The Flat Hierarchy Fallacy

With Culture becoming the forefront of most tech companies, many are championing the Flat Hierarchy structure in management. But what if this attempt to be more inclusive actually leaves more and more women left out.

What is a Flat Hierarchy?

Within traditional businesses, an organisational structure is usually made up of a CEO or Founder, with multiple directors, then managers, and eventually employees. Within a Flat Hierarchy, the traditional tall structure is changed so that there are fewer people between the employees and the CEO or founder. In principle, this sounds great as there any advantages for the employees:

  • It removes blockers that management can create and ultimately and improves communication and the speed of projects for employees
  • The employees have visibility of those at the top, meaning they feel more connected to the organisation, the CEO or founder isn’t faceless

Why Flat Hierarchy doesn’t work for women

So how does a Flat Hierarchy actually work in a business? Well, first off, it can mean there are no job titles and no seniority over other employees, if in a small team or company. On paper, this sounds like a great way to make things fairer for everyone; however, in reality, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

No authority = Power struggles

By removing the traditional structures and formalised hierarchies, a team has to create their own, even if off the record, which can be dangerous for a unit. Without a clear leader on a project or team, it can create a power struggle between two or more people, which will never lead to a healthy work environment [1].

No title = No respect

When people say job titles don’t matter, it’s usually because they are in a position of power or already respected.

What could we do instead?

The ideology of Flat Hierarchy is there, and as I said on paper, it makes sense, but we need to focus on what we wanted it to achieve in the first place. If we're going to remove the number of layers of management to make communication lines more open, then focus on the top tier of management communicating openly via weekly or monthly all-hands meetings.

Writing about design and some other bits in between | Digital Product Designer Contractor at @RivalLondon| Event organiser for Triangirls | Formally at @Inktrap

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