Successful companies are organized, and many businesses use hierarchical management for their structure. This structure – which makes clear that all employees are under the leadership of another person or department – sometimes receives criticism. Particularly in movies, some characters portray the stereotypical autocratic yet incompetent boss who is a source of fear and mockery. Regardless of your view, it is important to understand what this structure entails.
Hierarchical management is a workplace leadership structure in which authority is assigned in ranks and employees take directions from their superiors. For example, in a human resources department, the human resources assistant -- who occupies the lowest rank -- provides administrative support for other H.R. employees as needed. The H.R. coordinator has authority over the assistant, and an H.R. generalist governs the H.R. coordinator. The H.R. generalist has superiors at the corporate level. Employees' roles and level of authority -- if any -- are clearly established.
An advantage of hierarchical management is the inherent organization; every employee knows what she must do. In turn, a well-led company can function smoothly from top to bottom. This is particularly true when managers hold close work relationships with their employees and offer words of encouragement and other incentives. Additionally, this management system has been successful for quite some time as the backbone of economic leadership and growth.
Managers hired directly into their roles -- as opposed to being promoted from within -- may have little or no exposure to their subordinates' jobs; they may not fully understand what the average employees do, yet they decide how everything must be run. This can lead to unrealistic demands, contradicting instructions and mistakes. Additionally, managers may not fully understand their own roles and may make uneducated or impulsive decisions. Some bosses might possess an insensitive or autocratic attitude, pushing their employees to frustration -- which causes turnover. The result is a disorganized company where employees and their superiors are at war with each other.
Effective Hierarchical Management
Leaders should exercise consideration, discretion and common sense. Give your employees some autonomy; tell them what you want them to do without dictating every step. People often prefer to handle their work using certain approaches; even if you disagree with an employee's methods, you may find that he is much more productive when given some freedom to do this. Always listen to your employees' concerns; they should know that they have a say in how the organization functions. After all, these individuals can provide valuable input through experience. If you need to criticize a subordinate, deliver it constructively and coach them, providing suggestions for improvement. Finally, never make decisions or give orders based on emotion. If you take your anger out on others, they will see you as arbitrary or inconsiderate.
- LearnManagement2.com: Hierarchical Organization/Structure
- "Triangle Business Journal"; Hierarchical Management Outdated; Ken Nixon; May 1997
- "Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices"; Peter Ferdinand Drucker; 2007
Alex Saez is a writer who draws much of his information from his professional and academic experience. Saez holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from Queen's University and an advanced diploma in business administration, with a focus on human resources, from St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario.