I've been thinking recently about how to solve an us-versus-them problem with a team I was working on. Sometimes us-vs-them manifests itself as a fight against groups on the outside, but it also happens on the inside of teams, especially geographically separated or functionally separated teams. It's this second problem that I'm most interested in. Us-vs-them within a group is really us-vs-us. It's a stupid and pernicious problem, if you stop and think about it. But it's hard to stop and think about it when you're in the middle of it, when you get that amygdala activated and charge straight ahead at the enemy—straight ahead at ourselves.
All of those instances of "you" above should be replaced with "I". I'm not here to 'splain anyone about how they're wrong. I just wanted to compile a list of things to read to identify the problem, understand the problem, and most importantly improve the problem.
What is it?
- Don A. Moore, Lloyd Tanlu, and Max H. Bazerman, Conflict of interest and the intrusion of bias, Judgment and Decision Making 5.1 (2010-02-01). (pdf)
- Susan Krauss Whitbourne, In-groups, out-groups, and the psychology of crowds, Psychology Today (2010-12-07)
- David Berreby, Why Do We See So Many Things as 'Us vs. Them'?, National Geographic (2018-04)
Looking at us-vs-them like a scientist
- Henri Tajfel, Experiments in Intergroup Discrimination, Scientific American 223.5 (1970-11) (pdf) Can discrimination be trace to some such origin as social conflict or a history of hostility? Not necessarily. Apparently the mere fact of division into groups is enough to trigger discriminatory behavior.
- Ori Weisel and Robert Böhm, "Ingroup love" and "outgroup hate" in intergroup conflict between natural groups, Journal of experimental social psychology 60 (2015-09). (pdf).
- Mina Cikara, Matthew M. Botvinick, and Susan T. Fiske, Us versus them: Social identity shapes neural responses to intergroup competition and harm, Psychological science 22.3 (2011-01-26). (pdf)
- George A. Quattrone and Edward E. Jones, The perception of variability within in-groups and out-groups: Implications for the law of small numbers, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 38.1 (1980).
Avoiding and fixing
- Angela Weyrens, Working With, Not For: Confronting the Us vs Them mindset between Information Services and Access Services in a Major Urban Library System. Oregon Library Association Quarterly 20.3 (2014-12). (pdf)
- Jennifer J. Fondrevay, After a Merger, Don’t Let "Us vs. Them" Thinking Ruin the Company, Harvard Business Review (2018-05-21).
- Alex Hiem, Breaking Through "Us Vs. Them", Entrepreneur (2001-09-10).
- Babette Ten Haken, How to Move People Past an ‘Us Versus Them’ Mindset at Work, Talent Culture (2018-02-15). If you want to move past the “us versus them” mindset, start a dialogue about the profitability of collaboration.
- Cy Wakeman, Overcoming “Us vs. Them” Challenges, Fast Company (2014-01-23).
- Robert Sapolsky, Why Your Brain Hates Other People, Nautilus (2017-12-14).
- Maria Popova, Carl Sagan on Moving Beyond Us vs. Them, Bridging Conviction with Compassion, and Meeting Ignorance with Kindness, Brain Pickings (2016-11-09).