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Vertical To Horizontal: A New Workplace Reality

Written by Rune Kvist Olsen Saturday, 08 April 2006

The myth about potential chaos at work

In regard to the mutual decision making process and individual responsibility for taking the consequences of decisions made by independent persons, the argument from superiors is often that there will be chaos and anarchy if control of decision making is loosened or simply is turned loose. A change from hierarchical leadership (a few in charge) to horizontal leadingship (all in charge) may appear to be chaotic. It will naturally seem to be chaotic to those who believe that their ideas embody the only correct way to get things done. This is because they are used to having their own way in the matter, and are used to having the power to command and control others and coerce others to obedience and submission. The author Wanda Marie Pasz20 states in this matter: The vast majority of people who work for a living do not know their history. They don't know why the command and control model of management evolved nor do they know its purpose. All they know is that there have always been bosses. In a workplace without bosses there would be chaos and anarchy and that is something that they accept as a premise. This state will reinforce itself continuously in a myriad of different ways in the workplace, in popular culture, in educational institutions and by management theorists.

But we will not create chaos and have anarchy if we remove the system of command and control. This is because when we let people decide for themselves in matters of their own work, people will come to perceive themselves as responsible persons and take responsibility for their own actions. This will mean that when responsibility is built into the individuals, the individuals will take control over their work-situation by themselves. In doing so, people will prove that chaos and anarchy will not develop on the work-stage just because of their inner responsible self. On the other hand when people are exposed to outer control, people are neither permitted nor allowed personal responsibility because that responsibility is placed in the hands of others (superior/bosses/representatives) in their names as formal authorities.

Bernhard and Glanz7 argue that human organizing is to often based on wrong and outdated views of the human self in the sense that these vertical organizations encourage the use of force and coercion to control the behaviour of people. This type of steering-system leads to demoralization, alienation, helplessness, resentment, and is the contrary to personal responsibility through individual control. The result of force and coerciveness is irresponsibility and this is what creates irresponsible human beings in the workplace. According to Berhard and Glanz7 attempts to reform these organizations are just a management trick to make people work harder, while such reforms are pretending to be modern methods of participation. They say that, Evolution fashioned people who resent taking orders, who experience anger and shame when they feel powerless. People are in their nature of human beings not made to be bosses and subordinates.

Human evolution is historially oriented towards freedom from outer control. Humans are, by their nature, not suited to being controlled like machines. Therefore it is tragic when the human self is violated and dominated by external control through commanding relationships. This is more vital in our contemporary vertical hierarchical organizations than we like to believe.

Kipnis2 has exposed the callousness of power-holders. He states as earlier mentioned that people in positions of power are inevitably transformed into viewing themselves as better than those below and tend to devalue the people below as inferiors to themselves. According to Kipnis2 it is impossible to move up through a hierarchy without being corrupted as a human being, by the power to control and command others. People in superior positions tend to treat others as mere objects of manipulation. Control over others in any form is therefore one of the most perverted and unworthy human elements to which people can be exposed and subject to. There is no way that control over others can be validated as less humiliating by labelling it leadership. According to Krossa3 it is a great waste of effort and expense to constantly send managers and leaders to training seminars in attempts to make them better leaders, in the hope that this might improve employee relationships and thereby improve company performance. This only dodges the essential issue at the root of organizational conflicts which are caused by inhuman competition and the cynical struggling for power.

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