Organizational Structure Part 2 of 3


This is the continuation to Part 1

Positional Authority Invites Oppression

In the hierarchical organizational structure, the reporting direction is upwards. By design, a higher position with lower position reporting to it is given the authority over lower position. It comes with the position, no matter who is place in that position.

“According to a 2010 survey conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute, 35% of the American workforce (or 53.5 million people) has directly experienced bullying–or “repeated mistreatment by one or more employees that takes the form of verbal abuse, threats, intimidation, humiliation or sabotage of work performance”–while an additional 15% said they have witnessed bullying at work. Approximately 72% of those bullies are bosses.” (Source: How to Deal with A Bullying Boss written by Jacquelyn Smith; published by Forbes 20 September 2013).

Bullying happens even in Baboon colonies that adopt a hierarchal structure. Here is a video of Dr Robert Sapolsky of Stanford University who studied the relationship between stress, health and rank. The video title is “Why Hierarchy creates a Destructive Force within the Human Psyche”. He discovered that in that structure, the submissive male baboon has a higher level of stress hormone than the dominant male baboon. He also discovered that the low rankers have increased heart-rates and higher blood pressures.

Dr. Owen Wolkowitz, a professor of psychiatry at UCSF in the following video explains the relationship between stress and depression.

Dr. Stephen Ilardi, a professor of clinical psychology in the following video depression is a disease of civilization. He pointed out that stress leads the following:
• Depressive illness
• Sleep Disturbance (NREM/Slow Wave)
• Brain Damage (Cortical, hippocampal)
• Immune Dyregulation
• Inflammation

Link between Positional Authority and Toxic Environment

Toxic people have egos and a strong desire to climb the corporate ladder and retain position of authority. They will it in any ways that they can even if it is unethical. If they felt threatened by a competent peer or subordinate, they will find ways to get rid of that person.

The website bullyonline say this about toxic bosses: “A serial bully could be anyone. They are attracted to positions of authority, but not everyone in authority is a serial bully, and not every serial bully is in a position of authority. They cannot be identified by their status, but by their actions.

He or she does turn nasty. Feeling threatened by colleagues with competence, integrity and popularity, he picks one out and projects onto them his own inadequacy and incompetence”

My Comments: If positional authority is working for checking, approving work but not for supervising people, it means this command and control component is too difficult to apply correctly, even if training is given.

Roles, Positions and Jobs

Here are the general meanings of the 3 words:
• Role: The function assumed or part played by a person or thing in a particular situation.
• Position: A particular way in which someone or something is placed or arranged.
• Job: A paid position of regular employment or a task or piece of work, especially one that is paid.

My Comments: They look similar. That creates confusion and complexity. In the end, role is the most important. Only 20th century organizations seem to have positions, jobs and organizational charts as they are products of the industrial revolution. If businesses, militaries, communities in history were so organized without them, are they necessary?

Job evaluation system focuses on position and that becomes a self-serving system, giving more rewards to the people as they hold higher positions in the corporate pyramid. At first glance, the powers of greed, envy, and pride are such that they turn good people bad because they observe and learn that bad behaviours pays off.

When examine closer, it is also partly the achievement oriented education that most of us been indoctrinated into that is to be blame; the other factors include the marketing hype of the material life that is shouted by voice of consumerism; the fact that many workers are confined to job description that pay them below the poverty line; and our physiological needs (Maslow’s hierarchy of needs).

Disadvantages of Management by Objectives

Management by Objectives (MBO) is a concept propounded by Peter F Drucker. MBO is a tool. It was also mentioned towards at the end of the video that Drucker admitted that MBO will not work in real company. To me, Management by Results is just saying that in business, it is only the results that matters.

My Comments: I believed that MBO often confused with Peter F. Drucker’s concept Management by Results. You can see that from W.Edwards Demin’s comments: “Certainly we want good results, but management by results is not the way to get good results….work on the causes of results.” This confusion is also evident in the following video. You will see that it added a layer of complexities to organization. The presenter in the video is Dr John Bachman.

The above video highlights the disadvantages of MBO oriented organization; that is an achievement oriented organization. It becomes important to have control over your system. In that system:
• Implementation is a sign of success.
• If a person is given a project and he is successful, he will in that please his supervisors, giving him an opportunity to be promoted. If he cannot make it, he will then fudge (mislead) the figures so that he appears successful.
• Fear of demotions.
• Fear of poor appraisals because the person thinks out of the box.
• There is a lot of permission seeking from the levels below because they want to continue to be happy in their jobs.
• Management get compliance but not commitment from the people below them (“We do what you tell us”).
• Management will try out new things and even repeat ideas that had failed in the past.
• Management will try restructuring but only 1 in 4 restructuring exercise actually works.
• MBO also create silos. It is also hard for people within different units and levels to see the business as a whole, because they are in their silos.
• There are a lot of short term thinking.
• In this system, the customers suffer the most because everyone will think that “It is better to please the people above you than the customers”.
• There is a disconnect between the person at the top and those people at the bottom of the organization. The knowledge of the daily operational process reduces with each level of people up the reporting chain.
• Everyone might be working hard but how do you know whether you are doing the right thing.
• The presence of politics and competition in the system will make work life difficult.
• 90% of the time, people at the lower level do not know what the objectives were.

A Bias for Actions

My Comments: Thomas J.Peters and Robert H.Waterman in their book In Search of Excellence identified eight attributes which characterized the excellent and innovative companies. One of them was a bias for actions. This should take precedence of trying to manage by objectives.The following are the limitations of MBO cited by Peter Drucker

Limitations of MBO

Key Results Areas

My Comments: When we do away with position, jobs and moves towards roles; and managers manage for results; then performance reviews should also move away from MBOs to Key Result Areas (KRAs).

Short Term Goals

My Comments: Don’t get me wrong. It is good for individuals to set short term personal goals, with the longest being a year. They are mentioned in the following video. If you teach your employees to be successful, your business will be successful.

Jim Rohn: You Must Dream

Jim Rohn: The 12 Pillars of Success