by additional evidence showing that such teams included a mere 10 percent of the companies' workers.24 The reason for such a discrepancy between the reported popularity of inclusion-inducing approaches and their actual dissemination among companies and employees can be found in the results of a study by Boston-based consulting group Rath and Strong. In this research, 80 percent of the managers surveyed asserted that employees should have a voice in facilitating corporate change; yet when asked about their own employees, 40 percent of the same managers said they did not believe that the people who worked for them had anything valuable to contribute. Based on the judgments of these bosses about their subordinates, we can imagine how many fewer than 80 percent of them really ask for their subordinates' input when, instead of responding to a survey's questions about hypothetical conditions, they are actually on the job with the power to allow or disallow subordinate input.

Surveys of employees' views about their influence and involvement at work also support the conclusion that organizations' public pronouncements boasting of their inclusion-inducing approaches have exaggerated the frequency and effectiveness of such practices. In 1997, an annual survey of 3,300 employees conducted by Towers Perrin showed an alarming increase in both employees' feelings of disenfranchisement and the number of workers—approximately one-third—who claimed that their bosses ignored their interests when making decisions.25 Similar findings come from a nationwide poll done by Princeton Research Associates in which nearly two-thirds of U.S. workers reported that their superiors could not be trusted to keep their promises.26 Even at more senior levels, workers' feelings of personal influence and involvement appear to be eroding. For example, a survey of 196 executives of "40-something" age found that more than half of these senior-ranking workers felt less committed to their employers than they had five years earlier.27 The error of overestimating the presence of inclusion-inducing company practices is compounded by a second error: the myth that the executives in charge are regular and sincere users of these tactics. Even in the rare instances where such inclusive approaches have permeated employees' ranks, the programs' value is often nullified by the ulterior motives of their implementers. In companies these days, there is a lot of faux fellowship. Organizations' bosses try to appear caring in order to disguise a set of ulterior motives. Michael Hammer—a pioneer, along with James Champy, of the concept of "re-engineering" as a strategy for corporate change—acknowledged the pervasiveness of such fraud when he said: "The biggest lie told by most corporations, and they tell it proudly, is that 'people are our most important assets.' Total fabrication. They treat people like raw material."28 In-group members' vicarious experience of each other's plight serves to inhibit exploitative behavior in their dealings with one another. That is the golden rule of organizations' core message. On the other hand, a lack of such mutual allegiance inspires the opposite behavior. When employees conclude that bosses are treating them exploitatively, they feel excluded and exclude in return, shoving the organization icon away from themselves, deeper into out-group territory. The resulting separation squelches the development of employees' organizational identity, and opens up the possibility of treating the company the way its representatives treated them: as raw material, "things" to be exploited. It is the beginning of a downward spiral in which each exclusionary act by one group is paid back in kind by the other group, effectively separating the two further and further.

We would all like to be invited to be included, but we are not invariably blinded by that desire. When invitations are fraudulent, we quickly understand where to place our in-group/out-group boundary. Few of us are repeatedly duped when bosses unfurl the banner of inclusion and say, "Let's march together," only to show, through their later behavior, that they were silently adding, "Just keep your place—10 paces behind." Those in charge lose all credibility when, having declared "We're all in this together," they proceed—without prior warning and despite denials to the contrary—to dismiss 10, 20, or 30 percent of their workforce while granting themselves options with repricing privileges, special gross-ups, health plans with exclusive perks, and salaries plus bonuses that are more than 200 times greater than the average income of their employees. Yet it is important to recognize, however ironically, that these self-serving and duplicitous employers are actually demonstrating their keen understanding of a crucial cause of employees' organizational identity: that employers' motives affect the success of inclusion-inducing approaches. Their hope is that by pretending that their primary motive is attention to workers, they will fool employees into feeling included, embracing the organizations' goals as their own, and striving to achieve them.

Beyond this group of self-serving glad-handers is another batch of corporate authorities who dispense with the all-for-one pretense altogether. These bosses simply order the use of inclusion-inducing management technology regardless of the response by employees to the obvious lack of caring that accompanies it. Installed by dictate, company innovations that might actually have successfully unified bosses and workers not only fail to build such ties, but frequently break them. This is the third error made by those who believe that organizations are making extensive use of inclusion-inducing approaches: They overlook the crucial link between the content of these approaches and the process of their introduction into the workplace. Any sensible assessment of the impact of these innovations on organizations must begin by asking how their installation occurred, not simply whether they've appeared.

The manner in which new management methods are introduced determines their significance to the workforce. "You will be democratic" is a mildly funny joke, as audiences instantly recognize the inconsistency of the dictatorial command and the stated aim. Less funny, if similar, are organizations that introduce inclusive work programs in exclusionary ways—for example, through autocratic mandate—thus making employees pawns rather than participants in the process of change. What is unfortunately forgotten is that the programs' effectiveness rests on the how as well as the what. There is no top-down decision, however potentially beneficial, that cannot be undermined by uncommitted employees.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020