The Importance of Hierarchy in the Workplace

Hierarchy ensures a semblance of workplace order.

Hierarchy ensures a semblance of workplace order.

The need for organization, unity and consistency is paramount to any business or industry to stave off chaos; when a chain of command is not maintained within the structural unit of authority, stability is challenged as subordinates assume decision-making roles. While the idiom "too many cooks spoil the broth" speaks to the need for defined roles and responsibilities along the entire chain, there is still room for a more collaborative approach beyond the rigidity of traditional hierarchy.

Empowerment

Traditional management and leadership practices have evolved considerably to incorporate a more collaborative dynamic that not only favors hierarchical strength but also bolsters workforce productivity. The chain of command doesn't have to be rigid to be successful; a strong and empowering hierarchy positively pushes the comfort zone by keeping the labor pool learning, inspired, and communicating. (see ref 1, sec Seek to Be Understood, para 4)

Checks and Balances

The system of checks and balances perpetuated by a well-functioning workplace hierarchy helps to eliminate problems that otherwise might develop when individuals address situations meant for management. For example, a subordinate who makes a decision without first consulting his superior may create a negative outcome if he doesn't have all the pertinent information to make that call.

Ineffective Hierarchy

A company's health index starts at the helm and works downward to include what many organizations consider the inconsequential bottom workforce layer. As such, it's difficult for employees to respect corporate hierarchy when those in charge fail to recognize and acknowledge weak links in the upper echelon. Management is not exempt from accountability any more than those lower on the command chain; leaders who rely on subordinates to absorb the consequences of their ill-advised decisions threaten the relationship between organizational culture and its human capital. (see ref 2, para 3)

Learning from Real Life

Popular culture has been instrumental in demonstrating the importance of workplace hierarchy, with the reality show Undercover Boss being one of the most enlightening examples. A common denominator among the show's featured CEOs and company presidents is how nary a single one is in touch with his or her organization's daily operations. Time and again these commanders discover sizable weak links throughout the company chain that necessitate immediate damage control mode.

 

About the Author

Based in Arizona, Lori Corrigan is a social media collaborator with more than 25 years of experience in research writing and editing. Her work has appeared in "Ladies' Home Journal," "Woman's Day" and "Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul," covering topics such as business, psychology, animal welfare and academia.

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