Within the last months we had the possibility getting an insight into various enterprises: from start-up companies up to international groups – every size was included. What we have noticed: there are still companies very hierarchically organized. And there it doesn’t play any role whether it is a small start-up company with five employees or an internationally operating one.

Strong hierarchies in an enterprise are mostly connected to a certain management style. From top to button much is kept under surveillance, decisions must be made with several levels of hierarchy, the confidence towards the employees is fragile and faults are not permitted. Innovation and creativity are already nipped in the bud through this. Moreover, strong hierarchies have also to do with a need for reputation and recognition of every single manager. The fear of the failure in front of the boss leads to a fear of letting things go and towards over-controlling: confidence is good (however only in low extents), control is better. The managers want to show that they have everything under control – but with that they crush independent thinking of the employees, the independent search for solutions and also the desire standing behind the company and their products. One just works! And the manager’s fear of faults is automatically passed on the team.

This can be frequently observed very well with new employees. They often considered for a long time whether they start with the new enterprise. Finally, they made the decision for it as they felt this new task and function exciting and challenging, and because they would like to bring themselves into the company with their experiences and knowledge to jointly advance the apparently interesting new employer. The motivation goes steadily down within the first months until at the end the new employee then is at the low motivation level of the remaining colleagues. Working to rule.

Striving for reputation is a very strong factor for strong hierarchies in enterprises. Very often this can be found in old, long established companies – more often also in rural areas than in cities. To be seen and to make something of oneself has an importance in rural areas, and this very often over generations. A visible career only can be made in enterprises where a strong hierarchy exists. At certain hierarchy levels there are still the special boni in many of these enterprises, such as the company car. But also young PHDs who then set up their own company instead of starting their career as professor bring in the strict hierarchies with the rigid employee management and paying homage of the “colonel” to parts of the start-up world.

It is our observation again and again: steep hierarchies in enterprises definitely slow down dynamics, innovations and creativity. The energy of the employees is lost on long marathons of taking decisions and coordination – but also the independence of the employees to express criticism and to take on responsibility. Reduce the hierarchies in your enterprise and let room for autonomy and making faults. Let your employees arise and leave your “motherhood” behind. Also your employees must find their own solutions and learn by faults. And one is certain: they will grow on it!


THE MAK’ED TEAM, Ann-Katrin Hardenberg