The Ups and Downs of Managing Hierarchies: The Keys to Organizational Effectiveness
Having a well-defined hierarchy can contribute to organizational effectiveness: it helps people know who does what, when and how, and promotes efficient interactions by setting clear expectations for the behaviors of people of different ranks. This is especially true when people feel under threat, helping to restore a sense of order and control. However, sometimes hierarchy can hurt as much as it helps. In complex, dynamic situations, leaders need access to the most complete and varied information to make the best decisions. During such times, hierarchy can be catastrophic if it suppresses the voices of lower ranking members. In this article, the authors provide insight into how to harness the benefits of hierarchy while mitigating its downsides. Armed with this knowledge, managers can create hierarchies that lead to victory with the fewest casualties along the way.