Sharon Ferrao Hierarchy At Workplace: To Be Or Not To Be? January 17, 2017

Hierarchy is infuriating, isn’t it?

A hierarchy is discretely divided into two parts, the supreme termed as the “boss” and the subordinate, termed as the “employee” and if your boss is a sadistic prick, you may also be termed as the “slave”. Hierarchy protesters are often a part of the latter category. They often experience a miserable hierarchy pattern where they are desolately pinned down by their superiors. They feel that their ideas, opportunities, and career goals are nothing but drained down the gutter because of the know it all attitude of their superiors.

Admit it, at some level we all hate hierarchy because subconsciously a part of us is always thinking, you’re not the boss of mine! So what if we have a hierarchy-free workplace? A workplace where there is no power structure but you are accountable for your own targets.

Surprisingly, a lot of new-age organisations have started to flatten out their corporate structures. Valve – the popular gaming company and Morning Star – the world’s leading tomato processing company have gone as far as creating completely flat structures where there are no managers or org charts of any kind. But is this strategy to improve workplace environment actually effective? Unfortunately, not.

Workplace Hierarchy

Hierarchy is bound to prevail everywhere. Animals too have always had a social structure that dictates each creature’s access to resources and role in the survival of the group. Moreover, the hierarchy is natural. If you throw a bunch of people in a room, some structure is usually formed. So even in a flattened structure, you will still find a leader and a subordinate. Thus, freedom from hierarchy does not exist. But then, let’s not mess the hierarchy with the leadership!

Then how do we deal with this inevitable structure? We need to know that hierarchy in itself is good and bad. We are naturally conditioned ever since our existence to live in a system of hierarchy. Be it in our families or in schools. Hierarchy also helps keep the ethics of accountability, discipline, and organization intact. On the contrary, it is obvious that all hierarchies are not good. Some are appalling and repressive while the others are inefficient.

The only way to deal with this pyramid is to construct it the right way.

An obvious product of bad hierarchy hated by most is the level of biases on every level of the structure. People on the top are often showed respect while people on the lower levels are treated like cogs in the machine. They are nothing but workers and are not kept in the loop for anything related to the organization. A good hierarchy is where respect and gratitude are shown at every level.

Another sign of a bad hierarchy structure is where there is an excess of control on employees. Here is where the sadistic boss comes in. Unneeded rules and regulations can be straining to employees, for instance, giving 6 months prior notice for a ten days vacation. It may work for the benefits of the superiors but a good hierarchy structure would care for the welfare of all within the organization.


And finally, that part of a bad hierarchy that it most dreadful – Communication. In a hierarchy, communication often flows from higher level to low. This hampers any communication or feedback from the employee which in turn hampers the organization as a whole.

A good hierarchy often has a three-way communication flow. It is a more practical and realistic approach and simply uses the org chart to show relationships while practicing open and transparent communication and collaboration from the top down, bottom up, and side to side.

Bottom line, in order to have a good environment within the workplace there should be a balance between having a hierarchical company and a flat company. That in all terms is simply most effective.

In fact, Companies such as IBM, Google, Whirlpool, and many others have this type of an organization where structure exists but every employee is empowered and able to share ideas, communicate with executives and managers, and share information across any role or department.


Wandering wordsmith fascinated by stories, part-time cave-woman, full-time dog lover, handwritten letters type old soul, get me a chocolate or kill me.