Wednesday, May 14, 2014
These days, with the advent of social media, any employee can mail, tweet, ping, comment and tag her/his top guy of the company. The line of control to provide higher powers and right to speak out or decide is becoming hazy over the last few years. Or has it?
Studies show and many optimists believe, the traditional hierarchical, top-heavy, controlled business scene is now diluted helping in being nimble and quick on decision making. I have my doubts. We love to believe that we are now living in an ultra-slick, modern, high performing, merit recognizing environment. Cultures within a company and the corporate environment as a whole is changing. I don’t think so. And it’s not just my belief. There are counter research studies and academic write ups elaborating the same. They have found that the way organizations function now exhibits hundreds of years of hierarchical structures and remain unchanged. This is so because these structures “can be linked to survival strategies” in the workplace.
I believe the biggest reason why hierarchy is still around, will remain so and should remain so, is that hierarchies work better. A human mind keeps looking for order and security. We are always looking for something to give us that extra push and an added cushion of comfort. We need someone, seemingly better and brighter to show us the way. Add to that, a more competent mind/individual will always want to be differentiated from his so called less proficient peers. Her/his need to grow, move ahead and access more power and accountability only accentuates hierarchy and layers of superiority. Another latent but critical factor as I have experienced is, professional and sometimes personal (out of office) relationships with superiors still matter for an employee’s current job and opportunities at work. I would call it as “in-house networking skills”.
It is not what leaders in the company say or publish in weekly, monthly or quarterly meets. It is the mind. And mind is very complex. We as humans need to perform well. But our need to perform well more often than not, comes from being competitive. We need to be better than the other. Added to that is the need to be seen with high performing, more influential crowd. It’s like becoming a fan of a cricket or football team. We all like underdogs. But we love and want to be seen as a supporter a winning team. As it is said by some wise man, “if you want to improve, be with people who are better than you”.
Another very acute factor as I notice is during decision-making. Whether amicable discussions which turn into a constructive debate before becoming a never ending mail trail or a fire-fighting situation, wherein, on the moment trick decisions are to be taken. A person on a higher ground, apparently more effective with his repeat successes and hence cannot go wrong comes to the rescue of the quarrelling group. People at a higher pedigree are thrust with certain behavioural and performing characteristics which may not really be true to them. But with time, because of their successes in one area of specialization, broad and unjustified inferences are made for that person, many a times, finally making him falter.
But then, why do we want to believe in flat organisation stories? I believe, that’s how we are brought up. We all believe fairy tales till late in our lives. Partly it is make believe, aspirational thoughts. Then there is the sudden up rise of “ways to reach” your right audience such as in-house professional networking forums and social networking to make one believe it is a flat structure.
If everything is so flat and non-hierarchical, why is it that organisations still call some businesses as front-ending while others as back-end functions? Or, why is a certain function a support service or a shared service while the other is a critical market facing business? Because, it works!
11 players make a team. But there is still a captain. And everyone dreams to become one.