Hierarchies aren’t evil… but people can be!
Do you ever say to yourself “I wish there was no hierarchy in our company“?
Wouldn’t it be a perfect world if there were no hierarchy in organizations? Everyone working in harmony, collaborating to achieve their goals with no annoying boss telling anyone what to do. In this hierarchy-free world there would be no supreme ruler over the teams, only happy people delivering their work with birds chirping in the background…
OK, I realize I’m pushing it a little but people who systematically oppose to specific organizational structures often have an idealistic perspective of the world. Fortunately, the world isn’t black or white, there are many nuances.
I have had discussions about hierarchy-free organizations with many people over the last few months. Repeatedly, people bring up the same reasons why they don’t like hierarchies. From their perspective, hierarchies are bad because:
- they don’t let employees perform their work as they wish;
- they allow authority over people;
- they break communication channels;
- they create a distinction between the boss and the employees;
- they don’t treat people equitably;
- they offer more benefits to people at the top;
What if hierarchies weren’t the problem? What if the cause of these issues was somewhere else? What if the organizational structure wasn’t the real problem? Not that I am a huge fan of hierarchies, but I do not believe the organizational structure is the real problem – people are!
Let me explain my perspective.
I feel that blaming hierarchies as the reason people hate their job and feel under-appreciated is short-sighted. Organizational structures have much less to do with how people feel than the management style and attitude of the leaders.
Let me repeat that statement. I believe that the attitude and behavior of the leader has greater impact on the team members’ performance and happiness in the workplace than the organizational structure under which they operate.
You are not convinced? You might want to try this exercise.
Can you think back of a time when you felt empowered to do your job and were happy to be at work? Can you recall a time when you would invest long hours working on a project and your energy level was going though the roof? If you answered yes to these questions, ask yourself this other question “was it because of the hierarchy-free structure or the leader’s attitude”?
If you have had the opportunity to work for a great leader – someone who gives you freedom to do your work, holds you accountable for the results, is always supportive and available for mentoring, and gives you credit for your work – you will immediately realize that the leader’s behavior and attitude were the underlying causes of your satisfaction. A bad leader in a hierarchy-free organization will make everyone’s life miserable while a good manager – even in a position of authority – will get amazing commitment from his people.
It might be that the people against hierarchies are ones that never had the opportunity to work for a great leader and so, assume that the organizational structure is the issue. I wish them to find a great leader to work with because in the end, the leader’s attitude has much more to do with a happy and productive work environment than the actual structure of the organization.