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Vertical To Horizontal: A New Workplace Reality

Written by Rune Kvist Olsen Saturday, 08 April 2006

The myth of efficiency

Vertical and hierarchical organizations are constituted and institutionalized around the principle of competitive dominance. Competition is the driving mechanism in hierarchical relating. The ideology of efficiency has been developed to support competitive hierarchical dominance. This ideology urges efficiency as the supreme value taking precedence over all other organizational values, including human values. Efficiency is used to validate and measure all types of hierarchical arrangements. Efficiency as a central element in human enterprises reflects a one-sided drive to meet only material needs and goals. For example efficiency overrides all concerns for the human being and creates structures that keep us from being human and relating to each other as human beings. Our vertical structures embrace values based on competition between human beings, with the result that someone must win and someone must loose. That is the nature of competition. Therefore efficiency encourages values that are contradictory to cooperative human relationships such as primary inter-human values as mutuality and equality. Inter-human values support and encourage cooperation and collaboration between people as opposed to the values of competition and rivalry between people that turn people into competitors instead of co-operators.

Our vertical and hierarchical organizations enshrine competitive dominance over internal and external actors, as the main way to survive and stay in business. The efficiency ideology is the main belief system in our contemporary work organizations. The tragic outcome of the driving forces in the efficiency ideology is that people are forced and coerced to compete with each other, to fight each other for better benefits, advantages and survival conditions, even if those people in their nature as human beings are disposed towards cooperation and collaboration as a means to develop their human capacities and abilities. The result of this forced loyalty (instead of releasing our natural potential as co-operators and colleagues) is that we are coerced into behaviours that can be compared to an animal-like struggle as competitors with each other in the workplace. Consequently the best combatants and competitors will win the battle and disparage and eliminate the losers. This is the law of efficiency. The myth of efficiency is that efficiency implies cooperation among employees by promoting friendly competition through a mutually desirable contest of each others capacities and abilities.

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