The Disadvantages of Collegial Management

by Micah McDunnigan; Updated September 26, 2017

Most working environments feature a hierarchy of authority, with managers responsible for overseeing production, coordinating responsibilities, implementing the plans and in general making sure things get done. A collegial management style is characterized by managers developing close relationships with their subordinates to relate to them on a personal level as well as a professional one. The idea is to try to develop a more effective working environment by engendering a friendly workplace, where employees see themselves as a close-knit team where every subordinate has meaningful input in the decision-making process

Authority

In a professional environment, the manager's main job is to get his employees to do their work well and on time. His job is to assign tasks and sometimes to push his staff to work harder. Hearing sometimes unwanted or unpleasant instructions from an authority figure is much easier than hearing them from a friend. If a manager becomes too collegial with his staff, it could undermine his ability to push the staff when appropriate.

Image Management

No matter how hard most people try, no one is perfect: Everyone has her own set of shortcomings. One disadvantage of a collegial style of management is that, with its close personal interactions with subordinates, subordinates get to know their managers much better than subordinates with a more authoritative and distant manager. While learning about a manager's strengths can help encourage greater respect for the manager, letting subordinates learn her weaknesses can undermine the image that a boss wants to project to the staff.

Tough Decisions

One of the downsides of management is taking personal responsibility for unpleasant decisions. These could be deciding what department is going to have its budget cut, determining which section is going to have to lose workers, laying off specific employees or punishing employees for disciplinary problems. All of these decisions have very real consequences for both the organization and the individuals. If a manager's relationship with his employees is too collegial, he could find himself struggling with laying off, or firing, workers than a boss who maintains a more distant and professional relationship with his employees.

Favoritism

Related to all these problems is the specter of favoritism, a truly corrosive factor in a workplace. Once charges of favoritism arise -- in assignments, promotions, work hours, overtime, wage increases, or any other element of the work relationship -- they're very difficult to overcome, and can sour the collegial relationship the manager has worked so hard to achieve with each member of the team. This in turn can have an adverse impact on staff morale, which usually affects productivity.

Other Considerations

Despite these flaws, a collegial management style is favored by many managers, but there are some types of organizations in which it works better than in others. A legislature is a perfect example of an organization where a collegial relationship among members, and between members and the leadership, is essential to the work of the organization. An infantry unit, on the other hand, is ill-suited to collegial management. The drawbacks in combat are obvious, but even in non-combat situations, the unit's success is often predicated upon the members' ability to carry out orders without hesitation or question.

About the Author

Micah McDunnigan has been writing on politics and technology since 2007. He has written technology pieces and political op-eds for a variety of student organizations and blogs. McDunnigan earned a Bachelor of Arts in international relations from the University of California, Davis.