People need to join the right tribe to get on at work, according to an anthropologist who is using IT to study the office jungle and help organisations improve the way they operate.
"In any company the boxes and lines of the formal organisation chart conceal more than they reveal," Karen Stephenson, a professor at California University, told the BCS IT directors group Elite.
Stephenson says people gradually move into informal networks which cut across the rigid dividing lines of the formal structure. People also tend to belong to more than one tribe.
Stephenson has identified three types of people in these networks: hubs, who sit at the centre of a network; gatekeepers, who link different networks and sub-networks; and pulse takers, who know most about what is going on. These are not official jobs but roles that people naturally adopt according to their personalities.
Stephenson uses surveys and analysis software from Netform to uncover the various tribes in organisations. She has helped companies manage their staff better, improve knowledge sharing and in some cases create informal networks to improve communication between departments.