Is Tribalism on the Rise in Organizations?

By | February 15, 2014

[February 15, 2014]  While human organizational capability has improved over the past several thousand years, one remarkably successful but old system has remained – Tribalism.  Tribalism is a way of thinking and behaving, with loyalty to a group, and strong identity.  Good and bad leadership thrives in the tribal environment. 

Tribalism is usually about strong ethnic or cultural identity.  Yet, in today’s societies, ethnic and cultural identity is theoretically less favored because it does not effectively or efficiently advance modern organizational missions.  Today, it is not who we are related to or what group we belong to, but what we have personally achieved that matters. 

Herein lays the problem with tribalism in modern societies. 

Tribalism is more focused on the ethnic background, culture, or group, not on work associations or organizations.  Our loyalties in tribalism, therefore, are based on associations that do not advance an industrial or post-industrial society. 

In this country, there are many who say we are moving backwards toward increased tribalism.  The trend should be the opposite.  Many, who make this assertion, say that the U.S. is moving more toward an ethnic tribalism as we increasingly emphasize diversity and ethnicity.  They say that our politicians are putting greater emphasis on our ethnic origins and less on personal achievement. 

What does tribalism have to offer anyway?  It offers ready-made, trusted associations and an explanation of life.  It also offers a justification of failure … “it is not your fault.”  And, it offers a social support network. 

Leaders in the workplace will find this convenient way of thinking and behaving difficult to integrate into their organizations because it runs counter to organizational effectiveness.




Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.