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Human Resource Management and Evolutionary Psychology

Exploring the Biological Foundations of Managing People at Work

Andrew R. Timming

Answering pressing questions regarding employee selection and mobbing culture in the workplace, Andrew R. Timming explores the unique intersection of the biological sciences and human resource management.
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Andrew R. Timming

This chapter introduces the concept of evolutionary psychology, a.k.a. sociobiology, and shows how it can be applied fruitfully to better understand human resource management decision-making. The chapter begins with a critique of the present state of human resource management, arguing that it is lacking in innovations. The basics of evolutionary biology and psychology are then described, followed by an explanation of how they can be applied to the field of human resource management. The chapter concludes with a call for greater innovation and inter-disciplinarity in HRM.

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Andrew R. Timming

This chapter examines the phenomenon of workplace mobbing behavior through the lenses of evolutionary psychology. It offers a theoretical framework that explains mobbing aggression at work. The chapter first defines workplace mobbing. It then articulates an ethological theory of mobbing behavior in the animal kingdom. It is argued that mobbing is a natural biological response to a threatening environment. The survival instinct explains how once “good” colleagues and friends can suddenly turn on the victim, unleashing a primal response aimed at the complete elimination of the threat from the workplace.

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Andrew R. Timming

This chapter is presented as a debate between evolutionary psychology and sociology. It examines empirically whether skin tone among white job applicants is a cue to perceived employability. Using a controlled experimental research design, it is found that employers are averse to lighter skinned Caucasian job applicants because they are perceived as less healthy and attractive. Across three separate experiments, it is shown that lighter skinned Caucasians are viewed more negatively than those with normal skin tones and darker skin tones. Among women, it was found that darker skin tones are perceived as more attractive than normal skin tones, but this does not appear to affect perceptions of employability. The results support an evolutionary explanation of employee selection in relation to skin tone.

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Andrew R. Timming

This chapter explores employment discrimination against non-binary job applicants whom present as neither exclusively male, nor exclusively female. It draws from social identity theory to explain why cisgendered hiring managers tend to impose discrete male/ female categorizations on job applicants. The results of the experiment suggest that masculine men are rated significantly higher on perceived employability than, feminized men, feminine women, and masculinized women. A relative decrease in employability ratings between masculine men and feminized men was found, but the same relative reduction was not found between feminine women and masculinized women. The study confirms that sexual dimorphism is an advantage in the labor market, at least for men.

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Andrew R. Timming

This chapter examines the previously unexplored question of whether job applicants with asymmetrical facial features are perceived as less employable in comparison to applicants with more symmetrical facial features. The study presents evidence that hiring managers prefer job applicants with symmetrical faces. Evolutionary psychology may in part explain this finding. More specifically, evolutionary psychologists have posited that symmetrical faces signal attractiveness, health, and intelligence. It is, therefore, possible that hiring managers’ preferences for job applicants with symmetrical features may well be rooted in primitive sexual preferences.

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Andrew R. Timming

This chapter examines the role of unconscious bias, a.k.a. sub-conscious and implicit bias, in human resource management decision-making. It is argued that our unconscious biases stem in large part from instincts and impulses formed in the ancestral environment and shaped by natural selection. The chapter proposes further investigations beyond those looked at explicitly in this book, including discrimination on the basis of height, weight, accent and pitch, as well as mutable characteristics. Further research in the area of “evolutionary HRM” is identified at the intersection of biology and human resource management.

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Andrew R. Timming

This chapter explores the application of evolutionary psychology, also commonly referred to as sociobiology, to the fields of human resource management and employment relations. It is argued that evolutionary theory can shine an innovative and useful light on organizational behavior. A brief overview of natural selection is provided. This Darwinian framework is then used to explain workplace mobbing/bullying and employee selection decision-making. The chapter concludes by recognizing the limitations of evolutionary psychology and making some recommendations for future research.

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Andrew R. Timming