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Managers As A Source Of Comfort In A Chaotic World


Posted by Insightlink on 11/03/14

The Value of Leadership

Most organizations in the U.S. are organized on a hierarchical basis with an "upward" reporting structure. Our work analyzing many different organizations using our 4Cs employee survey demonstrates that how employees feel about the leadership of their immediate manager and how they rate the direction from senior management can both have a strong influence on how engaged and committed they are to their work.

Some of our clients have tried to implement a "flatter" reporting structure -- doing away with formal levels of management -- but they seemed to have mixed success. There is a tendency for even "flat" organizations to retain some form of status rankings, whether formally or informally.

A recent article by Matthew Hutson in the New York Times looks in detail at this apparent dichotomy between a call for more equality in how people are organized in general contrasted with a desire for a more defined hierarchy at times when they feel a lack of control at work. As evidence, Hutson cites a recent paper called "Seeking Structure in Social Organization: Compensatory Control and the Psychological Advantages of Hierarchy." Their paper clearly demonstrates that, when people feel a lack of personal control, they compensate for that by seeking greater order and predictability in their environment.

As Hutson puts it, "so we declare that hierarchy is unnatural and unfair, but deep down we're drawn to it -- particularly in times of uncertainty."

I think this helps explain why so many organizations have retained the traditional structure and others who have abandoned the idea of having different layers of management often back track after a few months. It also reinforces the importance of training managers to not only be proficient at the technical aspects of their work but to also excel at the "people part" of their jobs as well.

You can read the New York Times article here.

If you would like to read the original paper, you can buy a PDF copy here.

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