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Vertical To Horizontal: A New Workplace Reality

Written by Rune Kvist Olsen Saturday, 08 April 2006

The origin of the vertical organization and hierarchical power-structure

The author Wendell Krossa3 says in one of his texts: Our contemporary forms of hierarchy originate with the predatory domination of our animal past. The vertical form of relating has continued on through the various stages of human evolution, from primate to hunter/gather, and then into the institutions of early human domesticated society, and thereby into the present. Hierarchical relating is ultimately an ancient expression of animal nature and animal behaviour. It is therefore originated in the deep past of humanity when people were still more animal-like than human. The vertical relationships of hierarchy express quite simply the ancient drive of competition for resources and the domination required for survival in a competitive animal environment.

The core element according to Krossa3 is that the hierarchical arrangement of relationships in human societies is simply a refinement of versions of animal-like methods of domination. Hierarchical organizations are quite simply a formalization of animal structures implemented in humanized institutions. According to Krossa3 the human mentality was simply swamped by the surrounding animal environment and shaped into a vertically oriented reality of domination and control. With the belief-systems of vertically orientated realities, it was quite obvious that, from the beginning of civilization, people would create structures and institutions based on the only reality that they were aware of - the vertical relationships of domination. Those early institutions with their dominant/subordinate and superior/inferior patterns of organizing, became the main system for all subsequent forms of relations between human beings. As Krossa3 says: We are now human and there is no excuse to continue acting like animals. If we are ever going to remove the destructive element of control from human relating then we need to understand that institutionalized vertical forms of relating are destructively animal and a serious hindrance to human progress. Krossa3 points out further: There has been little effort to distinguish the fact that while animal evolution selected certain traits such as competitiveness and domination for its ongoing existence, the emergence of modern human consciousness is leading humanity in an entirely new direction away from competition and domination and toward cooperation, equality and freedom. But when we study the reality in our contemporary organizations, we find to the contrary that the way from competition towards cooperation still meets severe problems and hindrances from the plain nature of the power-structure in our so-called modern and civilized organizations.

Krossa3 states further. The key point to remember is that a vertical orientation expresses animal-like domination and control, while horizontal relating serves to describe non-controlling cooperation and the free interactions of true equals. What inspires the formation of vertical relationships or hierarchies is the instinct or drive for advantage over others. In this struggle for ongoing existence those who cannot dominate by brute force are coerced into cowering submission. Animal relating has become deeply entrenched in human ideologies, social orders, and institutions. We as developing human beings are becoming more conscious of the nature of humanity as free, inclusive, and egalitarian, but we still exist within controlling organizations. We continue to exist within primitive structures that orient us to the drives of our animal past.

The main inspiration behind vertical relationships and hierarchies is the instinct or drive for advantage over others by control and through command. This disposition assumes competition for power and the struggle for control and command as natural and normal, and is regarded as the only way we can get things done in our organizations of today. On the other hand this disposition for vertical commanding structures makes collaboration, cooperation and mutual understanding between people impossible.

If all employees had access to equal possibilities and opportunities and were appreciated and acknowledged for their competence and their knowledge, skills and experience relevant to the operation of the organization, there would be no rational basis for hierarchical authority. The system of control - the main mechanism of hierarchical authority - offers security, certainty and predictability at the cost of the loss of freedom to become a truly human being.

Hierarchical relationships demand unquestioning submission and obedience. The relationship between "command and obey" and between "control and submit", is very important in relation to how we get things done in our modern working life.

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