Pecking Order

Watching the chickens re-establish the pecking order makes me think about how it occurs in life – outside of the animal kingdom too.

The strive for dominance over people – establishing who is really in charge – seems to be this constant dance that goes on each time a new person is added to the mix.  Whether it be a new person on a work team or even a new friend in an existing circle of friends, the reestablishment of the pecking order always seems necessary.

The squabbling, the shows of dominance (both public and private), and the viewing of “who wins” are all part of the process. Toss in the fun of ego, and you have a great old time.

And in each round, like with the chickens, people emerge in ways that may have positive or negative surprises.  Using our chickens as an example, the one the always appears dominate has been showing us that she is not the aggressive one. She may be the more assertive in certain situations, but she is playing peacemaker between the other full grown hen and the pullets.  She is physically asserting herself between them at times – keeping the pullets safe and the other from causing too much trouble.  In fact, watching them in the coop last night, we saw them line up in what I will assume is the pecking order to come.

I find sometimes in life that the most reasonable people can be the most aggressively unreasonable at times. Whether it be stress or some other trigger that forces this switch, it’s moot.  It’s almost always surprising – and not necessarily in a good way.

I learned long ago during this pecking order process to recognize it for what it is and pick battles carefully. I never assume what I have seen from the person or persons will be what I see during this process.  In fact, I assume I am going to see something new. And most of the time, I see something that is clearly a weakness.

One guy who worked for me used to run his peers down to me in an attempt to get the more desired work.  And he would imply it to them publicly as a way of trying to assert dominance over them. Instead of getting more desired work, he got a corrective action plan as he was not as great as he thought he was.

One woman would keep info to herself – critical information – then bitch that no one knew as much as she did. Another power play to be head chicken. She usually complained she didn’t get new stuff. Hard to get new stuff when you hold onto to the hold.

Another guy would give everyone the third degree when you had to ask him to reset something on the server. He was the only one in the group with access, so he would make you pay. This lasted until we all took advantage of his open access on the server and created our own admin account.  But until then, we were definitely below him.

What this process always forces me to wonder is why do we – as thinking humans – revert back to this primal animal behavior? Why do we need a pecking order? In certain situations, the order is already decided like in a work situation where you have people in charge – people in certain roles, etc. But still the dance occurs. You end up with – what I liked to refer to in past jobs – people walking around peeing on areas marking them as their own territory like dogs.  Why do we need to be above other people? Is being above them a security thing – that there will get more attention from others or have more say over others? Is it to compensate for an insecurity?  Is it to hope that there will be a casualty and that casualty will be the person they feel most threatened by?

Like chickens, I guess, we just have to sit back and watch what happens while interfering only when absolutely necessary to avoid casualties. Funny how you don’t need chickens to observe this phenomenon – just need them to point it out to you.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Ms Scarlett says:

    Great post Emmy!

    I’ve often thought people tried to assert dominance over other in an attempt to build themselves up somehow. Usually all they accomplish is making themselves look foolish, but hey, who am I to stop them, right?


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