Don’t Be a Fun Sponge: The Manager’s Role in Workplace Hierarchy

Did you know in some countries like Japan and South Korea, employees aren’t socially “allowed” to leave the office until the manager does?

The idea of a workplace hierarchy may not garner very positive response nowadays, especially from forward-thinking professionals and younger members of the workforce. To them, the notion of “hierarchy” corresponds to poor management and a culture of toxic masculinity – anything that creates a negative experience in the workplace. However,  traditional hierarchies shaped from either cultural or historical principles used to dominate the workforce everywhere, and are still prevalent in many Eastern countries. So what has changed? And what do you think should stay?

The Fate is on the Higher-ups

Hierarchy is defined as a system in which people are ranked one above the other according to their status or authority. With that being said, the fine line between a noxious workplace and a healthy one really just depends on how these “higher-ups” utilize their privileged status.

The Pros

  • A hierarchical organizational chart is like the skeleton of a firm – it can help employees make sense of where their position lies and what their responsibilities are.
  • Hierarchy enhances the decision-making process. For example, say you have a new marketing campaign in mind, you can easily seek advice or find out if it is a go or no-go from your department manager right away.
  • Good leaders also provide a big picture and sense of direction to their team members, so they know what exactly they need to do to achieve the goal.
  • It can provide a roadmap of how growth within the company can look like.

The Cons

  • As the common notion states, “people leave their bosses, not their companies.” Toxic leaders who micromanage or abuse their authorities can upset employees, lower efficiency and cause high turnover.
  • Opportunities can be lost in rigid hierarchies when employees are repressed from expressing their concerns and ideas. The lack of power over situations can disrupt employee experiences as they feel undervalued and unimportant.

Moderation is Key

In a diverse team, you will encounter natural leaders and followers no matter how linear or hierarchical your organization is. Discovering these traits through methods like science-based testing may aid you in assigning the right people in each team, and ultimately finding a “middle ground” between the two extremes. For instance, you don’t want a team containing only followers with no commanders; vice versa, a team of multiple leaders may lead to internal disputes and clashes.



An ideal hierarchical structure should lie somewhere in the middle of a sliding scale that has “flat” on one end and “tall” on the other. Well-balanced organizations value the esteemed qualities of leaders, but disfavour actions that may leave employees discouraged and disempowered. After all, at the end of the day, it is entirely up to you as the manager or the boss to choose how it gets implemented.